Skyscraper: The Search for An American Style, 1891-1941, Edited Roger Shepherd
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.
- What is the capital of Ohio?
- What was, historically, the capital of the Ohio Territory?
- What is the largest city to border a Great Lake?
- Where’s the Cedar Point amusement park?
- How are you today?
- Did you know psoriasis can get into your ear? How does that make sense?
- Are the Kinks getting back together?
- What makes our new Terms of Service so all-fired different from the old Terms of Service that it was worth sending you a new Terms of Service to pretend to read?
- Is there going to be weather tomorrow?
- What’s the seat of Hamilton County, Ohio?
- Back in the early 20th century when there were “traction companies” running trolley cars all along city and even suburban streets it’s … like … they were transmitting electric power for cars along overhead lines, right? It’s not like they were running gigantic ropes and pulleys dragging things through town? Because that couldn’t possibly work, but “traction” seems like a weird name for “streetcar electric power”, right?
- Where was Case Western Reserve University originally located?
- Which United States Vice-President swore his oath of office in Cuba?
- What’s the name of your Chicago cover band?
- Yes, but did you like the movie?
Reference: Science From Your Airplane Window, Elizabeth A Wood. “Cleveland” was the name of your friend from college that you never really lost touch with but never talk to either’s Chicago cover band.
In comparison to that of 2014.
|December 16||Refusing to read any more essays that want you to have an opinion on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.|
|December 18||Trying to insist the problem is they just don’t write good Christmas songs anymore and it’s not that you imprinted on the songs of your childhood and aren’t taking in new ones.|
|December 19||Minor-key acoustic cover of “Wonderful Christmastime” makes you exit for the kitchen, open the freezer door, stick your head in, and scream into a bag of frozen peas-and-corn.|
|December 20||Wishing you still had the emotional baseline that allowed you to be genuinely upset about “Santa Baby”.|
|December 21||Karaoke night has a group that starts out singing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” but ends up making a fair fraction of the bar actually weepy.|
|December 22||Entire afternoon spent reading the lyrics to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Jingle-o The Brownie” and pondering dumb mysteries like why Jingle-o has such a broad and, honestly, unfocused portfolio|
|December 23||Attempt to fuse an argument about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to the question of whether pigs-in-blankets count as sandwiches somehow backfires and gets you stuck among people trying so hard to insist that Back To The Future II is somehow a “Christmas Movie” that you can’t tell exactly where the put-on is. You scream into a bag of frozen peas-and-corn-and-carrots, the extra carrots doing much to absorb the sonic blast.|
|December 25||Watch about 65 minutes of the movie Auntie Mame before working out that oh, the version with songs in it is just called Mame and it stars different people, it’s not just that they did some weird and very wrong edit that missed out on songs like “We Need A Little Christmas”.|
|December 27||Entire day lost to trying to convince people you heard a song titled “Captain Santa Claus And His Reindeer Space Patrol”. You are imagining things.|
|January 3||Hey, they snubbed “Father Christmas” again, didn’t they? Ray Davies is not going to be happy.|
Reference: A History Of Poland, Oscar Halecki.
The Lux Radio Theatre was a longrunning radio specialty. The show presented hourlong, audio-only renditions of popular movies. The compression for time, and the adaptation to reflect that everything has to be audible, make for sometimes fascinating differences. There’s a version of The Wizard of Oz where the Cowardly Lion is played by … I don’t know, but it sure sounds like Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger; the singer declaring you’re a mean one, Mister Grinch) to me. And it’s not bad, but it highlights how Burt Lahr was just an enormous fuzzy ball of lovability. The adaptation of Jack Benny’s then-infamous (and not that bad) flop The Horn Blows At Midnight dropped the framing device and improved the film by at least one full letter grade. For a dozen years it was hosted by Cecil B DeMille, who performed just as you might imagine if you were writing a comedy sketch about an old-time Hollywood director introducing movies he didn’t make. By the mid-40s DeMille stepped down and William Keighley and then Irving Cummings took over hosting duties. But the DeMille thing is what’s being riffed on here, the fourth episode of The Stan Freberg Show, originally aired the 4th of August, 1957.
And here’s the rundown:
|00:00||Cold Open. Freberg talking with a bongo player who’s sensitive to how loud the show is. The sensitive bongo player’s from Freberg’s Banana Boat (Day-Oh) record, which was also released in 1957 and is how I know he’s a bongo player; that information’s not given here. I don’t know whether the record or the show came out first and so which was promotion for or callback to the other. Freberg expressing fear that he might be mistaken for a commercial might reflect how the show hadn’t got a sponsor, which you’ll notice now, and would become a minor recurring theme in the show’s run.|
|01:23||Great Moments In History. The story behind Paul Revere’s Ride. The punchline is the same as the story behind Barbara Fritchie, in the second episode. Historical researcher Robert E Tainter is mentioned again, described as having to mail his piece in.|
|02:24|| What Is Yogurt? If there is a funniest-in-retrospect bit of comedy, it’s people not understanding foods that have since become commonplace. Recommended other examples of this genre: articles from the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40 explaining what a “bagel” is; the way “pizza” was a reliable laugh line about something someone might eat from about The Honeymooners through the Kinks’ Soap Opera album.
Anyway, this is just a way to get Peggy Taylor in early to sing “I Like The
|05:15||Hi-Fi. Doctor Herman Horn explains Hi-Fi. It’s a fine bit of nonsense, with a bunch of weird sounds and odd explanations. I love the low-key nerd correctionism in Horn warning that “Hi-Fi” is two words and he won’t tell you again, which he doesn’t.|
|11:00|| Lox Audio Theater. The melodrama Rock Around My Nose, all about the terror of a man who can’t get close to his son. If you’ve wondered where the phrase “nose full of nickels” come from, you’re fibbing. (The particular cadence for chanting “nose full of nickels” reminds me of a running gag on The Jack Benny Show. I don’t know whether that’s a deliberate reference, a coincidence, or if both are a reference to something I’m not getting.) I love the line about how “that 73 cents bothered me”.
The sketch has an example of that motif where the child is “really” a cranky old man, part of a line of jokes that would include Baby Herman, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Of course, the kid is really played by
The close of the sketch, in which all the actors start fighting, is a direct riff of the close of Lux Radio Theater episodes. Those always featured, of course, the cast talking about what a great time they had and how they use Lux Soap all the time.
The close teases that the next adaptation will be Love Thy Neighbor. This is conceivably a reference to the 1940 Jack Benny/Fred Allen comedy based on their famous radio feud. I wouldn’t think so, since the movie was 17 years old at that point and I can’t imagine it lingering in the public consciousness, but I’ve been proved wrong about Fred Allen’s lasting reputation in recent weeks so what do I know. And Freberg and his writers might not have cared if they referenced anything anyone recognized as long as they were amused. But I’d bet on it just reflecting that it’s funny to say “love thy neighbor” in the midst of a brawl.
|22:25||The Yellow Rose of Texas. Adaptation of Freberg’s 1955 The Yellow Rose of Texas record, in which the lead singer squabbles with the drum player. This record was also one of those referenced in the cold open to the first episode of the series.|
|27:12||Closing. The bongo player has fully sampled the show and concludes it is loud.|
All my recaps of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.
I want to talk about a political situation in another country here. So I acknowledge how I’m coming from a position of weakness. I’m from the United States, where yeah, everything is on fire. Actually, everything’s on some kind of hyperfire. The hyperfire doesn’t just occupy volume and duration. It reaches into strange other dimensions previously only suspected by research geometers. And it’s some kind of fractal hyperfire, since each flame itself contains another hyperfire. And each flame of that hyperfire contains a tiny hurricane. And that hurricane is made of buckets of rabid turds. And the buckets are themselves actually killbots. And each killbot is poorly electrically grounded. And I suspect the situation is even worse than that.
But. Do you know what’s going on in Australia? I mean besides the wildlife. The wildlife is adorable (the greater microcuddling woomera). Or deadly (the laser stanthorpe, which has has enough venom in each ankle to render the world’s mammal population and most of its fish flabbergasted six times over, and has eight ankles somehow despite having no legs). Or both (the trinitrootoluene kangaroo). I’m talking about the political situation. I’ve got a bunch of Australian friends who can not believe what’s going on. So let me explain what’s going on: I don’t know.
The thing is Australia runs a Westminster Parliament-style government. This is a standard issue of government. But again, I’m from the United States, where we just … don’t? And it’s hard wrapping my head around the thing. My introduction to how parliamentary governments work was as a kid hearing Italy had gone through like 48 governments in the forty years since World War II. I thought this meant, like, they’d had that many revolutions in that time. It staggered me. I tried to imagine how you could write even that many different constitutions. If I were on the constitution-writing committee of the Provisional Government I’d run out of ideas of what to even do differently. About four governments in I’d start submitting what we used three Republics ago and hope nobody noticed. I’d be so scared I forgot to update the number and someone would ask me why this was the Constitution for the 52nd Italian Postwar Republic when we were on the 54th.
Now I’m better-informed. When they say a parliamentary government has fallen, all they mean is the lower house of parliament planned to vote on something and didn’t. So then they have to go have a general election. If it was something important they didn’t vote on they hold a snap election. This wraps everything up in six weeks. If it was something boring they didn’t vote on they hold a more leisurely regular election. (They also do this if nothing didn’t get not voted on, but parliament had gone on a couple years and everyone was getting tired of the same old faces.) That wraps up in eight weeks. Anyway during the election everybody hopes there’ll be a hung parliament, because that sounds weird and exciting. But what happens instead is some big boring party teams up with some tiny right-wing party. This forms a coalition, and whoever runs the big boring party goes on being prime minister.
There’s also an upper house. It’s made of deceased wealthy representatives from each of the political subdivisions of the country. Its job is to have a huge, fancy, well-varnished wooden stick called a “mace” on a table up front. Any important legislation must spend a couple days in the upper house before it becomes law anyway. I think the legislation is to observe the mace and work out that if it laws badly it will get hit with a big stick. That’s just a guess. Anyway it seems important to do. The upper house members are expected to every few years produce a scandal about how they use their travel allowances. This keeps the government balanced.
Anyway, right now Australia is going through a political crisis caused by I don’t know. I keep reading explanations but then they get to how the ruling Liberal Party is the conservative party and I ask my Australian friends if this is a bit and they act all innocent. Anyway, key thing is the Australian people don’t like prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. The Liberal Party doesn’t like him either. Turnbull himself has been staring into a closet asking why he should like himself. And the closet door keeps stubbing his toe. Firing him would be easy. Even easier on his feet. But there’s the problem of who to make prime minister in his place. Australia’s been trying out all kinds of prime ministers since 2010 and hasn’t liked any of them. Some have lasted weeks in office. Some haven’t been nearly that stable. The crisis is getting urgent. Last week it emerged that Italy and New Zealand were huddling together and cackling at these guys. There’s a real chance some of these countries are going to start pantsing each other.
So here we get to me. Australia, I want you to know, I’m willing to come over and prime ministrate you for a while. I know this might be controversial. I’m not an Australian citizen. I’ve never even been to the country-continent. But I have liked basically every cartoon with a kangaroo in it ever. And in the Singapore Zoo’s walk-through enclosure I once petted a wallaby who seemed not distressed by my attention. She looked back with an expression one could describe as “Yes, well, ah. So if you didn’t need anything further I had some projects to get back to so, if you could scoot over a bit.” Oh, and I like Violet Crumble. It’s this Australian candy bar that you can eat once and spend the rest of your life picking honeycomb-toffee out of your teeth. Also sometimes I get that Kinks song stuck in my head. These might seem like slender qualifications to be prime minister of Australia. Even slenderer if I can’t tell you what my every game of Tropico goes like.
But I’m not looking to rule Australia, mind you. I figure to lead what’s called a “caretaker” government. In a caretaker government the prime minister doesn’t try to start any major initiatives. They just go around bringing mugs of hot chocolate and giving hugs to people who need it. I can add to that expectation a certain number of back-rubs. At the risk of bragging, I’m pretty good for being completely untrained in back-rubbing. I’m not looking to do this forever, mind you. I only want Australia to have some breathing space to figure out what it’s looking for in a government, and go out and have an election and get one. If you need to take an extra-long election cycle, like nine weeks or so, I bet I could swing that. I’ll need high-speed Internet so I can keep up with my day job. And airfare, please. I want to help, but I do have travel expenses of my own.
[[[ NOTE TO SELF double-check before this posts to see if they get a new prime minister in the next four hours ]]]
[[[ ALSO NOTE TO ALSO SELF find out why spellcheck isn’t flagging ‘hyperfire’. could be important ]]]
I’m not actually figuring this to be the end of these little retrospective pieces. They’re doing too much to help me get ahead of deadline. If I could write fewer than 2,500 words about some dopey Popeye clip cartoon from 1951 I wouldn’t have to do this sort of thing.
Also I have a lot of fun doing my own archive-binging. Sometimes it’s helped me notice that I have recurring motifs. Sometimes it lets me just watch how my odd little obsessions have developed. One of them is Ray Davies, of the Kinks. Who had among their many great songs “No More Looking Back” so you see why I have a correctly formed joke up in the subject line there.
So here’s an early example of my Ray Davies interest. It’s about some piece of biographical trivia that might even be true, regarding Ray Davies. Also about my interest in getting through life without being punched by Ray Davies. Almost exactly two years later I fused that interest with the way my brain sometimes latches onto a word it’s decided to read wrongly. In this case “unmade”, as in “an unmade movie”.
And earlier this year came this query: Is Ray Davis A Normal Person? This one started as conversation with my love in the car. I forget why we started on this particular topic. In any case it’s a piece I love. Thomas K Dye pointed out (on Twitter) a piece in favor of Ray Davies’s normal-ness that he apparently suffers from hay fever. This is another Kinks song title reference. Also the essay includes me making up a British mailing address, which I find over a hundred godzillion times funnier than everyone else in the whole world combined and I don’t care. In the darkest times of this year I have gone back to it and read the whole address out to myself and felt like things were a little less bleak. I’m sorry it’s not doing that for anyone else, but I like it.
Well, this time the activity puzzle on the back was this flop of an idea:
Rearrange the letters in the phrase to discover the related words or phrase.
This wouldn’t be nearly so disappointing if it didn’t come so soon after the “grimepints” incident. And a couple days later it gave a Spelling Bee challenge to pick out the right way to spell “necessary”. It’s like if the Kinks followed up Arthur with an album where they cover the songs Hanna-Barbera recorded for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids with. I need better from my papers that tell me what day of the month it is.
February 2018 turned out to be my third-best-read month around here. I am always excited to see people reading stuff here. I tell myself that’s because they like what they find, but there’s really no way of my telling that apart from looking at the number of likes they leave. But it’s there.
Anyway, in February there were 3,695 page views here. That’s down from January’s post-Apocalypse 3-G high of 3,902 page views. Still, well up from December 2017’s 2,427. (The end of Apartment 3-G had 4,528 page views in November 2015, and that high is just about to drop off WordPress’s little traffic-view page.) And yes, I checked. If February were three days longer and those three days were as busy as the 28 that actually existed, I would’ve had a busier month. I’ll be filing a stern note with Numa Pompilius in the morning. And that is the kind of calendar-nerd joke that explains why I’m most popular when I’m talking about Gil Thorp.
It was a broadly distributed popularity, too. WordPress logged 1,982 unique visitors, up even from January’s 1,671 and December’s 1,409. That’s my second-highest total ever. (The AV Club-boosted Apocalypse 3-G had 2,308 unique visitors, well beyond what I’d get at this pace even if it kept up another three days.) And whatever brought this about? I wrote about Ray Davies.
And, more amazingly, the Kinks fan site Kinda Kinks noticed, and added the post to its roster of Kinks news, and described it so generically (“here’s a blog post about Ray Davies”) that apparently hundreds of Kinks fans clicked to see what that might even mean. The Ray Davies post got 454 page views in February, enormously more than usual for even popular stuff. The second-most-popular post was about the comic strip Piranah Club ending and nobody really knowing what’s going on with Nancy,, and that drew about three hundred page views.
So what was most popular, besides what I just said was? This was:
- Is Ray Davies A Normal Person?
- Comic Strip Piranha Club Ending; Nancy Possibly Ending; Bizarro Shifting Bizarreness Source
- Why Does Mary Worth Look Different?
- Interestingly, I Need Help
- What’s Going On With Rex Morgan, M.D.?
It’s the rare month that any of my original long-form pieces are popular. Not sure I’ve had two of my pieces in the top-five since I began summarizing the story comics. But the Kinka Kinks boost is significant; that piece even got four votes in that little five-star rating thing. My typical post gets no votes. Maybe one. I’m not even sure why I have the five-star voting thing, but I see it on other people’s blogs and they always have around 80 votes and 65 likes per post.
So, countries that gave me readers. The United States always sends the most. The United Kingdom sent more than usual, thanks to all that Kinks business. Here’s the whole roster:
|Hong Kong SAR China||3|
|Trinidad & Tobago||3|
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||1|
This was 70 countries all told, if we just let WordPress decide what is and isn’t a country. 18 of them were single-reader countries. In January there were 72 countries; there were 61 in December. There were 21 single-reader countries in January; 18 in December. Kuwait and Myanmar/Burma were single-reader countries last month. Colombia has been a single-reader country for seven months straight now. I’m curious to see how long that can last.
Oh, yeah, for what people like: 207 things in February, a little below the 226 liked in January. Bit above the 182 things liked in December. Beats last summer’s doldrums, although it’s not really near how much stuff got liked as Apartment 3-G collapsed. (There were around 300 likes sent this way back then.) There were 121 comments in February, down a little from January’s 148, but that’s still a towering pile of reader engagement compared to December’s 59 or, like, last May’s ten.
March started with the blog having gotten 76,999 unique visitors so some lucky person early on Thursday was the 77,000th and I didn’t even know it. There’ve been 42,522 unique visitors as of the WordPress servers’s start of March.
The Insights panel says I’m still averaging two comments per post this year, and seven likes per post. That’s the same as January. To be more precise I’m at 2.3 comments and 6.9 likes per post and I’m not sure how close that is to January’s decimal points. I’ve dropped to an average 711 words per post from January’s 764 and let me tell you I am so enjoying the time saved in thinking of fifty unneeded words per day. I’m at 43,374 total words for the year so far, although that includes yesterday’s long-form piece which did come in at over 711 words.
As traditional I’d like to remind you that I’m @Nebusj on Twitter. You can have Another Blog, Meanwhile sent to you by e-mail using the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile by e-mail” button at the center-right of the page. You can follow it in your WordPress reader by using the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button at the slightly-higher-center-right of the page. You can’t follow me on Vero because I don’t even know if that’s a thing. I just saw everyone on my Twitter telling me about how the company that runs it is despicable even by the standards of social media companies. I can’t keep up anymore. I’m going try to get the modern world to leave me alone and let me drink my tea.
My love and I got to discussing this the other day. I forget how. But I’d like to lay out the arguments for and against.
Pro Ray Davies being a normal person: If many of his lyrics are a guide to his mental state, he’s fairly sure he’s either crazy or just barely holding it together. The only thing that could possibly be more universally true is if he realized how every evening he was tired and sad about the way the day had gone.
Con Ray Davies being a normal person: He spent decades as the front man for one of the world’s most popular and influential rock bands. This is unusual behavior, exhibited by only about five percent of the population, thus, not normal.
Pro: Again going by his lyrics, he mostly would like modern life to stop being quite so much and leave him alone to drink his tea. It is easy to suppose that like the rest of us, he is gradually doing fewer things online because it’s getting to be too much work to do a password reset every time he forgets what his Picarto or Twitch account should be. Also he’s never able to keep straight whether the ID is his full e-mail address or just rdavies0644. This is further normal behavior.
Con: Was propped up statue-like at the center of the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony for the world to sing at, a thing that almost nobody can expect to ever do.
Pro: He made use of the assonance between “slave” and “lathe” for one line in Second-Hand Car Spiv, and there’s almost nothing more natural than that. Maybe rhyming “moon” with “spoon” in all those merry songs about how you mix celestial bodies into your milk and stir it all up.
Con: He knows which of the birds in the comic strip is Shoe. I know, too, but I recognize that’s my personal eccentricity and that it’s not shared by anyone I ever meet.
Pro: As a white guy spent much of the 1970s arguing with bare acquaintances about what exactly is a “rock opera” versus “concept album” and who had the first of them. Granted, yes, this would often be after he had snuck out to a party dressed as the schoolboy-in-disgrace or whatever he was performing on stage and thought people didn’t recognize him, but who wouldn’t do that in the same case? And it was important to let him make arguments about how yes, there was that thing by that band that was before Tommy that he never heard either and no he is not thinking of Days of Future Passed and he has a whole presentation he can give about this. It wasn’t in dispute, but aren’t your best longwinded rhetorical arguments about stuff that wasn’t actually in dispute too? Thank you.
Con: Even today we can’t be completely sure he isn’t going to release Preservation Act III. Do you know anyone who’s working on that still? Are you? Exactly.
Pro: Does not regularly speak with legendary Kinks founder Dave Davies. Most people can hope to have a conversation with Dave Davies at most once, possibly twice before they die, and so does Ray Davies.
Con: Ray Davies’s mailing address has way too many things in it:
Sir Raymond Davies OBO Solempne House 2 1/2-A Daunger Gyse Lane Without Shrieval Pudding Gebetan-Dream-upon-Mere under the Bridge Southwark Grimshire 00 18 463 11 00 Rutland Boundings Lesser Notts and Glos Greater Notts and Glos (Ceremonial) North London, Greater London, England, UK, FRS, BAAS N10 3NU ZERO ZERO ZERO DESTRUCT ZERO Green
Pro: Yeah, but every British address looks like that. Nobody has ever successfully sent a postcard to anyone in Britain and that’s why.
Con: Feels no thrill when he notices in the closing credits of The Price Is Right how the second contestant was found to be ineligible and thus could not receive the patio furniture they’d won in their Item-Up-For-Bid.
And now to add it all up please make a computer-y beep-bop-boop noise for a few minutes, and then reduce your answer by an appropriate amount. In sum we find that Ray Davies is not in fact a normal person, but only because he hasn’t yet given up on his DeviantArt account. The subject may be reviewed after ninety days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- A Grain Of Solace, in which my peaceful acceptance of not knowing how to pronounce “quinoa” was disrupted.
- Statistics Saturday: 2015, To Date, a pie chart of surprising popularity.
- 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.
- Really, Though, Comic Strip _Momma_ Going Quite Mad, with three examples. Also there’s a picture of our pet rabbit.
|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?|
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:
- The Secret Life Of Ray Davies, which isn’t anymore (304 views! And that was posted the 23rd of October)
- The Comic Strip Skippy, and Mathematics, mentioning one of the 20th century’s most influential great comic strips you enver heard of.
- Krazy Kat in Love’s Labor Lost, part of my little exploration of the attempts to make a cartoon out of this comic strip.
- I Doubt This Is Star Trek (1)3’s Plot, or, my dreams turning into some oddball fanfic or something.
- Theme Park Flashing from the Dream World, about incidents of imaginary nudity at Great Adventure.
- The Bright Idea, something weird I saw on the way into town.
- Krazy Kat in: Weenie Roast, which lets you see what pretty much every cartoon was like in 1931, all at once.
- Statistics Saturday: What College Football Implies In My Family, which caused my love to ask if it was really true that I just am unmoved by whether the Scarlet Knights do anything on field.
- Math Comics and Dave Barry, which was posted October 8th, which is an important day in Dave Barry-dom.
- Calm Urged As Art Exhibited Publicly, because it’s just pencils and stuff.
- When It Comes Time For The Upgrade, which by the way is pretty much exactly what happened because I finally, finally upgraded to OS X Mavericks and then they put Yosemite out there.
- In Which I Don’t Understand My Wardrobe, but I still wear it.
- Statistics Saturday: My Reactions To Reading The Grimm Fairy Tales, which I mostly enjoyed doing but I did keep hitting moments where I had to wonder what I was looking at exactly.
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
- 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.
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?
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:
|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|