Reference: Uniforms: Why We Are What We Wear, Paul Fussell.
Reference: Uniforms: Why We Are What We Wear, Paul Fussell.
Reference: Words That Make New Jersey History, Editor Howard L Green.
In this past Dick Tracy story, Coffyhead kidnapped TV presenter Dot View to ensure her boyfriend Tonsils would deliver a drug package. Tonsils worked with Dick Tracy to get the cops to bust Coffyhead, but Coffyhead had swapped the packages so there was nothing to hold him on. Except kidnapping Dot View, you’d think, right?
What happened was Dot View refused to press charges. Coffyhead explained, to one of his henchman, that he suspected she wouldn’t want the scandal of a trial. And he called it correctly. We learned Coffyhead’s explanation over a week after (reader time) his release, so it has the air of a retcon to answer reader complaints. But that’s impossible given the lead time in comic production. Mike Curtis and Shelly Pleger had the explanation in mind and saved it, is all.
It’s a little surprising Dot View would regard it as scandalous to be the victim of kidnapping. But while Dick Tracy takes place in a fantasy universe where magnetic spaceships fly people to Jupiter and cops rush in to dangerous situations to save lives, it’s not so much of a fantasy as to depict the law-enforcement system treating violence against women as a crime. (And, as a more direct explanation, she may have wanted to avoid her boyfriend having to testify about his transporting drugs.)
So this should catch you up to late May 2022 in Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about August 2022 there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. Thanks for reading.
My last plot recap coincided with the start of a new story. This simplifies my giving of backstory. Vitamin Flintheart signed a Matt McCuller, an up-and-coming “tribute performer” to Tonsils. The original Tonsils, introduced and killed in 1952, was a singer forced by Mr Crime to try killing Dick Tracy. Everyone calles McCuller “Tonsils”, so I’ll go along with that.
New Tonsils doesn’t need to be pressed into crime. He’s trying to get out of drug-running in favor of his singing career. Coffyhead, a coffee-themed villain from 1947, is annoyed his new supplier is quitting on him and vows to teach him “some manners”.
Coffyhead recognizes Tonsils when he sings on the Dot View Show. (He hadn’t known his supplier’s name.) Tonsils’ performance with Dot View goes great despite tensions: the original Tonsils had a fling with Dot View. She has a similar relationship grow, quickly, with the New Tonsils. Several strips this sequence are about View’s issues having a duplicate of her relationship from back in the Truman era. And Dick Tracy is annoyed with Flintheart for making him interact with the spitting image of someone who tried to kill him. “But Richard,” Flintheart protests, “there are over 50,000 people on the eastside of the city alone who’ve tried to kill you!” Tracy grants the point but, still, the stuff he has to deal with, you know?
Coffyhead, pretending to be a new nightclub owner for Flintheart, hires Tonsils to sing. When Flintheart realizes there’s no such nightclub opening he tips off Dick Tracy. But Coffyhead has already grabbed Dot View to demand Tonsils deliver drugs. And this is where Tracy explains enough of Original Tonsils to the new that readers have any hope of understanding the backstory. New Tonsils goes along with the sting, which fails, as Coffyhead gets the packages switched somewhere the cops can’t find. And Dot View declines to press charges for kidnapping.
The cops figure out where Coffyhead’s drugs are coming from anyway. Sam Catchem tears open antique chairs at Cawlie’s Furniture to find the bundles hidden inside. The cops manage more precise hits on Coffyhead’s drug deliveries, driving him up the wall figuring out where the leak is. We readers learn it’s “Stuntman Mike” passing information along, but not who that is. Coffyhead reasons it out and figures it’s the delivery guy whose shipments keep getting nabbed by the cops. The delivery guy is Bronko, who was also in the original 1947 story introducing Coffyhead. Back in ’47, Coffyhead abducted and tortured Tracy Junior and Bronko, trying to smash the Junior Crimestoppers Club. It’s weird that Bronko would go work for someone who’d abducted and tormented him years ago. And weird that Coffyhead wouldn’t ponder that more. But as he interrogates Bronko, Dick Tracy breaks in, and grabs Coffyhead. We learn Bronko is, of course, Stuntman Mike. He grew up from the Crimestoppers Club to join the FBI, and was working undercover against Coffyhead.
So that’s all a happy ending for everyone besides Coffyhead, who probably should have stuck to running that San Francisco coffee shop he’d opened after leaving jail. Maybe he was gentrified out of business.
And that, the 15th of May, concludes that story. The current story started the 16th, with someone using hypnotic glasses to rob a guy at the ATM. And, after that, using some kinds of implants to clean out ATMs. This appears to be Mr Memory, an owl-keeping new addition to the comic strip canon. (He appeared, played by Victor Buono, in the pilot for the 1967 Dick Tracy TV series.) He lives near B O Plenty, and gave Tracy’s pal a ride into town. Also, the Cinnamon Knight, another “caped superhero” like are running around all the comics these days, gives Tracy two bits of news. One is that he and his wife are retiring from costumed-superheroing, since they’re expecting a child. The other is that the bank his real-life’sona works at got cleaned out in a robbery last night. And that’s where we stand.
Have Rufus and Joel made it to Hollywood yet? Have a trio of unbearably adorable moppets busted up a shoplifting ring? Are there even more Dick Tracy appearances out there? I answer “yes” three different times, but in more words, when I look at Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley next week, if all goes well.
So you know, I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling sad and watching Buzzr, that other game show channel. So I’m thinking this might be my week to edit some portions of the preceding game show that did affect the outcome. Just for the novelty, you know? I’m sure it’s just the thing to spruce up this episode of The Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour.
Reference: The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn, Louisa Gilder.
All this recent fuss about whether I lifted something from Dennis Miller’s short-lived early-90s talk show or maybe it was Chevy Chase’s short-lived early-90s talk show has got me thinking about white guys associated with Saturday Night Live’s Weekend update. Spent most of the shower this morning thinking how I remember liking A Whitney Brown back in the day and hoping he hasn’t gone off and turned horrible in the meanwhile. Please don’t tell me if he has. I don’t want to know.
Woke up in the middle of the night, first to a very complicated dream where we visited an old house and the new owners had taken all the sinks and bathtubs out of the bathrooms, but left the water running and you were supposed to use them to wash up anyway even though, like, there was a bare counter with a small hole for a sink, or a rattan sofa under the shower head. Never mind. I also had the thought: wait, did I lift that “The Case For/The Case Against” format from Dennis Miller’s early-90s talk show after all? Or did I in fact lift it from Chevy Chase’s early-90s talk show instead? I can imagine either one of them reeling off lines in that format, so there’s no way to tell. I guess ask them, in case I have to make small talk with Dennis Miller and/or Chevy Chase, but what are the odds of that?
Okay so that’s six things I remember about Dennis Miller’s short-lived early-90s talk show. Well, it’s four things I have remembered in place of literally anything else, plus two things I have learned about Brock Adams while figuring this out. Good playing, all.
Reference: A House Called Morven: Its Role In American History, Alfred Hoyt Bill, Walter E Edge, Revised by Constance M Greiff, Postscript Bolton F Schwartz.
This week I realized two things resulting about my March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing. The first is that I just lifted the “Case For/Case Against” presentation format from Dennis Miller’s short-lived early-90s talk show, where doing comparisons that way was a recurring bit. He didn’t have the specific element of putting pairs of things against one another, but still, the idea of listing a good thing and a bad thing about a thing? Totally his thing.
Also, this means that I remember something else about Dennis Miller’s early-90s talk show, bringing the number of things I remember about it up to like … four? Five? Anyway, more than anyone who isn’t Dennis Miller or his biographer needs to have on hand.
So, most important thing, before even that: Norton Dumont is dead, according to April Parker, on the 18th of February. She’s speaking to her mother, the one person she could not deceive about this point. But I believe there is still a way he could squeeze back out of death. My recollection (I’m not checking) is that it was April Parker’s mother who killed Norton. We don’t know that April saw the corpse; she could be taking her mother’s word and her mother might lie. But we do have what appears to be the author’s intention as of early 2022.
On to why the CIA wants April Parker. I admit it’s hard remembering. But Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley told the essentials of it back in July and August 2017. Super-Hyper-Ultra-Duper CIA Spy April Parker discovered she’d been sent on make-work assignments. Smuggling blank papers into Scary Countries, that kind of thing. It was a test of loyalty, yes, along with some missions “to get [her] hands a little dirty”. This to suborn her into a rogue sub-agency within the CIA. She couldn’t reveal them without admitting her role in selling intelligence to non-approved countries. And between that, and her father (Norton Dumont) selling weapons to any and all takers, they figured they had a reliable agent.
She wouldn’t go along with it. Her father, aware of all this from his connections, shot the person trying to recruit April. Also his bodyguards. So the CIA — whether the “legitimate” or the “rogue” agents I’m not sure — want April and Norton for killing CIA agents. Also for whatever their role is in selling arms and information. In any case she’s the patsy for the whole scandal that you maybe missed because, jeez, can you remember any specific thing from 2017? Be honest now.
So this should catch you up to the start of May, 2022 in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker. If you’re reading this after about August 2022, a more up-do-date plot recap should be here. So let’s catch up on what happened since my last plot recap.
Randy Parker’s choice to take Charlotte and run off with April Parker last year was becoming a strain. Randy argued their lives had become constrained to whatever safe house April and her mother, whose name I still haven’t caught, set them in. The argument about how being on the run is itself a prison is a good one, and that hints at what they’ve been doing off-screen. We don’t see specifics yet and I know some will say we’ll never get specifics. I am trying to not be so cynical a reader.
April makes a big decision: she will turn herself in to the CIA. She wakes Randy and their daughter Charlotte for a farewell hug, telling him only that she’s going for “supplies”. Once she leaves, her mother tells Randy to go with Charlotte to any airport and check in at any counter; that’ll do the rest. Randy’s confusion I know prompted some to snark about his slowness. But we readers have information Randy doesn’t about April’s plans. I’d expect April has accustomed Randy to sudden changes of plans for concealed reasons. For all he knows April may have decided they’re relocating to that island the Katzenjammer Kids are on or something.
April drives to a remote alley and turns on her old phone. The CIA detects this immediately, and has agents in to scoop her up in minutes. Randy, as April’s Mother directs, takes Charlotte to the airport and checks in at any airline, getting them arrested immediately. Both these feats suggest a CIA more effective than my reading about the actual agency suggests, but we are in the world of fiction. Meanwhile April’s Mother blows up their safe house, allowing the reasons for this to escape me. I guess to cover her own tracks somehow?
The CIA tries to debrief Randy, but he doesn’t know anything about what April had been doing or where she even is now. (She’s in CIA custody, something Randy correctly surmises.) So he and his daughter are set loose, as Randy observes, under close scrutiny. Alan Parker is overjoyed, bursting with happiness in a way that I’d like to feel myself sometime. Randy feels overwhelmed with everybody wanting to comfort him and ask what the heck happened. We also learn that after Randy abandoned his home nobody, like, cleaned out the fridge or turned off the air conditioning or anything. I would have thought a month or two in his father would at least have started mowing his lawn.
And then some good news drops for Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta. Their show, Convergence, based on April Parker and Godiva Danube’s lives, was floundering on streaming service Plus+. But with April Parker back in the headlines, the show about her became popular enough to need a second season, about April’s time in hiding. Neddy and Huerta don’t know anything about that, but they know enough to promise they’ll have something.
And this is where we stand as May begins.
To bring back things from 2017, Spider-Man has been running the story of Curt “The Lizard” Connors and Bruce “The Incredible Hulk” Banner. Mary Jane just interrupted the ritual meeting-fight between the two superheroes. So since that’s all explained I’ll check in on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. Alley and Ooola went to a far-future utopia, but does it have a secret? Of course it does. Does that secret involve pneumatic tubes? It’s utopia, of course it has pneumatic tubes. Let’s not be silly here. I’ll get to that plot’s recap next week, if all goes well.
The Case For: Combines the traits of being dead, growing, and generally considered attractive.
The Case Against: I know I’ve seen the musical on TCM like twice and the only scenes I remember from it are, I believe, actually dim recollections of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The Case For: Generously donated name to Thundarr the Barbarian’s friend, the Mok.
The Case Against: Selfishly refused to grant honorary degree to Ted Knight’s character on Too Close For Comfort even though he drew comic books about a space cow? Was that it? Maybe it was a comic strip? He had a puppet he used to draw, I know that, even though that doesn’t seem like a good way to draw except in a publicity photo.
I feel very good about my research, but I understand it means nothing without independent checking. If I’m calculating correctly, thanks to how Press Your Luck adds a “Lose One Whammy” square in the second round of play, it should be possible for a single game to see as many as 18 Whammy hits. So if you need something useful done, it appears I need the assignment. Otherwise, I’m going to be figuring optimal blocker-placement strategy for the short-lived game show Whew!.
I mean, if you told me, I’d have no way of arguing you were wrong. Here I’m talking about movies where these characters are the stars, you know, the protagonists. I’m sure every one of them had a cameo in Ready Player One, Space Jam II: Space Jammier, Scoob!, and I’m guessing that one where space aliens jam a giant Pac-Man into a city or something? I don’t know, I just saw the commercials and figured that was enough. Anyway if you want to put one over on me, and start talking about a movie starring any of these, I would never suspect you were fibbing. Also I don’t know why you’d want to put that over on me, but that’s your business, isn’t it?
Reference: The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation, Frank O’Brien.
I can think of nothing more useful to see us into 2020 than this good advice to see us into 2019. Good luck, all of you.
To allow a web site to send notifications. Something’s gotten into web sites recently that they want to notify you of things. There’s no good reason for that. The only legitimate thing a web site might want to send you is a notice that they have something for you to look at. But you knew that. What more can it have to tell you? So any attempt to notify you of things is a bluff. The site might start out with things of actual slight interest, like “there is no English word for [ and here a big blank space exists ]”, or “The Wrinkle In Time movie was one of the fifty highest-grossing motion pictures of 2018”, or, “there was a Wrinkle In Time movie in 2018”.
After about four days they’ll run out of stuff to talk about. “Bobby London was the only Popeye comic strip artist born after the character Popeye was created.” You’ll get ever-more-marginal items, like, “you mean about the same thing if you say `that’s nothing to laugh at’ or `that’s nothing to sneeze at’ but if you mix up laughing and sneezing in other contexts it’s awkward”. Carry on another two weeks and it’ll be asking things like, “remember that jingle for Bon-Bons candy in the 80s? If you don’t, here it is!” Two weeks after that the web site notifications author will have run out entirely of content and will just be sending you their fanfic from high school. Maybe their poetry. And then they’ll ask you to have opinions and to be honest and then where are you going to be?
To not be eaten by a bear. This is a traditional resolution, dating back to the days when people had good reason to worry about bears getting into them. Its earliest known appearance in a pamphlet published during the English Civil War, where it was taken to be some kind of satire about the Cavaliers or some fool thing because everything was back then. The flaw with this as a resolution is obvious to even the most basic trainee genie: even if you manage to avoid being eaten by a bear there’s nothing keeping you from being eaten by that other bear who’s also hanging around. And trying to tighten it up by resolving “to not be eaten by every bear”? Then if every bear that ever existed except one were to dine on and using you, your resolution would be satisfied, while you would not be. The resolution needs a lot of logical tightening-up before it’ll do what you want.
To reach inbox zero. Never, never attempt this. Just attempting will leave you becalmed in a world of feeling guilty about not answering that friend who sent that sweet just-thinking-of-you note two Februaries ago. And if you succeed? If you reach inbox zero you die for keeps. Whereas if you die with a decent heap of miscellaneous e-mails? Your ghost continues to walk the earth, trying to sort e-mails into their key categories:
As things stand I’ve got, like, forty years after my death sorting all this out and I’m going to use all that time.
To not grow taller. Most of us adopt this resolution without thinking about it. We start out growing just fine and after maybe two decades of life just let it taper out. And it’s understandable. By the time we’ve reached our early twenties we’re usually large enough for most of the good amusement park rides. Growing any bigger yet would upset the delicate ecosystem of our wardrobe. And who needs the bother? So it’s natural we all drift to about the same decision.
But! It’s a different thing when you resolve not to grow any taller, no matter what. That’s just closing off potential adventure. And yeah, you reach a point in life where adventure is too much work. You get more into activities like sitting and having knee pain. If someone came to you right this minute and asked you to be eighty feet tall and maybe tromping around downtown if the National Guard promised to be ineffective against you, would you say yes? Why not?
To label all the wires behind the home entertainment system. The only reason to do this is to learn how many of the wires in that tangle connect to nothing on either end, but you can’t remove them because if you do there’s no picture, no sound, and a local news anchor comes over to slap your wrists. There are 32 such.
I don’t know why it was important that my night be spent being shown untrue trivia about Fran Drescher’s beloved 90s sitcom The Nanny, but there we are. I would like to bring you some of this trivia, but all I remember is “The premise developed very slowly: she [ I assume Fran Drescher ] didn’t even become The Nanny until Season 14”.
And now, finally, the end of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic “Breaking The Barriers”. And my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic treatment of it. You can find the whole of my MiSTing here, at last.
The story so far: young author Carrie L— had a portal open between her home and the world of pioneering computer-animated series Reboot. She’s met Bob, the guardian of Mainframe, and the various other important characters, hero and villain. The evil Megabyte’s come to Canada’s mall, turned into a vampire, and bitten Carrie. Then they all went back and got her fixed up again. And now she hopes to get safely home again.
The “indirect-addressing jump opcode bug” is a thing from assembly-language code on the 6502 chip, used in all the cheap home computers of the 80s. It’s about making references to something stored at the end of a page of memory. This annoyed programmers in like 1984 and I don’t think you need to worry about it now. Crow’s Price is Right dream is one that I actually had and thought noteworthy enough to save for some later use. The “times change, and newspapers evolve” is another thing from the undergraduate left-wing student newspaper I was on. I think it started as a sincere statement about how groups must continuously work on their self-improvement. But we also recognized it, and treated it, as the sort of earnest yet pompous reason everyone treated us like that. They ignored us.
> * * * * * * * *
> * *
TOM: Even the dumb mice can solve this maze.
> Part Twenty-Seven
CROW: Three to the third.
> Carrie sat up straight. *Where am I?* she thought.
JOEL: Halfway between H and J.
> Then her
> eyes adjusted to the light. *I’m back home!!* She looked around.
> She was in her room, on her bed.
TOM: It’s a good thing she didn’t get slurped up into a laptop and back.
> *How long have I been asleep?* she
> wondered. Then it clicked.
TOM: I’ve *never* been awake!
> "No!" she whispered, "It couldn’t have
> been a dream! It was so life-like!"
JOEL: Maybe it was just another holodeck episode?
> She flopped back down, upset and
> depressed at the thought that all her wonderful adventures were merely
> a figment of her overactive imagination.
TOM: What’re the odds?
> Suddenly, someone knocked on
> her door.
> "Come in." she moaned.
JOEL: It’s somebody looking for Captain Picard.
> Her mother opened the door. "Carrie,
> Robert’s at the door looking for you."
CROW: Please. Call him Ted.
> Sighing, Carrie got up and
> went upstairs to see her best friend.
TOM: This is going to make Robert feel good.
> "Hi!" he said. "Hi." Carrie
> sighed, staring at the floor. "What’s wrong with you?" he asked. "Oh,
> nothing." Carrie moaned.
JOEL: [ As Bob ] Hey, you’re never gonna believe this, but last night I was fiddling on the computer and I got pulled into the world of Automan!
> Then she looked up. Surprise registered on
> her face. Behind her best friend stood someone who bore a striking
> resemblance to Guardian Bob in his human form. Robert smiled.
CROW: Do you think Robert Guardien is a person in Carrie’s real life?
> "Carrie, I’d like you to meet Bob. He just moved into the apartment
> across from mine last night."
JOEL: And if the landlord ever finds out will *he* be in trouble.
> Carrie stood there, speechless. Bob
> smiled. "Uh…We’ve met already." He whispered. Finally, Carrie
> snapped out of it. She ran forward and hugged Bob warmly.
TOM: Robert begins to suspect they went to school together or something.
> "See," he
> breathed, "I told you I’d see you again." Carrie looked up into his
> eyes. "But why…." Bob silenced her with a quick kiss.
JOEL: I decided it’d be the cruelest thing I could do to Dot.
> "I’m just
> taking some time off." he said. "I got a friend to look after
> Mainframe for a bit."
TOM: Now, if a nanosecond is to them like one second is to us, then every minute Bob spends in our world is, like, nineteen hundred years in theirs.
> Carrie looked at him confused. "A friend?" she
> asked. Bob smiled.
CROW: I didn’t know you had friends!
> "Yeah. His name is Symble,
TOM: Actually, over half his names are Symble…
> and he’s a great
> THE END?
JOEL: Uh … yes?
TOM: No! No, it’s not.
CROW: I’m going to write in "Beethoven."
JOEL: I could watch the ocean all day.
> Ok! So it isn’t a really great ending,
TOM: It’s an ending, dear, and that’s all we ever want from experiments.
CROW: And we only get one about half the time.
> but it’s the only way I
> could come up with to get poor Carrie out of the mess I had her in and
> still let her be happy. If anybody has a better ending, I’d love to
> hear it.
CROW: How about simply accepting not every pleasant fling is meant to be a lifetime relationship?
JOEL: But they shared so much with Mainframe and Canada and all.
> I know that in the end the characters ended up probably
> being out of character, but, Hey!
TOM: It was the only way they could beat the Kobayashi Maru.
> I was really tapped on how to solve
> Carrie’s problem!!
JOEL: Just peek in the back of the book and work it out from there.
> [Without just having her sit up in bed and have it
> all be a dream, ’cause that ending really rots!! : ) ]
CROW: What if it turned out there was no monster?
> If anyone has
> a real major problem with it, just tell Max and she’ll tell me.
TOM: I have never known anybody named Max.
> worry, I don’t get mad about things like that. Critisim does more
> good than harm most of the time anyway.
JOEL: That’s what they all say …
ALL: At first.
> Hope you did like it, even
> though it is kinda weird.
> This story was taken from a recurring dream I always seem to
> have after going through my collection of fan fics.
CROW: Please. Don’t commit acts of fan fiction. And if you must commit fan fiction, don’t sleep.
> I never dream the
> ending though. Which makes me mad, but, can’t do anything about it.
TOM: Didn’t A.E. Van Vogt have the same technique?
JOEL: And he’s Canadian too! We’re on to something here.
> I had to make up my own ending ’cause my dreams end even before Carrie
> goes to see Hex!!
CROW: She should set her alarm for about ten minutes later.
> The last part of that dream is when Carrie passes
> out after she attempts to stop the delete command heading for
JOEL: Except this one time where they stumbled into Square One Television.
> Everything after that is all my daytime thoughts on how to
> get her out of that mess!!
TOM: That didn’t play like most of the daytime television I’ve seen.
JOEL: Not enough chair-throwing.
> [And besides! Who out there didn’t want
> to see her get together with Bob anyway!?! I know I wanted her to get
> the guy!!
CROW: Or Bob. Whoever.
> ; ) ]
JOEL: Hey, check it out, a double-chinned smiley.
TOM: A happy Marlon Brando winks.
> Hope you liked it!!!
> Later, sugah!!
CROW: Uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-huh … now, honey honey!
> ‘Mouse’ ; )
> (A.K.A. Carrie)
JOEL: Mouse, the sprite named Carrie.
TOM: Versus Carrie, the mouse named Sprite.
CROW: And Sprite, the carry named Mouse.
JOEL: [ Picking up TOM ] Thank you, Carrie, for making us laugh about the indirect-addressing jump opcode bug …. again.
[ They leave. ]
[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]
[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. JOEL is counting up cash totals. GYPSY, CROW, and TOM are anxiously waiting for the winner. ]
CROW: Before today, I really hadn’t thought about ReBoot much. I’d never thought people would dream themselves into it.
TOM: It’s understandable. Many’s the time I woke up to realize I had just imagined myself the dashing leader of the Autobots.
CROW: Yeah, right. I betcha he really dreams of being Leader One.
TOM: [ As JOEL giggles ] Hey!
JOEL: And Gypsy I bet —
GYPSY, JOEL: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
CROW: What about you, Joel?
JOEL: [ Looking up ] Now and then I picture myself as host of "Saturday Night Live" … I’m standing there on stage, giving the monologue … one of the cast members just stood up as an audience member and asked a question and I’m staring out into the cameras and wading through the dead silence and I start walking out and feeling despair over what’s become of the show.
TOM: We all feel that. Now I remember one particularly vivid night I dreamed I was standing on a beach with Shaggy and Scooby-Doo as the tide was rolling in … I wanted to climb up the rocks and get away from the water, but none of us could move as the water rose ever-higher … and I kinda liked it that way.
GYPSY: Sometimes I dream I’m Popeye. But Crow is Olive Oyl.
TOM: Hah hah!
[ JOEL grins. ]
MAGIC VOICE: My favorite dreams are when I’m narrating Bullwinkle.
JOEL: Fess up, Crow, what’s yours?
CROW: I’m alone in this open curved cement walkway. Suddenly I turn around and there’s a studio audience and a refrigerator. Bob Barker is standing there and he opens the fridge. It’s almost all full of men’s shirts inside plastic boxes, but there are a couple misshapen oranges and limes that look like bananas there. He explains he’s giving me a target price and I have to pick out something in there that’s under that price. The target price is 14 dollars, 95 cents … and I look hard at the shirts and the oranges and the limes and I see there’s a label pasted on the fruits, 35 cents each.
So I ask, I just pick out any single thing that’s less than 14.95, and he says yes, and I look again and the price tags are still on and it makes no sense. I start to ask again but the audience is booing me and I pick the lemon. Bob asks me to repeat it and I do and the audience boos louder. He asks if I really want it and I nod and the audience boos and he tells them they should let me make my pick whatever it is, and he asks one last time if I want to change my mind.But I don’t, and he reveals the price card, and the lime is 35 cents and the music starts up like I’ve won and the audience is mad and Bob waves for it all to stop and says now we play the super round if I want, and I start to say yes but the audience boos so loud I say no, and that just makes them boo *louder*. Bob gives me another chance but I just want to get out as soon as I possibly can.
TOM: I like Carrie L—‘s TV show dreams better.
JOEL: Me too.
CROW: Yeah. But in the Showcase Showdown my bid’s only four dollars low and I win both showcases, so mine’s cool too.
GYPSY: So who wins the game?
JOEL: [ Tapping the pad ] By forty dollars and the Atlantic City edition of Monopoly —
ALL: [ Quickly, facing the camera for just the word ] Huh?
JOEL: … Cambot!
TOM: [ As CAMBOT nods ] Fix!
[ MADS SIGN flashes. ]
JOEL: Can’t please everybody. What do you think, sirs?
[ JOEL taps MADS SIGN. ]
[ DEEP 13. DR. FORRESTER and TV’s FRANK are still stuck back-to-back. ]
FRANK: What if we just took off our shirts?
DR. F: One of my life’s goals is to never see you shirtless.
FRANK: What if you took yours off?
DR. F: Another is that you never see me shirtless.
FRANK: This is just like a dream I had about The Odd Couple.
DR. F: I’ve never dreamed myself into anything besides 60 Minutes.
FRANK: If we get a little cereal residue in a water pistol, I bet we could make a tractor beam out of Cheerios!
DR. F: It’s time, Frank.
[ DR. FORRESTER and TV’s FRANK shuffle around backwards. Then DR. FORRESTER starts jumping backwards, not making TV’s FRANK move in the least. ]
DR. F: [ As he jumps back ] Come … on! Push … the … button!
[ TV’s FRANK leans forward, as DR. FORRESTER jumps back and rolls off, towards the camera and into another table and … ]
\ | / \ | / \ | / \|/ ----o---- /|\ / | \ / | \ / | \
Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its characters and situations are the creation of Best Brains, Inc. "Breaking the Barriers" is by Carrie L— and used with permission. Reboot and its characters and situations are the property of Mainframe Entertainment, if I don’t miss my guess. The MiSTing as a whole is the creation of Joseph Nebus. Despite Gypsy’s claim they would follow the standard rules, the Monopoly game represented herein followed the time-limited rule variation. The management apologizes for any confusion. Times change, and newspapers evolve.
I mean, for the insurance payout to salvage something from a failed business? At least that’s the obvious motive for the obvious suspect. What we don’t know is whether how much to trust what we’ve seen. Later on I go over some possible explanations and what does or doesn’t make sense in them.
There are many ways that Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker could go. This should catch you up to where it is as of mid-November 2021. If you’re reading this after February 2022, or news about the comic strip breaks, you may find a more useful plot recap here.
In my other project, describing mathematics terms, I got up to “Triangle” last week. There are so many things people can say about triangles. I tried to not say them all.
An early-morning fire destroyed Abbey Spencer’s failing bed-and-breakfast in time for my last Judge Parker recap. So that’s been the big important event and focus of how things changed in the summer-to-autumn time gap. I’ll get there.
But first the sideline. The trailer for Converge, the series inspired by Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta’s writing, dropped. Thrill for them and for Huerta’s fiancee, Kat, whose last name I can not find. Less thrilled: April Parker, who kind of held Neddy and Huerta at gunpoint to make them Tell Her Story Right. They complied, yes, but there’s no controlling how TV shows mutate on the way to production. Also we learned that Charlotte is with April Parker. We presume the missing Randy is too, but haven’t yet seen that.
Neddy returns to Cavelton to support Abbey in her troubles (see below). Huerta wants to use the chance of “housesitting” Neddy’s place to get some breathing space from Kat before their wedding. She explains to a Kat who did not have any idea Huerta wanted to be away from the person she was marrying. They have a discussion that escalates quickly. Neddy reassures Huerta that Huerta and Kat will get back together. That’s been a painful side plot. Not that the reactions of everybody hasn’t been plausible. We’ve seen Kat being insecure and high-maintenance. Also perceptive and quick to cut through the ways people kid themselves. We haven’t seen enough of what makes Kat desirable, although that perceptiveness and sincerity is a solid start.
On to the Spencers. Abbey’s devastated by the fire. Also by the verdict that it was arson. Mayor Sanderson vows, at every public event including ordering lunch, to investigate every reason Abbey Spencer did it.
And it takes hold. In a weird scene at the coffee shop the cashier, and other customers, harass Abbey for being at fault for everything wrong in town. This seems at first like a weird reaction. Like, the previous mayor of Lansing got in a lot of fights with people, but I can’t remember anyone who cared enough to join in. He fought mostly city council members, or other political figures. The owners of a just-built bed-and-breakfast destroyed in a fire that luckily didn’t kill or hurt anyone, or any animals? Why get in on this fight?
But I can make the town caring sound more plausible. The Spencers also owned the aerospace-factory-turned-clothing-factory that collapsed in a sinkhole. That was the first story of Francesco Marciuliano’s tenure as author. Yes, that was Neddy Spencer’s project, and was in no possible way her fault. Fault would go to the site surveyor, the architect, and whoever supervised construction. But I understand the general public not caring about fine distinctions like that. It’s fair all they know is every time there’s a disaster that puts Cavelton into the regional news the Spencers are there.
So the family gathers around Abbey for support. Neddy comes in from Los Angeles. Sophie takes the semester off. Sam Driver keeps pointing out an indictment isn’t everything and besides they made bail. And then Deputy Mayor Stewart, taking a break from his job of making faces of pouty concern about Mayor Sanderson, steps into Driver’s office.
Driver protests, correctly but not for long, that he and Stewart can’t talk about anything while Driver has his suit against the mayor going. That lawsuit alleges Sanderson evicted people illegally for a gentrification project. Stewart talks oddly, too, for example saying he wants to get through this conversation before “I get so bored I ruin everything for the both of us”. Bored is not the feeling Stewart should be having in this moment.
Stewart holds out the prospect of getting the charges against Abbey dropped. And getting Driver to win the gentrification lawsuit. Driver listens, which seems like a believable failing of professional ethics.
What Stewart has is drone footage of Abbey Spencer carrying accelerants out to the bed-and-breakfast ahead of the fire. Not established yet is how any of this could help Abbey Spencer, Or how it could get the lawsuit about wrongful evictions settled.
So the obvious question is did Abbey Spencer burn down her own bed-and-breakfast? If not, who did? So here’s my quick thoughts about suspects.
My bet? I’d put about half my stake on Senna Lewiston, a third on CIA Agents, and a sixth on Abbey Spencer not-in-her-right-mind. But I don’t write any narratives more complex than MiSTing host sketches, and don’t get any tips either. If someone’s heard something on a Judge Parker podcast, please let me know.
Mole men! A suitor for Aunt May! The last Roman Emperor of the West, still alive in the 21st Century! It all comes together in
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man!
So a friend referred me to a short-lived but fun game show, Now You See It, from 1989. Not directly from 1989; it made some stopovers in getting to me. But in the middle of the show came this commercial for a cereal supposedly called “S.W.Graham” and, well, here. From about 12:56 in:
This … this is somebody’s prank, right? Somebody wanted to spoof some of John Nesbitt’s Passing Parade shorts from the 40s. And their friend with the camera wanted to spoof 80s music videos and the singing-three-quarters-view-in-front-of-stuff composition? And their friend who could write just heard about Sylvester Graham and could not shut up about his food wackiness, right? And they put that together and slipped it into the only known copy of this episode. That has to be what happened, right? Because I have been trying for ao long to think of another set of events that makes this plausible, and I can’t, and now I’m running late on everything.
Reference: American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA, Nick Taylor.
Not listed: the first Diff’rent Strokes episode that would have been preempted had the world destroyed itself in nuclear war in 1983 was the one where they’re filming an episode of The A-Team in the Drummonds’ apartment for some reason and so Arnold (Gary Coleman) makes himself up as a miniature Mister T.
Reference: Naming Infinity: A True Story Of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity, Loren Graham, Jean-Michel Kantor.
Randy Parker had taken his daughter Charlotte and disappeared, at the urging of ex(?)-wife April, last time. This to foil a vaguely-reasoned CIA plot to murder Randy and Charlotte to flush April out of hiding. We have seen nothing of Randy and Charlotte and April since then. We don’t even know that they got away and that the evil CIA plan failed. That doesn’t mean their disappearance hasn’t devastated the rest of the cast. And that’s been much of the focus the past three months.
So this should catch you up on Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker to the end of August 2021. If you’re reading this after about November 2021, or any news about the comic breaks out, you may find a more useful essay here. And now, to recap what has gone on.
Some, more inclined to snark than I am, will say nothing happened. Hardly so, but I’ll grant that much of the last twelve weeks read like setting up for new things to happen. These things divide into four major focuses and I’ll take them as separate pieces.
First: Neddy Spencer. Her plans to hang around Los Angeles and someday find a place get kicked up when Ronnie Huerta and Kat get engaged. Which makes it even harder for her to keep crashing at Huerta’s place. She picks out a “beautiful little 1930s Hollywood-style bungalow apartment” that’s not guaranteed to not be haunted. As her first visitor, Huerta points out Spencer has been doing Los Angeles stuff for three years and not had a romance plot yet. So I’m looking forward to Neddy Spencer finding whoever is the exact opposite of Funky Winkerbean main character Les Moore.
Second: Alan Parker, original Judge of the strip, and Sam Driver, who took over the comic in the 60s. Alan’s been hit hard by the loss of his son and granddaughter, finding comfort in drink and misanthropy. He also blames Sam Driver for not doing something to keep Randy out of CIA Jail or a Norton plot or whatever. Driver pushes his way back into Parker’s life, arguing that they need a mission and he has a useful one. This in forming a new law partnership, one that can sue Cavelton Mayor Sanderson for gentrifying the people out of the city. Parker, in time, accepts. And it gives him a new energy and purpose.
Their first lawsuit starts great. They file on behalf of tenants arguing they were wrongly evicted so Sanderson could sell property to a corporate donor. This catches Sanderson off-guard at a press conference. And it lets Deputy Mayor Stewart add to his collection of faces of pouty concern.
Third: Sophie Spencer. She’s facing a second year at college having made no friends in New York City. And her only serious friend in Cavelton is Honey Ballenger, who she hasn’t been talking with much. Ballenger calls, though, and they reconnect. Partly over lunch, more over early-morning jogging. They never meant to stop talking, they just lost the power to call the other first. It’s a feeling I know and I wasn’t even ever kidnapped by Abbey Spencer’s previously-unknown half-sister. One early-morning jog they’re almost run off the road by fire trucks, heading …
Fourth: Abbey Spencer. Her bed-and-breakfast, made out of converting (part of?) the horse barn, has been a money pit, from doing the renovations and from opening at the start of the pandemic. Indeed, its first event — a rally for Alan Parker’s mayoral campaign — brought Covid-19 to Cavelton (17 August). So is it a good thing that the whole structure burned to the ground in a catastrophe that hurt no person (or horse)? Is it a suspicious thing? Mayor Sanderson was happy to assert, on TV, that the city would investigate every reason Abbey might burn the place down for the insurance money (18 August). We have yet to see what caused the fire, or that it was the CIA trying to make Randy Parker’s family suffer enough that he turns in April Parker. Or that something else happened. (Now I like the notion that Randy and all have been in Secret CIA Jail as we assumed April’s super-spy super-skills got them super-out of super-trouble.)
And this is where we stand at the end of August.
Time and space travel! A secret discovery at the Apollo 11 landing site! All this and video games as I look at Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop next week, all going well. And yes, ordinarily I’d be looking at The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m bumping that a little bit so I can cover the end of the Rocket Raccoon story and, so, have a neat wrap-up to the What’s Going On In Spider-Man series. Not to spoil things too completely, but Spider-Man and Rocket Raccoon save the Earth.
Reference: A Diplomatic History Of Europe Since The Congress Of Vienna, René Albrecht-Carié.
The thing is, if your name has a numeral suffix? Like, you’re YY Flirch III? Unless you’re a monarch or a Pope or something you don’t expect to keep that suffix your whole life. When YY Flirch I or II dies, you ascend to being YY Flirch II yourself. If they both die, you get to be YY Flirch I. Again, this if you started out as YY Flirch. If you started out as H K Fleeber you have other concerns. The thing we know is that if you’re YY Flirch III and also alive, then there’s a YY Flirch I and YY Flirch II out there being alive.
Now to the specifics. Thurston Howell III implies that Thurston Howell II and Thurston Howell I are still alive in the Gilligan’s Island universe. And not just when the gang was shipwrecked on Gilligan’s Island. In the TV movies made in the late 70s/early 80s, he’s still Thurston Howell III. The last movie even introduced his son, Thurston Howell IV. (Jim Backus wasn’t healthy enough to film scenes where robot duplicates of the Harlem Globetrotters run around. Or whatever the heck was going on.) A 68-year-old man was able to portray someone whose name implies his father and grandfather were still alive.
Never mind, like, all those episodes where some radioactive vitamin makes the Island grow celery stalks 24 feet tall. What’s going on with the Howell family genetics?
And before you go suggesting maybe the Howell family played fast and loose with the rules about numbered suffixes to names, shut up. We’re talking about The Howells. Under no circumstances are the Howells, of freaking Newport, going to be improper about their suffixes. Maybe Thurston Howell V might. But not III.
I can only see one solution that doesn’t require the Howell men to be so long-lived that Gasoline Alley characters ask how they get that old. That’s to suppose that Thurston Howell III was named after someone not his father. An uncle, perhaps, who by the workings of chance might be only one or two years older than he is. And easier still if Thurston Howell II is also named for someone only a little older yet. Let’s infer another uncle that’s only a year older still. I realize this implies the family went from zero Thurstons to three Thurstons in short order. But perhaps in their part of Rhode Island in 1910 everyone went a little Thurston-mad.
So anyway you see why it was important I solve this and not important that I fix that silly web site button nobody else was even asking me about anyway, boss. Thanks.
Boy, you know, I remember how smug I felt back in September 2018. And I’m sure you all know why. It’s because of that crack on an episode of the UPN sitcom Platypus Man (1995 – slightly later in 1995) when a character and/or platypus described something as even more unlikely than “a Conan O’Brien 25th Anniversary Special”. Well, we sure and safely showed Platypus Man a thing or two. But just think — what if the writer had referenced “a Conan O’Brien 30th Anniversary Special” instead? Then who would be laughing at who, and regarding what?
Anyway if I know anything about Platypus Man it’s that we weren’t laughing at it, we were laughing at it.
In looking over how much typing I did for that one episode of Conan, you know, I guess I see why the original Late Night Fan Abstract Project back in the days sometimes struggled to find someone who’d write up an episode where the comedy sketches were Celebrity Tombstones and Conan’s Lullaby, and the guests were Al Roker and whoever the secondary female lead was for the sitcom NBC was putting on Tuesdays at 9:30 Eastern/Pacific for the next six weeks.
The Late Night Fan Abstract Project was one of those expressions of fannish exuberance you got in 1990s Usenet culture. I suppose you get it now too; I just don’t know to handle exuberance anymore. But on Usenet group alt.fan.conan-obrien — organized no later than April 1994 — there grew this tradition. It was one of writing abstracts, summaries of episodes, for those who couldn’t see a show, or who wanted to look up when some guest or some sketch was done, or some noteworthy discussion happened.
I joined, of course. I wasn’t alone, although some weeks it felt like it. Most every night — plus special events, such as when The Allbell got hold of a videotape of Conan’s premiere episode — someone would videotape an episode and go slowly over it to describe what happened. I’d do, usually, about one episode a week, sometimes filling in for Abstracters who had something terribly concrete mess up their plans. I’d like to credit my skills in writing story strip plot summaries to this experience but I doubt that. I fell out of the thing around 2000, probably when I was nearing the end of my thesis and surely when I moved to Singapore. (Late Night with Conan O’Brien didn’t really air in Singapore in the early 2000s, although some episodes would sometimes run on CNBC weekends.) And, of course, Usenet fell apart around then, and Late Night by 2009, and you know. We all have other stuff to get to.
I don’t know that there was ever a Fan Abstract Project for Conan O’Brien’s TBS show, but what the heck. Here’s one entry, as one of the few things I never missed becomes impossible to miss again.
Just got to thinking about a moment we must infer happened sometime in the 70s. The Price Is Right production team was thinking out ways to bring prizes out on-camera. And someone declared, “We shall have a tugboat pull them out!” Were they immediately recognized as wise? Were they laughed at at the time? But stayed confident in their rightness and lived to hear their doubters admit they were wrong? What were the rejected possibilities? Parachutes, obviously. Submarines, too, given the difficulty working out agreements with the show filming the next floor under them. LSTs.
Or am I thinking of it backwards? Did someone originally buy The Price Is Right Tugboat by some complicated mistake, and then go about looking for ways to use it? And every time it’s brought out they thank their lucky stars that it came out okay?
These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.
All right, so Wikipedia brought me to this article about The Oddball Couple …
It’s a mid-70s DePatie-Freleng cartoon …
It’s a Saturday Morning Cartoon version of The Odd Couple …
The Oscar character is a dog named Fleabag. He’s voiced by Dick Dastardly actor, ventriloquist, and artificial-heart pioneer Paul Winchell …
The Felix character is voiced by … yyyyyyyyyyes, it says Frank Nelson.
Did I make this up and slip it into Wikipedia as a gag and then forget?
Special thanks-I-guess to Thomas K Dye of Projection Edge and Newshounds web comic fame for getting me on this topic.
Not listed: the Saturday-morning cartoon spinoff of Alice which pop culture theory tells us ought to have existed. The most generally accepted hypotheses suppose that they would all be working their way around the world selling stuff from a funny Wienermobile-like contraption with astounding powers, possibly including flight and the ability to operate as a submarine, and meanwhile there’s spies after them for some reason. They might have a zany pet or it might just be Alice’s flying submersible Wienermobile has a talking computer.
Reference: The Unknown Dominion: Canada and her People, Bruce Hutchison.
Reference: The Game Makers: The Story Of Parker Brothers From Tiddledy Winks To Trivial Pursuit, Philip E Orbanes.