A Funky Discovery


OK, first, I want to alert people to some of my mathematics blog entries. These are the comic strip roundups, and I get to talk a bit about what makes them mathematical and, sometimes, even what makes them funny. There was one back on Tuesday, yes, but it was a busy week and I had another installment on Saturday which I padded out to appear on Sunday too. Though there were more strips than I expected so this split was kind of legitimate after all.


Now, in other news, I’d been quivering with impotent fanboy rage over the past week’s run of Funky Winkerbean, by Tom Batiuk. As you might have noted if you read any comics blog ever, the strip has long been a soap operatic parade of misery and doom, interrupted by confusing “time warps” where the characters suddenly get ten years older and more decrepit while their backstories make slightly less sense. Though since the last time warp Batiuk has been going on a slightly different tack: instead of every character suffering personal injury and professional humiliation, they’re instead being given exactly what they might dream of, only to have it shrivel up and die in their hands. It’s an exciting bathetic direction to take.

Why doesn't Les write something about Lisa? You know Lisa, the only topic of conversation that Les even has!
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 20th of June, 2015. Yes, everyone else wants to punch Les too.

This brings us to the past week, in which Boy Lisa — the kid who appears in ever-receding shade in the above strip — finishes illustrating the graphic novel Les whipped up as a belated first and second anniversary present for his wife Cayla last year. And, yes, he forgot his first anniversary. This is because Les is obsessed with his dead first wife Lisa, who died, in-strip, eighteen to twenty years ago. And yet Lisa is ever foremost in his thoughts. He wrote a successful book about how she got breast cancer and died. He does a charity run every autumn. When he was put in charge of the high school reunion he made sure the memorial wall to Lisa was adequate, but failed to actually book a venue to host it. He chats with her ghost on a surprisingly regular basis. He was somehow around when a made-for-TV adaptation of his book collapsed just as he was angst-ridden over how they were disrespecting her story. He says more to and about her than he does to his actual present wife, a woman whom I hope has more to live for than the attention and affection of her defectively-eyebrowed husband.

And the strip has given Les the terrible, ingenious idea to have Les write some more about Lisa. (Here’s how they met: they had a class together. Later, she left the school because she was pregnant, but Les ran into her.)

This can’t all be coincidence, right? The ironic reading of Funky Winkerbean is one of the Internet’s largest growth industries — you’re part of it right now — and he’s just decided to give up and write for that readership, hasn’t he?

What Came First? Plus, The Usual


So, Wednesday’s Funky Winkerbean, by noted depression advocate Tom Batiuk. It’s not funny, to start with. It’s less so because a couple months ago Batiuk ran a sequence where the coach was recruited by the head of the Diversity University-Ironton — GET IT? GET IT? BETTER SAY YES — “Fighting Consensus Builders”, which was apparently intended to be the actual literal name of the Diversity University-Ironton DO YOU GET IT YET? [1] football team, and because the team at the high school where all the characters slouch towards death together is literally the “Scapegoats”, so with “Scapegoats” and “Consensus Builders” as actual team names is “Chances” really that inherently implausible?

Mason Jarr, sitting at a teeny-tiny little-bitty dinner table, claims he went to Optimism High, where the team was named the Fighting Chances, and that this was a joke.
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 4th of February, 2015. It looks like a joke, until you actually read it.

Anyway, I’m captivated not simply by its general badness, or how everyone is gathered around the world’s itty-bittiest dining table ever, but by wondering what was the topic of conversation which caused the long-faced Optimism High character, whose name, and I swear I am not making this up, was “Mason Jarr”, to decide the logical next thing to say was, “My high school was called `Optimism High’ and the football team was `The Fighting Chances’.” And now that I hopefully have infected you with the problem of worrying what the setup was, I hope that I don’t have to think about it any further. Thank you.

[1] See, the reason this is funny is because the comic strip’s title character is a recovering alcoholic, and another character lost her arm, and her ability to play the flute, and her chance to go to Julliard, to an accident caused by drunk driving. The drunk driver then joined the Army and went to Afghanistan where he was kidnapped and held prisoner for years. After his release he was sent to Iraq where he was kidnapped and held prisoner again, for even more years, after which he came home to find his wife, thinking him dead, had remarried and wanted nothing to do with him, and I am not making up a syllable of this. See how funny a name Diversity University-Ironton is now?


Meanwhile, over on my mathematics blog I had the chance to show off Hagar the Horrible, and to learn that there’s a connection between blackjack and Cervantes, so that’s nice. If you might be interested please go over and give that a little examination. And then another bunch of mathematics-themed comic strips came in, although that one doesn’t have Hagar the Horrible to show. Sorry.