I had forgotten how much of The Empire Strikes Back is just “people falling off things”. Really a surprise. Movie would have been very different if they had put those rubber grippy-pad things for the shower on the floors. Would be hard on the foley artists, certainly. Yes, yes, Darth Vader’s menace would be undercut by his breathing harmonizing with the sqrk-SQRK-sqrk-SQRRK-sqrrrrk-SQRRK of walking on damp vinyl. But it would be easier on everybody’s knees and, I can say with the authority of someone whose knees would rather not be knees, that would be great.
Music. That’s something that helps in times of crisis. It’s a way to manage the feeling you’re having every feeling at once, and will never not again. Look deep into your music collection and find something pleasant and soothing, and enjoy.
Here’s where this goes wrong. My music collection is mostly weird, experimental, early-analog synth experiments. Oh, yes, and 100 Hits of Frank Crumit, who recorded in the 1920s and 30s. That’s pleasant, in that everything he recorded sounds like background music for a Betty Boop cartoon. As long as you don’t hit one of the lyrics that are crazy racist. There’s one song about being an outhouse-builder that’s not bad, although it’s not as good as you’d think.
But that’s the one album. The rest? It’s daffy stuff like fourteen takes of Raymond Scott trying to perfectly represent the sound of a robot mouse passing gas. And this in the service of recording a commercial for Bendix or Ohio Bell or something like that. Or the albums of Ferrante and Teicher. These guys recorded a bunch of wonderful, goofy, way-over-the-top renditions of, like, the theme to Star Wars or whatever. It’s music that makes you go, “seriously?” And yes, yes, they did a lot of cornball stuff. But they did it because it paid the bills. It’s what let them afford their serious music, where they’d try playing a piano strung up with sheets of paper or metal chains or stuff so it sounds all weird.
But. The comforting assurance of a person who knows a particular feeling and can make that a melody? Nope. My music collection brings out the warm communion of the soundtrack to Logan’s Run.
And that’s a great reference to make because I just learned one of my under-thirty friends likes Logan’s Run. For the aesthetics of it, mind you, not for the story. This is perceptive of my friend. I like Logan’s Run, but not because of the story, because have you seen the story? It’s a lot of meandering around through settings. Eventually two masses in the shape of protagonists escape the storyline. In the vast wilderness outside then they discover Peter Ustinov. The sudden presence of an actor then blows up the whole project.
So I like the movie, but that’s because of the look and the feel of it. You watch it and admire the things set designers can do with Plexiglass. And marvel at how ingenious this all was, even if it’s nothing like the props and effects and design of Star Wars. But, like, the films were separated by so much time. Then you look it up and find out that Logan’s Run came out twelve minutes before Star Wars and you feel all confused. Why is Logan’s Run not more less-bad than it is?
Still, I like that an under-thirty friend can appreciate the movie for what it’s good at. Also I like that I have an under-thirty friend, somehow. Or any friend, period. I know what it’s like to put up with me. Be friends with me and you have to put up with this nonsense. I track how much I’m spending on shampoo so I know whether to trim my beard. I think of stuff about Calvin Coolidge or the Wilmot Proviso or whatever. I get anxious if we have a flat surface without an unstable pile of papers and magazines and small purchases on top. I stop my reading so I can tell my love something from my book.
If my love wants any peace while I’m doing this, there’s nothing to do but put headphones on. The big headphones, ones look ready for broadcasting on the WKRP In Cincinnati prequel that’s on I’m guessing CBS All Access. And listen to music. Lots of it. My love has gone through the whole Kinks catalogue. Their good albums, their bad albums, their unpopular albums, Ray Davies leaving messages on Dave Davies’s phone that he can’t be in the band. Everything. When I get to reading the second book I’ve acquired in the past twelve months about the history of the United States Post Office, my love will have to start listening to wholly imaginary Kinks albums. That’s all right. I have my own earphones and can listen to Joe Meek trying to do a surf-rock theramin version of the theme to Popeye. This is the power of music in a trying time.
Quick answer: no, but it’s maybe coming. Thanks, reader, for being where when I finally get to Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. This plot recap will get you up to date for the middle of March 2020. If it’s much after June 2020 when you read this, there’s likely a more current essay at this link for you. And on my other blog I look at comic strips with mathematical themes, and should be getting to Pi Day soon.
22 December 2019 – 15 March 2020.
Here are relationship screwup standings, as of late December 2019. Wilbur Weston humiliates himself, and everyone around him, and everyone who eats sandwiches. He and Estelle went on a double-date with his ex-girlfriend Iris and her considerable boyfriend upgrade Zak. Wilbur, swearing off demon alcohol, begs Estelle to forgive him. Estelle misses him enough to consider it. Meanwhile Iris’s doctor has diagnosed her as old. To hide this from her supportive and emotionally engaged boyfriend she says they need time apart. With that background: what’s happened since Christmas?
Estelle goes to dinner with Wilbur. He shares his resolve not to drink anymore, and to stop embarrassing himself or disappointing her. So, credit to Estelle for having the patience for this. Everyone needs to recover from their screw-ups. Everyone around them needs to know how much screw-up they can take before it’s hurting themselves. I’d like to think Estelle has figured this out, but she was under a lot of Mary Worth pressure to just pair-bond with Wilbur already, despite his issues.
That puts Estelle away for a while. How about Iris and Zak? Iris finally admits her problems to Mary Worth. Mary Worth asks: Zak is loving and supportive and you’re ditching that? And you haven’t even told him what the doctor said explained your weight gain and fatigue and hair loss? Look, just pull over and let me drive. I can sort this out in like ten minutes.
Iris resists. Zak visits, suggesting his doctor evaluate her. She goes, but only to prove that her problem is she’s old and that’s it. The doctor listens to her symptoms and the first doctor’s diagnosis. And then asks, hey, did you check your thyroid? Because those things are always going wrong. And when they do? Reality dissolves into a surreal timeless fugue state of long-dead fiancees returning from the Himalayas and psychics planning your biological mother’s wedding and all space, time, and objects dissolving into a white void, except for Lampy. It’s a wild hypothesis. It demands we suppose a doctor would dismiss a woman’s roster of symptoms as `some weirdo woman stuff or something’. And then not run the tests he would if a white man described the same symptoms. But we can allow such flights of fantasy in our narrative fiction.
The test comes back positive: it’s Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. So, some medicine, some diet, some exercise. Naps you plan for. Zak is of course supportive and helpful and tactfully avoids calling out the first doctor for screwing up. The treatment works great. Within days she’s feeling better. And Iris and Zak are hugging each other talking about how they love the other.
So that, the 19th of January, settles that. We then check in on Estelle, who’s settling for Wilbur quite well. And Estelle’s cat Libby, who cats. And back on Iris and Zak, in what seems like a redundant point. But Iris did have to thank Mary Worth for her advice. Which, to be fair, was correct and needed.
The 3rd of February started off the new and current story. It features Dawn Weston, Wilbur’s daughter. She’s keeping up her long-distance relationship with her French boyfriend from France, Hugo Lambert Bilbiothèque Quatre-vingt de Poisson, Comte de Franceypants. They’d had a nice summer fling last year and kept it going. He’s got a nice job in Paris, in the being French industry. She figures to fly out to see him in summer.
Wilbur worries for his daughter. This may seem meddlesome. But in fairness, he’s been in what he was told were long-distance relationships. And his relationship with Iris broke up while he toured the world asking disaster survivors why they weren’t dead. She dismisses her father’s fears about their relationship. She then contracts her father’s fears about their relationship.
While at a pizza place, thinking this over, she spots Jared Mylo. They’d worked together for Local Medical Group a couple summers ago. It’s a nice reunion. He’d had a crush on her back then. They talk some and decide to go see a movie, a parody Star Wars film. This causes me to wonder: hey, yeah, isn’t it weird there hasn’t been a Star Wars spoof movie in a generation now? Or at least a Spaceship Movie spoof? Is it that there’s enough Star Wars Trek spoofs on TV and web comics and podcasts and stuff that nobody needs a movie?
Anyway, Dawn reassures herself that this is just friends hanging out. It can’t possibly threaten her relationship with Hugo Lambert Cahier sur la Tante du Votre, 2CV. So that’s our conflict: is hanging out with Jared Mylo here in Santa Royale going to distance her from her French boyfriend in France, Paris? Dawn and Jared have a great time at Ruse Of The Fast Talker. Oh, maybe I see why there hasn’t been a Star Wars spoof movie in a while now. At dinner afterward Dawn and Jared bond over how their parents do embarrassing things, like karaoke and naked yoga. And meanwhile in Paris, Hugo is … agreeing with women.
So you know their thing is serious. Mary pops in to ask Dawn how serious this all is. Dawn says it’s not at all, they just like hanging out. And there’s the conflict for the story. How will it all turn out? Will Dawn handle having two people she likes seeing? I figure to check back in around June and give an answer.
Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!
What has BrainyQuotes thought people said, since we last checked in on Charterstone? These inspirational mottos:
- “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” — Alexander Pope, 22 December 2019
- “Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.” — Desmond Tutu, 29 December 2019
- “To love is to be vulnerable.” — C S Lewis, 5 January 2020
- “I told my doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.” — Henny Youngman, 12 January 2020
- “Love Heals.” — Maya Angelou, 19 January 2020
- “I mean we all need a second chance sometimes.” — Joel Osteen, 26 January 2020
- “We all need each other.” — Leo Buscaglia, 2 February 2020
- “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 9 February 2020
- “As a body everyone is single, as a soul never.” — Herman Hesse, 16 February 2020
- “Friendship is something that is cultivated.” — Thalia, 23 February 2020
- “In March, winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward. Something holds and something pulls inside of us too.” — Jean Hersey, 1 March 2020
- “There are as many kinds of loves as there are hearts.” — Leo Tolstoy (in Anna Kernina), 18 March 2020
- “Your friend is your needs answered.” — Khalil Gibran, 15 March 2020
How’s that spy ship working out? We skip out on Ambrose Bierce and Thomas Paine to see what’s happening in Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. See you in a week, more or less.
I never did work out that Mark Trail joke, but I am convinced by the hypothesis that what we’re looking at right now is Rusty Trail’s own comic strip rather than the reality.
While I didn’t actually watch any of the shows or movies or anything I did stop in on TrekBBS for the first time in like forever. And there I found: everybody complaining that their personal favorite show didn’t get referenced anywhere near enough in Star Trek Beyond. Ah, it’s all so sweet and charming. The Deep Space Nine folks have a point though. Also good heavens they’re still arguing whether the navigational deflectors would brush off the Death Star’s planet-explodey superlaser and I only just realized the Death Star is not a star and does not kill stars and this is going to bug me. Good grief, you’re a Star Trek fan, why are you spelling their names “Ryker” and “Troy”? Why? WHY?
Here’s a picture of a Christmas tree decorated, back in December, by the Gravity Works Design and Development group at the local zoo. Questions this raises:
So that is Darth Vader merged by transporter accident with a Christmas tree, right? Or did he just fall and he’s making the best of his dignity the situation will allow? Or is he sneaking up on dryads? If so, why would the Dark Side of the Force care about dryads one way or another? Also what kind of firm is “Gravity Works Design and Development”? Is it a technology firm? Is it a graphic design studio? Maker of weightlifting equipment? A special effects house? Flying saucer gone awry? Is it a roller coaster manufacturer? Why am I going through my Christmas photos in April? Am I that far behind? Is there any chance I could be a tiny bit more timely? No, there’s not.
In questions that I can answer: mathematics. What’s the deal? I explained a bunch of mathematically-themed comic strips yesterday. And who knows what I did today? Or what I figure on for tomorrow?
Do you remember the 1997 action-fantasy movie Warriors of Virtue? No, no you do not. Let me help you out: it’s about a kid meeting up with a bunch of kangaroo warriors who use the martial arts of the Mystic East to defeat a bad guy. No, you’re thinking of Tank Girl. This one you didn’t see. Neither did I. Anyway for some fool reason I read its Wikipedia entry, and learned it had a sequel, somehow. In it, the kid meets up the martial arts warriors again, only they’re not kangaroos anymore. Wikipedia suggests this was done to save money, which only makes sense as an explanation if money works at all the way everyone thinks it does.
Still, I am delighted by the idea of making a sequel to a movie about martial artist kangaroos without the kangaroos. It’s like making a sequel to Star Wars where instead of a bunch of humans and aliens tromping over the galaxy to blow up large spheres it’s all about a couple stoners wandering through Grand Rapids, Michigan, late on Labor Day and trying to find a bar that serves food. Or a sequel to Jaws where instead of a shark it’s just one bee. Not a swarm of killer bees or anything, just one ordinary old regular bee that doesn’t even know there’s people around. And it isn’t looking for revenge or anything. It just saw this awesome dance about the location of some clover and it missed a couple of the moves and it’s trying to make its best guess. And it’s got this whole beach-and-field-side community getting all tense over it. Or it’s like making a side-quel to Judgement at Nuremberg set across town, in a court dealing entirely with traffic citations. Spoiler: Rudolph Hess gets a summary judgement against him for failure to appear and fleeing the jurisdiction. Well, whatever it is, I’m delighted, though not enough to watch it.
- Surprisingly few Star Wars spoilers.
- Somebody painted a tunnel on the side of the wall and somebody drove a car into it.
- There’s this cute video of a kangaroo scratching a cat until the cat gets annoyed and leaves and then the kangaroo looks into the camera all confused about what went wrong there.
- I pulled out a reference to King Philip’s War once again to totally win an argument on TrekBBS about how come the 23rd and 24th-century Star Trek shows never mentioned anything that ever happened on Enterprise and now I’m just waiting for everyone to acknowledge that I won. That’s surely going to happen sometime in the week ahead.
But before I get to the update, my mathematics blog had another Reading the Comics post, and I get to talk a lot about reciprocals. Trust me, this is thrilling if you go in willing to be thrilled.
So, seven-year-old me: We finished the pie. I ate the last piece of pecan right out of the tin plate. Also there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out sometime this month although I’m not really sure what weekend it is. That’s all right, you’re going to love the first when you see it at Eddie Glazier’s house. It’s going to be a lot better than Far-Out Space Nuts, because in Star Wars movies they make up all their spaceships. They don’t use an Apollo Lunar Module. So you don’t have to be bothered by all the ways Far-Out Space Nuts depicts the Lunar Module doing things it couldn’t do, like reentering through an Earth-like atmosphere and taking off again with the descent stage attached. I really should work out what weekend the new Star Wars movie comes out but I’ve been busy is all.
- Hits and Missiles (Paramount Cartoon Studios)
- Out Of This World (Jack Kinney Productions)
- Popeye: The Last Resort (Gerald Ray Studios)
- Popeye: Swee’Pea Soup (Rembrandt Films)
- Popeye: Crystal Ball Brawl (Larry Harmon Pictures)
- Popeye, The Ace Of Space (Famous Studios)
- Popeye: Rocket To Mars (Famous Studios)
I’d wanted to continue my little thread of Popeye-In-Space cartoons, but couldn’t think of another Famous Studios or, better, Fleischer Studios cartoon where he went into space. But then I remembered Famous, Fleischer, and even King Features weren’t all the animators of Popeye.
From 1978 to 1983 Popeye was a Saturday morning cartoon, as the All-New Popeye Hour and then The Popeye and Olive Show (a half-hour). In my youth I trusted that this was just as the world should be: of course they were regularly making new Popeye cartoons. In hindsight I realize this was part of Popeye‘s recessional from pop culture; after this (and of course the Robert Altman movie), there just wasn’t much left. A series called Popeye and Son was made in the late 80s, but I never saw an episode, and only ever encountered it as a video CD in Singapore. The comic strip was very briefly controversial when Bobby London did a string of abortion-touching jokes that would have been a dull week in Doonesbury, and since then despite occasional noble or crazy attempts to bring it back, the franchise has been mostly something for comic strip collectors or T-shirts you get at the boardwalk.
I haven’t seen episodes of the show since, well, eating Popeye’s fried chicken while in Singapore — the Popeye’s in the airport was regularly showing episodes on the TV, so the kids had something to watch — or the early 80s and so none came to mind, but an episode guide identified one that had to be space-related, and thus, I went looking for “Close Encounters Of The Third Spinach”. The only version I could find of it is dubbed into Finnish because, of course. Why not? I’m including it anyway because I think there’s enough to watch in the animation itself that it’s not distracting to have to guess at what the characters are saying to one another.
As the title implies — and why not “Close Encounters Of The Spinach Kind”, anyway? — this cartoon is a parody of Star Wars. I still think that’s neat, though; in the past 35 years the parody or homage or imitation of Star Wars has practically become a genre in itself, and seeing how it was done before most of those parodies were is enlightening — for example, while the trash compactor scene makes the cut, there’s nothing even remotely near the trench run. I can’t imagine a cartoon making that decision about what to do and what not to today.
I also like the casting: Poopdeck Pappy makes a sensible Obi-Wan, and Wimpy in the Han Solo role is a good joke. Because of the dubbing I am not sure who’s cast as the robot. The obvious candidates would be Swee’pea and Eugene the Jeep, and while Eugene makes the more logical choice for the kind of magical otherworldly creature that the robot has to be, he’s not really one to deliver dialogue. On the other hand, that also makes Eugene an even more natural R2.
As for the animation, well, the character designs are good enough, and many of the settings, particularly the Bluto/Death Star, are amusing. But the animation is the routine circa-1980 Hanna-Barbera staging, competently done without ever really excelling. It’s not a disaster, but it is coasting on one’s built-up love for Popeye (and, I guess, Star Wars) for its appeal. Popeye In Space should be more inspired.
Over on my mathematics blog, I’ve got another round of talking about some of the comic strips that mention something mathematical. Mostly, this time, it turns out to be about ways you can calculate what π is, in case you haven’t already got as much of π as you need. It’s all right; I’m figuring on a follow-up shortly all about my discovering I was horribly ignorant regarding one of the things I talked about, and I expect that’ll be popular since people always like to see what other folks don’t know about.
Meanwhile, John Zakour and Scott Roberts wrapped up their mock history of Working Daze, their comic strip, with what looks like it just gets into the actual comic strip again. Sadly, they’re not continuing it into projections of the future history of the strip; the following Sunday’s comic was the strip’s normal blend of pop culture and nerd references, with C-3PO and a Dalek.
I had a little problem with one of the games I play and wrote the company to complain about it. (In certain contexts the game no longer let one use the word “clam”, which was not actually the thing that bothered me.) A couple days later I got a response explaining that the problem was exactly what I said it was, which is good, since it reassures me that I wasn’t imagining the problem. The response was signed, and I promise you this is true, “Support Agent Boba Fett”.
I have to suppose that he’s not the famous Boba Fett, since after all, what are the odds of that? The real one is probably doing reunion tours at county fairs anyway, thrilling fans with his great bits like having a kind of familiar name and all that. Still, this Boba Fett I have to figure had a pretty unremarkable childhood up until 1980 — sure, “Boba” is a kinda weird name, but it was the 70s, and we had bigger problems with hair and colors and being told carob tasted “just like” chocolate but was better for something or other to distract us from names — and then it all got so annoying. I wanted to ask if he’s tired of people asking him about Star Wars except that even if he didn’t mind talking Star Wars, to be stuck talking about talking about Star Wars has got to be horrible, and I might never get to say “clam” in the game again.