If you want the most recent happenings in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., good news! It’s here. If you’re reading this not too long after August 2018. If it’s past about November 2018, I should have a more up-to-date essay here. May you find the context for the current goings-on that you need.
Heather Avery was working out the implications of her husband’s death last time I checked in. The big one: she asked the Avery International to continue on being rich and successful. The little one: she was going to sell the now-empty mansion in town. So Jordan, the live-in caretaker, would have to find somewhere else to live, at least once it sells. Her suggestion: that he use this big pile of money from the freezer to open that restaurant he always wanted to. His own “yes, and” idea: that he marry Michelle, his longtime girlfriend and partner in mansion-sitting. She likes the idea too.
Heather Avery takes her chance to visit Rex Morgan and family. She explains that in light of her husband’s death, and their child’s birth, she just doesn’t think she can bear to be in the comic strip anymore. She’ll stay in touch, she promises, but she’ll leave everyone else to get about their business.
That business is Buck and Mindy, pleasant supporting characters. They’re getting married. They’re doing it in Las Vegas, at a wedding chapel that features an Elvis impersonator who’ll walk the bride down the aisle. Nice to see things working out for them. Buck’s kid Corey is happy with the wedding plans too.
It’s a destination wedding. But at least all the characters who’ve been invited are able to afford the travel. And make the time for it. The characters who made the most time are 50s horror-comics star “Horrible” Hank Harwood and his son, Horrible Jr. They started their cross-country tourist-attractions expedition back in May or possibly 1946 and have been going strong ever since. For a while that was just little check-ins, in the disposable title-panel row of the Sunday strips. They’d mention how they were looking at giant ice cream cone guys, statues of Popeye, large soup cans, mystery castles, and so on. All the filming locations of the improbably long-running King Features comic strip Zippy the Pinhead.
(I’m not ridiculing Zippy the Pinhead, by the way. I love the comic. And I feel good about King Features that it keeps running a comic strip that would be hard-pressed to be less commercial. It’s a good legacy for the syndicate that ran Krazy Kat despite that comic almost trying to shake off readers.)
This threatened to completely overwhelm the comic, too, much as Zippy talking to roadside attraction statues took over that comic for about a decade. It was interspersed with Jordan-and-Michelle, and with Buck-and-Mindy, weeks. And then a bit that seriously broke up their looking at the world’s largest strawberry or the Oz Museum or stuff. In a small town diner Hank Senior encounters … Millie Gray. They were a pretty serious thing back in high school, but went their separate ways and had nice happy lives anyway. It’s a sweet little sentimental interlude, closed with Hank Senior admitting to his son that he knew exactly who was working that small-town diner, thank you.
Also breaking up the roster of watching people look at tourist traps: their RV breaks down. They rent an SUV to make the rest of the trip. So that breaks up a lot of them admitting that things are there to be seen. Still, they get to Las Vegas in time for the wedding and that’s all nice. Rex Morgan takes a moment to reflect on how great it is even if it’s slightly daft and hey, did you see where there’s a fourth wall over there? Anyway, pleasant stuff.
If it sounds like not a lot has actually, you know, happened I suppose I can’t argue otherwise. The stories have advanced only in little pieces and none of them has been that dramatic. I say, admitting that one couple has married and another has decided to marry. I do them some disservice by unwinding the story threads like this. It makes the action seems even slighter than it was. But, hey, sometimes everybody’s just having a nice calm time in their lives and manage a pretty good road trip. I say this not two days after my love and I learned that a correct answer to “Just how many tiny public parks with WPA-era 25-foot-long battleships built out of poor-grade ore rock can there be in this tiny copper-country Michigan village?” is “no fewer than two”. Touring quirky roadside stuff is for people who can handle ambiguous directions.
(Also we’re hoping in the coming week to eat at a Li’l Abner-themed restaurant but will be all right if it turns out we’re just not able to.).
My love got on to reading about Midget Car Racing. If this seems quirky to you please understand the context: we visited the amusement parks of Denver last month. All right, the context doesn’t help but trust me, it makes sense in it. Anyway, my love ran across this declaration which has to be the boldest dare I have seen from Wikipedia in a long while:
OK. So go ahead, Wikipedia. I dare you to list the notable midget car races.
They have one, and it’s a free-style race that happened to have a midget car in it.
Please know that I do not mean to mock people just because have interests that just aren’t mine. I mean, all my interests are weird and idiosyncratic and half-wrong. Just, like, I’m a pinball enthusiast and I don’t think I could honestly say there were more than two significant individual pinball games ever played, and one of them was the fictional one from the movie Tommy. And do not get me started on my questions about the legitimacy of the match between Tommy and Elton John. You will be torn between laughing and being bored.
So yesterday we had over a plumber who was so charming and personable and easy to chat with it’s almost a shame we didn’t have a more complicated leak from the bathtub fixtures. And then in the evening there were an estimated 21,642 new people at our pinball league whom I did my best to smile to and help get to understand that they’re welcome and valued and we’re glad to have them try out the place. That all went well, and 142,000 of them said they were definitely coming back next league meeting. But after that many hours being outgoing and social and attentive to so many people I need to spend the next, like, week with the lights off and shades drawn, hiding underneath the bed and swatting at imaginary visitors so please pardon me, won’t you? Thank you.
I’m so lucky they were able to deliver one of those overcast, foggy days where you can’t see to the far end of the street of necessarily the house on short notice like this.
1433. Birth of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, died 1477 before anybody could make font jokes at him, which is just as well, because after forty years of those he’d probably throw boiling serifs over the ramparts before anyone even got near him.
1551. Wait, is that just someone wandering through the background of the ‘Mister Food’s Test Kitchen’ segment on the noon news? She can’t just be wandering up to the fridge there for no reason, right? No, wait, she is. The heck? And there she goes again and Mister Food doesn’t acknowledge her at all? Oh, I guess she’s come in at the end to sample the macaroni-and-cheese he suggests people try cooking. Is it, like, her job to wander around in the TV kitchen and then eat macaroni and cheese at the end? How do I not have that job myself? Sorry, TV distracted me there.
1662. A daring attempt by that Old English letter that looks like an o with a tiny x dangling precariously on top of it to sneak back into the alphabet is foiled. An alert guard at the Tower of London notices something “funny” about the tic-tac-toe game the letter was trying to use as camouflage. But since it was the 17th century he explained his suspicions in a sentence that ran on for over 850 pages of court testimony. The letter was able to escape to Flanders and lead similar attempts to get back into the alphabet in 1717, 1896, and whenever it was they made up Unicode.
1774. Benjamin Franklin’s first, primitive, USB cable is connected to one of his stoves. Nothing much happens, causing the inventor and statesman to admit that he “didn’t know what I expected, really”. Sometimes you just get “a case of the giggles” and have to run with the idea.
1871. Henry Morton Stanley locates Dr David Livingstone, near lage Tanganyika, after a long process that I had always figured amounted to Stanley going into Africa and asking, “Hey, anybody seen any other white guys poking around?” and then following wherever they pointed. And then I heard that yeah, that’s pretty much what he actually did. And I’ve never gone to look up just how he did go searching for Livingstone because I don’t know if I’d be more annoyed if it turned out my joke actually happened or if I’d be heartbroken to learn it didn’t.
1929. Toontown’s so-called “Valentine’s Day Massacre” happens when a truckload of rapid-fire erasers falls into the hand of calendar reformers who think that we don’t have enough February in our lives.
1956. Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Malay state of Negeri Sembilan agree to end their technically never-resolved state of war dating to the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. When spoilsports note that neither Aberdeen nor Negeri Sembilan had anything to do with the Austro-Prussian War to start with they were helpfully shoved into the Old North Creek. Organizers then put up a memorial there to remind everyone what happens when you go knowing actual history in front of people.
1983. After a furious round of rewrites and arguments Dan Aykroyd agrees to shift the focus of his years-in-development labor-of-love project from a quirky comedy about animal control officials over to some guys who shoot special effects at ghosts. While the new project is successful the pre-revision script kicks around Hollywood for several more years before being finally kicked out again. It’s finally picked up and made as an indie project in 2014. Goosebusters goes on to win the East Lansing Film Festival’s coveted “… The Heck Am I Even Watching” Medallion With Dabs Of Cooking Oil Grease On The Ribbon.
2001. Stern Pinball signs a license to make the popular video game Roller Coaster Tycoon into a pinball machine. This is one of the early triumphs of the game company’s “license stuff picked at random from the US Trademark Office database” program. Other successfully licensed games include: CSI, Uneeda Biscuits, the Wendy’s Where’s The Beef Multiball Frenzy Arcade Experience, Cinerama, and Bally Pinball Games: The Pinball Game.
2008. The day’s Slylock Fox mystery doesn’t draw any complaints from anyone about the solution being contrived or requiring we make assumptions like, yeah, while dogs in this world can talk and wear clothes and hold down actuarial jobs they’re nevertheless still red-green color-blind.
So we begin with the Ken Russell’s 1975 documentary Tommy about the pinball cult growing out of Roger Daltrey mostly not looking directly at stuff. The cult was going great with people showing up at pinball holiday camps right up to the point they were expected to play pinball. I agree some of those old electromechanical games were brutal, but the mass riots were overreacting. Not really sure what they were expecting. They were expecting free love, by which “they” I mean “guys” and by which “free love” I mean “women don’t get to say no”.
Thing is, it was a worldwide utopian cult. The movie only shows one getting rioted into oblivion. But they showed the giant world map with light bulbs for all the camps all over the place. That sort of stuff doesn’t die easily. Not if you’ve reached the point you have a giant world map with light bulbs. When you’ve got past where you can do a poster from Staples with push-pins you’ve got too much momentum for one day to bring you down. There’s going to be true believers who aren’t going to be shaken off. They’re going to gather somewhere. So it’ll be in some place just rural enough that they can afford the property taxes, but just urban enough that people who want to join the utopian cult can rest assured if the free love doesn’t work out they can still find a department store.
So we follow one in I’m going to go ahead and say west Michigan. A bunch of dreamers who figured they were gonna take it, and go on having pinball contests for tourists who wonder why it doesn’t look like it did in the movie. “We’re fundraising to build a garish arena,” the guides would say. “We’ve almost got enough to build a shoe.” The tourists look on, wondering why the competition still doesn’t look quite like the movie. “Have you had anything at our snack bar?” the guide tries to direct people. “It’s quite good.” It isn’t, but it’s cheap and what, you’re going to schlep all the way to Ludington for lunch?
Anyway, they would offer “silverball” hoagies. They’re meatballs tinted silver. Well, they’re vegetarian meatballs, made of cracked wheat or something late-70s like that. They do something to so it seems exactly like meat when the right person makes it, and just an exotic substance someone can put in their mouth if they choose to, whenever anyone else makes it. Comes with cheese and, if you also buy a roll of color film, a 15-cent discount. Also, yes, baked beans, but you mark yourself as a total doof if you ask for them.
The color comes from a shocking amount of colloidal silver dosed into the “meat” balls, and eventually results in an investigation by the state into just what they’re doing buying that many boxes of dragees and grinding them up. “We don’t eat them regularly, we just feed them to strangers!” is the embarrassing quote that makes every statewide TV station during the 1985 trial for whatever the heck they were up to. The cult gets vindicated when the jury establishes that no, nobody takes the dragees off a cookie or cake before eating it, why would you do that? But it’s a blow to the cult’s attempts to get out of the “free love” image. Figures.
And there’s schisms, of course, because there always are. Electromechanical versus solid-state, obviously, because the early solid state games are totally different from electromechanical pinball machines in ways that are obvious to someone who’s not a pinball aficionado, what with the solid state games having electronic buzzing noises instead of bells. And then I bet when they got into modern games, with dot-matrix displays and complicated rule sets. Let me explain that to people who aren’t pinball fanatics: these are pinball terms. They mean things.
So I figure this gets to the present day, when the unleashing of the new Star Wars game — a game of such unbridled complexity that the only response to it is to sit down and weep some — the camp decides, yes, they’ve done all they can do. It’s time to close up. The last days of the last utopian pinball cult present scenes of such John McPhee-esque piquancy that they’re not even remotely pleasant to read.
My beta readers described it as “I guess what we were getting in for when we let you know we picked up that Murakami book we never did read” and “shocklingly involved arguments about whether it’s ethical to tilt your own ball away as seen from the perspectives of different decades so I guess that’s a thing?”, so hey, I’m in a good place now!
I realized I haven’t done one of those posts where I talk about a cartoon in a while. So here’s one. It’s from every 1930s animation fan’s favorite studio if they don’t admit that, yeah, Disney was doing amazing things then: Fleischer Studios. (It is hard to come up with an era when Disney wasn’t outclassing everybody on technique and story, although they often could be beaten for comedy or pacing.)
This is Educated Fish, an entry in the Color Classics series. It was originally released the 29th of October, 1937, and it was nominated for Best Animated Short. It lost to, of course, Disney, which put up the short The Old Mill the 5th of November. Tough competition; The Old Mill is the short in which Disney unveiled the multi-plane camera, as well as special effects for rain, water, wind, and careful realistic depiction of animal behavior. Disney would use the technology and skills showcased in that to make Snow White, Fantasia, Bambi, and a long train of cartoons after that. It’s hard to argue with the Academy’s choice.
I’m a bit sorry to get on the competition. Educated Fish can’t really compete. It’s a competently done example of the naughty-child-repents genre. There’s not enough of the Fleischer studio’s real strength, clever mechanical design. The flashes that are there of it elevate the cartoon, as do the more energetic moments. The structure of the plot doesn’t allow for fast stuff to happen until the end; when it does, the cartoon picks up.
Still, there’s some fun bits. The sardines arriving in a tin is the sort of thing that tickles me. The student giving the teacher an apple. The lesson being done as music. The naughty Tommy Cod playing pinball in his desk — alas, in that era, pinball machines were flipperless. Tommy swimming so fast he pulls his skeleton out of his body, the sort of whimsical body horror that made the Fleischer cartoons famous. The cartoon doesn’t reach the full potential of Fleischer studios, but then, fish are really challenging things to animate. It’s a good question whether anyone did them well before Finding Nemo. I mean besides Disney’s whales. You know how it is.
My love and I spent last weekend at the State Games of America in Grand Rapids. We were in the pinball competition because there’s a pinball-contest organizer who’s a genius at getting bigger events to host pinball tournaments on the side. The pinball competition was in Ballroom B, as were the darts and the billiards contests. There was also a bar set up in the ballroom. I honestly don’t know if there was supposed to be or if gathering enough pinball, darts, and billiards players in one room caused it to spontaneously manifest.
In the fourth corner of the room they also had a boxing ring. That was inspirational, watching people holding up the championship belt. Boxing championship belts combine two great traditional guy interests, that of celebrating our ability to hit one another and that of celebrating how we can do take something ordinary and make it so large and dramatic that it’s useless for its original purpose of controlling the rate at which our pants fall down.
It turned out Michigan’s were the National State Games and the organizer told us that while Michigan residents could just show up and compete, residents of other states had to win their own state games first. I looked this up and it’s slightly off, not in important ways. If your state has games in that sport you’re supposed to win that first before going on to nationals. But per their Qualifying Standards document:
Due to National Congress of State Games neighboring state policy, athletes residing in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario, Canada are allowed to compete in SGA 2017 without qualification
My obvious question: so, wait, Wisconsin doesn’t border Michigan suddenly? Guess not. But Wisconsin only borders the upper peninsula, the whole population of which is abandoned copper mining platforms sinking into contaminated lakes. I can understand overlooking that. Not answered: Wait, so Illinois borders Michigan somewhere?
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index dropped nine points as the trading floor felt mixed emotions following the City Council primary vote. On the one hand, the guy whose campaign site was just one page, half of it a picture of Neptune, won’t be in the November election. On the other hand, we ain’t voting for a novelty-act candidate for anythingever again and we’re going to kick in the shins anyone who says they are, thank you.
Free to good home. Please be gentle. Many of these sentence fragments had hopes of being put to a useful purpose.
I’m not saying the world should work like all 70s Hanna-Barbera cartoons. It’s too heavy a load on the continuity of the world to have one in which we have cyborg Three Stooges, slice-of-life football players, and space-cop Casper the Friendly Ghost coexisting.
— cut from that bit yesterday where some bands were listed playing in two venues at once because if I start letting my brain vent genially dumb cartoons I used to watch obsessively I will never stop and that’s some dangerous stuff to let out.
Baseball had trouble in its early days because it was hard to think of good team names. They started with teams like the Troy Trojans, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Providence Providentials, the Chicago Illinoisians, the Detroit Michiganders, and so. — cut from my ramblings about baseball because that bit was getting long enough already and because I couldn’t find a good resolution. Some more obvious-place-name spots, like, “the Dover Delawarians”? Some fanciful like “the Sea Girt Grit”? Something that’s over-researched and a little bit off like, “the Queens County Superbas”? I don’t know. Maybe this just needs to be let to brew longer.
[ A bulk lot of about 650 words regarding the controversial plan by the International Flipper Pinball Association, one of the organizing bodies for competitive pinball, to charge one dollar per player per event for certifying rated events; serious inquiries only. ] — a whole presentation which would have been good for some pinball forum about the hotly debated “IFPA Tariff” which I realized I don’t have a use for because (a) “tariff”, like “sheriff” and “sergent”, belongs to the class of words that always look to me like I’m spelling them wrong no matter how many times my spell-checker and DuckDuckGo tell me I’m doing fine; and (b) because while I’m not an expert I’m pretty sure this is an “excise” and not a “tariff”. Actually that’s what has me most riled up. It makes me realize that yeah, actually, everyone treating me like that in middle school had a point. You don’t want to do things that make you learn that about yourself. But I’m right, right, about this being more nearly an excise than a tariff?
There’s stuff about a teenaged boy body that are beyond anyone’s control. After a couple hours trying to get through the unformed judgement centers and the free-floating resentment even the teenaged boy himself stops trying to deal with him. So — I’m just giving up trying to follow up that thing about antiperspirant with some more of my mild body-dissatisfation and I can’t get that stuff to go anywhere. If you have a body or know someone who does, give it a try.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrugated_galvanised_iron — a particularly haunting scrap. I’ve had it in my notes as something I could do something with just forever and I can not think of any reason why. There’s some pleasant words in the Wikipedia article, like “roll forming”, but that can’t possibly be enough. If you see whatever it was I saw when I made that note, just let me know. I can’t just be thinking to mock the claim that corrugated galvanized iron is occasionally abbreviated “CGI”.
Not that I mean to blow your mind but you do realize there’s not a word in the canon to suggest Romulans even had deflector shields in the era of the Original Series. — cut from a TrekBBS discussion because whether there’s any word depends on whether you accept some logical inferences from Star Trek: Enterprise or whether you’re considering merely the canon of the Original Series as it existed when the show wrapped in 1969 (or whether you include the cartoon, 1973-74, which I’m inclined to). But if you are willing to consider this it considerably reduces some of the plot holes in the episode where Kirk goes undercover as a crazy guy to steal a cloaking device and oh there I go with understanding middle school again.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index fell a point today as investors ran out of singles for the change machine.
Oh, also, I want to point out my mathematics blog, with its weekly review of comic strips that mention mathematics in some way. Yesterday I put in the comics for the week prior and that included Pi Day so you can imagine just what sort of merriment was filling the comics pages. OK, that was filling three or so strips worth. But it was there. There isn’t a lot more to say on this point, but I want to say just a touch more because of the Responsive Design theme I’ve got on this. It rearranges stuff based on how wide the browser is. And with the browser I post stuff in, at the width I like it being open to, I have this slender column on the left with a posting’s dateline and tags and Leave A Comment link and all that. And if I include a picture that’s far enough down the page that it’s past the Leave A Comment link then it gets to use that horizontal space for itself. So it gets to appear bigger by virtue of an optical illusion created by having more horizontal and vertical space. (It’s a very convincing illusion.) And I like the picture bigger, so that’s why I’m going on until I have enough words that I can
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index dropped one point today as Dan thought he saw a sewing magazine promise “three alternatives to clapping” and he was stumped trying to think of a third. The trading floor broke out into one faction pointing out that the magazine cover promised alternatives to stitching and another faction saying sure, there’s snapping fingers, and there’s stomping on the floor, but what would be a third? And then the day ended in squabbles about whether it counts as an alternative to clapping if you slap your hand against some other body part, like your thigh or something.
Courtesy hyphens, which my love pointed out are the official punctuation of old-timey-ness!
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index drifted down just a little bit, and when it closed the day at 109.49 everyone asked if we couldn’t just round that up to 110. No, we can not. But then people point out we would round 49 up to 50, so why can’t we round 109.49 up to 109.5 and from there it’s a short jump to 110? And this is why people who do rounding stuff professionally get all bitey.
I’m sorry, bunch of fun pinball friends with whom we got together after league at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant to figure out what vegetarians could eat there. (We could have the Diet Coke, or we could lick the clean silverware.) But the TV was showing the World’s Strongest Man competition and I couldn’t help it. If I understood things right they flew six pyramid-shaped men to Nairobi so they could lift a wooden Viking boat. I don’t know why. Maybe Nairobi over-invested in Viking boat making and the Nairobi Viking Boat Industrial Board thought having some large men lifting them was just what they needed to get through the downturn. But you can see how watching that would be more fascinating than hearing even the latest gossip about the state’s competitive pinball community. And if you don’t, then consider that the next event was pairs of men going out and lifting giant stone balls to put atop cylinders. And that’s not even counting the harness set up to lift and set down Toyota Borings. In short, I may have a new favorite pastime, and it’s watching very big men picking things up. Send help.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The Another Blog, Meanwhile index returned to 102 today as investors believed they might have left their keys behind. The keys turned out to be in the other pocket and everyone had a good chuckle about this.
Sorry, I’m a little distracted this week. We did a big house-cleaning ahead of Thanksgiving. And one of the big triumphs was getting a lot of stuff that had been stored in the game room out from the game room and into more logical places. And it’s been almost a week now and unauthorized stuff hasn’t crept back in. So I keep creeping back in, checking that yeah, there’s nothing stored underneath the pinball machine. Ten minutes later: Nope, still nothing under there. Five minutes after that: I didn’t put anything in there, and there’s nothing in there. The situation seems stable but I know it can’t last. I feel like there should be a Gluyas Williams cartoon of me peeking in on it. I suppose I never was all that good with brinks. The game room is really the breakfast nook, but we never nook in there.
Just going to go check on the game room again. Yeah, still just the game in there. Hm.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
So yes, everybody had a good giggle about how now that the mainstream and alternate indices agreed in principle how to merge their numbers have gone different ways suddenly. Well, the alternate Another Blog, Meanwhile index held steady at 105 and that’s the number I’m reporting in the little headlined text below. But somehow the mainstream index traders misunderstod the plan to synchronize and they stayed at 106. Everybody’s talking about this like it’s a big laugh and I guess it is. But I really hope this doesn’t signal the peace process breaking down.
Is it ever possible to be too organized? Of course it is. Imagine you were to get so organized that you put all of the matter and energy in the universe together in a single, infinitesimally small pile. This would promptly cause a new Big Bang, obliterating this universe and creating a new one with potentially quite different laws. Perhaps life would be possible in this new universe, but under very different laws. We might see something like the knights in a chess game moving two spaces in one direction and then two crosswise in a single turn. Or there might be even madder consequences, like gravity being replaced by a system of emotional bonds and obligations.
So there are limits to organization. And this is good as it takes the pressure off us to achieve perfection. If we think really hard about how a new-created universe might work — might tic-tac-toe be played with + signs and little diamonds instead of O’s and X’s? — it takes the pressure off us to achieve adequacy. At least that’s my excuse and I know my love understands while glaring, pained, at my side of the room.
And in practice there’s limits to organization even before you get to universe-wrecking consequences. For example, stuff disappears when it’s where it belongs. Consider that box of paperclips that would be useful for clipping paper together. If it were possible to open its plastic case without breaking off the tabs you’re supposed to use to open it. And which wouldn’t open even if you did break the tabs off. It sits on the table for months, maybe years. Everyone knows exactly where it is. People walking past the house come to a halt and stare in the window, waving more passers-by over to point and stare at the paperclips. And that takes some doing, because they have to get past some really prickly bushes to get up to the window.
But there it sits, ready and demanding attention, ready to provide paperclip services just in case we ever open it. Sometimes it moves a bit, trying to sidle up to the remote control and judge whether it can prey upon the appliance-related implement. Maybe it tries to conceal the chunk of hematite I got for $1.49 from the science store like twenty years ago that hasn’t yet grown into a collection of pretty rocks. Anyone could find the box even if the house were blacked out and your eyes held closed by rogue paperclips.
Ah, but then comes the day we finally organize the place. We take the box of paperclips and find the sensible spot for them: in one of the drawers of the side table where we keep the stamps, blank envelopes, stationery, and the stapler that we can’t find staples for. Come back and we find the table is gone. There’s hints of where it had been, indentations in the rug and all that, but no hint of table. It’s as though the idea of horizontal surfaces has been eliminated from the world. I’d write a stern letter to somebody about this, but can’t find the stationery. And when I get back from that the rug is gone too. They’ve snuck off to the game room and hidden behind the game. The game is a 1979 Williams Tri-Zone pinball. I can find them by the chuckling. Furniture may be well-camouflaged, but it is only two-thirds as clever as it thinks it is.
I don’t usually get so much stuff lost when organizing. I mean except when cleaning up for Thanksgiving, a time when we get so busy tidying stuff up that we can lose bookshelves, kitchen cabinets, and back in 2014 the guest bathroom. There’s not a hint there even ever was a second bathroom in the house. The home would even be architecturally senseless with a second one. That cleaning-up job lasted for hours before it was all chaos again.
But I find my own natural limits. I tend to figure I’ve got things as organized as reasonable when I hold up two socks. They look like they’re the same color in the dim light of the morning when I might have to go out somewhere. In sunlight they’re nothing like the same color. One is a navy blue, the other is an enraged red squirrel holding a penknife. But when I reach that point I ponder whether any two socks are “a pair” of socks, even if they haven’t got anything in common except they are the socks without anything in common. The conclusion of this is that any socks can be a pair of socks and therefore they can be put into the pile of pairs of socks. When I get to reasoning like this you can imagine the shape of my DVD shelf. It is a rhombic triacontahedron.
The case of paperclips won’t open because there’s cellophane tape holding together the sides. I can’t find the cellophane either.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The … alternate index? I think that’s the one supposed to report today. Well, the alternate Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped three points today after their old-time radio podcast had this interesting late-70s adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth hosted by Tom Bosley For Some Reason. And I’m not supposed to tell you what the mainstream blog did today but you already know because this whole alternate-reporting thing is just them being silly.
After both the mainstream and the alternate Indices both dropped three points yesterday they figured this weird synchronization just couldn’t keep on happening. And so the mainstream Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped a whole six points, figuring for sure they’d lose their copycats this time. And yet that didn’t happen: the alternate index also fell six points, although they say it was an accident from counting the previous day’s three-point dropoff twice, once for the main and once for the alternate.
There’s an Archie comic strip. It doesn’t showcase the parts of the Archie franchise that interested the young me, which would be when the did a side-universe adventure where they were all superheroes or Swinging Sixties Spies or robots in the future or stuff. It’s just the ordinary old universe where they’re teens in high school and I guess that’s OK. The comic strip’s been running since 1947, with the current offerings written and illustrated by Craig Boldman and Henry Scarpelli. Boldman stopped writing the strip in 2011, and Scarpelli died in 2010, so as you might figure the strip’s lost a certain timeliness, so far as that exists in the Archie plain-vanilla universe. Mostly they’ve just printed reruns. But occasionally they update an old strip and here’s today’s.
If you gave me 2,000 years to guess I couldn’t say what possible upcoming future maybe-disaster Miss Grundy might have originally asked her students about. But I am delighted by this. Some poor soul at Creators.com who never asked for this job but knew how to use the Generic Comic Strip Word Balloon font in Photoshop thought hard about the best “plausibly imminent disaster people should maybe be ready for” and picked out “zombie apocalypse”. It’s delightful.
And yes, I know, the Archie comic books have a side universe where Riverdale’s been hit by the Zombie Apocalypse and I suppose that’s probably fun if you like parts of zombie apocalypses that aren’t just The Walking Dead pinball machine. Haven’t got to it myself.
The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose four points over the day’s trading and is feeling pretty darned good overall. Oh, they admit, it’s not as good as it could be, with numbers like 102 or 104 or even 152 out there. But when you consider the alternative was something like 97? Well! So most everyone’s pretty happy over here on the trading floor.
I don’t want to get into too much detail about last night’s pinball league out of fear for wearing out the term “super-sucktacular” so let me focus on the one high point. We were playing the hipster bar’s newest machine, Ghostbusters, which just got put in the last couple days and hadn’t even broken yet. I put up a couple million points, nothing exciting, on the first ball and waited for the other players. Second ball, I stepped up, player two, and through the kind of gentle, soft plunge that new players never realize is what you really want to do, got the ball just where I wanted it. I got the “We Got One!” mode started and even completed, and got a ball locked toward Storage Facility Multiball. By the time the ball ended I had built it up to about 46 million points, a pretty respectable score especially given that nobody in the league really knows how to play the game.
Then I remembered: I had started the game as player three. I had played someone else’s ball. The president of our pinball league’s ball, in fact. But apart from that little mistake it was a great performance.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose in several hours of trading when it was set under a clean tablecloth and left on the counter while the yeast did its work.
My love mentioned the trivia that the film Jurassic Park had only about four minutes of full-on CGI special effects, and that dinosaurs were on screen only about fourteen minutes of the whole movie. I wondered what there even was in the movie after that? My love knew. It was people arguing, people hiding, and the worst computer-hacking scene in history to that date. I pointed out that they did the best they could, since at that time, nobody had yet made the movie Johnny Mnemonic.
Also, I’ve never seen the movie Johnny Mnemonic. I picked up the DVD for it when the local independent video shop went out of business last year, since I liked the pinball machine so much. Another local independent video shop went out of business a few months after that, but all I got from that was some He-Man cartoons and stuff. Anyway, while I’ve never seen Johnny Mnemonic I do assume it has a computer-hacking scene. I also assume that it is the most wonderfully funny thing humanity has produced that isn’t a Simpsons character giving a false name. Probably involving someone standing and wearing wires hooked up to his hands and wiggling his fingers at midair while, if I read the pinball backglass correctly, a prog rock album occurs. Someday I’ll have to see it.
My love and I went to a hipster bar yesterday. We’re in the state’s competitive pinball scene, you see, and there’s a monthly tournament held at that bar. It’s a nice place, decorated with abstract re-imaginings of movie posters and a huge picture of Rocksteady and Bebop proclaiming their secret love for turtles. That kind of place. I came in eighth place, although I was the only person to manage the objective in playing Jersey Jack Pinball’s The Wizard of Oz in one ball. Not bragging, just clinging to my meager accomplishment.
Anyway. The bar’s a nice place, but it does not serve food. The manager is cool with people bringing food in. There’s a decent hipster sandwich shop just down the block, for example, and we hear of burrito places nearby and there’s another hipster bar acros the street that we guess you could bring elaborate burgers from. You can peek in on people eating all the easily taken-out cuisine of the area there.
So why was there a real metal fork on the floor?
I mean, I just hate the thought someone brought their real silverware all the way from home and then lost it before even finding out if anyone would beat the objective on Ghostbusters, which nobody did because it was impossible.
Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by the first person who got to pick anything, and also everyone else there.
R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, performed by someone who starts two bars late and has to give up about twenty percent of the words each verse to return to the chorus anywhere near on time.
Let It Go, from Frozen, performed by someone who loves the song but doesn’t realize that it’s awesome because it’s an incredibly hard song to perform.
Bill Joel’s Piano Man, sung by everybody when the person who had signed up for it is nowhere to be found when it’s their turn.
Weird Al’s Yoda, performed by someone horrified there isn’t anything by the Kinks in the catalogue somehow and trying to reconstruct the real words as best as possible in the circumstances, which include nerds crying out to do it “right” with the Weird Al version.
P F Sloan and Steve Barri’s Secret Agent Man, done by someone who figures if he’s loud enough about the key phrase “Secret Agent Man” it won’t matter that he sings it in a different, yet still previously unknown to humanity, key every time. This someone, dear reader, is me.
Wings’s With A Little Luck, performed by someone who forgets it has an instrumental break about as long as fourth grade in the middle and stands with wide-eyed terror through three-quarters of it before awkwardly trying to dance, and then remembers the fade-out is even longer still.
Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, performed by someone who has pretty solid voice control and seems out of place in the proceedings.
Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, unenthusiastically performed by someone who tries to use the close to say he wanted to do the Wall of Voodoo version, although this explanation gets lost underneath the DJ calling the next singer up.
Some Kinda Romanticky Gushy Ballad I Guess, from the closing credits to the film Any Given 80s Movie, Which You Could See Any Time, Day Or Night, In The 90s By Turning On Any Cable Channel Including The TV Listings, sung by someone mumbling so you can’t make out the words anyway, but the glurgey music alone brings back great memories.
A-Ha’s Take On Me, until it gets to the first “I’ll be gone” and the performer’s voice locks up at the high pitch, and she runs off stage and can’t be coaxed back up however much everyone promises it’s okay. Post-karaoke-night discussion focuses on whether that was a deliberate joke, and never reaches a definitive conclusion.
Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by someone who came in late and also everyone else there.
Somebody or other’s Unintelligible Hip-Hop Song, performed by a most white guy who is neither hip nor hop, who possessed no idea this would require having a strong sense of cadence and rhythm, and also didn’t realize there were three spots where the verse uses the n-word, something he had failed to establish the necessary policy for well ahead of time.
Don McLean’s American Pie sung by a guy who realizes twenty minutes in that he’s still not even halfway through, though everyone feels great joining in the chorus.
Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, performed by someone who picked it just to complain about the reference to South Detroit, also everyone else there.
Nena’s 99 Luftballoons, sung by someone who just assumed the karaoke machine had the English-language version. Live and learn, huh?
Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit without any inflection or change in tone, possibly by me because there’s no way of controlling what note my voice has chosen to sing in this time.
U2’s With Or Without You performed by Ron Mael of Sparks after he found, to his disappointment but not surprise, there isn’t anything of his in the karaoke catalogue.
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ Little Red Riding Hood done about two octaves low so it sounds 226 percent more pervy than normal.
Any Given Indie Band’s Song With A Lot Of Whoa-oa-oa-oaaahoos In It, sung by someone using his pretty good voice to do it as if by Fozzie Bear for some terrible reason.
The Champs’ Tequila, by someone who figured this would be funny and had no idea everyone was going to groan like that when it was announced and now he’s stuck with it.
Let It Go, from Frozen, as sung by someone who either just came in or didn’t learn the lessons from earlier.
The Who’s Pinball Wizard, sung by someone snarking about how there hasn’t been pinball since 1982 and can’t be convinced to look over in the alcove where there’s like eight tables and six of them are even turned on. Seriously.
Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire, by someone who was sure she knew the lyrics, and then saw what the karaoke machine has, which was apparently transcribed by YouTube’s automated-worthless-closed-captioning. So the screen’s giving stuff like “Denny footfall rocky cockerel unsteamed chess team brook lamprey snotty beam” and now she has no idea what to do.
Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf, picked by someone who was thinking of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London because he wanted to do the wolf howl part, but recovers pretty well with the DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-doo part and doesn’t look too disappointed by the end of it all.
The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, sung by someone who once again just assumed he was the last person performing for the night and who is confident this will be funny when he finally is.
Queen’s We Are The Champions, picked by someone making way too big a deal over the Tigers beating the Rays 5-3 this early in the season.
George Michael’s Faith, by someone who didn’t realize how tricky the meter could be, but has a friend who jumps on on stage for the last third to guide her through safely.
The Theme To M*A*S*H, selected by someone who wanted to show off he knew the words to it, and wasn’t thinking how the karaoke machine was going to give him, and everybody else, the words to it anyway.
Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which is just signing itself up to play at this point.
OK, so, Pinball Selfie Leagues. That’s what I meant to describe some. It’s a new thing in the world of Competitive Pinball Which Is So There. This is a new kind of tournament where your seeding is based on games you play on your own. And we know there’s no cheating because SNAKE! Totally a snake right over there! Look at that! But really, who’d do anything underhanded in the search for glory in competitive pinball rankings? And here I pause to consider the number of rules that the United States Lighthouse Society’s Passport Program has in place regarding how to count visited lighthouses. I do not know how many there are, other than there’s at least one. But why would we expect cheating in competitive pinball leagues from a species that has people who would try to gain renown for a fraudulently great ability to see lighthouses?
I’m still not sure what I think of Selfie Leagues, other than that they aren’t leagues. Also the first one I participated in wasn’t all that Selfie-bound. After some consideration the organizer ruled we didn’t need to actually take selfies. We could just photograph the score instead. Sometimes that’s the only way. There’s older games where they only show the score a split second. We’d be fumbling for weeks trying to catch that moment if we weren’t looking directly into the camera viewfinder. “Has that got my score?” players would ask. “No, you just took a picture of the hipster bar’s fan-made poster of Rocksteady and Be-Bop confessing they secretly love turtles.” “How many points is that worth?” The answer is 4.5, but only in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan rankings.
My love and I decided to respect the concept of the selfie. We’d put a hand or thumb or something into the pictures too, although we always used one of our own. But in the main I tried to respect the integrity of something called a Selfie League and take actual selfies with my pinball scores. After all, there’s good reason to have yourself in the picture with your score. It lets the league organizer know if you’re a playing vampire, and so wouldn’t be able to make it to playoffs before dusk. I’m assuming vampires don’t show up in photographs. It seems like something that would fit with the not-appearing-in-mirrors business. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they just made that up for the movies anyway. I guess vampires would have to just coordinate these things with their league president.
As said I’ve never been much for taking pictures with me, or any identifiable human being, in them. I’ve photographed statues of people like Benjamin Franklin, such as Alexander Hamilton, that didn’t even have the statue in them. And the history of photographs of me hasn’t been promising. Every picture of me used to look like a dough-filled guy who dressed himself just ripped out of bed and posed in front of something. Unless I was trying to not look asleep, in which case I look like a dough-filled guy who dressed himself just ripped out of bed and with my toes set on fire.
But since those days I’ve lost a lot of weight. And I’ve internalized my love’s advice on how to dress so I look less bad. (I have to not pick out the clothes that I would pick out to wear. Yes, there’s a logical paradox here. Isn’t that a merry bit of fun? To resolve it I have to start picking my clothes out early. Usually as early as 8:30 pm two nights prior. And I still come out with “maybe the green shirt that hasn’t got any holes visible from under my not-really-a-hoodie thing?”) And it’s produced dramatic improvements in how I get photographed. I mean improvements for me.
Because I’m pretty sure the ideal for this would be a picture of me standing beside a good game score and smiling. At least grinning. Not what I do manage, which is to be just far enough off-center that I appear to be creeping up on what’s otherwise a fair enough score on Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. Or hanging around acting suspicious around a respectable score on Game Of Thrones: Not Subtitled The Pinball Adventure. Or, worse, looking on in despair at a score of Lord of the Rings: Not Every Pinball Machine Is Actually A Licensed Tie-In To Something Although It Does Seem Like It Anymore. “Oh, don’t cry,” I can imagine other people in the Selfie League saying. “64 million isn’t so abominable a score, given that you probably had somewhere else to be. You are going to go back and try again, right?”
I don’t know. I do like the pinball side of this but having a whole bunch of pictures of me hanging around is suspicious. There might be something better to try.
So the new thing in the world of competitive pinball is not telling people the world of competitive pinball exists. That’s the old thing. It goes back to when pinball first started being competitive, which was about ten minutes after the second guy saw someone doing it. But the new thing is “Selfie Leagues”. This is a thing where they base your seeding in a tournament on your high score during some qualifying tables the weeks before the match. You prove your score by taking a selfie with the score displayed. And we know people can’t cheat because of that big, distracting thing over there.
I’m not a natural selfie-taker. I have no objection to them. It’s just I’m not much on taking pictures with people in them at all. I’m one of those people who can somehow photograph a boardwalk on the Jersey Shore at the height of summer and catch the one moment everybody’s ducked inside for a frozen custard. Or at least is looking away as if embarrassed. The height of summer is 14 feet, two inches.
I have some photographs of people. Most I took on dares. And I have a couple pictures of myself too. Most of those are from the early 2000s, when I lived in Singapore, and per request I got some pictures of myself in front of local landmarks. This was to prove to my parents that I was in Singapore and not just slow about answering their e-mails. I should probably send them some pictures sometime. But those were old-fashioned pictures of me, done with a camera tripod and a timer. Oh, I could have asked someone to take a picture of me, but that would involve me talking to a person and I went from 2003 through 2005 not doing that.
When I look over the pictures I took of myself I notice a couple things. The first is that I don’t look good. I couldn’t help that. I was quite fat at the time. That’s because, as I’ve mentioned sometimes, somewhere around age eight I realized that instead of eating a bagel I could eat two bagels. Also that instead of eating a bagel smeared with a little cream cheese, I could eat a bagel smeared with as much cream cheese as I could load up on before my parents caught me. And, now, I’m from what we regard these days as a large family; nearly all of us are over nine feet tall. (My little brother is the only one who’s not, and that’s because the rest of us kept pressing his head down while we were growing. He makes up for it in other ways, such as by punching us in the shins.) Large-family folks learn to make and eat food as fast as possible, before anyone can catch us. I’m not saying I’m an Olympian-class competitor for eating the 25-meter bagel. But I could go on to regionals and hold my head high, as long as I held my upper lip higher.
But the thing about being fat is if you’re also tall, then you don’t look fat. You just look badly proportioned, like you’re drawn by an art student who’s not quite good enough not to use references, or maybe by an elephant working on her MFA. So I have pictures of me standing beside, say, the sign at the Cavenagh Bridge as the unrealistic part of the scene. The Cavenagh Bridge is this small downtown pedestrian bridge that has an old sign warning about how it just looks like you’ve spelled the name wrong but you haven’t. (It’s named for Major General William Orfeur Cavenagh, so the committment to looking like it’s not spelled right goes back a long way.) If you visit Singapore you’re required to get a photograph of it. I was able to stretch a two-year contract into four years by “happening” to forget my camera when I went downtown that way.
I could improve a photograph of me by having less of me in it, of course. But that gets balanced by other problems. Particularly, the less you see of me the more you see of my face. I have three expressions in this kind of picture. One is, “Is the timer ever going to go off?” The next is “My eyes look closed, as if I’m asleep”. The last is “I’m trying so hard to not look asleep that I look as if I’m watching cattle transmogrify into flying saucers right here in the middle of the hipster bar! I don’t dare blink lest I miss the good part”.
But since those days I’ve lost a good bit of weight. (I didn’t really lose it. I just tucked it all in these plastic bins I left in the cellar where nobody will see them, because they’re disgusting.) But the result is I have what pass for normal proportions. And with other people, folks who aren’t me, taking the picture I can focus on better facial expressions. If I’m just off thinking about whatever, I have the look that says “the water bill’s been uncharacteristically low the past three months. I wonder if the metering system is faulty”. If I’m really interested what’s going on, paying attention to it all, my face expresses, “the FOOLS! I shall crush them all!”
Despite all this progress I’m not good at being photographed. Which all ties back to my original point which was … wait, let me check. Pinball? … This was about pinball? I … huh. Well, that’s what it says up there, isn’t it? Weird. I’m going to have to think about this and come back next week with an update.
Pieces from March’s scraps file. All text free to a needy author that can use it. Better luck with it than I had.
seeming like it might be — cut from like ten essays this past month because it doesn’t mean anything. It just slows down moving from the start to the end of the sentence. I don’t ever have any reason to put that in somewhere. I just type a while and look up and there it is and I have to eradicate it. This is some kind of grammatical zebra mussel. I would just leave it in a trash bin, on fire, but if you really want it go wild. Sorry. The rest of the scraps are more promising. Don’t take this one.
So I admit to being torn about National Haiku Pedantry Month coming up this April. We need to get some discipline back into the art form. Right now it’s just what people use for comic verse when they aren’t up to writing a limerick. But then we have thirty whole days of having to pretend we approve of haiku pedants. Some of these people are fine, pointing out that there are actual syllable counts and it’s not just a short-long-short line thing. But then there’s the guy you know who’s going to leap up on a desk, shaking a yardstick around, and hollering, “It’s not just syllable count! You need nature imagery and a cutting word! Where is the cutting word in this? Well?” And you just know he goes home to sulk that all he can find are yardsticks around when it would just make his day to get a meter stick. A haiku pedant like that isn’t going to pass up a good fight with the Pun Control Squad. You know them. They admit there might be such a thing as a pretty good, amusing pun, but they haven’t seen one. And they’re going to take action. — Cut because, of course, National Haiku Pedantry Month is November.
very — cut from about forty posts this past month because I don’t even like having it there. It’s just too easy to make my minimum word count. Also I guess I have a minimum word count even though all my popular posts are two paragraphs long and comment on a picture from the store.
So we trust that we have commutivity and that there’s a multiplicative identity within the collection of elements. And that if the product of two things is zero then at least one is zero. I know that sounds crazy, like specifying that a triangle has to also not be a square. But this can happen, and let me show you how. — Cut from my essay about Dedekind Domains because I realized I wasn’t even halfway toward saying all the rules one of these things had to meet and oh good grief this is why people hate mathematics.
You in your spectacle of arrogance, incapable of imagining that someone other than you might ever need something that isn’t “the chance to gaze in adoration at your alleged magnificence” — Cut from a draft letter to an estranged friend I’ve been trying to reconcile with even though it’s seeming like it might be hard to figure out why, exactly.
I perused the closed-captioning transcript of this episode so that I can say with confidence — cut from a TrekBBS post about Star Trek: Voyager because we were debating a Kes episode and who’s got enough time in their lives for that? Not Kes, obviously. Ha ha! I’ll explain why that’s funny in a footnote .
This hoodie makes me feel pretty, oh soooo pretty. — Cut from the back of an index card we were using to keep track of scores at a pinball tournament yesterday. Not sure who wrote it. It’s seeming like it might be one of our friends who had some hard luck on the game Jack-Bot. But he has got a hoodie that’s become a merry in-joke ever since the state championships back in February.
The “Cover Up” pricing game on The Price Is Right.
Integration by trigonometric substitution.
Those seats in the movie theater lobby that demonstrate how the new premium-experience movie theater is kind of like the ordinary movie theaters, only the seats can shake I guess, so you understand why that’s a worthwhile upcharge when you go to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 For Some Reason?
I need to stop hiding from it. I know the readership statistics for my freshly-named blog here for December 2015 are going to be much, much lower than they were in the Apartment 3-G boosted November. But how bad can they be? Just a second while I check.
OK, no, I have not been off weeping because I knew this would happen. Still, normal: what is it anymore, even?
Well, it’s somewhere around 1,593 page views, from 785 unique visitors. That’s down a bit from September, when there were 1,687 views and 888 unique visitors. But September was aided a bit by the engrossing strange story of Apartment 3-G‘s final collapse. And none of this compares to the October readership (2,204 views and 1,242 visitors) or November (4,528 views and 2,308 visitors) but it wasn’t ever going to.
Apartment 3-G coverage remains my most popular stuff around here. It made three of the five most-read posts for December. Grouping all those into a single category, though, gives us this as the most-popular spread:
As ever, the country sending me the most readers was the United States and 1,273 page views. Canada came in a distant second with 75, and Germany third at 41. The United Kingdom had 33 page views for me. And now I’m not sure whether it’s stranger that I have so many United States readers — I am in the United States, after all, and schedule most posts for an early-evening United States time, or so few from elsewhere among the English-speaking nations. I’m curious whether a different posting hour would make things more convenient for folks. Maybe I’ll experiment in the coming month.
The single-reader countries were Albania, Algeria, Austria, Belarus, Bermuda, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Israel, Kuwait, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Sweden, and Taiwan. Austria, Norway, Pakistan, and South Korea are repeats from last month, and nobody’s on the three-month streak anymore.
Among the search terms that brought people here were:
why is apartment 3-g repeating itself? (this is one I can answer. The online comics service that sends King Features Syndicate comics to newspapers’ web sites has, for some reason, got stuck posting the final strips. So if you read the comics through your preferred newspaper’s web site, it likely still lists the comic strip and it shows the most recently updated strip, which has been rerun into death already)
secrets of the moon (don’t ask! You can’t un-know them!!)
people moving closer to a tv screen when they see a woman strip (pretty sure it’s not all people who move closer to a TV screen when they see a woman stripping)
So, January begins with my blog having gathered 30,223 page views from 15,383 unique visitor. It’s got 630 WordPress followers, as well.
My love organized a pinball tournament. That goes kind of like you might imagine: find a bunch of pinball machines (important! Must have!) and a bunch of pinball players (very important! Absolutely must have!) and then have the players play the games. Then keep track of who won. We held it in the local hipster bar, the one where our home pinball league meets.
It’s a natural place for pinball tournaments because there’s nobody there who has a key to open up a machine and get a stuck ball loose. Nor is there any way to fix it in case any mechanical parts on the complex, 20-year-old machines malfunctions, even if someone knows what to do and has the parts to do it to. It seemed to make more sense when we started out. Oh yeah, it’s right near home, that’s the important thing. Yes, when we got there the roof was leaking and half of the machines were turned off for fear of electrocuting players. But we were able to talk the bar into letting us turn on the machines if we promised not to have anybody die on them.
The tournament ran a little long. We expected the contest to take about four hours and it looks like it’s wrapping up sometime in 2018 instead. This happens. We had expected about fifteen people to show up, and instead everybody in Michigan who has ever played pinball even one time participated. But running long isn’t a serious problem. Punchy exhaustion makes for much funnier play anyway. Nobody got electrocuted enough to complain.
But the tournament’s got me particularly exhausted. I took the responsibility of writing out the slips that said which two players were going to play which one machine. By hand. In actual handwriting. This is more handwriting than I’ve done since 2002, cumulative. I stopped handwriting for a good reason: nobody in the world can read it, even when I do my neatest, most careful block-letter writing. I mean careful for me. My handwriting starts out majestically neat, printer-sharp characters with ruler-straight lines and graceful curves. But it degrades, naturally. By about four characters in I’m lucky if a vertical and a horizontal stroke for the same letter appear in the same word, or at all. Occasionally there’s little squiggles that aren’t any figure that has ever appeared in any human symbolic representation. I tell people who ask that this is the well-known Greek letter “ksee” and mathematicians use it all the time. (This part is not a joke. Mathematicians really do have some made-up Greek letters we use.)
And it doesn’t help that we all stopped reading hand-written stuff in 2004 except for Christmas cards and checks from parents. Even if I wrote legibly nobody could read it anyway, from want of practice. I realize this challenges conventional definitions of “legible” but I’m too tired to write out why I’m right so just take it as given.
Also I tend to write small. They’ve been trying to break me of that habit since middle school, when I put a 150-word short-essay answer on a single line of ruled paper and the teacher marked it down because I went on for 180 words. That doesn’t affect my neatness any. But it makes it frustrating when I’m writing to be ready by people who didn’t bring their Scanning Tunneling Electron Microscopes with them to the pinball tournament. I have to make myself write larger, such as by using pens with irritatingly fat line widths. Each letter gets to be, like, five times as hard to write. Filling out a card saying two people with long names were playing “Tales of the Arabian Nights” involves as much exercise as jogging for twenty minutes, and all that strain went into my wrists.
So I figure to finish the year by spreading my resting my palms on a cushion of feathers floating on styrofoam peanuts in a pan resting atop a dense fluid, the kind they put laser interferometers on. I may take my wrists off altogether until they’re feeling quite right again.
I didn’t win in the tournament, or even manage to place in the top three-quarters of the group. Don’t cry for me; I was only participating for the fun of it. And it was fun. I got this little iPod app to draw the names and games for this kind of tournament play and it’s even more fun if you have more names entered in there. And I got my reward anyway. I was able to make people entering the hipster bar where I entered worry that they had to pay a cover charge. If my love runs a tournament again I’ll collect old CDs from my friends and set it up as the merch table. Mostly, though, handwriting: I’m glad we’re smarter than that anymore. Next tournament I’m getting rubber stamps made for each player and game. Stamping things doesn’t strain the wrist nearly the same way, right?
The mysterious drop in readers continues. I heard a rumor that WordPress’s statistics page has started failing to count views from mobile devices. I don’t know if that’s so, although it would explain why the number of readers here and my mathematics blog collapsed simultaneously, and why other statistics-watchers reported similar sudden drops. My mathematics blog has struggled back above the 1000-reader mark, I believe because of the Mathematics A To Z glossary project that got me posting something nearly every day. I can’t repeat that here, though, since I already post something every day, and posting two things in a day would just be madness.
Anyway, the number of page views in June was a mere 739, down from May’s 759 and April’s 808. The May and June numbers are nearly the same number of views per day, though, so perhaps I’ll see an uptick in July.
The number of unique visitors rose, though, for the third month: from 303 in April to 359 in May to 380 in June. That’s almost got me up to where I was in October, when I accidentally got noticed by fans of the Kinks. It’s the right direction anyway. This does mean the views per visitor has dropped for three months, from April’s 2.67 to May’s 2.11 and then to a mere 1.94 in June. But I can take mere, if there’s enough of it.
Might not be enough, though. There were 365 likes recorded for my pages in June. That’s down slightly from May’s 380 and more from April’s 402. It’s not awful, though. The number of comments was down. There were 108 in April, and 81 in May, and only 59 in June. I need to start asking more open-ended questions, I guess, and giving obviously wrong answers to inspire reader enragement.
WordPress tells me I start July with 585 viewers, and that I just crossed 18,000 total views on the 1st of the month. The 18,000 is a nice and orderly piece of data.
What were the most popular posts in June? Sayeth WordPresseth:
The United States as ever sent me the most viewers (546), with the usual Anglosphere nations following up: Canada (45), Australia (43), the United Kingdom (24), and New Zealand (13). India gave me five readers in June, too, up from two.
The single-reader countries were the European Union (?), Italy (see what I mean?), Mexico, Morocco, Russia, and South Africa. None of them are single-reader repeats.
Finally, I’ve read advice that it’s worth reminding people how to follow your blog, so that people who read it can be nagged into reading it again. This seems logical. Since I’m right now on the Twenty Fourteen theme here, there’s a green button on the upper left that reads “FOLLOW, PLEASE” which is good for that. On my machine the FOLLOW is split between two lines, because that somehow makes sense to the computer as a thing to do. Maybe it would be different if I changed to Twenty Fifteen.
The plan sketched out had Popeye bothered by the hypodermic needles Olive Oyl finds on the beach. So he buys the Glomar Explorer. With the help of Al Gore and H Ross Perot, he launches a space ark with two of every animal in the world. They journey to such worlds as Odorsphera, where the natives’ lack of noses causes the planet to smell terrible; a planet of spotted and striped people; a planet where everything is red; unisex gay world; and a planet with three moons. Finally they land back on an Earth ruined by total ecological collapse, with the few, disease-ridden human survivors resorting to cannibalism. Was the game as fun as this preliminary concept suggested?
Back in the 90s we didn’t think so. Usenet newsgroup rec.games.pinball judged this Bally/Midway table to be the worst thing humanity had accomplished in at least 875 years. It was so awful the group sentenced the game to the ignominy of having its name rendered without vowels. I believe they’re still calling it “P-p-y-” over there. And I’m not joking: nobody on the group questioned whether “y” served as a vowel in this context.
But I got to play the game this past week. I wanted to share my impressions of how the game lives up to its crazystuff potential. Sad to say, not much of the concept makes it into the game. What is there is just enough to baffle people who hadn’t read the nine-page document. For instance, there’s nothing in the game suggesting Popeye is going into space with any of the animals. Sure, the art on the side of the machine shows the Earth and Moon in the background of Popeye’s ark. But it also shows an eager young raccoon perched atop a giraffe who’s weighted down with a heavy, Funky Winkerbeanesque ennui. That could mean anything.
There is an environmental theme, with Bluto locking up animals that Popeye frees. And there’s these Bluto’s Cartel shots. In them Bluto does stuff like put bricks up across the video-display scoreboard. This the game explains as Bluto’s Earth Pavers. It’s always nice to see a shout-out to Usenet foundational group alt.pave.the.earth. But if Bluto is paving the Earth one cinder block at a time, he’s really not much of an environmental menace. Over a normal working life he might be able to pave, like, something the size of Rhode Island with cinder blocks. But that’s not so much of the Earth. Also he’s building walls, which are vertical. The surface of the earth is more horizontal, like a floor. If Popeye left him alone he’d probably screw up some wind farms and make a nasty shadow but that’s it.
Another Cartel challenge makes it look like you, as Popeye, and Bluto, as Bluto, are winching control wheels to drown the other in a tank of water. That’s a misunderstanding created by not paying attention when the challenge gets started. In fact you and Bluto are trying to drown one another in a tank of oil.
And that kind of describes the game. The playfield has a lot of fun art of animals lounging around or singing to themselves. There’s also tiger- and lion-men paying shuffleboard with turtles who are either really big or the lion- and tiger-men are really small. Lion- and tiger-men really aren’t endangered. Heck, they take over Pittsburgh one week every summer for Anthrocon. They don’t need Space Popeye. The game is full of mysterious asides like this. Like, I get why Wimpy would put a bottle of catsup in a champagne bucket, but why would Popeye put a wrench in his?
The video screen has some fun animations, must say. And the voice acting is not bad, considering that everybody born before 1980 learned how to do Popeye’s voice except the people hired to do Popeye’s voice in projects like this. And the game with everything working is not so bad, though I bet it broke all the time in annoying ways in actual arcades. And I could point out gameplay issues that make you hate everybody who takes pinball seriously, but why? The game probably deserves to have at least two of its vowels restored.
So, in conclusion, may I point to the side art again and ask: is that koala on the edge of Popeye’s space ark contemplating suicide? It’s a strange and disappointing game, but humanity has probably done worse things in the last 875 years. Well, 886 at this point.
I had something remarkable happen. A friend asked me to help him move. I see this as a big deal. It’s not like I even own a truck. I’d never own a truck. If you own a truck you have to deal with a never-ending string of people asking for help moving. They’re not even people you know in the slightest. Travel sometime to a place where strangers gather, so far as anybody gathers anymore. A mall food court, or a town hall meeting, or a stunt organized by the radio station. You’ll encounter folks going up to strangers and saying, “Do you own a truck you could help me move with?”
But as a truck-less person the question has a different connotation. Someone would ask me to help them move just because they think I might be a tall guy who can probably hoist stuff. And they’re right. Even for a tall guy I’m pretty good at hoisting stuff and lugging it around. This is because I used to be a tall, fat guy, and I had to build up some serious hoisting and lugging muscles just to stand up and waddle over to lunch. I’ve lost most of that weight. You’d be surprised what you can throw in the dumpster behind a Shop-Rite before they catch you. But I’ve kept most of my hoisting and lugging muscles.
Really I kind of hope for chances to show off my hoisting and lugging prowess. But it’s awkward just asking people, “Can I help you move this weekend?” It has connotations of your hoping to get rid of them. They’ll let you ask once or twice, and then decide they’re never going to move, just to spite you. And just walking down the street, holding a cardboard banker’s box full of books is no way to go, because a cardboard banker’s box full of books weighs two and a half times what Mars’s moon Phobos does, and the cardboard will tear and they’ll all drop on your foot, denting some of the books. You have to just wait for an offer to lug stuff around.
So I was glad to be asked, and to be able to say yes. But the really thrilling thing is that the question came from a friend of my love’s. He and I had gotten to be friendly, yes, but what we mostly had in common was knowing my love. We had some things to talk about, like how he beats me handily every time we play pool, and how I could beat him handily when we play pinball yet somehow do not, but we didn’t have any serious connection. And now we do.
Asking someone to help you move when there’s not truck ownership involved shows you think the friendship has reached a higher level. It marks the falling-away of a certain guardedness and reserve. Someone who’s asked you to help them move is saying, “I trust you to not freak out when you see how I arrange stuff in the moving van all the wrong way. It’s like, do we even recognize the same principles of spatial reasoning? No we do not but I believe you are a person who can accept that and not turn this into a quarrel, unlike some people we could name but won’t, like D----.” This is meaningful stuff.
This is also important to me because it signifies my forming a new real friendship. Most of my social circle is made of Internet friends. Internet friends are much like real friends, except that your Internet friends have a built-in excuse for not being able to help you move, and you’ll eventually break up with your Internet friends in a shockingly bitter fight that starts over which of you better exemplifies the ideals of the “Mane Six” characters on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I like my Internet friends, the ones who are left after I told them I don’t ever want to hear about any of the characters on My Little Pony. I feel a little dirty every time I encounter the phrase “Mane Six”. But getting to this fresh level of friendship with someone in real life is a wonder.