Reference: The Game Makers: The Story Of Parker Brothers From Tiddledy Winks To Trivial Pursuit, Philip E Orbanes.
I figure to stop covering Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man the end of August. The current, Ant-Man, story, has ended. Peter Parker and Scott Lang (Ant-Man) take the subway home from Egghead’s mansion because they forgot they rented a car to drive there. Then we learn Mary Jane’s Broadway play is closed for a few more weeks. The theater’s getting more repairs. But there’s publicity for her film Marvella 2: The Quest For Peace to do. They go driving off to Los Angeles and along the way meet Rocket Raccoon and Ronan T Avenger. In its original run this story ran from the 20th of November, 2016, through the 30th of April, 2017. I make that out as 24 weeks, which is one week out of phase with my 12-week comic-strip cycle.
The end of that story is when I first started covering story strips regularly here. So that’s when I’ll bow out. That unless they rerun stories I haven’t covered, or they put the strip into new production. I don’t expect either case to happen, but this is a strange world we’re in. Still, any news about the Spider-Man strip should be posted here. And I have six months to figure out what to do with my content hole here. I’ll take suggestions.
The Amazing Spider-Man.
27 December 2020 – 21 March 2021.
The Daily Bugle has a new publisher since the death of J Jonah Jameson’s cousin Ruth. It’s Ruth’s widower, Elihas Starr, who’s known to Ant-Man as the villain Egghead. Starr demands Peter Parker get photos of Ant-Man. Why? Peter Parker doesn’t know. He guesses Ant-Man might know what Egghead’s up to. He doesn’t know the current Ant-Man, though. He only knows Dr Henry Pym, the original Ant-Man. So he takes the subway way out to the end of the world to the scientist’s lab.
The lab is deserted, and trashed. Spider-Man breaks in, and gets punched over and over by an invisible and intangible opponent. It turns out to be Scott Lang, the current Ant-Man. He’s staying small and unshrinking long enough to sucker-punch Peter Parker. Not even out of suspicion for anything. Newspaper Spider-Man has such big punchable-sucker energy nobody can resist.
The punching satisfies the Ritual of Super-Heroes Fighting When They Meet. Ant-Man doesn’t know what Egghead’s deal is either. Given the state of the lab, they guess someone kidnapped Dr Pym. Egghead’s the obvious suspect. So they go to J Jonah Jameson’s penthouse, guessing that he’d know where his cousin Ruth lived, and that’d be the place to hide Pym. Not sure I agree with the logic there — have they considered the Abandoned Warehouse District? — but they have to use what leads they have. Spider-Man stays outside, figuring Ant-Man is the one who could avoid raising Jameson’s ire. It goes well.
Still, they get an address, and plant the idea that Jameson might come into the story later and save our heroes from an impossible fix. You know, in case that comes about. They rent a car, drive out to the estate, break in, and set off an alarm that sprays them with shrink gas. It’s not one that Ant-Man can reverse, either. The modified shrink gas also shrinks Ant-Man’s strength from that of a Man to that of an Ant. Egghead vacuums them up, which is the kind of thing that keeps miniaturizing superheroes from achieving dignity. The shrunken heroes pass out in the vacuum because it’s a modified vacuum cleaner, okay? And wake to find themselves encased in plastic blocks. And Dr Pym tied up and bound to a chair right next to them.
So now it’s time for Egghead to explain his deal. he figured to steal and sell Pym’s shrinking formula. He wanted the newspaper as a way of laundering the sale money from this. He’d have been fine just romancing Ruth Jameson if he could have controlled the paper through her. But she wasn’t having any of that, so he married and killed her instead. And since Egghead was going to be busy with this, he assigned Peter Parker to photograph Ant-Man and so keep Ant-Man preoccupied.
Spidey breaks loose, and Egghead tries to shoot the shrunken heroes. This doesn’t work. Egghead instead sprays Pym with the new shrink gas, reducing him even beyond the Ant-Man norm; Our Heroes leap into the gas cloud to join them. They have to fend off a spider, which they do by using a Spider-Man and also a convenient wasp.
They also have to fend off Egghead’s modified bug-bomb. Thing is Pym never goes anywhere without enlarging gas. Even when he’s kidnapped by supervillains and tied up and sedated. Lucky, huh? And then J Jonah Jameson arrives and whacks Egghead in the egg with a lamp. Egghead recovers enough to repeat his boast that he killed Ruth Jameson. So now there’s four witnesses to Egghead boasting that he killed his wife. And there’s the camera Spider-Man planted in the corner when none of the readers were there. Its photos may well show Egghead trying to shoot, spray, and set on the shrunken Pym, Ant-Man, and Spider-Man. That should be good for prison, right?
The camera, by the way, we saw Spider-man planting outside the estate. Ant-Man commented on this as how Peter Parker got such great action shots of Spider-Man. On the 21st of March Spidey explained to Ant-Man that he brought the camera inside while Egghead was unconscious. This in the hopes of getting incriminating pictures. Also, Jameson would like to know why Spider-Man’s taking pictures of Spider-Man. There’ll be some quick rationalizations and that trip back home.
There’s a murder mystery with a room full of scientists, and a weird effect keeping technology from working right! Yes, it’s time travel, shenanigans, and time-travel shenanigans. Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop comes back to my attention. See you then, then.
A bit of fun business ahead of things. Fred Grandinetti was kind enough to let me know about an essay he wrote regarding the King Features Syndicate Popeye cartoons. Grandinetti offers some information about the technical aspects of production, things like budgets and how the cartoons were received. Received by audiences, that is; they always attracted negligible interest from critics. Grandinetti also discusses the six studios which got the work, and reviews their characteristic styles. It’s a much higher-level view than what I’m doing here, but the person out there who is interested in the 60s Popeye cartoons is likely to enjoy that.
Now to the regular stuff. It’s another Famous Studios-animated Popeye cartoon this week. Once again Seymour Kneitel is credited for story and for direction. My expectation was that the cartoon would be professionally made, with everybody on model and the movement reasonably smooth, even if the story was a bit dull. So how foiled were my expectations? Let’s watch.
We start with Popeye in the desert again. He spends a lot of time in the desert for a sailor. But he and Olive Oyl are taking over the Puddleburg Splash, newspaper for the laziest town in the world. The cartoon’s set in the Old West, although the era is only vaguely set. Mostly that Popeye writes with a quill pen. We never find out why he wants to run a newspaper, or why he picks a newspaper in a town he knows nothing about. I’m all right with that, though. I think there’s even a Segar storyline where Popeye takes ove a small western town newspaper for vague reasons. Popeye can just do that.
We get a couple jokes about how lazy the townspeople are. Best is probably Olive Oyl having to point different directions, with the local telling her when she’s pointing in the right direction. It’s also got a slick little bit of animation, when Olive Oyl points at the camera. It’s a rare break from the standard police-lineup pose. Also a nice bit of animation is the sheriff lifting his eyebrow to raise his hat. This is all accompanied by some nice languid music. I suppose it’s something from the Famous Studios music library. It’s nice getting some different stock music.
There’s more social commentary than I expect from these cartoons. The first is Popeye working out that he has to open a school, to teach people to read, so there’s demand for his newspaper. It’s a benign example of marketing into existence demand for the thing you want to supply. The second is the revelation that the people in Puddleburg aren’t unable to read out of laziness. The school Popeye builds is demolished by the Bruiser Boys, local thugs who figure an ignorant population is easier to control through terror. It’s a method of control, yeah. And it diffuses some of the conflation of laziness and stupidity that’s been in the cartoon.
Curiously, the Bruiser Boys are not Brutus. Why have original cast for this? In Dead-Eye Popeye, which I once mentioned without reviewing, Brutus and two identical Brutus-oids terrorize the western town. I’m curious if this resulted from the confusion about whether Bluto was a King Features or a Paramount-owned character.
There is an odd moment where newspaper-editor Popeye hires a cartoonist, B Looney Bologna. His panel is the chicken-crossing-the-road gag, used for generations now as the symbol for tired old humor. (I’m persuaded that it’s an anti-joke, myself.) I suppose it builds the direness of Popeye’s plight, that he can’t even use the funny pages to get an audience. Mostly it takes a spot of time for a joke about a bad joke.
In the climax Popeye decides that the townspeople have to learn the Bruiser Boys aren’t that tough. All right. He decides to show them that even a woman can stand up to them. … Why? I suppose they’re a bit more humiliated if a granny in a wheelchair beats them up than if the newspaper editor does it. But it’s not like they won’t be beaten up anyway. If it is important it be a woman, why not have Olive Oyl take her spinach power-up? It stands out to me that Popeye doesn’t eat any spinach this cartoon. I’m curious if Kneitel had some rationale here that got lost in editing. Or if the cartoon started out as an independent thing, or a story meant for another character, that got imperfectly rewritten for Popeye.
Altogether, it’s a decently-made cartoon. The starting point might be odd, but it follows all well enough from there. It’s still odd that Popeye and Olive Oyl would be printing up rooms full of newspapers when nobody was buying them, though. Maybe he was misled about important things by whoever owned the paper before him.
Popeye never reports a specific piece of news in this short.
Eventually many people figure they ought to clean the windows. Many of us are people. Therefore we conclude that many of us are people putting off cleaning the windows. We can justify this. Time we spend not cleaning the windows is time we spend on higher-priority tasks like not dusting the shelves or not sweeping the stairs. But let’s save the procrastination for later, when it will be more fresh.
When is a bad time to clean the window? Well, the middle of the night, obviously. You’ll just alarm the neighbors if you do it then. The middle of the night is for lying awake cursing out every decision you’ve made, unless that should be laying. At one point I was sure which one to use. Now I’m too tired to remember or check. I blame giving in to temptation and washing off the mirror at 4:35 this morning. I should have been thinking about that e-mail I ignored a year ago August.
It’s also bad to clean a window that’s already clean. You insult the legacy of window-cleaners if you try. You can tell a window is clean if a silent comedy-movie star like Harold Lloyd wipes a handkerchief on the window, gives you a puckish smile, and then steps through the window which was not actually there. This may seem a difficult test to apply. “What if my house is old enough the windows are divided by those charming little wooden slats, the grunions or something they’re called?” is a reasonable question. Those little slats dividing your window into many littler windows is called a munyun or something. But if your window is divided like that, you need to test with a smaller comedy-movie star, like maybe Ben Turpin.
So let’s suppose you have a dirty window and it is a good time to clean. Now is not the time to wonder how it got dirty. Like, who’s going around doing things to dirty it? Is it the cat going up to the window and licking it? What cat? Who entered a cat into the discussion here? Maybe it was a roommate licking the window? Maybe it’s the solar wind. There’s no way of knowing. The answer is probably just horrible.
Water is a great tool for cleaning windows. Water’s like that. It gets a bit smug about how it’s great for cleaning all kinds of things. Just deal with it. Anyway this explains why the cleanest of all possible windows are in aquariums. They’re surrounded by water, on one side at least, and so constantly wash off the mess made by licking fish. But there are problems in converting your house to be an aquarium. It’s very inconvenient to have newspapers or sandwiches. Newspapers we can replace with online sources, if we only read two articles each month. Sandwiches are harder to do without, unless you get that extremely dry, crust-heavy bread. Maybe try making your house into an aquarium only after lunch.
If your water seems to smug to deal with then use some glass cleaner. This is made with ammonia, which is a different language from water so you can pretend you don’t know that it’s smug too. Just smear the cleaner on and then smear the cleaner off and somehow you’ve left something cleaner behind. This seems like a logic puzzle. The answer is “man”.
The question is what to smear the cleaner with. At one time we used newspapers, because we were told newspapers were very good at this, by the newspapers. Unfortunately the shrinking size and frequency of newspapers means we can’t use them to clean windows. There’s not enough paper and what there is costs like $27.25. So we might use paper towels instead, which have more boring crossword puzzles. If you’d rather use a non-paper towel, go ahead. I recommend something made of a cloth, as towels made of wood bark or stones make a terrible racket.
Once you’ve finished cleaning the windows, stop, and try not to go back around to starting again. It would be very embarrassing to clean a window so diligently that it was all gone, as this leaves you with a large expanse of blank wall that needs some kind of decoration. Maybe a picture of what’s on the other side of the wall. Something that’s easy to clean, anyway.
Hello, nature lovers. It’s too soon to answer the Yeti question, sorry. But it’s on the table. The most current plot recaps and news I have about James Allen’s Mark Trail should be at this link. If you’re reading this later than about December 2019 you might be better off going there. And as ever, my mathematics blog reviews comic strips too. It’s also looking at concepts from each letter of the alphabet, with new essays on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Now back to nature.
1 July – 21 September 2019.
Nature finally got around to trying to kill Mark Trail last time I checked in. He, Doc, Leola, and J J Looper were following a map to a gold mine seen decades ago by Doc and his friend. (His friend, Leola’s husband, had recently died, the incident putting the map into the story.) Looper, owner of a supply store, was their guide. At least until Nature sent a flash flood in that swept everyone away and left Looper nowhere to be found. This is an inconvenience, what with Looper maybe being dead and having the only copy of the map.
But. Doc finds the terrain familiar. He recalls a pile of rocks covering the mine entrance and that’s exactly what Leola sees. It’s a great discovery. And oh, here’s J J Looper! And he’s sharing a gun with them! He has reasons. Envy of Mark Trail’s easy lifestyle of globetrotting while animals are nearby, sure. But also thoughts of his hard life. He can barely make a living teaching tourists to pan for gold. Actual gold, now, that would solve some of his problems.
Mark, Leola, and Doc uncover the mine entrance. It’s definitely where the mysterious stranger led his friends, decades ago, and took great piles of gold out. And now, having finally rediscovered the mine, there’s … nothing. No gold. No mining equipment. Just … a great big shiny thing! It’s Mark’s chance to punch Looper out, and get the gun away from him. Now they can see what the shiny thing in back is.
It’s a treasure chest. Its contents: a framed newspaper. Its headline, surprisingly large for the era, is of a gold dealer robbed at a gem show. Two of the robbers were later killed; the third, and the gold nuggets, were never found. The third was the bearded stranger who, five years later, brought him to the mine.
The rationalization: the three buried the gold, figuring to come back when the heat was off. With his partners killed the bearded stranger needed help getting the gold back. So he set up this mystery of a lost gold mine and all. Why couldn’t Doc and his friends couldn’t find the place again? Well, it’s hard to find stuff in the mountains. Especially under different light or from different angles or all. Especially because they were thinking of a mine instead of this, a cave just deep enough for someone to vanish in.
So Doc feels foolish for having believed a cave with gold inside was some kind of gold mine. Looper meanwhile feels like an astounding idiot, what with threatening to shoot people and all that. Looper begs forgiveness. Mark Trail points out, he was pointing a loaded gun at them. But in the awkward days of getting back to town, Mark Trail’s heart softens. After all, they were on a gold-digging expedition in the southwest. If someone desperately afraid of poverty doesn’t pull a gun on the rest of the party, has everyone really had the Gold Prospecting Experience? Of course not. And so Looper gets community service and probation.
We get, from the 12th through 17th of August, a little bit of nature in tooth and claw. It’s a mother cougar fighting a bear until she realizes it’s easier if she moves her cub out of the way instead.
After this interlude we see Mark Trail and Doc having an epilogue back at home. Telling what happens to Looper, and how Cherry Trail would rather Mark didn’t go get himself almost killed. The mention that Rusty Trail is reading the Jungle Jim comic on Comics Kingdom. And that people are mean in comments sections. It’s hard to not think James Allen is working out his frustration with comics snarkers here. Well, whatever gets the bad energies out.
And with the 2nd of September, the current story starts. Woods and Wildlife editor Bill Ellis has an assignment for Mark Trail. University Professor Harvey Camel, anthropologist and explorer, is searching for proof of the Yeti. Ellis is funding the trip, in exchange for first publication rights. Mark Trail is skeptical of any cryptozoology adventures. But this past April, the Indian army tweeted the discovery of a possible Yeti footprint. Mark is finally won over by the journalistic value of such an expedition, and how if legends are right, the Yeti has a lot of facial hair.
Cherry worries for his safety. She mentions how when Mark went to Africa, he had that encounter with “Dirty” Dyer, who’s still lurking around subplots ready to kill Mark with fire. Mark promises that he’s going to be fine, a promise that he can not in fact make. But she accepts his confidence, anyway.
So this past week, Mark Trail has flown to Kathmandu, and met Doctor Camel’s assistant Genie. They’re going from there to Tumlingtar and then to Mount Makalu, where the footprints were found. There’ll be more to say, surely, when we get to the next plot recap, which I expect to be in mid-to-late December.
(By the way, to let you know what a deep strain of Copy Editor Nerd there is in me: I would appreciate thoughts about whether to prefer writing “yeti” or “Yeti”. I know enough that the creature has some presence in legends around the Himalayan mountains. I’d rather refer to it in not-obnoxious ways when I do the next plot recap.)
Sunday Animals Watch
Each Sunday Mark Trail features some wonder of animals, plants, or nature itself, that we’re doing our best to eliminate by 2030. Here’s what’s leaving soon, and when it got featured.
- Formosan Clouded Leopard, 30 June 2019. After six years being thought extinct some were found again.
- Epomis ground beetles, 7 July 2019. They prey on frogs, which the frogs report is “totally bogus”.
- Isopods, 14 July 2019. Deep-sea scavengers. They’re weirder than we realized.
- Razorbacks/Peccaries, 21 July 2019. And this was before that “30-50 feral hogs” meme, so don’t go accusing James Allen of hopping on bandwagons here.
- Giant Water Bugs, 28 July 2019. Oh, I think I know those guys. Yeah, they’re creepy but leave them alone and they’ll go about whatever their business is exactly.
- Sumatran Rhinoceroses, 4 August 2019. It’s the only Asian rhino species to have two horns. But their outlook is grim.
- Ravens, 11 August 2019. Particularly, white ravens. Do not cross them.
- Golden tortoise beetles, 18 August 2019. So if you were wondering what was feeding on your morning glory, bindweed, or sweet potatoes see if these guys are the problem.
- Raccoon dogs, 25 August 2019. The only canine species known to hibernate, by the way, so you’re welcome when this comes up during your Jeopardy! audition.
- Amazon Parrots, 1 September 2019. Yeah, they’re great, but they have longer lifespans than do Fortune 500 Companies, so what to do with them after you die is a discussion you have to have a lot.
- Grasshopper Mice, 8 September 2019. Not to be all animal hipster with you, but I knew about these guys in the 90s and I’m glad the Internet is discovering these weirdoes. Like, they’ll howl like tiny wolves, and stalk prey species, and they’re even immune to some animals’ venom. I know, right?
- Sea slugs, 15 September 2019. OK, they’ve got an awful name but these critters do some amazing things with body design and color.
- Hornet-Mimic Hoverflies, 22 September 2019. They look like hornets, but don’t sting, so if you have one hanging around you, relax!
Oh, how is Dawn Weston’s summer romance going? Is her beau, the For-Real French Foreign Exchange Student Jean-Luke Baguette really so heartless as to leave her, even for his home village of Mal-de-Mere, in the Bibliothèque province of France? Is there hope for true love winning out over all? In Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth? Will there be muffins? I’m delighted to have the answers to these and more silly questions, next Sunday.
I write this in the supposition you’ve never been knocked senseless. I haven’t either, at least so far as I know. I suppose if I had lost my sense of whether I was senseless I wouldn’t know about it. Well, maybe I’d have some confusing memory some from before the senseless-ness-knocking-out. But I’d mostly know that my course of action was altered by something I now couldn’t understand. “It’s as though I had the ability to sense whether some spongy substance was in the area, but that’s impossible … isn’t it?” would be my analysis of the memory. All because I didn’t know whether I should have a sense of sponge. So here, let’s review some of the senses you might have, or expect to have.
The sense of taste. This is an important one, given the role it serves in letting you put the world in order. Without it there’s no consistent way to tell which of the three categories of tastes things are in. Is this vanilla? Is it chipotle? Is it chocolate? Or will they be forever unknown? Without this sense you’ll wander through a confused, shadowy representation of the lickable universe, or as it known professionally, the lickiverse. I mean an even more confused and shadowy representation. (I don’t want to get in even more trouble with the Tongue Neo-Platonists. I’m still trying to rebuild my reputation after that whole “what’s the taste of shadows” fiasco.)
The sense of smell. This sense is important for making any room suddenly uncomfortable. Without it you might go months without interrupting your day with an investigation of every room in the building to see if something is smoldering. “It’s like someone microwaved a fish on a slab of car tires,” people who can smell are saying to each other, not all the time. “And then sprayed Febreeze so we wouldn’t notice. Why would a linen closet smell like that?” This is only more fun when you notice that strange, faintly evil smell when you’re in a car, two and a half hours from home, in the snow, with the heater almost keeping up against the cold. And there’s two friends you promised rides to sitting in the backseat. And something’s clicking, which you know through your sense of hearing. But even if you didn’t hear it, you’d know that ticking was there. It’s not the fan.
The sense of balance. Without this sense it’s impossible, except by good luck, to arrange the layout of elements on a newspaper page. You can slog on through uninspired compositions, ones with rote placements of headlines, pictures, and rules to guide the eye. But the readers will know. Even if they can follow the article about the area’s axe-throwing businesses, their eyes will not be delighted. How are we to enjoy the visual feast of a morning newspaper when it’s just, ugh, head across four columns, no subhead, two-column picture set dead center in the middle two? No pull quotes? No cheeky use of a subhead? Yeah.
The sense of dubious taste. This is a protective sense; you can ignore or do without its warnings, but it will make your life noticeably worse. It gets really active when you start pondering, say, whether there was ever a way Disney could have made a Song of the South everybody wouldn’t be angry with them about. And then maybe put the discussion up on Twitter. It can save you from lesser dangers too. For example, it’s the sense which alerts you to how much of your body you’re putting in a garment that’s international-warning-signal orange. Yes, there are people who can pull this look off. They’re among the dubious super-tasters. They know how to follow their sense’s warnings, and stay out of danger. The primary danger is that you are mistaken for a bollard protecting the approach to a bridge, or perhaps (by giants) a Cheeto.
This is an incomplete list of senses, so far as I’m aware. If you find yourself not having a sense which is not on this list, please add it, and then to obtain a replacement sense from the nearest body shop. Most body shops don’t have whole bodies in stock, but they keep some nice accessories.
Thanks for wondering what might be happening in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. I’m writing this when the Summer 2018 storyline has barely begun. So if you’re reading this too late into summer, or after Fall 2018, sorry, this won’t help. If I’ve got a more recent summary it should be at or near the top of this page. Thanks for checking. And, you know, if you want to just subscribe to Another Blog, Meanwhile, and get these updates in your WordPress Reader, there’s the blue strip to “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” on the right side of this page. At least until I change the theme as if I could find a theme that will make me happy.
My other content-generation scheme is my mathematics blog. Which comics from last week brought up mathematical themes, and what can I make of those themes? Good question, since one of those comics was published in 1971. But you maybe saw it again more recently.
12 March – 2 June 2018.
[ Record scratch. MARTY MOON, in voice-over. ] “Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.”
Yes. But nobody wants to hear what passes for introspection in Marty Moon’s mind. I’ll do it instead. It started with Jorge and Paloma Padilla, transfer students fleeing Donald Trump’s enthusiastic drowning of Puerto Rico by joining Milford’s basketball teams. Marty Moon, covering a game, says Hurricane Maria was the best thing that could’ve happened to the Milford basketball team and also to “Georgie”. And talks how Georgie “earned his burritos” with that great play. How he’s a regular “Mexican jumping bean”. He figures this weird, faintly-racist-in-that-way-60s-food-mascots-could-be stuff might help the radio station land a big advertising deal from a Mexican restaurant. Paloma’s Disgruntled Students Group comes to the station to ask what the deal is. Moon mansplains that they need to remember the one key thing in the world of high-school-sports radio-journalism: shut up. So they take seats right behind Moon’s broadcast table and heckle him. He runs off.
Moon recuperates in the time-honored fashion of white guys. He whines about political correctness gone mad and determines that it’s someone else’s fault (“or I’ll eat my sombrero”). Moon identifies coach Gil Thorp as the problem. It is a common thought in Gil Thorp commenting communities that Gil Thorp doesn’t really care about what’s going on. But in this case, well, yeah. He wouldn’t intermediate between Moon and the Disgruntled Students Group. But how is students protesting Marty Moon’s racist on-air jokes any of Thorp’s responsibility? But he rallies to action, and in a way I thought crafty. He tells the Disgruntled Students Group that they shouldn’t be drowning Moon out. But also there’s no reason Marty Moon should be the only coverage of sports games.
The Disgruntled Students Group sets up the “Milford Pirate Network” on YouTube. Cute nerd Duncan Levin, wearing a pirate hat and fake parrot, narrates the game. He has the condescending nerd attitude that calls “sportsball” any game that doesn’t involve miniatures and weird-marked dice. No matter; the Milford Pirate Network’s real game is bear-baiting, and Marty Moon hopes to someday be sharp as a bear. Levin’s a hit, which, yeah, I can see. I don’t buy the strip’s claim that this would draw away people who would like to hear coverage of a high school basketball game. But I accept there’s people who don’t care about basketball who would like to watch a nerd heckling a clownish local-media personality. I’m going ahead and assuming he pads his reporting with Monty Python quotes and lines from the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 series.
But there’s still the hecklers, taking Gil Thorp at his word that the occasional outburst is normal. And Levin, poking his head in to ask if Marty Moon’s wife is a goer, knowwhudImean. And his boss complaining that this whole mess is Marty Moon’s own fault. Even Jorge has limited sympathy. It’s not that anyone threw Moon under the bus. It’s that he dug a pit for himself in the asphalt and then hugged a bus over top of himself. And then hired another bus to come and run over that bus. And then hired a third, bigger bus company to run a bus over that buspile. Then he got back to the first bus company and had them put monster truck tires on top of their tallest bus and drive it over them.
On to an away game. The Milford Pirate Network is there. Levin asks how Moon can possibly transmit without a fake parrot attached to his shirt. Moon curses out Levin live and on air, using even the # word, and gets an indefinite suspension for his troubles. Even though he totally sent an e-mail saying he apologized if there were any fragile snowflakes out there who were too sheltered in their safe spaces to able to tolerate his honest truth-telling.
The suspension has its downsides. It turns out that without Moon to heckle, Levin isn’t much of a sports commentator. I know, weird that someone who’d talk about how their big sweaty guy is better than our big sweaty guy doesn’t know how to craft a good sports narrative. But likely it would have petered out in any case. It’s easy enough to make fun of something once, maybe twice. Keeping at it after that requires work. You have to have writing skills. You have to run out of stuff to say and care about the subject enough to think of new stuff to say. And deep down, Levin doesn’t really care about basketball.
The YouTube coverage winds down. And there’s no radio coverage either, which I guess is a bad thing for the basketball team for some reason? I don’t know. This may be my background showing. I grew up in central New Jersey. A high school basketball game would not make the evening news unless something noteworthy happened, such as the Governor accidentally crashing a light aircraft into the gymnasium and transforming the six people nearest the crash site into superhero tiger-sharks, as happened in Egg Harbor City the 22nd of July, 1986.
So coach Gil Thorp puts aside his not really caring and intervenes again. Moon’s boss confirms that if they can do something that gets the Disgruntled Students Group off their backs they’ll put Moon back on the air. So Thorp goes to Paloma. He explains how this has all been jolly good fun, but now a white man is suffering a consequence. Surely she doesn’t want to be responsible for that? Which is where in this storyline I started yelling back at the comic. I may need to take a break.
But they work out a deal. The Disgruntled Students Group will drop their protest, if Marty Moon apologizes, takes an online course about Latin American history, and covers at least one girls game each season. I’m not clear if this is only girls basketball, or all the major sports. But the lack of media coverage of girls sports was mentioned, early in the story, and was one of the injustices Paloma noticed. Moon’s boss buys the deal for him. Moon says “I can’t believe you let those kids get away with this.” Thorp answers, “You sound like the villain on Scooby-Doo”. This moment endeared Thorp to me. It got the Scooby-Doo quote wrong in the way that a middle-aged guy who really doesn’t care about Scooby-Doo would. And that, with the 21st of April, ends the Marty Moon/Jorge Paloma story.
The current story, softball season, started the 23rd of April. Senior Kevin Pelwecki has got obsessive in that endearing teenager way about batting just right. And lecturing his teammates on the proper swing. Gil Thorp, spotting trouble early this time, steps in. He drills Pelwecki on batting, keeping him too busy to instruct his teammates, and away from where his teammates can flush him down a toilet. That’s all right; Pelwecki will find the time to teach his teammates about his new batting stance. In fairness, he is getting better pretty fast.
Meanwhile at school newspaper The Milford Trumpet, they have a plotline. Dafne, spunky young reporter who probably has a last name, has noticed Barry Bader. Bader’s a weirdly intense player on the team. She digs around and what she can find is interesting but incomplete. She learns that Bader’s father is in jail for killing a student while driving drunk. The story’s more complicated than that [*], but she can’t get much, since it happened the summer before I started doing these plot recaps. She figures: well, why not ask him about it? And in case of the one-in-a-million chance he doesn’t want to talk about it? Why not ask him again and again until he says something newsworthy?
[*]: While driving home drunk Bader’s father crashed his car into Milford girls’ softball star pitcher “Boo” Radley’s. Both were okay at first, but a truck that didn’t stop in time hit Radley’s car, killing her. The salient part starts here, the 2nd of June, 2016 and goes about a week. Also relevant: Bader’s father was already standing trial for driving drunk when this happened.
This goes well. A provoked Bader argues with an umpire until Thorp carries him back to the dugout. Later in the game Bader takes a runner’s slide into second as a personal affront, slugs him, and gets suspended for two games. His teammates laugh through his anger, because remember, guys are awful. Bader figures to channel his anger into interviews with Dafne. He says, “it can’t make things any worse”, apparently forgetting that he was calling his father’s judge in the first trial an “ugly cow” that someone ought to “smack” and that things said to reporters sometimes get reported. No matter; he’s busy this weekend. He’d told a bunch of Greek gods how he could perform a more beautiful melody on the lute than any of them. Now they’re going to have a little contest to see who’s right.
So we’re ready to see the interview happen. There are all sorts of ways this can go well; which will it be? I’ll know tomorrow; you’ll know, I don’t know. Next essay, probably.
When will the storyline-to-pop-culture-riff ratio in Judge Parker cross that of Sally Forth? Has it already? Tune in next week, same bat-channel, and find out how Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley are getting through this one!
It’s natural to ask about being knocked senseless. It would even be good sense, if only that weren’t an impossibly complicated logical problem. About the only resolution is to list important senses ahead of time so if you lose them you will be able to tell, and feel the worse for it.
The sense of taste. Without this, there’s really no way to know whether you like what you’re eating or whether you merely think you do. To test whether you have this you’ll need some calibration. With a trusted friend, or an enemy whose respect for the integrity of knowledge overcomes your differences, swap tongues and test some agreed-upon meal. Take notes! You’ll want to compare them. Under no circumstances start arguing about whether the color that you perceive as blue is the same thing that your friend or enemy perceives as blue. Starting on this path will result in unpleasant questions about whether chocolate tastes like chocolate or whether you merely think there is a taste to chocolate. Those lacking friends or trustworthy enemies can borrow a tongue from the library. It is normally kept in the multi-media section so that patrons will know all of their audiobooks and DVDs have been licked by a qualified tongue.
The sense of scale. There are so many needs for this, and not just if you want to tell whether that’s a naked cobra in front of you. It’s not. It’s a garter snake. You live in Troy, New York, for crying out loud. Be sensible. It’s not like … wait, garter snakes are venomous? Who’s responsible for that? Excuse me, can we talk with the person in charge of reptiles so we can sort out who thought we needed venomous garter snakes? OK, wait, Wikipedia says they don’t produce a lot of venom and they don’t have any good way of delivering it? The heck, garter snakes? If you’re going to be venomous then do it right, and if you’re not going to be venomous don’t go getting us all riled up like that. You’re supposed to be North America’s cute little starter snake so we can look at you and feel a little thrill and then laugh at ourselves for getting scared. What are you doing getting all complicated like that?
The sense of touch. This is an important sense in order that people learn whether their legs are being attacked by a cat hiding underneath the bed. Without this sense who could say whether they were even on a bed, apart from looking at the thing they’re in and reviewing the checklist of important qualities of bed-ness to see if enough of them are satisfied? Yes, exactly. And you thought I was just going on a bunch of nonsense today.
The sense of balance. Without this it’s almost impossible to do a professional job arranging the graphic elements for a newspaper page. While one can carry on, the best one can hope for is pages made competently, without the sense of joy or wonder that truly engages readers. Without attractively-arranged pictures, headlines, and text blocks, people are forced to leave behind the printed newspaper and take up positions in web page design and glaring at the neighbor that’s parked on the wrong side of the road and building dense hedge mazes around what was until hours ago the municipal parking lot.
The sense of scale. Among the other many needs of this you need something to help you avoid stepping onto one and getting the unpleasant news about your weight. You have one. That’s a hard thing to hear about this early in the century, and it won’t be any easier later in the century either.
The sense of smell. Without the ability to notice a curious odor there’s no way to tell that your car is on fire except by the honking and frantic waving of people in the car next to you. This limits your driving to two-lane roads with enough traffic, which can cause you to be late for whatever you needed to do.
The sense of scale. Without the ability to tell which things are nearby and small and which are far away yet large you might accidentally take too large a step for the situation and turn out to be ten floors up on top of the building. This may inconvenience the person you were walking with. It’s different if you were trying to lose the person after finding out what they think food tastes like. You just have to know the context for what you think you’re doing.
The sense of sponge. Without this sense you could be surprised by something moist yet compressible. You can’t go around spritzing objects to then test whether they become more compressible, not without having to answer questions from the unexpectedly damp.
Should any senses be missing you should replace them from the store. Try aisle four, by the dollar toys.
If the Lansing City Community News demanding that I explain why New York execs are investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry was a start, then this is a continuation. The next week’s installment of the four page “edition” of the Lansing State Journal starts out:
Investors are bringing their millions to Lansing. Here’s why
LANSING – Three multi-million dollar venture capital firms have opened in Greater Lansing in the past six months.
Investors from Ann Arbor and New York have come to invest in businesses started at Michigan State University and even local fashion designers.
The number of early stage investment firms in Greater Lansing now stands at six, on par with the Grand Rapids region.
The question is: Why?
The article goes on to explain there’s a bunch of venture capital firms intersted in Lansing now. There used to not be so many interested, and that was all right, but now there are more, and that’s all right too. What I really spot, though, are the points that Alusheff clearly got a note from someone that they just ran a piece about the fashion industry being invested in and made sure to mention that; and that the headline didn’t bother punctuating the “Here’s why” even though it’s so close to the period at the end of the first sentence. I’m not going to be staying up all night worrying about that now that I’ve seen it! Ha ha!
So for once I don’t have something to say from the pages of the local alt-weekly. I’ve got something from the pages of the main-weekly. I mean, the Lansing City Community News, which is four pages of human-interest articles indifferently ripped from the Lansing State Journal and wrapped around a bunch of coupons for stuff we have never needed but go through every week just in case. The big headline for last weekend’s issue was:
Why are New York execs investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry?
I’ve rarely felt so threatened by a free four-page weekly newspaper I don’t really read. I worry I have to have an answer. What if the Community News editor spots me on the street, pushes me to the ground, and sits on my chest, demanding, “Well? Why are New York execs investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry? Huh? Better have an answer, mister!” And I’ll just sit there, sputtering. “I don’t know! I have nothing to do with Lansing’s fledgeling fashion industry! I don’t even know any New York execs! I went to college with someone who’s an editor for the Hollywood Reporter, I think, but that’s it! I don’t know!” And then he’ll threaten to stuff my mouth full of coupons for dollar store Frozen-brand expanding towels and Finley’s Grill and Smokehouse.
Mell Lazarus, cartoonist for Momma and Miss Peach, died about two months ago. And now we know how far ahead of deadline he was able to work, between original strips and reruns. This appeared last Sunday, when I was trying to cover up being away from home with a week of my own reruns:
I doubt anyone saw that coming. Momma was never a continuity-heavy strip and so there wasn’t any reason to think it would need a finale. I’m impressed that Lazarus or someone working with him had thought to have a closing comic. Also that it’s a perfect capstone for the comic.
It is curious to me none of Lazarus’s characters appears in the strip. For that matter, Cathy, For Better Or For Worse, and Peanuts are in officially announced perpetual reruns, with Schulz even dead for quite some time now. The Family Circus is in unofficially announced perpetual reruns. I don’t know what to make of this set of characters, other than that perhaps they reflect creators Lazarus considered particularly good friends.
Is the comic strip leaving syndication? I haven’t seen any announcement the syndicate means to drop it, although it’s hard to suppose there’ll be any more new strips. But the perpetual-rerun is now a tolerated part of the syndicated comic offering: besides the above-mentioned strips Doonesbury and Get Fuzzy are new only on weekends, and there are many minor strips that are new only on the weekends or not at all. And Momma hadn’t offered a new daily strip since February.
What I gather is that Momma is still being offered to newspapers, but that might reflect Creators Syndicate not having decided what to do after Lazarus’s death. If I hear of anything more I’ll say.
According to posters on the Usenet group rec.arts.comics.strips, Jok Church’s feature You Can with Beakman and Jax is ending this week. And according to the strip itself Kevin Frank’s Heaven’s Love Thrift Shop is ending at the close of the month. The past twelve months have been a brutal one for syndicated comics and related features.
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.
With the final demise of Apartment 3-G in not just artistic but also actual production terms, the natural question is: who wins? That is, who gets the spot suddenly opened up in about three hundred newspapers?
Let me take this second paragraph to point out the most recent Reading The Comics post over on my mathematics blog. Thank you.
I should point out, I don’t know how many newspapers Apartment 3-G was running in at the end. I say “about three hundred” because whenever a comic strip’s circulation is mentioned it’s usually given as “about three hundred”. “About three hundred newspapers” is the comic strip circulation figure equivalent of “has a girlfriend in Canada”. It’s possible enough, and disproving it would take more work than anyone cares to invest.
Certainly not winning are the soap opera strips. As a genre they’re dead, probably squeezed the same way soap operas proper are dying (in the United States). Kids don’t grow up reading them, and adults have better things to do than follow the soaps. I don’t know when the last new syndicated soap opera strip to launch was. The closest might be Dan Thompson’s Rip Haywire, which is an action-adventure strip, but a humorous, self-spoofing one. That means the main story would be serviceable for an action-adventure strip, but every panel includes a joke about how stupid the Kardashians are or something like that, and when the villain reveals his plan he owns up that this is a kinda dumb thing to do. It’s a fun strip, one of Thompson’s nearly six dozen good daily strips that he’s producing, but it’s not a soap. And I’m not positive it appears in any newspapers.
I would expect Greg Evans and Karen Evans’s Luann and Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean to make the most gains from the spaces available, actually. Both strips have moved into the semi-serialized format that’s the closest the market will support to a soap-opera strip. In this format — I think of Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury as the defining example of it — there are a couple of story lines going on, and each week will advance one of the stories. But nearly each daily strip will contain a punch line, or an attempted punch line, so the strip doesn’t quite abandon the joke-a-day format.
(This isn’t to suggest that humor strips with story lines are a modern development. Walt Kelly’s Pogo mastered the form, and strips like E C Segar’s Thimble Theater/Popeye were certainly doing that. But they would have typically one story going at a time, and focus on that for as long as conditions warranted. I think the markers of the semi-serialized format are that there are multiple story lines going on for the various characters, that one of them will be picked up for any given Monday-to-Saturday sequence, that the following week is likely to follow a completely different thread, and that the full week will be devoted to a single thread. Funky Winkerbean, for example, has so committed to this that its snark community gets confused when the strip does six days of unconnected gag-a-day jokes without an overarching topic.)
You may protest that Luann and Funky Winkerbean are already successful, commercially if not artistically. (There is a lot to snark about the plotting in both comic strips.) And yes, they’re probably doing about as well as syndicated comic strips not drawn by Charles Schulz half a century ago can hope to do. But success and acclaim tend to attract success and acclaim. That newspaper editors have heard of them makes it easier to pick them up, in newspapers that haven’t picked them up already. This may be cosmically unjust, but it is an unjust trait every human field has.
If King Features Syndicate were really on the ball, they would be pushing some of their semi-serial comics, such as Norm Feuti’s Retail, heavily. But then if King Features Syndicate were on the ball, some editor would have stepped in on Apartment 3-G sometime the past two years. (There is a rumor that Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock had strips, or at least scripts, prepared through to January 2016. If true, this would explain why the last few weeks of the strip so ineptly wrapped up events. I would be fascinated to see these strips and learn if they were pulled because they somehow managed to be even worse, or if the syndicate just decided to cut its losses finally.)
I have seen reports of King Features placing Niklas Eriksson’s Carpe Diem into newspapers. That’s basically a panel strip, although done in the long rectangular dimensions of a three- or four-panel comic. It’d be a good choice for any newspaper that doesn’t already carry Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler’s WuMo, if there are any. King Features has also started recently Take It From The Tinkersons, by Bill Bettwy, which is unlike other family comics by being about the Tinkerson family instead of other family-comics families; and David Reddick’s Intelligent Life, which hops on the bandwagon of The Big Bang Theory with the speed and precision we expect from the comics page.
Universal Uclick should be able to place Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and her Unicorn into at least a few of those emptied spots. Simpson’s is the first comic Universal Uclick has launched into newspapers in several years, and it’s got a pleasant, charming whimsy. It’s also benefitted from well-meaning reviews that claim it’s a female version of Calvin and Hobbes. It’s no girl-based clone of that comic, though. It really only shares the superficial traits of being well-drawn and starring a child and an animal with Bill Watterson’s masterpiece. But the syndicate would be fools not to trade on good publicity, and I’d expect many readers to like what the strip actually is once they’ve read it.
But it’s also sadly possible that no comic strip will reap a bonanza of new spots from this. It might all go to the tire ads instead. November 2015 has been a harsh month for syndicated comic strips, and that in a bloodbath year. While everyone was watching Apartment 3-G collapse, Larry Wright’s impossibly gentle panel strip Kit ‘n’ Carlyle ran its last installment, on the 7th of November. And come the 29th, Julie Larson’s The Dinette Set panel is to retire. Kit ‘n’ Carlyle was about a kitten making a mess of its owner’s dates or food or drapes, rather like Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts without the despair and misanthropy. The Dinette Set was all bite, daily peeks at some horrible people who don’t get it. It doesn’t really have punch lines, more of an atmosphere of awkward unpleasantness. I can’t fault the many readers who never got what was supposed to be funny in this.
I don’t know that I ever saw Kit ‘n’ Carlyle in an actual newspaper, but then I don’t remember when I last saw Apartment 3-G on paper either. The Dinette Set I remember seeing at least a few times, so maybe it runs in four hundred newspapers. Also finished this year were Fred Wegner’s Grin and Bear It and Steve Sicula’s Home and Away. Jan Eliot’s Stone Soup last month switched from daily to Sunday-only publication, which is almost as good as stopping altogether. Daily and Sunday comics pages are only loosely connected. Terry LaBan and Patty LaBan’s family strip Edge City is ending with the close of 2015. Given all this, I wouldn’t blame a comics page editor for taking the chance to reorganize everything and drop all but the cheapest or most popular comics. Or the tire ads.
If there are still comics page editors, or newspapers, soon.
I try to read the local alt-weekly, the City Pulse, every alt-week. I keep finding wonderful things in it. That’s not even counting how the architectural critic for the Eyesore Of The Week column is out of control. He’s taken to insulting fine enough houses that have too large a picture window next to the driveway.
One of this week’s wonderful things is in the classified ads. These are normally almost one-third of a page of shakily formatted ads. Some of them aren’t even for the newspaper itself. This week, literally next to the ad for Lawn Mowing Service (“Ask for Dave”) and the appeal to “Donate plasma and earn $$$!” (to earn three $ and a whole factorial is a special treat), was an ad for physicists. Here’s how it starts:
Physicist: The Michigan State University National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory seeks qualified candidates for the following full-time positions: Senior Physicist (East Lansing, MI).
Sure, who isn’t seeking qualified candidates for the position of senior physicist? Well, besides the newspaper. They need an advertising sales representative and a route driver. And I know what you’re thinking. “You have a math blog, Nebushumor or whatever your actual name is [ it’s Joseph ], you should apply!” I’m flattered. Thank you. But the listing says they’re looking for someone with:
exp in the design, construction, system integration and commissioning of a hadron linear accelerator with a beam power of an order of 1 MW, including electromagnetic and mechanical designs of accelerating cavities, beam focusing elements and vacuum systems for use in an accelerator.
As a mathematician naturally I have exp all over the place. I would imagine sweeping it out periodically except — you know what? Just trust me that this was heading in the direction of a mathematics joke. Mathematics and some physics majors were already giggling in anticipation. Forgive them. Anyway, I’m weak on the mechanical design of beam focusing elements for use in an accelerator. Whenever they were the lecture topic I was staring out the window at the campus’s albino squirrel.
Yes, I’m excited by the invitation to “act as Facility for Rare Isotope Beams Linac Segment Area Manager responsible for the integrated design and commissioning, and coordination of construction of the driver linear accelerator segments 1, 2, and 3 technical systems”. I’m so excited I didn’t even notice they used the Oxford comma inconsistently compared to the one quoted above. It spruces up the back pages of the newspaper. That’s the neighborhood where they run an ad for themselves showing Dave boasting how he got fifteen calls in April from his classified ad for lawn mowing. I assume it’s Dave. They don’t actually say.
I have to wonder how many applications the advert is going to get, though. Sure, anyone might be qualified to “design, fabricate and install complex superconducting accelerators”. But how many of them happen to read the classifieds in the alt-weekly any given week? There’s only so many people going into the hipster bar and the bagel shop at any moment.
It’s possible they already have someone in mind and are only posting the advertisement for form’s sake. They do specify they need candidates with “a PhD in Physics or a closely related field + 5 years exp. as a Research Scientist or any related physics research position”. But that seems like a fair requirement for an aspiring FRIBLSA Manager. It’s so reasonable that I didn’t even notice they were inconsistent about including a dot after abbreviating “experience”.
But what if they don’t? What if this is the best idea they’ve got for finding FRIBLSA Management talent? Maybe they got plenty of applicants interested in research and integration of linac segments from the normal physics-job channels, but still felt something missing. Maybe all the CVs got to looking the same. And then the head of the FRIBLSA Management Search Committee threw up her hands and said, “We need new talent!” And someone looked up from checking whether the new Hideous Art Museum was named Eyesore of the Week and pointed out they had the classifieds section.
I’d love to know if it works. I’d love to see a picture of a physicist saying “I received 15 calls in June from my City Pulse Pulsified for senior physicists.” Wouldn’t you?
Also if you are a Senior Physicist and get this job because I mentioned it let me know since my placement fees are reasonable.
The architecture critic in the local alternate weekly seems to be settling back to normal, at least after a piece where he declared icicles to be the eyesore of the week. It really wasn’t that harsh a winter, not compared to the winter of 2013-14, which waited outside the houses of every mid-Michigander personally so as to whack us in the shins. So I don’t see that icicles deserve all that much hate, not this year.
The past week’s issue did a feature about Tim Barron, local talk radio guy, who’s leaving radio in favor of telling people stuff over the Internet, where he won’t have to worry about clashing with the audience his old station wants. He says, in the article, “I’m a bit too abrasive, too realistic for that. I say words like penis and vagina.”
While of course I wonder which words like penis and vagina he says (penury? angina? pinochle?), what caught my intrest was a sidebar panel mentioning things Barron had hosted in the area, including the Costume Contest For Dogs (24 years!), the Common Ground music festival, and the “Home Guilders Association of Greater Lansing’s Toys of Tots”. It’s easy to suppose that this is an ordinary typo on a line that’s already got another typo on it, but I also like the idea that the capital area can support a whole association of people who dip houses into gold. It suggests the economy is on an upswing and they won’t have to assess our house at a higher rate anytime soon. Also that there’s a long-running Costume Contest for Dogs that I didn’t know about until now.
So remember that thing from last week where it looked like The Better Half might be ending? It’s not just a rumor planted by a newspaper looking to replace it with The Lockhorns without getting a lot of whiny complaints from its readers: according to cartoonist Randy Glasbergen himself, he’s decided not to renew his contract to produce the comic strip, mostly because his freelance business demands too much of his time. And allegedly King Features Syndicate is getting enough controversy about “legacy strips”, which is the industry jargon for “comic strips where the person who made them great died as recently as Franklin Roosevelt’s second term but the comic strip is still running somehow”, so they’re letting the strip end rather than replace him as cartoonist.
And I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I feel instinctively bad about any comic strip ending. On the other I do feel like it’s important new comics get to appear in newspapers, and newspaper editors have made it pretty clear that in practice they will not drop a comic strip if they are not forced into it, and that’ll be either by the strip ending or the newspaper not being able to afford comics anymore (looking at you, New York Post, before you go out of business in maybe March). But I also know deep down that the space won’t go into new comics; it’s hard to figure any editor not deciding to replace it with The Lockhorns or maybe nothing.
And, honestly, who goes to the newspapers for their comics anymore? It’s so vastly easier to read them online, where you get more comics, and a better variety of them, and you don’t have the daily reminder of the flimsy, poorly-edited, vaguely sad thing that’s become your local newspaper surrounding them. From that view there’s really no reason to end a comic apart from the one Glasbergen himself said, that he’s got more useful things to do with his time, which in his case turn out to also be drawing comic strips.
And as that warmup probably made you expect, my mathematics blog got another bunch of comic strips to write about. That was a couple days ago, actually, but I had the big Friday post and then the video and Statistics Saturday rituals to get through first. They’ll keep.
I wanted just to share the front page from the Lansing State Journal from the 4th of October. It’s mostly about a perfectly normal incident, the sprucing up of campus by covering some of it with public art. I get the 30-foot-tall pencils. They were one of the best ways to jot down notes back in the olden days when students were over 350 feet tall and used sheets of paper two-thirds the size of a baseball infield for their records. It’s a time worth remembering. I don’t get the bright red squiggly figure but I imagine it’s something useful in a note-taking app or whatever they do in classes anymore.
Also I notice that the Lansing State Journal warned, “LCC UNVEILS PUBLIC ART” using a bigger typeface than it saw fit to use for the start of the Korean War. Public art can be confusing and uncertain, sure, but it hardly seems to be that alarming. They could have used a subheadline of maybe “Despair Unwarranted; There Is No Need To Panic”. Nevertheless, it’s a fine typeface they use for that headline, though. That R has character. It’s no Bodoni, I’ll admit that, but as sans serifs go it’s something.
Now and then I read the actual local newspaper listings of upcoming events, usually a couple days after the weekly paper’s come out so that I can see what I might have wanted to go to if it hadn’t already happened. One that really appeared was a nature lecture: “Learn about mosquitoes.” And that was the entire description of the event.
I don’t envy the people organizing this. Selling mosquito knowledge is going to be an uphill struggle because once you get past advanced swatting techniques folks don’t want to hear it. Yes, yes, fascinating evolutionary heritage key part web of life blah blah, swat. But to have only three words to convince people to come? Maybe they’d be better off pitching it as a chance to learn about some more popular animal and then reveal it’s actually mosquitoes to a surprise audience. “Puppies kiss you” would probably get a better if swiftly angered and turning-to-biteyness turnout.
For reasons that make sense to someone I got a copy of Friday’s USA Today, the front-page Snapshot of which asked, “Will Fifth `Spider’ Be A Superhero?” Its observation was:
No “Spider-Man” movie is among the 18 films that have grossed over $1 billion globally.
I find myself strangely affected by USA Today‘s decision to be disappointed in the Spider-Man movie theme franchise. Without really trying I could probably list five movies which haven’t made a billion dollars in worldwide box office , so why pick on these particularly?
Or if they’re just looking for things to be disappointed by in the Spider-Man movies, why not, say, be disappointed they haven’t done a movie where Spidey battles the Headmen, a group of loser-ish superheroes led by a mad scientist who was planning to mad science the world with gorillas, only the gorillas mad scientisted him and now he’s got the body of a gorilla and the head of a mad scientist, and his sidekick is a junior mad scientist from the comic strip Herman, and I swear this isn’t my stupid dream?
I should probably explain that I mostly know Spider-Man through his newspaper comic strip appearances, and that his newspaper comic strip is still a thing that exists, even though Spider-Man in it is regularly foiled by inanimate objects, including bricks and alarm clocks, and I’m not sure he’s saved a day in the past eighteen months without another, better, hero doing the actual work.
 Let’s see if I can. Um. Tod Browning’s Freaks, obviously. Tom Schiller’s Nothing Lasts Forever. Robert Altman’s Popeye. Tony Richardson’s The Loved One. James Cameron’s Avatar. Dang, this is hard. Maybe I shouldn’t be mocking the Snapshot editor of USA Today.
Today I’d like to return to Finley Peter Dunne and his Mister Dooley here, in a piece from Observations By Mister Dooley going over the news of the week. This should all sound extremely vivid if you’re well-versed in the daily news of 1902 (in July of 1902 when the campanille in Venice’s Piazza San Marco collapsed, an incident which brought a lot of attention to that rather famous one in Pisa, which hasn’t yet fallen down or over), but I don’t imagine that annotating every bit of this is necessary. It’s to me a marvelous way to see figures of the era, such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryant, and Whitelaw Reid as more vivid figures than just what history books give you; and if you don’t know the era.
“What’s goin’ on this week in th’ papers?” asked Mr. Hennessy.
“Ivrything,” said Mr. Dooley. “It’s been a turbylint week. I can hardly sleep iv nights thinkin’ iv th’ doin’s iv people. Th’ campinily at Venice has fallen down. ‘Twas built in 1604 be th’ Beezantiums an’ raystored in 1402 be th’ Dogs. It fell down because th’ foundations was weak, because th’ wind blew, because th’ beautiful figure iv th’ goolden angel on top iv it was fifteen feet high. It will be rebuilt or maybe not. Th’ king iv Italy has given thirty-three billion liars to put it up again, an’ siv’ral ladin’ American archytects have offered to do th’ job, makin’ an office buildin’ iv it. Th’ campinily was wan iv th’ proudest monymints iv Italy an’ was used as a bell-tower at times, an’ at other times as a gazabo where anny American cud take a peek at th’ gran’ canal an’ compare it with th’ Erie, th’ Pannyma an’ th’ dhrainage iv the same name.
“Th’ king iv England is betther. He’s off in his yacht. So ar-re Laking, Treves, Smith, Barlow, Jones, Casey, Lister, thank Hiven! A hard life is science. Th’ Hon’rable Joseph Choate is raycoverin’ more slowly. He still sobs occas’nally in his sleep an’ has ordhered all th’ undher sicreties to have their vermyform appindixes raymoved as a token iv rayspict f’r th’ sthricken nation. Th’ Hon’rable Whitelaw Reid is havin’ a cast iv his knee breeches made, which will be exhibited in New York durin’ th’ comin’ winter.
“Me frind, J. Pierpont Morgan, has been takin’ dinner with th’ Impror Willum. It is undherstud he will presint him to th’ Methropolytan Museem iv Art. There are said to be worse things there.
“Lord Salisberry has thrun up his job. Lord Salisberry was wan iv th’ grandest an’ mos’ succissful statesmen iv modhren times. He niver did annything. He is succeeded be his nevvew, Misther Balfour, if I get th’ name right, who has done less. It is expicted that Misther Balfour will have a good time. On rayceivin’ th’ congrathylations iv his colleague, Misther Chamberlain, he bought himsilf a rayvolver an’ took out a policy on his life.
“A lady down east woke her husband up to tell him there was a burglar in th’ house. Th’ foolish woman. They’se always burglars in th’ house. That’s what burglars are f’r, an’ houses. Instead iv argyin’ th’ pint in a loud voice, coughin’ an’ givin’ th’ burglar a chance to lave with dignity, this man got up an’ was kilt. Now th’ pa-apers with th’ assistance iv th’ officers iv th’ law has discovered that th’ lady took a boat ride with a gintleman frind in th’ summer iv sixty-two, that she wanst quarreled with her husband about th’ price iv a hat, that wan iv her lower teeth is plugged, that she wears a switch an’ that she weeps whin she sees her childher. They’se a moral in this. It’s ayether don’t wake a man up out iv a sound sleep, or don’t get out iv bed till ye have to, or don’t bother a burglar whin ye see he’s busy, or kill th’ iditor. I don’t know which it is.
“Willum Jennings Bryan is readin’ me frind Grover Cleveland out iv th’ party. He’s usin’ the Commoner to read him out. That’s a sure way.
“Mary MeLane has been in town. I didn’t see her, me place not bein’ a raysort f’r th’ young an’ yearnin’, an’ especially me duckin’ all lithry ladies iv whativer sex. Mary McLane is th’ author iv a book called: ‘Whin I am older I’ll know betther.’ Ye ought to read it, Hinnissy.
“Th’ Newport season is opened with gr-reat gayety an’ th’ aim iv rayturnin’ husbands is much more sure.
“Gin’ral Bragg fr’m up in Wisconsin has been gettin’ into throuble with our haughty allies, th’ Cubians, he writin’ home to his wife that ye might as well thry to make a whistle out iv a pig’s tail as a dacint man out iv a Cubian. Gin’ral Bragg will be bounced an’ he ought to be. He don’t belong in pollytics. His place is iditor iv a losin’ newspaper.
“Gov’nor Taft has been in Rome showin’ th’ wurruld how succissful, sthraightforward, downright, outspoken, manly, frank, fourteen ounces to th’ pound American business dalings can be again’ th’ worn-out di-plomacy iv th’ papal coort. Whin last heerd fr’m this astoot an’ able man, backed up be th’ advice iv Elihoo Root iv York state, was makin’ his way tow’rd Manila on foot, an’ siv’ral mimbers iv th’ colledge iv cardinals was heerd to regret that American statesmen were so thin they cudden’t find anything to fit thim in his thrunk.
“Cholera is ragin’ in th’ Ph’lippeens vice Gin’ral Jake Smith, raymoved.
“Th’ stock market is boomin’ an’ business has become so dull elsewhere that some iv th’ best known outside operators ar-re obliged to increase th’ depth iv th’ goold coatin’ on th’ brick to nearly an inch.
“Th’ capital iv th’ nation has raymoved to Eyesther Bay, a city on th’ north shore iv Long Island, with a popylation iv three millyion clams, an’ a number iv mosquitos with pianola attachments an’ steel rams. There day be day th’ head iv th’ nation thransacts th’ nation’s business as follows: four A.M., a plunge into th’ salt, salt sea an’ a swim iv twenty miles; five A.M., horse-back ride, th’ prisidint insthructin’ his two sons, aged two and four rayspictively, to jump th’ first Methodist church without knockin’ off th’ shingles; six A.M., wrestles with a thrained grizzly bear; sivin A.M., breakfast; eight A.M., Indyan clubs; nine A.M., boxes with Sharkey; tin A.M., bates th’ tinnis champeen; iliven A.M., rayceives a band iv rough riders an’ person’lly supervises th’ sindin’ iv th’ ambylance to look afther th’ injured in th’ village; noon, dinner with Sharkey, Oscar Featherstone, th’ champeen roller-skater iv Harvard, ’98, Pro-fissor McGlue, th’ archyologist, Lord Dum de Dum, Mike Kehoe, Immanuel Kant Gumbo, th’ naygro pote, Horrible Hank, t’ bad lands scout, Sinitor Lodge, Lucy Emerson Tick, th’ writer on female sufferage, Mud-in-the-Eye, th’ chief iv th’ Ogallas, Gin’ral Powell Clayton, th’ Mexican mine expert, four rough riders with their spurs on, th’ Ambassadure iv France an’ th’ Cinquovasti fam’ly, jugglers. Th’ conversation, we larn fr’m wan iv th’ guests who’s our spoortin’ iditor, was jined in be th’ prisidint an’ dealt with art, boxin’, lithrachoor, horse-breakin’, science, shootin’, pollytics, how to kill a mountain line, di-plomacy, lobbing, pothry, th’ pivot blow, rayform, an’ th’ campaign in Cubia. Whin our rayporther was dhriven off th’ premises be wan iv th’ rough riders, th’ head iv th’ nation was tachin’ Lord Dum de Dum an’ Sicrety Hay how to do a hand-spring, an’ th’ other guests was scattered about th’ lawn, boxin’, rasslin’, swingin’ on th’ thrapeze, ridin’ th’ buckin’ bronco an’ shootin’ at th’ naygro pote f’r th’ dhrinks–in short enjyin’ an ideel day in th’ counthry.
“An’ that’s all th’ news,” said Mr. Dooley. “There ye ar-re jus’ as if ye cud read. That’s all that’s happened. Ain’t I a good newspaper? Not a dull line in me. Sind in ye’er small ads.”
“Sure, all that’s no news,” said Mr. Hennessy, discontentedly. “Hasn’t there annything happened? Hasn’t anny wan been–been kilt?”
“There ye ar-re,” said Mr. Dooley. “Be news ye mane misfortune. I suppose near ivry wan does. What’s wan man’s news is another man’s throubles. In these hot days, I’d like to see a pa-aper with nawthin’ in it but affectionate wives an’ loyal husbands an’ prosp’rous, smilin’ people an’ money in th’ bank an’ three a day. That’s what I’m lookin’ f’r in th’ hot weather.”
“Th’ newspapers have got to print what happens,” said Mr. Hennessy.
“No,” said Mr. Dooley, “they’ve got to print what’s diff’rent. Whiniver they begin to put headlines on happiness, contint, varchoo, an’ charity, I’ll know things is goin’ as wrong with this counthry as I think they ar-re ivry naytional campaign.”
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?
Just because your undergrad school has a two-person dorm room mysteriously available does not mean that you personally would be the person to best solve the mysterious emptiness by moving into it with a guy you knew later in the 90s, particularly if you were kind of savoring the idea of having it to yourself. Just tell the guy that the other mysteriously open dorm room is at least as good and this way you’ll both have dorm room to yourselves. Also, that guy interviewing you for the student newspaper despite being, like, two or three decades too old for it is only humoring you in asking for details of your plan to install a modest roller coaster on the engineering campus by where the A and H buses first stop (near the mathematics building), so don’t be fooled by his enthusiasm, even if he had no idea it was going to be so popular a proposal.
The new survey of the top comic strip artists is out. According to the American Newspaper Standards Institute and its top survey-response team the most popular creators of comic strips this year are:
- Charles Schulz
- The Guy Who Draws Calvin and Hobbes
- The Guy Who Draws Far Side
- The Guy Who Draws Cathy
- Walt Disney
- The Cryptoquote feature
- Grant Snider
Dearly Beloved and I recently picked up a copy of Coffee News, your two-page flyer of all sorts of undated, un-sourced bits of mild interest, and reports of small towns that have outlawed cussing or droopy pants or whatever because they can’t figure a way to just make “being a teenager” illegal without getting unwanted attention, plus lots and lots of advertising for local businesses, plus the challenge of spotting the Coffee News guy hiding somewhere in an advertisement. Among the “On The Lighter Side” items was this joke.
Teacher: “I said to draw a cow eating some grass, but you’ve only drawn the cow.”
Johnny: “That’s because the cow ate all the grass.”
We both wondered at this gag, because we couldn’t figure who it was meant for. Surely anyone old enough to be picking up the Coffee News would have read the joke and appreciated whatever humor value it had decades, possibly appreciable portions of a century, beforehand. Whoever assembled this pile of words into this week’s installment can’t have been thinking she or he had a cracking good joke, or even that this was a fresh or well-told version of this joke. So … who selected it for inclusion? Why have it? Who’s the audience for this joke?
I know, I know, stuff like the Coffee News isn’t actually written by anybody, or for anybody; it’s just there so the columns of advertisements won’t slump against each other. There’s no credits on it that I can find. But the text has to come from somewhere; unwritten, unsourced, uncomposed words don’t just run themselves off to the printer. Someone, somewhere, decided that this joke was sufficiently lacking in detectable properties to get bundled into this set. Who? How? Why is this joke there? What goes on in the imaginary offices where Coffee News is created, if it is created, and granting that it isn’t, how can it exist?
The Coffee News guy was hiding in one of the divorce-separation-alimony-child custody case lawyer ads.
I’ve been reading Reporting the Revolutionary War, by Tod Andrlik, reprinting newspapers, Colonial and British, when stuff was just happening. One paragraph from the Portsmouth New-Hampshire Gazette of July 20, 1764, read so:
A giant, 14 feet high (who was the same at nine years old) arrived the 14th ult at Dre[ can’t tell; it’s lost in the binding of the book ] from Trent, to make a shew of himself.
The next paragraph reports that an Ambassador discussed fishery stocks. Isn’t that a glorious treasure-trove of information about the world of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in the days before the Flood of ’42 swept its hyphen away and probably didn’t do the fishery stock any harm besides putting it up higher? Consider the article’s implications.
For one, the writer doesn’t mention the name of this giant. Why? Maybe they guessed a person who was fourteen feet high didn’t need any further identification, and that’s true in my circles. I know dozens of folks who’re over sixty feet high, but fourteen is a distinctive number and if there were any I knew, you’d just have to say “that person who’s fourteen feet high” and I’d know who you were talking about without any further bother. It’d probably go very well for me that way, really, since I’m not very strong on remembering names. I can’t remember a guy’s name I’ll just guess he’s probably a “David”. You’d be surprised how often it works. All the guys I met from 1996 through 1999 were named David, or are now anyway, and the pattern’s holding up well to today.
Here’s the next thing: our giant, David, wasn’t making a shew of himself in Portsmouth. Whatever might be going on in Portsmouth in the summer of 1764, watching giants was not drawing a paying crowd. David didn’t just have to go outside Portsmouth to earn a living, too: he had to leave Trent. Now we have a scene, somewhere near the village green of Trent, New Hampshire, in early July, as a farmer or smithy or tar-featherer or coopers-blunderbusser or something talks with his wife about David’s disappointing performance.
“Did you see, Martha, that poor David was trying to make a shew of himself by being fourteen feet tall in the public square.”
“Aye,” he says, pausing to throw a rock at something he heard was a Stamp Tax collector (who in fact preferred collecting other Coercive Acts, finding that everyone was into Stamp Taxes in those days). “Fourteen feet tall and he thinks that’ll be an entertainment for us.”
“Land o’ goshen, Vermont, Henry, but isn’t that exactly the same thing he was trying to do when he was but nine years old?”
“To the inch and third-barleycorn, Martha,” cracks Henry as he indentures a servitude. “Not even a half a pottled king’s earlobe higher.”
“My, my. Someone should tell the lad, just being very tall isn’t going to get you an audience in these parts. Maybe he could attract a paying crowd in Dre[ mumbled into the folds ], but this is Trent. This is the big time.”
“We’ve got experience looking at people who are large. David has to get some kind of special advantage if he’s going to find work here.”
“Maybe he should learn to juggle or somesuch, then he can put on a proper shew.”
And around the corner of the farm tavern print-shop coffee house, a lone tear runs down David’s cheek and sees how far it is to drop to the ground. David considers finding some apples, but as Johnny Appleseed won’t be born until 1774, he makes off with a couple rocks and steals away to Dre[ something or other ], hoping he can refine his act and work his way back up to Trent, and maybe someday Portsmouth or even Worcester. He does, finally reaching the last town in 1839, as he’s ready to retire, which is just as well as he’s upstaged by the first giraffe brought to North America.
And this is why the marginalia of old newspapers is so grand: we get to see a past we’d never otherwise suspect. (PS, the United States won the Revolutionary War, sixteen feet to thirteen and a hog’s plunder in height.)