What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? April – June 2017


This report on the recent plot developments of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. is right and fitting for late June, 2017. If it’s a lot past that by the time you read it, things might have moved on. I’ll do my best to have more recent updates near the top of this link. Thanks for being interested, and do enjoy.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

2 April – 25 June 2017.

Last time, you’ll recall, Terry Beaty’s dismantling of the Cult of Sarah Morgan and the showering of untold fortunes on her had nearly completed. She was ready for her first day back at public school, as a mere normal, if amnesiac, student almost completely bereft of the ability to draw horsies. She’s saved from kids teasing her by Edward, the former bully she had publicly shamed on a school tour when she was on exhibit at The Local Art Museum. (Seriously, this is where the strip had been before Beatty took over the writing.) That’s totally how it works when you publicly shame the class bully. They usually become your protectors.

Edward: 'I'm sorry those kids were being such JERKS to you.' Sarah: 'Thanks for scaring them off. I know I'm the NEW kid and all, so some kids won't like me.' 'Don't pay any attention to those mean kids. They're just BULLIES like I used to be -- until you changed my mind.' 'I wish I could remember meeting you, Edward. The accident made me lose a lot of memories -- like a YEAR's worth.' 'Man -- that must be WEIRD!' 'It is. Feels like I was asleep for a LONG time. And woke up to a new house and new baby brother!' 'I'd like to go to sleep and forget my BIG SISTER!' 'What's wrong with your sister?' 'She's meaner than I EVER was! I just try to stay out of her way.' 'That's too bad. Maybe you could come play at my house if you ever need a break from her?' 'That'd be like EVERY DAY. Could I bring my dog?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 16th of April, 2017. Quick show of hands here, people who’ve been bullied: has ‘don’t pay attention to those mean kids’ ever worked for anyone ever? Thought so. Anyway, I do enjoy the bit of kid wonder at the idea of losing a year’s worth of memories. It feels like actual kid responses to something that, as a grownup, would be pretty horrible, if nothing else for how tedious it would be to reset all the passwords you’d changed in the lost year.

With Sarah’s plot safely tucked off in public school, June Morgan decided she’d spent enough time as a stay-at-home mom not doing medicine. She wanted to get back to being the Doctor’s full-time assistant, hanging around the office and not doing medicine just like Doctor Rex. By late May she had leapt back in and everything was fine and dandy. So this all might sound like there’s not a lot soap-operatic happening in this soap-opera strip. Fair enough.

June: 'I thought you were managing the clinic just fine WITHOUT me?' Rex: 'We ARE, but ...' 'Well?' 'Summer and Michell are doing a perfectly fINE job here, it's just that ... well ...' 'OUT with it, Doc. I'm WAITING.' 'I simply MISS YOU being here. I mean, HOW many years have we spent running this clinic? It's just not the SAME without my FAvORITE nurse.' 'Do you have ANY idea how many POINTS you just earned?' 'Said the RIGHT thing, did I?' 'Sure did.' MEANWHILE, in Holly's Dad's collector garage. Niki: 'HOLY COW! When you said your dad collected cars, you weren't KIDDING!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 7th of May, 2017. Never mind the question of whether Rex Morgan ever sees a patient. I like married-person banter, especially when it’s between married people who enjoy each other’s company. Love is one thing, but there’s something special in just liking being near someone.

The drama the past couple months has focused on Sarah’s driver/part-time babysitter, Kelly. While it’s a pretty good afterschool job as these go, her schedule conflicts with her boyfriend Niki’s, who’s a pizza deliverer. He gets a call to Holly, a girl from the arts school, and she kind of likes him, and her dad quite likes him. Holly’s Dad offers him the chance to drive some of his antique cars around town. Holly has to go with, of course, but you understand how wealthy fathers enjoy picking out trustworthy pizza-delivery guys and having them tool around town in their antique cars with their teenaged girls.

Really I’m comfortable with this. Put that way the story sounds like absurd wish-fulfillment. But, you know, the Rex Morgan, M.D. world has been one of basically pleasant people who like other people. And Niki had the in that he drove a vintage Beetle himself kept in respectable shape. I’ll buy the premise.

Where this gets soap-operatic is that this leaves Niki spending his free time driving around town with Holly in a sequence of antique cars. Which gets back to Kelly, who wants to know what her boyfriend is doing driving some other girl from the arts school around instead of her. Niki answers with all the self-awareness of a teenage guy who doesn’t understand why someone would be upset he was driving someone else’s car. So Kelly spent about eighteen months correctly identifying him as an idiot.

Kelly: 'Let's recap. You've been driving HOLLY around in her DAD's vintage cars while I'm BABY-SITTING for the Morgans.' Niki: 'Uh, yeah.' 'And LYING to me about it.' 'Gee, Kelly, I didn't think I was doing anything WRONG by hanging around with Holly.' 'REALLY?' 'Yeah - we're just FRIENDS. Nothing more to it.' 'Then why KEEP it from me?' 'Like I said, I was afraid you'd take it the WRONG WAY and be ANGRY or JEALOUS or something. Like you ARE right now.' 'Niki - if there's NOTHING going on between you two, you shouldn't have been afraid to TELL me. It's you NOT telling me that makes me think there IS something going on here.' 'But there ISN'T, Kelly - there REALLY isn't. It's just that the CARS are so cool.' 'And HOLLY being a PRETTY BLONDE has NOTHING to do with it at all?' 'Well, I GUESS she IS pretty and all, but ... OH, GEEZ, I said the WRONG THING, huh?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 4th of June, 2017. I also appreciate the natural, unforced dumbness of Niki’s situation here. We’ve seen the whole story so we know he never had an unfaithful thought, and possibly never had any thought besides “shiny car”. Also, hey, a millennial who’s interested in cars as objects of particular historic and design and cultural importance; who knew?

Anyway, all seems to be getting better as Niki and Kelly go to the arts school’s production of Large Levi, put on when I guess somehow they couldn’t get the rights to Li’l Abner? I don’t know why Beatty didn’t just use the actual comic-strip-turned-stage-play. Maybe when he first mentioned it he thought he’d need some scene that couldn’t plausibly be in a high school presentation of Li’l Abner. Maybe the Al Capp estate is weird about perfectly appropriate and fair mentions of his intellectual property. I don’t know.

Having met Holly, and her girlfriend Crystal, and getting invited to their game night, Niki gets all smug about how Kelly was silly to be jealous. She points out how he’s an idiot. Fair enough.

And those are all the major plots developed over the past few months. There haven’t been other sidelines. There was some overlap during the transition from Sarah At School to June At Work to the Kelly and Niki show, but nothing too narratively complicated. And most of the time was spent on people screwing up their relationships, the way a soap opera might well. Nothing happened with senile industrialist Milton Avery, nor with Jordan and his housekeeping job. Pioneer comic magazine artist “Horrible” Hank Harwood hasn’t been seen since April.

Next Week: Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker unless something big comes up.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index fell four points after traders noticed the Sirius XM Deep Tracks station playing some crazy obscure Kinks stuff and while they’re always playing the Kinks, I mean, what the heck? This is some stuff that even people who loved Soap Opera never get around to listening to.

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What You Missed At The Record Show


Like five cups left out where someone put a teabag in and then discovered the hotel’s complementary coffee and tea service didn’t include hot water, just two kinds of regular coffee. Also one full cup of coffee-tea hybrid abandoned after two sips.

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the five dollar bin.

Oh wow this is totally Paul McCartney’s most embarrassing 80s single.

The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1962 – 1964, rendered by early computer synthesizer.

The daily high temperatures for Schenectady, New York, from the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, rendered as a waltz, as the first album my hand even touched and I wasn’t even trying to make something like this happen. How does this happen? How does this keep happening? $3 and the woman selling it marked it down to $2 before I even said anything and then suggested if I wanted all four copies I could have them for five bucks.

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the dollar bin.

Wait, how could Allan Sherman have done a riff on the theme to Saturday Night Fever? Is that even possible? Can someone check?

The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1962 – 1965, rendered on xylophones.

Two guys trying to walk back the “White Disco Sucks” label on a Bee Gees album when the customer admitted to liking it although of course not so much as their pre-disco stuff.

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the two dollar bin.

A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, The Great Race, and Gone With The Wind.

The Belchertown (Massachusetts) Savings Bank 1968 gift to its listeners of select favorite memories from the golden age of radio … oh, I get it, they’re saving these precious memories, that makes thematic sense as a tie-in and oh that’s a lot of Amos and Andy to put on one record but at least they break it up with … good grief Life with Luigi? Was all the non-ethnic-humor stuff from old-time radio unavailable somehow?

The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1963 – 1965, rendered by a string quartet.

That table with all the concert video DVDs that couldn’t look more sketchy if he were underneath a giant flickering neon sign reading “SCAMMER” although hey, he’s got the whole Woodstock ’99 concert this says.

A box just labelled “prog rock” next to two boxes just labelled “Beatles”.

The great news events of 1944 as reported by Morse Code international transmission.

The Who’s Tommy sung by an all-twee children’s chorus for some reason.

An ever-growing bundle of people arguing over what was the best Kinks concept album, splitting off an argument about what was the best concept versus what was the best rendition of that concept, all united by the belief that more people ought to listen to Arthur.

Gene Pitney’s She’s a Heartbreaker, which on the cover explains it includes Gene Pitney’s hit She’s a Heartbreaker, which at least gets one thing clear and understandable in this confusing world.

No, no, this is totally Paul McCartney’s most embarrassing 80s single.

A read-along story cassette book for 3-2-1 Contact? I totally need this except by any reasonable definition of “Need” but look how much of the book is the Bloodhound Gang.

Kid whose family was at the hotel wandering in from the swimming pool to stare at the records and then leave without making eye contact with anyone.

Listen To History: John Cassavetes portrays John Cameron Swayze as the news reporter covering the Zimmerman Telegraph, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and Warren G Harding’s Death in a recreation of how network radio might have covered these events and what exactly is on sale for $6 here? What level of reality is in operation?

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the miscellaneous bin.

A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, The Gazebo, and A Face In The Crowd.

A bunch of interview clips the Beatles offered but stripped of all possible context.

The soundtrack to Midnight Cowpoke which turns out not to be the soundtrack to a porn film which would be bizarre enough but this leads to the discovery of “stag party records” that, okay, wait, they’re just music with women groaning? And this was a thing people were supposed to listen to in any context? Play this “sexciting” album in your car? Yes, we know car LP players were a thing but what? And they were still making these late enough in the day they could do an album riffing on aerobics? What the heck is the heck with this? What?

The cast of One Day At A Time sings the greatest hits of Motown.

A two-LP set of The Greatest Hits of Zager and Evans?

Haven’t got any idea what this is but it’s thick in a box of prog-rock covers so amazing I want to get a better look at it without making eye contact with the guy selling them because if I do he’s going to talk about them and I can’t have that much personal contact with someone can I?

A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Black Hole, 1941, and Klute.

Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the Beatles bin.

The Fat Boys’ You Know, Only One Of Them Is Actually Kind Of Fat, The Most You Can Say About The Others Is They’re Slightly Chunky Or Maybe We’ve All Just Gotten Tubbier Since 1989.

Is it possible that Paul McCartney 80s singles are infinite and there is no most embarrassing one?

The Kinks debate approaching the conclusion that while it is impossible to define what exactly makes something a concept album, having a track subtitled “Part II”, “(Reprise)”, or “Entr’Acte” means you’ve got one.

How To Set Up Your Record Player, an instructional album that seems to present an impossible bootstrapping problem.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped ten points today but then thought better of it and figured that just the one was sufficient.

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Thinking About TV Movies


That bit about The Kinks’ Arthur the other day got me thinking about TV movies. I don’t see them anymore. But I grew up occasionally watching TV movies when my parents didn’t want to change the channel after the real shows were done for the night. I knew it as a genre in which over the course of two hours we’d get to meet a generically pleasant cast of characters and discover the wife was murdered by Mike Farrell. I suppose they did things differently in 1969 Britain, when The Kinks were making their not-made TV movie. I’m not sure they had even invented Mike Farrell by then, and the wife had to be murdered by Wayne Rogers instead. If anyone’s got definite word please let me know.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Another Blog, Meanwhile index traders agree that it’s just five points, it’s just another five points lost since yesterday, it’s not even a full five percent and there’s no reason we can’t see just as big a rebound as the last week saw declines and how can it be so long since we were in the 140s when it was just Wednesday for crying out loud? What makes this happen to good little indices?

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The Unmaking


A friend was amused by something I said that alluded to The Kinks’ album Arthur. I went on to explain the album to him, something he consented to by not chewing his own tail off to make good his escape. I was kind. I just wanted to explain how the definitely best song in it was “Some Mother’s Son”, unless the best song was “Shangri-La”. In any case the most cheerily catchy song on it is clearly “Victoria” unless it’s “She’s Bought A Hat like Princess Marina”. Look, just listen to it, all right?

I started to explain whether it’s a rock opera before my friend tore my leg off and whacked me over the head with it. It’s a contentious issue. If you ask Ray Davies about it, he’ll explain that it was totally the first rock opera except for the ones that snuck out between when he had the idea and when he finished it. Also that of course it wasn’t an rock opera and he doesn’t know why critics call it that. Also that people only say it’s a rock opera to stir up trouble. Also that Dave Davies should get over here so he can punch him. Also that who cares about writing rock operas. I’m happy to let Ray Davies have whatever view on Arthur he wishes, in accord with my life goal of getting through it without being punched by him. So far, successful for 16,089 days running!

Thing is I’ll go along with saying Arthur wasn’t the first rock opera, or even a rock opera at all, especially if Ray Davies is looking for someone to punch. Unless he really wants it to be a rock opera because, again, 16,089 days and counting. It was created to be the soundtrack for an unmade TV movie. And that’s what’s caught my imagination. Not calling it a TV movie. I’m used to that idea.

What’s got me is the phrase “unmade movie”. They want to express it was a never-made movie. But it’s got me thinking of what it would take to un-make a movie. You’d have to start with a made movie, sure. Let’s say something like 2006’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend, which was as slightly made a movie as has been the least mediocre choice of in-flight entertainment since the Disney Radio channel was still doing the Hamster Dance song somehow. I should be clear, I didn’t hate the movie or anything, it was just on and a little annoying up to the point that the in-flight entertainment system crashed and couldn’t be brought back up. Could be any movie.

You’d start, I guess, by taking any prints of the film and rinsing them clean, bringing them back to a faint silver-tinged cloud of colloidal particulate matter. And I don’t care if that isn’t what unexposed film is like. It’s too much fun to write “faint silver-tinged cloud of colloidal particulate matter”. Go ahead. Try coming up with a better phrase that seems like it ought to have something to do with film stock.

I don’t know if it existed in digital form any, but I suppose we can write new stuff, I’m thinking saved games of Civilization II, onto whatever they came from. I’m thinking USB Flash drives. Very large ones, to be able to hold films. Like, they’re on keychains, but for those novelty-size Keys to the City. Really big ones. Have to play a lot of Civ II to fill those up, but I can do that.

Unmaking the movie would go farther, sure. I suppose you’d bring all the cast and crew back together so everyone could go through the scenes backwards, undoing it all. I’m not sure if you’d have to undo the alternate takes or unused scenes. I guess it depends how busy the people are. Unmaking the movie can’t be their whole job. Probably it’s not necessary to unbuild the sets, since they do that anyway.

There might be some outfits that could be unstitched and turned back to pieces of cloth. I don’t imagine that we’d take, like, any bits of wool and restore them to the original sheep, as most film companies don’t keep records in sufficient detail for this. Similarly there’s no sense at all restoring any cotton used in the outfits to the original sheep, because sheep only produce cotton if they’re looking for a little extra income as poorly-paid farm workers. There’s limits to how much you’d have to do to fully un-make a film, is all I’m saying.

Again, I don’t want the people whose lives brought them to the point of making My Super Ex-Girlfriend to think I’m picking on them. It’s just a movie I’m holding up as an example of something we could unmake if we really tried. If we needed some different unmade movie I’ll take suggestions. Thank you for your time considering the problem.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Um. All right. Traders aren’t looking to panic or anything here but what the flipping heck, guys? Fourteen points in one flipping day? Where did that come from? Where did they go? When are they coming back? Analysts disagree about why the sudden drop happened except for that one who’s being all smug about how she knew this was inevitable. We don’t need that stuff just now.

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Trending, In Mid-Michigan


OK, so, what’s worse than seeing any city’s name trending on Twitter? Seeing your city’s name trending on Twitter. So, thank you, Twitter, for putting ‘Lansing’ right there as the third item under Trends for most of the last week.

Don’t worry. There’s, as of my writing this, nothing to worry about going on in Lansing. This has to be them Helpfully Localizing my content experience. It’s all been about normal recently. There was a power outage downtown last Friday during lunchtime and that’s been the big news. Sure, that’s the sort of thing that’s fun to go through, especially since it hit the capitol and the state office buildings and stuff. Power failures are the snow days that office workers get. So there’s the understandable thrill of, like, seeing State Supreme Court justices just wandering down Washington Square Street with nothing particular to do.

But is that thrilling enough to last a week? So a State Supreme Court justice figures he might as well head to the downtown peanut roastery. That’s not all that exceptional. Who doesn’t like peanut roasteries? Even the people deathly allergic can appreciate the carpet of expectant squirrels staring at customers who don’t know whether to follow the signs warning DO NOT FEED SQUIRRELS or whether there’s no way they’re getting out alive without dropping at least a four-ounce bag of cashews and running. We would go on about that for a while, sure, but a week? Not worth it.

And there’s one of the smallest measurable bits of excitement coming out of East Lansing. There’s been a ball python on the loose since the weekend. Channel 6’s article about calls it a “runaway” snake, which suggests the lede’s writer does not fully understand snakes. But it’s not an aggressive species, and it’s not venomous. It would eat small animals, but it’s way far away from the peanut roastery, so even the squirrels don’t get bothered by it. So while that’s kind of interesting again there’s no way this is trend-worthy.

One of the top items under ‘Lansing’ was remembering the birth of actor Robert Lansing, 1928 – 1994. Remember him? (Correct answer: no. I’m sorry but there is a Ray Davies song about this.) He was in the original Star Trek. In this backdoor-pilot episode he played alien-trained super-duper-secret-agent Gary Seven, the United States adaptation of the Third Doctor Who. Terri Garr played his human female companion. And if you want to protest that the episode (“Assignment: Earth”) was made and aired in 1968 (1968), years (2) before the Actual Third Doctor was even cast (1970), then let me remind you, time traveller. Sheesh.

And it isn’t like Lansing doesn’t have some stuff worthy of quirky Internet fame. I was reading Helen E Grainer’s Pictorial Lansing, which in 1976 put in book form the school field trip tours she gave kids. It mentions:

One of the early trains to Lansing brought a piece of coal as big as the front seat of a car. It is still sitting by the train tracks on Grand River Avenue east of Cedar Street.

I submit that even in this jaded age, a piece of coal as big as the front seat of a car, and that’s been sitting on the street for a century, is worth looking at. They have a picture of it, sitting in front of the train tracks and some house. But I’ve been to that spot. As best I can figure there’s no huge lump of coal there. The house is gone too. So Lansing apparently had a right big lump of coal that sat on the street corner for a century, and then someone went and took it. Also someone took the house. Taking a house is normal, although good luck explaining to a six-year-old why anyone thinks that’s normal. Taking a huge lump of coal? That’s noteworthy and is anyone tweeting about that? That’s getting freaky. You know, it would be a scandal if a State Supreme Court justice had pocketed both house and coal under cover of the traffic signals all being out.

Anyway. Twitter, stop letting place names trend. It’s not good for any of us. With thanks, trusting, yrs very truly, pls also vide letter of last week, etc, me.

When Do I Get To Sing _My Way_?


What’s playing at Karaoke Night:

  • 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.

Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G: Where Did My Spring Go?


Sorry to stand in the way of Apartment 3-G but I do have a mathematics blog to support. I’ve had things to say about the integers — the counting numbers — some of which may surprise you. And though I don’t figure to have another installment until tomorrow, I do regularly review the comic strips that mention mathematical topics. It’s my chance to talk about several of my favorite subjects together.


So, I have heard nothing in the past week to suggest that Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G is not doomed. (Their official blog has nothing to say, of course.) I would not be surprised if James Allen of Mark Trail was pushing to get King Features Syndicate to change its mind. It seems a long shot, but the syndicate does obviously make some of its decisions sentimentally. They run Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead, after all.

I like Zippy, and I understand why it would make sense to have tried it out a generation ago. But have you ever seen it on an actual newspaper’s comics page, and if so, does it make sense existing even in the same medium as Over The Hedge or JumpStart? Yet it’s still running. That fact is logical only when you consider that reality has merged with Zippy the Pinhead. As the character said long ago, life is just a blur of Republicans and meat.

As a more obvious triumph of sentiment over economics, the syndicate still has Hy Eisman draw new installments of The Katzenjammer Kids. That can only make sense as a point of pride. I accept that the economics of Apartment 3-G are marginal. I would nevertheless like to try “good art, strong stories” a try. If nothing else, it would be happy if the strip were to close out on an improving year.

As for what the heck happened this week. I suspect the Just End The Story Already Fairies have gotten a deadline for when everything has to be wrapped up. And lacking other tools, they’ve used the climax of Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man and are tearing apart the very idea of perception. The backgrounds have gotten to be so generic that it’s really not possible to say they’re insides or outsides or wrong or anything, and by Friday they weren’t even there.

The Thursday and Friday installments suggest we are actually literally going to have an “it was all a dream” resolution. After the exhausting nothingness of this year’s non-story I’m willing to accept this. I haven’t been so willing to accept an “it was all a dream” resolution since I was three-quarters of the way through Stephen Baxter’s god-awful novel Titan. (Spoiler: the book was bad enough that it wasn’t even all a dream.)

'Margo, it's me, Greg. I told you I'd be back. We'll get through this and when ...' And then Margo opens her eyes and demands, 'Where did he go, Tommie?' 'Where did who go, Margo?'
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 29th of October, 2015. Greg who is not Eric is, possibly, the witness to Margo waking out of her coma. If Greg exists. Margo seems remarkably well-dressed as she demands to know where “he” went of Tommie, portrayed in the second panel by Penny Marshall immediately after being hit in the face with a football.

Dead fiancée Eric has most recently appeared on Monday, ordered by Tommie to go get some sleep. Tuesday saw the arrival of Greg, a bundle of strange backstory for Margo. While Margo was working as a publicist, Greg was her boyfriend and an actor who landed the part of James Bond. We’re to take it to be that James Bond. Margo and Greg broke up for the reason of there was some reason, probably. On Thursday Margo suddenly opened her eyes and demanded to know where “he” had gone. Friday Margo demanded to know where “the man who loved me” had gone. I would have thought Shulock would know better by this point than to use any pronouns. On the other hand, names don’t help much either because there is literally no guessing who Bolle is going to draw into any scene. Is she talking with Tommie? Eric? Greg? Why not Dost Mohammad Khan, founder of the modern Afghan state, at this point?

Margo demands 'the man who loves me, where is he, Tommie?' of Greg, while Margo insists she means 'the other one'.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 30th of October, 2015. Margo addresses Greg or possibly Eric as “Tommie”. Perhaps she is hallucinating, since she is wearing a stylish blazer while in her hospital bed. Unless the hospital bed was part of the hallucination and nothing happened the whole past year because it was all a dream.

The action this week reminds me of some single-season sitcom that blew my young mind. The last episode had the male lead going off to Other Land Somewhere, with a teary farewell scene at the airport, and he exits. Then the guy came back on camera and said he wasn’t going, because “it was cancelled”. “The flight?” “No, the series,” and the actors turn to the camera and wave bye. At that age I didn’t know you could do that, at least not outside shows that were built around talking to the audience, like Rocky and Bullwinkle. Maybe we are building up to the whole roster of jilted, abandoned, separated, and deceased boyfriends popping back in and saying their goodbyes in front of a blank wall. I hope it will be better than that.

Failing that, well, let’s just have the whole cast on stage to sing the Kinks’ “Where Did My Spring Go?” and call that an end.

What Is Art, And What Can It Do To You?


Why do we art? And if we must art, can anything be done about it? These are questions that come to mind if we’ve already worked out what we mean by ‘art’, or by doing artistic things. Let me explain what art is. Art is the way you make yourself feel inferior whenever you observe something you used to enjoy.

Let’s say you enjoy drawing. If you just like drawing, you can find drawings and look at them and enjoy them. If they’re bad drawings, you can enjoy laughing at them. If they’re great you can pass them around to people who don’t care about visual arts and demand they respond. They’ll finally nod and agree that’s an awesome whatever the heck it is. Also, they’re moving to a secret location inside a linen closet, beside the towels, so don’t need any more pictures, thank you.

If you attempt to draw, though, you can’t enjoy drawing anymore. Any really skilled drawing is a reminder of how awful you are at it. You can’t do that thing where a line is drawn so it looks like a line. Your best attempts at drawing a foot earned you hate mail from the Foot-Drawing Hall Of Fame. And that’s even though you never let it out of the spare room where you hide all your creative dreams and you don’t know how they got your address. You’re not allowed to look at feet now, says the Hall of Fame, which seems like an excessive reaction since you weren’t even attempting socks.

No, you were just making yet another attempt to get any good at drawing. This time you were following the instructions in some How To Draw Fifty Popular Cartoon Characters For Kids book. It’s a fun book, what with how its title implies Mutt and Jeff or Hardy Har-Har or the cast of comic strip Boner’s Ark are characters kids love, or have ever heard of. The book’s a reprint from 1984, which makes it a little better, but still. If you completed the book perfectly, it implies, you might be able to finally draw! Some strange figure named Wash Tubbs! In exactly one pose ever! But what you actually have are a series of off-model Felix the Cats and the haunting discovery that while Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble have toenails, Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble do not. Why? Why? Why?

So you can feel worse about yourself, of course. You can put time in. You can put in better materials, too. I mean, you can draw just using a sheet of paper stolen from the printer and the pencil that’s supposed to be near the phone for messages and never is. But down at Michael’s you can get a nice quality sketchbook and some mechanical pencils and a few basic ink pens for little more than all the money you have. And it comes with a coupon good for forty percent off anything except purchases at Michael’s. Really, it’s just worth it to be in the line that consists of four people, none making a complicated purchase, that somehow still doesn’t move until someone from outside, dressed for winter in so many layers of clothes they’re a tumbling sphere of laundry, rolls in and knocks people over.

None of that matters. You can put in all your time and your best effort and best materials and it will always look to you like you’ve drawn lovable alien monstrosity Stitch as a potato, using potatoes smeared onto tree bark. You can scan it and try to touch it up in software, and so get Stitch drawn as a potato using smeared potatoes on tree bark, but airbrushed. And you can’t look at a picture of Stitch, or worse, the whole movie Lilo and Stitch, anymore without feeling inferior.

I’ve picked on drawing, because it’s easy to understand. Everybody used to draw, and most of us stopped doing that and felt good about ourselves instead. But the same effect applies in any field. Photography, singing, music, writing … There are even people who say computer programming is an art, because they don’t have to deal with people who use their programs. But look close at people who’ve taken up any of these fields. You’ll find musicians trying to do something that sounds like the Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”. They’re growling at the guitars and cursing out Ray Davies’s chord progressions, just like everybody else.

Or consider writing. I’ve done a lot of it, and I like to think I’m decent in the pop-mathematics and the humor fields. Back in August I caught an episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. It mentioned among other overpriced Whole Foods nonsense items “a plate of grain blown back and forth between two fans”. Every day since then I’ve chuckled at that phrase, and that video. The only thing stopping that chuckling is my anguish that I can’t even imagine my writing something that effortlessly absurd. If I didn’t write, I would just enjoy the line. But because I do write, it makes me feel inferior.

What if you already feel inferior? I’m sorry to break this to you. I don’t know who wrote the line about the fan-blown plate of grain. But I can tell you this, truthfully. That writer is haunted by how much worse that joke was than something she’d read not a month before. And how she might someday, maybe, write something that’s close to how funny she wanted it to be. So not only will your art make you feel inferior, but your feeling of inferiority will be inferior to other people’s feelings of inferiority.

I’ve got further thoughts about the sensible thing to do. You can catch me with them, on line at Michael’s. I’ll be jotting ideas down on my iPod and screeching out unfunnily bad notes on the violin I took up in third grade. See you there.

The Worm In The Ear. Plus: Sock Simplicity Update


OK, so apparently my head is just going to be delivering a medley of the J Geils Band’s Angels In The Centerfold cutting to the Kinks’ Come Dancing and Devo’s Whip It. I can deal with that. I’m happy I can still have earworms, since they take about eight to fifteen seconds. So my attention span is at least eight seconds long still. That’s a source of pride-ish-ness these days. There’s a whole generation coming that won’t be able to get a song caught in their heads because they can’t hear enough of one before moving on to the next thing.

Meanwhile? The history of socks? Yeah, it still implies that socks are no longer simple. Still not up to that.

Statistics Saturday for April Or Whatnot


I meant to get around to reviewing April’s readership around here sooner. I was busier than I wanted to be, as we all are. And I was trying to think about what the data meant, which is quite hard.

The startling thing to me is that my readership evaporated over April. In February my humor blog here had 1,046 views, and in March 1,053. In April that was down to a mere 808, the lowest since August of last year. The number of visitors collapsed too, from 505 in February and a close-enough 483 in March down to only 303 in April. And I don’t know what happened. It’s possible that people shifted from reading my stuff on pages to reading through RSS feeds or through the WordPress reader, since those readers don’t show up as views or visitors to my page. But … really, one-fifth of the page views and two-fifths of the readers? That’s weird.

(This does, by the way, match up with an increase in the average number of views per visitor. In April I recorded 2.67 views per visitor, my highest since June 2014. March saw a mere 2.18 views per visitor and February 2.07. From the way the daily view counts look I suspect a couple folks found me the last week of April and went archive-binging, which I would like to encourage.)

I don’t think April just reflects a burst of rapid-onset unpopularity. Some of the other measures suggest that I still have near as many readers. The number of likes was only 402 in April, down from March’s 443, but still up from February’s 345. The number of comments was 108 in April, down from March’s 113, but still above February’s 99. That’s a tie, by any realistic measure.

So I’m left with a mystery of where did the page counts go? I looked to the weekly reader totals for any hint what might have happened. From the week starting February 16th through the week starting March 30 I had between 200 and 260 readers per week. The first and second weeks of April that dropped to 162 and then 156 readers, and the third week of April it only rose to 186. Mercifully for my ego the week starting April 27 I drew in 213 readers, which is back to what the boom times had, but that leaves early April a mystery.

I don’t think I was writing significantly different stuff in early April from what came before or after, and I felt good about reader engagement. Maybe everybody was just off for Easter. My mathematics blog wasn’t, but perhaps there were exams that week. I’d be curious what other writers experienced. But I am feeling a little stunned by the results and maybe need to lie down. And I admit this week doesn’t seem to be starting off very well either. It’s a terrible thing to feel this insecure this early in the month.

Maybe I need to accidentally troll the Kinks fandom again.

Statistics Saturday on a Tuesday: February 2015’s Readership


And now for the most popular thing that I write and the inspiration for the Statistics Saturday posts: listing countries that sent me a noticeable number of readers in February 2015. The United States sent me the most, at 888, which intrigues me since the United States sent my mathematics blog 555. I have to wonder if the guy entering numbers into the WordPress statistics page couldn’t be bothered to move his finger to a different digit. He must have, I guess; Canada sent 43 readers, and Australia 32, which are still some pretty easy numbers to enter. Germany gave me 25 readers.

Sending me a single reader each were a bunch of countries: Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Iraq, Isle of Man, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Repeats from January were Isle of Man and Turkey, and nothing’s got a three-month streak going. My readership in India dropped from nine down to four, which drew my eye to notice that WordPress claimed I had four readers from the European Union, even though it also lists readers from countries that are part of the European Union, like the ten in Italy or the three in Austria. I don’t know what’s going on there.

The number of page views has continued its slight downward trend — from 1,251 in December to 1,071 in January to 1,046 in February. But I just have to cling to how February is such a short month that per-day things are looking pretty good: after 34.55 views per day in January, the average rose to 37.36 in February. That’s down still from December’s 40.35 but what am I going to do about that, write more popular stuff and market myself more effectively or something? Anyway, the month starts out with 14,628 total views of pages here, and this is five months in a row that there’ve been a thousand-plus views. I do like all that.

The number of viewers dropped — 626 in December, 553 in January, 505 in February. That’s also something where the shortness of February worked against me since January averaged 17.84 visitors per day and February 18.04. And yeah, December gets all smug about its 20.19, until it remembers how October (when I accidentally riled up a Kinks fan site) brought in 28.87. Anyway, thew views per visitor in February were 2.07, higher but probably not significantly higher than January’s 2.01 and December’s 2.00.

Something WordPress’s new statistics page does offer and that I like are that it lets me see how many comments and likes I got. In February there were 99 comments, up from 93 in January. And there were 345 likes, down from January’s 382, but there the shortness of the month doesn’t excuse anything. Sorry.

The most popular articles in February were:

  1. Wizardless, describing my failure at pinball league one night. By the way, I did see the Michigan state pinball championships that weekend, although I didn’t play in them, what with my not being good enough, as see the end of the previous sentence.
  2. What Came First? Plus, The Usual, in which I ponder something about the world of Funky Winkerbean not directly related to how the comic strip’s author, Tom Batiuk, hates his characters and his readers.
  3. A Grain Of Solace, in which my peaceful acceptance of not knowing how to pronounce “quinoa” was disrupted.
  4. Statistics Saturday: 2015, To Date, a pie chart of surprising popularity.
  5. And The Golden Moment, wherein the “quinoa” thread spun off to my discovering the location of the transcontinental railroad’s Golden Spike was a difficult and debatable mystery.
  6. Really, Though, Comic Strip _Momma_ Going Quite Mad, with three examples. Also there’s a picture of our pet rabbit.

Statistics Saturday: Your Christmas Songs Schedule


Day Song Status
December 14 Complaining about “Santa Baby”.
December 15 That friend who tells you every Halloween how Frankenstein isn’t properly the name of the creature decides everyone has to know if you don’t sing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” so it’s suicidally depressing you’re doing it wrong, again.
December 16 Sole annual appearance of “Chrissy, The Christmas Mouse” on any of the twelve Christmas music channels available to you. You miss it.
December 17 “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” makes people think about Bill Cosby, feel even worse.
December 18 Attempt at making a news-media satirical song out of “Walking In A Winter Wonderland” gets as far as “In The Meadow We Can Build A Newsman, And Pretend That He Is Aaron Brown” before running out of creative inspiration and being abandoned until next year, when it doesn’t get any father, again.
December 19 Complaining about “Wonderful Christmastime”.
December 20 That same friend gets on about how nobody remembers Walt Kelly’s “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” except Gasoline Alley and who reads Gasoline Alley anymore except him and even he doesn’t like it exactly.
December 21 Complaining that “My Favorite Things” is not at all a Christmas song and shouldn’t even be on this list.
December 22 Boy is Mitch Mitchell slamming you to the ground and shoving merriness down your throat.
December 23 “All I Want For Christmas” reminds you of Spike Jones, but not why that friend keeps going on about his genius.
December 24 Realize there’s this lick in “Do They Know It’s Christmas” that sounds like they’re welcoming Christmas to the Pleasuredome.
December 25 “Silent Night” way overproduced.
December 26 Everyone remembers melody of “Good King Wenceslas”, not anything else about it, including words or why anyone would sing it, but you somehow spell it correctly while trying to look it up.
December 27 Hey, did they play the Kinks’ “Father Christmas” at all this year?

Statistics Saturday on a Monday: October 2014 for my Humor Blog


OK, so, that was a bit of a freak month. October 2014 proved to be my most-read month in the history of the blog. This is largely because of a freak event: the folks at kinkakinks.net noted my blog post mentioning Ray Davies and put it on their news page, and it turns out a lot of Kinks fans will follow a link that doesn’t actually say much about what’s on the other end of the link. I hope they enjoyed it; the first day after the kindakinks link 212 people read mostly that, and another 108 people came the day after. The numbers settled back closer to normal the next day, but still, they settled to the high side of normal.

So. While the blog’s readership has been growing the last several months, October’s total of 1,389 views is anomalously high and I’m all set for disappointment come November unless I do something to attract the interest of a leading Paul McCartney fan site. That’s way up from September’s 827, for example. The number of unique visitors in October was also obviously a record, 895 and don’t think I didn’t notice that’s more unique visitors than I had pages read at all in September. It’s not quite twice the number of unique visitors — 468 — from September but it’s near enough. Obviously the number of people who came to see Ray Davies mentioned and then left distorted the views-per-visitor link; that dropped from 1.77 in September to 1.55, my lowest figure ever, but again, that’s a freak event.

I had a satisfyingly large number of posts get at least twenty viewers this past month. That less-exclusive-than-usual set includes:

Now for the popular part: what countries sent me the most and the fewest readers? For yet another month in a row the United States sent me the most, with 1,060 viewers. The United Kingdom sent just 98, which would be impressive for other months but suggests the kindakinks.net readers are more American than British. Australia came in at 25, Germany at 24, Canada at 22, and the Netherlands at 21.

This month’s single-reader countries were Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, Iceland, India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, and Viet Nam. Turkey’s the only one that was a single-reader country in September, so, thanks, whoever you are in Turkey, for sticking with me, even though you weren’t sticking much. India had sent me eight readers in September, though, so I’m doing something wrong there.

Among the good search terms that brought people here the past month:

  • flashing at theme parks (also theme park flashers and amusment [sic] park flasher so apparently I’m getting a reputation)
  • snowflakes that look like bees
  • computoon
  • cool facts about turbo movie
  • turbo movie facts
  • how to develope [sic] a sense of humor
  • fan rage statistics
  • turbo movie what is it about fact (yes, what is it about fact?)
  • ray davies
  • king nebus
  • an awful terrible romance mark twain
  • tea light holder /cartoon bomb

The mysterious thing is only one person searching for “ray davies” got here in October. This is a strange world.

The Secret Life Of Ray Davies


My love and I were in the bookstore and leafed through Ray Davies’s book Americana: The Kinks, The Riff, The Road: The Story, and ran across a delightful little point. Apparently, in the mid-70s, when The Kinks had gotten really into doing complex stage shows performing their concept albums about the shifting mores and quiet existential despair of the British middle classes, Ray Davies would routinely choose to go to parties afterwards. But he didn’t want to be recognized and hassled throughout the parties, and I am sympathetic to this. I wouldn’t go to parties either if people kept asking me to sing “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, though neither would they if they ever heard me singing. So for a while there he would go unrecognized at after-show parties by wearing the mask he’d been wearing during the show.

I’m delighted to learn that during his most energetic, hard-rocking, hard-partying days at the touring peak of his career, Ray Davies was apparently also a seven-year-old boy sneaking into the cinemas wearing a long trenchcoat and sitting on Dave Davies’s shoulders. Of course, based on the book, the costume apparently worked and he didn’t get people saying they recognized him, possibly because none of the partygoers wanted to be punched by Ray Davies. I’m also sympathetic to this. One of my goals in life is to get through it without being punched by Ray Davies, and that’s going pretty well so far; how about you?

Statistics Saturday: Mean Time Between Paul McCartney


Here is a quick reference guide to how long you can expect to go between references to something written by or featuring Sir Paul McCartney:

Location Time
The 60s ratio station 18 minutes
The 70s radio station 17 minutes
The 80s radio station 34 minutes, but it’s going to be “Spies Like Us” distressingly often
NewsRadio 88 46 hours
Any given episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 54 minutes
The 50s radio station There are no 50s radio stations anymore
Foreign currency exchange markets 12 minutes (!)
Dave Davies’s house Once per year, as in late March he figures to write an April Fool’s e-mail to Ray Davies saying Paul invited him on tour because nobody else can sing “Death Of A Clown” right, only he has to delete the unsent e-mail because once again this year he hasn’t got Ray Davies’s e-mail
As Wake-Up Music On The International Space Station 4 days
Commercials Supporting The Existence Of Banks Surprisingly short
Those tiny toy music boxes at the museum gift shop Continuous until the cashiers go mad