Statistics Saturday: Some Needless Parts of my Brain


Pie chart with roughly equal slices for each of: "Part that builds elaborate fantasies of being awesome in committee hearings as state senator"; "Part that thinks ``Rain’’ is by the Kinks and not the Beatles"; "Part that remembers machine language code for the Commodore 64"; "Part that remembers the ``Lash Rambo’’ episode of The New WKRP In Cincinatti"; "Part that’s still relitigating that argument from 1991 about the undergraduate newspaper budget"; "Part that decides since I could do these tasks in this order I can’t do them in ANY OTHER ORDER even if that means wasting all day waiting for a tiny roadblock in doing the first thing"; "Part that wants to change lanes now for the turn that’s 15 miles away"; "Part that wants to make a roman-à-clef out of my unremarkable experiences on the undergraduate newspaper"
Not depicted: the part that wants to offer as a “fun fact” that for a short while the cities of Cincinatti and Detroit belonged to the same Hamilton County, Ohio Territory, even though while a fact this is not fun.

Reference: The Game Makers: The Story Of Parker Brothers From Tiddledy Winks To Trivial Pursuit, Philip E Orbanes.

Some nostalgic thoughts about a path not taken


Just idly thinking back to that time around 1989 when Tiny Toons debuted. And I thought it would be a fun episode if they did a spoof of Back To The Future, starring Plucky Duck, that they’d call Duck To The Future. Never worked out what all would happen with it, except that the final scene would definitely be whoever the Doc stand-in is warning Plucky, “It’s your sequel! Something’s got to be done about your sequel!” That’s not a lot of anything, but, you know? That’s probably all about as much as the premise needed.

Distracted by, you know, That Cartoon


I’m sorry for running late but made me aware of the 1973 Rankin/Bass cartoon That Girl In Wonderland, made for the Saturday Superstar Movie. You know, for all the kids who loved the career-and-boyfriend shenanigans of That Girl but wanted a dose of Goldilocks and the Three Bears mixed in. And everyone voice-acting like they’re sad or tired. And there’s a weird side point about guitar lessons. And I’ve been watching it, trying to figure out whether this is actually happened or if I’m part of a hoax of no discernable purpose. Were there a lot of kids sitting up Saturday mornings hoping they’d get to see That Girl dealing with the petty nastiness of the switchboard operator? Were there many adults who enjoyed Ann Marie trying to establish her life in the city but wished it were a non-fanciful cartoon instead? Who were they expecting would watch?

Anyway, now that I have seen The Animated Adventures of That Girl, I’m finally open to trying out Mary Tyler Moore Show Babies.

If you want to watch, it’s up at Archive.org. It’s also up on YouTube. Just be warned that it is a cartoon based on That Girl. Also that the version Archive.org has is about 32 by 20 pixels. Also that the animation in the first scene of Marlo Thomas blinking is weirdly hypnotic. And, like, I meant to just watch two or three minutes to get the feel for the thing, but I kept going on a little more to see if I could figure out who the audience for this was supposed to be.

And, you know, I’m not a serious Thattie — or Thatster, as the stuffier fans insist on being called — but if Ann Marie and Donald Hollinger get along like this in the real show, they definitely weren’t ready to marry. For how much they refuse to listen to one another they probably shouldn’t even know the other exists.

Statistics Saturday: Hypotheses about How the Premise to _Loonatics Unleashed_ Came About


  1. One of the writers was caught photocopying his Batman Beyond/Wile E Coyote crossover fanfic on the work machine and so had to write up a show treatment to justify it and then somehow it got to air.
  2. The producers liked the concept of this doomed world-encompassing city at the edge of the explored universe filled with a desperate population struggling to survive, but felt it lacked Yosemite Sam as a space pirate.
  3. Somebody dropped the minutes from the six-hour pitch meeting for the whole season’s shows, and the notes all got mixed up, and when they were typed up nobody could remember what the network had agreed to but they also know you don’t go back after the network said “yes” so they just went with what they could piece together.
  4. They were sitting around thinking what to do with everybody’s favorite Looney Tunes characters, and also Lola Bunny, and someone said, “what about if it’s a postapocalyptic dystopia with supervillains who can still be tricked into the ‘He does SO have to shoot me now!’ bit” and just kept yes-anding each other, and then it turned out a pack of elves who always wanted to be animators were there and overheard and after everyone went home for the night, the animator elves drew the whole series up.
  5. Somehow something else happened?

Reference: Fred Allen’s Letters, Fred Allen, Edited by Joe McCarthy.

Also you would think someone would have an article explaining where the concept for Loonatics Unleashed started and how it got to where it did, and as far as I can tell they haven’t, and that’s weird too.

60s Popeye: Strange Things Are Happening, and I have questions about them


We’re back in the hands of Paramount Cartoon Studios this week. Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer have credit for the story. Seymour Kneitel’s the director and the producer. It’s a group that I trust to be competent, if nothing else. From 1960 here’s Strange Things Are Happening. Popeye is in a boring house, but it’s not his usual Boring Suburbs house, and it’s not clear that he’s even in the suburbs. He might be in the actual woods, if you go by the initial shot.

One compulsive habit, watching these, is thinking of improvements. It’s a little game, one unfair to the people who made the cartoon. They were working under constraints of time and budget and other obligations. Me, I’ve had forty years to see these things and let them settle into my mind. And, if I can’t think of a fix, I don’t have to let on that I was trying to repair it.

Still, I watch this cartoon and try to think how to make it better. The starting gimmick is fine: a mysterious figure is suborning all of Popeye’s acquaintances to get him to a mysterious place. But we get this structural problem. Who the person is and why he wants Popeye is supposed to be a punch line. This is fine, but then: does it make sense that he would go to the Sea Hag, and her Goons, to beat up Popeye first? The sensible thing is to try to have Olive Oyl get him to the designated place first. If that doesn’t work, then try less-close friends like Wimpy or O G Wotasnozzle. Go to his actual enemies like Brutus or the Sea Hag as last resorts.

But then that order wrecks the suspense. Could someone bribe Olive Oyl into putting Popeye in real harm? … All right, yes, since disloyalty and shallow, selfish greed is core to every Thimble Theatre character besides Popeye and maybe Eugene the Jeep. This isn’t really Thimble Theatre, though. This is the characters as a sitcom cast in the back half of the tenth season. You know the mood. It’s when all the actors have been friends enjoying a good thing so long that all the sharp edges are worn off their characters’ interactions. It doesn’t make sense for the King Features animated Olive Oyl to sell out Popeye. It makes a little more sense for Wimpy to do so, but still not much.

(It is interesting Wimpy lures Popeye in with the promise of repaying him for a past hamburger. I guess Seer-Ring is Believer-Ring was right about how he keeps his line of credit going.)

Brutus and the Sea Hag, eyes closed, mouths smiling wide, and clapping. Both have quite large hands; the Sea Hag's are definitely larger han her head and her fingers seem to be leaning backwards.
Well, it’s nice that Brutus and the Sea Hag will put aside their villainy for the sake of celebrating — holy cow what is with the Sea Hag’s hands? I know we don’t look at Elzie Segar designs for anatomical realism but yipe? When she got up today did she accidentally put on a koala’s hand? Backwards?

I can’t remember what it was like watching this as a kid. Someone who hasn’t seen as many shows as I have wouldn’t expect they’re just trying to trick Popeye onto a version of This Is Your Life. (The trick needed because Popeye would never choose to go to something hagiographic like that.) So the lack of suspense is my “fault” for being the wrong kind of audience. But I can still be bothered by the internal logic. Granted the TV producer has all Popeye’s friends on board with getting him to the studio. What is his in-universe reason for making hushed, last-minute whispers to Popeye’s acquaintances to kidnap him? Why talk about getting him to “this address”, that they seem to not know, instead of “the studio” or at least “the place”? What were they going to do if Popeye didn’t decide to take the day off (from what?) and go fishing?

I was going to ask why the Sea Hag would go along with getting Popeye to the TV studio. But her plan did involve getting two Goons to beat him up, and then had it succeeded, would land him in a situation he found humiliating. So that actually hangs together, except again, this is the Sea Hag as worn down by season ten of the sitcom. (This even though she’d never been animated before 1960!).

I want to fix this cartoon but I don’t see a way to do it.


If Popeye’s Boring House is in the woods, why does he walk from there into the city to go fishing?

Wotasnozzle had all but succeeded. If he hadn’t started that foolish talk about surgery Popeye would have drunk the knockout drops and the cartoon would have ended there. This isn’t a plot hole. Characters making mistakes is not by itself a flaw.

We get another diner, but no mention of Roughhouse.

Also, without giving too much away … let’s just say the next cartoon is a companion piece.

Today in how pop culture overwrote the part of me that has personality


Featured on our roller coaster calendar this month is a ride from Six Flags Magic Mountain, their roller coaster Scream!. And apparently all this month every time I glace at the calendar my mind is going to go to zany wacky Dadist 90s cartoon Freakazoid!, and this one episode where — are you ready for the unpredictability? — a couple times each episode they had a low-key Ben Stein-ish voice say, “Scream” and then people scream. If someone would like to take this idea off of me, and let it occupy their thoughts instead, please drop a note.

I’m going to be in so much trouble if their November roller coaster is Candle Jack.

This Week’s Fun Activity Game


Showing younglings the opening credits to Automan and challenging them to say whether it was an actual TV show of the 1980s or an over-the-top spoof of TV shows of the 1980s.

(Answer, rot13’d so you have a chance of working it out yourself: guvatf pna or zber guna bar guvat ng n gvzr.)

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Did Judge Parker just reset everything? July – September 2020


No, Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker has not reset everything. But there were some plot threads that reached what seem to be points of returning-to-the-norm the past few months. I’ll describe, and this should get you up to speed for the end of September 2020. Later plot recaps, and any news about the strip which I get, should appear in essays at this link.

On my other blog I yesterday posted the Playful Math Education Blog Carnival #141. It’s a big listing of educational and recreational and playful mathematics writing, most of it not mine. Also a bunch of amusement park photographs which are mine. I hope that you enjoy. I also have an A-to-Z series, explaining one mathematics word for each letter in the alphabet. I hope to have the letter P represented tomorrow.

Judge Parker.

5 July – 26 September 2020.

Everybody in the Judge Parker cast had their plans cancelled or weirded by the pandemic, last we checked in. Fortunately, Very Stable Genius Mayor Phil Sanderson knew a way out: just reopen the town! The virus will have to be reasonable now that we’ve gotten bored sitting at home a lot! What could go wrong? Nothing, unless you listen to enemies of the people like Toni Bowen. So that gives Toni Bowen to talk about. Also for her to tell Sophie to back off from. She wants to run her own campaign.

TV Reporter: 'In the wake of what many are saying were troubling remarks from the Mayor, opposing candidate Toni Bowel has called her own press conference at her headquarters.' Bowen: 'People have asked me what I think of Mayor Sanderson's remarks. To which I can only answer, 'Do you honestly need to be told, even now?'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of July, 2020. Personally, I think modern political discourse is under-applying the question “What exactly is wrong with you?”

And the TV show based on Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta’s notes gets under way again. It’s all a little weird, especially as Ronnie sees again Kat, who’s playing Neddy on the show. Neddy’s also freaked out to meet Michelle, who’s playing Godiva Danube. Partly from memories and reevaluating her friendship with Godiva. Also because it’s a clue that the production is changing out from under them.

Mayor Sanderson meanwhile is mad. The local TV won’t apologize for running a poll showing Bowen surging. His staff won’t even remember to take their masks off in the office. But he is aware of Bowen’s weakness as a candidate. He calls Abbey Spencer, whose bed-and-breakfast plan, and renovations, were a fair idea for a money pit in normal times. During a shutdown? They’re a bleeding ulcer. Sanderson offers that he might be able to do her a favor. Since Sophie started the Bowen campaign, and Sam Driver supports it and used to date Bowen, this seems weird. But he offers: the campaign’s drawing a lot of coverage. Out-of-town reporters need to stay somewhere. Why not a place struggling but surviving thanks to a supportive local government?

Abbey, on the phone: 'You are not helping anyone but yourself, PHIL! You are the voice of no one but your crippling insecurity that fuels your rage that no one should speak but you! And I will make sure EVERYONE knows that!' Sanderson, hanging up: 'Ha ha. Of course you will ... '
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 7th of August, 2020. We haven’t yet really seen Abbey’s letting-everyone-know-that yet, by the way, nor have we seen Sanderson’s clever scheme at work. But we have the problem of seeing very little in-universe time even since mid-August.

The offer could hardly be better-designed to enrage Abbey. She promises to make sure everyone knows she’s on Team Bowen. Which Sanderson wants, in the first moment that makes him look like a skilled politician. Bowen’s weakness is that she can look like a tool of the Parker-Spencer-Driver clan.

Bowen’s got some good instincts, though, aware that this kind of unsolicited support can be trouble. She lays down the law to Sophie. If they want to support her, all right, but they have to know what she’s about. Which would likely make for a better campaign. Also a better campaign plot, must admit, as it’s not clear what issues there even are in town. Equitable gentrification is a great challenge, and goal. But it’s a danged hard thing to fight for in any intelligible way, especially in this medium.

Bowen’s law-laying helps Sophie with another problem, though. She looks into Local College courses. This is a step in her realizing that she doesn’t know everything she needs. And that she’s been blocking herself from that learning. And, after a lot of hesitation, she calls Honey Ballinger and apologizes.

[ Ronnie breaks some bad news to Neddy ] Neddy: 'They WHAT?!' Ronnie: 'It looks like they're diminishing the 'Neddy' role in our show to focus more on how Godiva's and April's lives intersect.' Neddy: 'THEY WHAT?!?' Ronnie: 'OK, this would be the third time I'm telling you this, so I assume you're in full 'shocked' mode now.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 31st of August, 2020. It’s a small bit but I appreciate that Neddy’s punctuation gets longer with the repetition.

And the TV show continues to change. The showrunners have decided Godiva and April Parker’s lives make for better stories than Neddy’s does. This makes for an interesting bit of story commentary by strip writer Francesco Marciuliano. Marciuliano has, mostly, done a good job at having things go crazy and then rationalize some. But it would be strange if he didn’t consider some storylines to have gone awry, or to regret not having done more with characters than he did. The revelation that Godiva was also running drugs was a shocking turn of events, sure. But to make it a shock to readers meant we had to not see it. It’s plausible Marciuliano didn’t consider it until he needed the twist. This frame lets him, if he wishes, build a new storyline for Godiva. It may not be what “really” happened to her, but if it’s interesting, who cares?

Ronnie: 'Wait ... are you seriously thinking of not going back to LA? Just because they changed some of our show?' Neddy: 'That's not the reason. I mean, that hurt, but ... but every time I think how close we are to leaving here, I try to think of anything else. And that has got to be telling me something.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of September, 2020. I don’t know where they are since the horse barn was renovated into Abbey’s bed-and-breakfast either.

So the studio figures that April and Godiva is the true-crime drama that’s the real series. And that’s that. The shooting in Real Cavelton wraps, with the rest of the series done in Los Angeles and Vancouver. And Neddy decides she isn’t interested in moving back to Los Angeles. Ronnie is, though, and that makes the transition into autumn all the harder.

And that’s where things stand now. Bowen’s campaign seems to be going well. Sophie’s reconciling with Honey Ballinger and looking at Local College. Neddy’s staying in town. Ronnie’s off to Los Angeles and, it’s teased, out of the strip. (It’s very self-referentially teased, with talk about sitcom characters who vanished. I am old enough to sometimes speak of myself as if I were on a sitcom. But I am also young enough to sometimes speak of myself as if I were a podcast host.) And if all goes well, we can come back together in a happier December to see what has changed.

Next Week!

We dip into the comic strip most inexplicably in reruns with Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man. (I mean, you wouldn’t think Marvel would be unable to find someone who can draw Spider-Man, right?) That’s if all goes well, and here’s hoping that it does. Good luck to you all.

In which I admit to not having seen Discovery or Picard


I’m not avoiding them. I just haven’t had the energy to watch stuff even if I like it anymore. So I just have missed out on how they’re changing the Star Trek world. But apparently they’re doing something. I was poking around Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki, and discovered this alarming verb tense in the article about lithium:

Screenshot from Memory Alpha, with the lede paragraph of the article Lithium: Lithium was a chemical element, number 3 on the periodic table. It was the lightest alkali metal on the table, with an atomic weight of 6.91. (TNG: "Rascals")
Yes, I appreciate that they found an episode to quote for the atomic weight of lithium, especially since they got lithium’s atomic weight wrong. (It should be between 6.938 and 6.997 for most lithium samples.)

I assume this means something exciting has been going on with proton decay in the new shows and I honestly can’t imagine what.

Is this a Lower Decks thing? Again, I haven’t seen it, but it seems like the destruction of all lithium, everywhere, is maybe a Lower Decks thing.

Tales From The 80s


So if you’re in my age cohort you grew up seeing the opening credits of Tales From The Darkside. You know, where the camera pans across footage of a forest while the foreboding voice of Perilous McDoomenough intones, “Man lives in the sunlit world of what he BELIEVES to be … reality.” And then the screen fades to a posterized negative image about how there is “unseen by most an underworld”. And then you changed the channel because whatever was coming next would have to be way too frightening to watch.

I got thinking, you know, this has to be like slasher movies were. The hype makes it sound like this intense and barely-comprehensible experience. And it turns out to be about as scary as an SCTV episode. I was too much of a coward to watch horror movies as a kid. I mean, except the one time that they had us do a sleepover for Vacation Bible School and we camped out in some of the classrooms off in the CCD wing. And one of the things they showed was Friday the 13th. I thought it was pretty good. Also I don’t understand how this could have happened. We went to a pretty liberal diocese but still. I think we also watched Heathers. I know Vacation and European Vacation we watched at my friend Eddie Glazier’s bar mitzvah. I’m not sure I should be talking about this 35-plus years on. I might be getting somebody in trouble.

But that’s sort of how terror was for a white middle-class kid growing up in the suburbs in the 80s. And yes, I mean New Jersey-type suburbs, which in other states are what you would call “urbs”. Or “great undifferentiated mass of housing developments and corporate office parks stretching from the Amboy Drive-In to the Freehold Traffic Circle, dotted by some Two Guys department stores”. Still. I grew up a weenie and I would be glad for that if I didn’t think being glad about myself was kind of bragging.

And we knew how to be recreationally scared. We just had to think about the nuclear war. New Jersey enjoyed a weird place for that. I know in most of the country you came up with legends about why the Soviets had a missile aimed right at you. One that would be deployed right after they bombed Washington and New York City. “Of course the Kremlin knows Blorpton Falls, Iowa is the largest producer of sewing machine bobbins outside the New York City area. They’ll have to bomb us so the country can’t clothe itself well after World War III.” It was a way to be proud of your town and not be responsible for surviving the nuclear war.

Central Jersey? We didn’t have to coin legends. We knew, when the war came, we’d be doomed. It wouldn’t be for any reason. It’s just we’re close to New York City, we’re close to Philadelphia. Nothing personal. All we were doing was being near something someone else wanted to destroy. This turned out to be great practice for living in 2020 that I don’t recommend.

Oh, sure, there was the soccer field what they said used to be a Nike missile base that would have protected New York City from the missile attacks. Maybe the Soviets would have an old map, or refuse to believe that they built a soccer field in the United States in the 60s. That former-Nike-base could be a target, if the Nike missiles to intercept the missiles didn’t work, which they wouldn’t.

You might ask: wait, why didn’t they put the base that was supposed to protect New York City in-between New York and the Soviet missile bases instead? The answer is that in-between New York City and the Soviet missile bases is Connecticut. The construction vehicles for the Connecticut site set out on I-95 in 1961 and haven’t made it through traffic yet. Central Jersey was a backup so they could build a site that couldn’t work but could abandon. Anyway I don’t know the soccer field was ever actually a Nike base or if we just said it was. If it really was, I suppose it’s a Superfund clean-up site now. Makes me glad I realized I didn’t want to socc. I wanted to type in word processor programs from a magazine into my computer.

Anyway after thinking about that long enough, it turns out the movie threats we faced were kind of cozy. Yeah, they might turn you into an Alice-in-Wonderland cake and eat you, but at least you’d be singing all the way.

So back to Tales From The Darkside. You know what you find if you go back and watch it now? Tales From The Darkside never even had episodes! They knew everybody was going to be scared off by those credits. Each episode, for all four seasons, is one frozen negative-print posterized image of a tree while someone holds down a key on the synthesizer.

It is way more terrifying than I had ever imagined.

Statistics Saturday: Apollo Astronauts who are also former producers of The $1.98 Beauty Show


As requested by Garrison!

  • Gordon Cooper [ Apollo 10 backup; producer, 1979-80 season ]
  • Bill Anders [ Apollo 8 prime crew; associate producer, 2012 mini-webisodes revival (three episodes out of the four produced) ]
  • Chuck Barris [ snuck aboard Apollo 15 as part of the stamp cover scandal; executive producer, full 1978-80 run of original show ]

Reference: Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, Tom Shachtman.

Statistics Saturday: Days Of The Week The CBS Sunday Night Movie Has Been On


Day of Week Has Hosted the CBS Sunday Night movie?
Sunday Yes (1986-2006, 2020)
Monday No
Tuesday Yes (1972-74, 1986-2000)
Wednesday Yes (1977-81, 1986-2000)
Thursday Yes (1965-75)
Friday Yes (1966-77)
Saturday Yes (1981-86)

Not listed: the CBS Late Movie (1972-89) as it aired outside prime time and I didn’t want to list it.

Reference: Fantasia Mathematica, Clifton Fadiman, Editor.

More Thoughts While Doing My Daily Walk Around Town


Is that … snow? Yes, that’s snow. I’ve seen snow before, although not so much this winter. Who ordered snow? My parents better not hear about this.

Oh, hey, the place that used to be the 24-hour diner. Then the new owners figured instead of being the diner everybody went to because it was 3 am, they could just open for breakfast and lunch. Then they fired the staff and closed entirely. And forgot to get the social media passwords from the staffers. Then they tore down the diner because they figured the vacant lot was worth more than a diner-filled lot. Well, that turned out great. Hey, this has to be the spot where J— discovered his eyeglasses had gouged ridges into the side of his head. Good times.

This … was a lot warmer, like, a week ago. We are going into spring, right? We couldn’t be going right back out of spring again, not with how much everybody agreed on having a spring.

That’s a nice clearly-marked bike lane that comes into existence and runs nearly the length of a full block before fading out again. Probably a story there. Probably also an angry Facebook group.

Oh, criminy, it’s the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13. That would be nice and timely. I did that thing for Apollo 11 and forgot to do anything for Apollo 12. Let me see if there’s anything there, let me think a while and see if I can come up with like three jokes, that’s enough to build a piece around. Oh, who am I kidding, that’s a dumb idea.

So that’s a lone coffee mug six feet from the sidewalk on the torn-up field that used to have a convenience store and now just has the telephone pole with an ‘ATM Inside’ sign on it. This seems to be the setting for some short story with too poignant an imagery to actually read.

Oh, but remember how angry the Usenet group sci.space.history got over the From The Earth To The Moon series, when its Apollo 13 episode wasn’t just doing the movie all over again but on way less budget? Everybody was so angry about it being how reporter Jay Mohr won over reporter Cranky Old Guy. I mean, not so mad as they’d be when the Apollo 16 episode. They got so mad the episode was about the astronaut wives instead of how the Apollo crew drank too much orange drink and passed gas the whole flight. Boy, but the Internet used to be fun to be angry on. What happened?

If I just took that coffee mug how much would I have to clean it to use it again? I’m kidding, I would never stop cleaning it.

Well now I’m just thinking about that report where the Mars Curiosity team had shifted over to working remotely. It’s just, like, they already kind of were. They probably get that a lot. If I ever meet anybody on the team I’m going to have to not tell them that one.

Ooh, hey, the hipster bar left their Wi-Fi on even though they’ve been closed a month now. Good grief it has been a month now. All right. Well, that’s going to be great if my iPod does that thing again where I pause my podcast and it decides to throw away the file and I have to re-download the whole thing. … And I do that when I happen to be right next to the bar. Well, they left the curtain up front open just enough that if I press my face against the window and stare I can kind of make out what have to be the pinball machines. I can stop around to do that a while.

Still thinking about how the Lansing airport listed they had four flights arriving today and only two departing. That’s got to be atypical, right? They can’t be stocking up on two extra planes a day, indefinitely. They’d fill up the parking lot.

All right that’s … nine … ten … twelve pairs of sneakers lined up on the curb, and with a locker mirror and a $4 yard sale price stick on it. There’s probably a good explanation for all of this and the only way I’ll ever know is to knock on the door and ask. They probably get a lot of people knocking on the door asking about the shoe lineup and mirror, though. Maybe I’ll check if they have a web site instead.

Oh, the guys who practice drums four hours a day are still doing that. Still … sounds like drumming. It’s nice to have that to rely on.

What’s Got Me Late Today, Network Stars Edition


I’m sorry, but I was busy thinking how I might explain to my niblings why we as kids watched the Circus of the Stars. “What better chance,” the best I can think of goes, “will we have to see Heather McNair step out of her role as Roxanne Caldwell on the greatest TV show of all time ever, Automan, before it ends what will surely be a twelve-year network run followed by a series of smash movies?” They have never asked about Circus of the Network Stars and I have no reason to think they will. I expect if they have questions, then their relevant parents can handle the matter. But so much has caught me unprepared this year. I don’t want one more thing to.


So far as Wikipedia is aware Heather McNair never appeared on Circus of the Stars. Automan did not run for twelve years and inspired no movies, although I’m going ahead and guessing there’s a reboot of it that’s already in its third of eight-episode seasons on … uh … let’s say HBO BlortStar+, that sounds like a streaming service name.

Statistics Saturday: The 20 best Bigfoot episodes of 1970s TV Shows


  • 20. CHiPs
  • 19. Superfriends
  • 18. Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • 17. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
  • 16. Challenge of the Superfriends
  • 15. Mork and Mindy
  • 14. The Brady Bunch Hour
  • 13. 20/20
  • 12. The All-New Super Friends Hour
  • 11. Logan’s Run
  • 10. The $1.98 Beauty Show
  • 9. Battlestar Galactica
  • 8. The Man From Atlantis
  • 7. WKRP in Cincinnati
  • 6. Columbo
  • 5. The Ropers
  • 4. Supertrain
  • 3. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • 2. In Search Of …
  • 1. The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman

Reference: Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920 – 1941, Michael E Parrish.

I know what you’re thinking and no, there was no Mark Trail TV show in the 70s, somehow.

But What Does Make Sense For Major Charles Winchester


Since my brain is unwilling to let this go: if he had his family back home send crates of Charles Chips. I am making this joke because I feel like being a seven-year-old who has noticed a word appearing in more than one place and I am going to stand a little too close to you and smile, showing slightly too many teeth, until you agree this is very clever, which I will realize much later is not the same thing as ‘funny’. Yeah, delivery potato chips would be pretty well smashed up by the time they got to Korea but hey, some people like that. You can spackle them together with dip and make a barely edible wad of material that’s sweet, salty, and has lots of sharp edges. That’s definitely in character for Major Winchester.

My Brain Continues to Work Really Well on the Important Things


I mean, I guess it’s reasonable Major Winchester would have some sparkling water ahead of urgent need. We never saw it, but that doesn’t mean anything, especially for sitcoms in the 70s. Fine. But then how much is his family supposed to have shipped out? And just how freaking good is this sparkling water that it’s worth shipping to Korea, compared to the club soda they have in the officer’s club that he’s drinking all the time anyway? If he had a stockpile big enough to take multiple showers with, where was it? Under his bunk? How long did he spend opening and pouring bottles into the shower tank so he could have his? This is the high priority stuff.

Clearly My Brain Has Its Priorities Straight


What I need to do: work, for work; cleaning out the mess in the guest room; think of any concept that I could write into 700 words for tomorrow’s long-form essay; re-read three month’s worth of The Phantom for Sunday’s essay.

What I am doing: so there was this one episode of M*A*S*H where the supply trucks are cut off and the camp can’t get any water, particularly. So everybody gets a lot dirtier and smellier and crankier about it. Except Major Winchester, who stays sparkling clean. It turns out not that he’s using the strictly-patients-only water. He’s using his own stock of club soda. Well, sparkling mineral water. Anyway, yeah, first, would that even work. But anyway I’m busy thinking about what a fool I was to just sit and accept this premise for decades without asking how it is Major Winchester can get his family to mail enough sparkling water to shower in, regularly, in circumstances where nobody can get regular water delivered.

Some Reasons Everybody Treated Me Like That In Middle School


I’ve had some time this week to sit in a room with no particular expectations or Wi-Fi and so that’s got me all introspective. So this is going to be hard. I’ve gotten around to thinking of my middle school experience. Here are some things that, on reflection, I think contributed to that whole scenario.

So you know there was a Pac-Man cartoon in the early 80s, where Pac-Man and Pac-Family hang around Pac-Land, occasionally eating ghosts and sometime getting chopmed by them. So, there was this episode where the Ghosts got their hands on the Pac-Space-Shuttle. Unless that was the Space-Pac-Shuttle. Honestly not sure at this remove. Anyway, they harvest all the Pac Pellets in the world from off the Pac-Trees. They flew this whole load to, I believe, the Pac-Moon. I know what you’re thinking and no, I was not bothered that the Pac-Space-Pac-Shuttle might land on the Pac-Moon. It would be a gross presumption of us to suppose that the design limits of our space shuttle necessarily apply to the Pac-Space-Pac-Shuttle-Pac in this fictional universe, however much they seem superficially similar. (Oh, this is helping me see why other bloggers treat me like that.) No, what bothered me is that in the face of this Pac-Pellet shortage caused by the world harvest being stolen, Pac-Man, in space, eats the entire contents of the Space-Shuttle-Pac, every power pellet in the world, all at once, when we’d seen in other episodes that one was enough for him to chomp ghosts. Two, if he needed to be really confident in his ghost-eating powers. And that is what bothered me: this unnecessary gluttony would make the power pellet shortage continue for at least a full growing season. And these Pac-Pellets are the fruits of Pac-Trees. This is going to screw up geenrations of trees to come. I was very cross with Pac-Man over this.

On the evening news they would always talk about what the New York Stock Exchange had done that day. And yet they never mentioned the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, which I supposed had to exist, or Los Angeles or San Francisco or anywhere else. Yes, I grew up in the New York metro area so of course the local stock market might be of interest but this injustice extended to the national news, and surely there must be some days that, like, the Saint Louis Stock Exchange had the most exciting stock-related exchanging going on.

[ I would like to emphasize that I am not reading my current weirdness back into the young me. These are as best as I am able reconstructions of thoughts I had in the mid-80s. ]

According to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons manual if exactly the right things lined up you could just be a vapor, forever, and everyone would just have to let you play like that.

So in South River, New Jersey, there was this liquor store, and its sign was this representation of beloved drunk neighbor Thirsty from the beloved comic strip Hi and Lois. And I thought it was wild and belovable that in all the world we happened to be not too far off from the world’s only Hi and Lois-themed liquor store. And wondered at how much money must have changed hands for Thirsty’s Liquor to be set up in this really very average beloved Middlesex County town.

Also every power pellet in the Pac-World fit into one Space-Pac-Shuttle Cargo-Pac-Bay? Space shuttles aren’t that big.

Sure, we all have urged the rain rain to go away and come again some other day. But why was there no chant to urge the rain to come today, when nothing particularly needing dry conditions is going on, and thereby forestall rain coming some inconvenient later date? We need a certain amount of rain per year and there’s no good reason not to rush to get that done when the day’s already all wet.

While I do not think this very incomplete list justifies the whole of my middle school experience I am forced to admit that, yeah, everybody kind of had a point there.

Statistics 2010s: Top Movies Featuring Racing Snails of the 2010s


  • Turbo II: First Snail On Mars (2014)
  • Turbo (2013)
  • Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)
  • Turbo 3: Crashed (2017)
  • Turbo (2018 reboot)
  • Turbo: New Kid (2019)
  • Star Trek Beyond (2016)
  • Turbo 2250: Beyond the Veil of Time (2016)
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015)
  • Epic (2013)
  • Turbo: The Teen Years (2016, direct-to-video prequel)
  • Turbo II 1/2: Chickipede’s Chance (2019, out-of-continuity sequel to the TV series)

Reference: The Kaiser’s Merchant Ships in World War I,, William Lowell Putnam.

Statistics Saturday: Your Christmas Special Viewing Schedule


Date Plan
9 December Frosty the Snowman
10 December Looking at the as-suggested #FrostyReturns to see what people did say about that awful awful awful awful awful thing.
11 December Spending more time complaining about Twas The Night Before Christmas than actually watching it.
12 December Half-hour thing based on some recent kids CGI movie you didn’t watch.
13 December How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the 60s one.
14 December Yelling at people in three different Facebook groups to just watch Arthur Christmas already.
15 December Trying to remember if we already watched Twas The Night Before Christmas and the DVR just spontaneously re-recorded it.
16 December Trying to work out what the heck The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold was for.
17 December Misguided mid-90s thing that looks like the bad Animaniacs studio animated it and oh my goodness yes they have a Rapping Granny in it.
18 December Over-parsing of every single line in Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.
19 December Oh wow that one You Can’t Do That On Television episode about holidays really shows how the program was like 400% more Canadian than you remembered.
20 December Can’t get the Snow Miser song out of your head.
21 December Inconclusive online argument about whether there was somehow a Far Side Christmas special in like 1988 or whether they’re somehow thinking of a Ziggy Christmas special from like 1982.
22 December How was there a Little Drummer Boy Book II? And it was Rankin/Bass’s only Emmy nomination?!
23 December Realization that you’re now too old to be able to follow the story logic of Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.
24 December Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town

Seriously, though, Frosty’s Return was already so awful in every possible way and then they dumped that 1995 Cartoon Attitude all over it. Also, Arthur Christmas: worth watching.

Reference: Quiz Craze: America’s Infatuation with Game Shows, Thomas A DeLong.

Can 1960s Popeye be an ethical billionaire?


It’s been a month plus since the last Popeye’s Island Adventure. Maybe the series will resume. Maybe it’s done. I do not have the time to decide what to do with my Tuesday slot here. It’s somehow become a series-review day. I like that. It means once I decide what series to review I know what I’m writing. But what series? I don’t know, so I’m going to do a couple more of the 1960s King Feature Syndicate Popeyes to get myself some margin and decide later. This may prove a controversial choice. I can actually see the readership drop when the day’s post is a King Features Popeye cartoon. But, what the heck. If someone wants me to look at something they can nominate it to me.

So I’m going to do at least a couple more King Features Syndicate Popeye cartoons. This from their “Classic Popeye” line on YouTube, since I expect those videos to stick around a while. I’m skipping their Episode Two since none of those four cartoons — Hoppy Jalopy, Popeye’s Pep-Up Emporium, Baby Phase, and Weather Watchers — interest me enough. I’m going straight to some of Episode Three. I’ll start by reviewing the last of the quartet, The Billionaire. Anyone who wants to peek at future weeks can figure out the other cartoons in this just by looking. I’m guessing, though, not a lot of people are going to check.

Parody’s a weird thing. The Millionaire was this (American) TV show that ran for a couple years in the 50s. Each week a strange reclusive multimillionaire gives someone a million dollars, on condition they never ask questions about where it comes from or why. Then we watch how this screws up their lives. I never saw an episode. I know it entirely from its parodies. SCTV did a fantastic one. I’m not sure if I saw it riffed on Saturday Night Live. (I may be thinking of their parody of The Continental, another 50s TV show I’ve only ever seen in imitation, including in a Popeye cartoon.) I’m not sure it wasn’t done in a Richie Rich comic book. And, then, there’s this spoof, starring Popeye.

It starts weird. The premise is that Popeye’s a multi-millionaire and he’s living in a mansion and he’s giving out money to his friends. It seems out of character for who Popeye is. And yet … …

Part of the premise of Thimble Theatre, when it started, was that these were plays. Like, you had the recurring cast, but they’d have different parts each adventure. Each day, in the earliest strips. The comic strip settled to a basically uniform continuity before even Popeye joined the cast. But this bit where these are characters playing parts, and the settings will vary, lasted into the cartoons. Usually that just plays into what the relationships are between Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oyl at the start of the cartoon. Sometimes it plays into whether Popeye’s a sailor, a fitness instructor, or a short-order cook this cartoon. So Popeye as a multimillionaire benefactor shouldn’t be outside the cartoon ranges. I’m not sure why I feel like I need to argue myself into this. Maybe it’s that Popeye and Bluto and Olive Oyl usually have working-class positions. In the 50s they moved to the suburbs and the middle class and got boring. A rich Popeye seems untrue. I mean, yeah, there was the cartoon where Popeye ran for President, but that turned into working-class stuff like “can he bale hay” fast enough.

At the least, it’s weird. And weird should be expected: this is another Gene Deitch-directed cartoon. If you didn’t know, you might suspect something from the animation. The backgrounds, particularly. Look at the carpet and the chair in Popeye’s mansion, at about 17:46 of the cartoon. Try not to be distracted figuring out how Popeye’s holding that phone. I can’t do that pose comfortably, but I can do it.

As with From Way Out, the animation is loose with the character models. This is fine by me, since they’re drawn so expressively. Freeze the image at about 18:28. Popeye looks weird, not just because both eyes are open again. But it’s a scene. And Deitch’s team was doing what it could with the animation budget. Olive Oyl keeps moving, that scene. There’s no need for it, except to keep the picture from being boring.

So far as this cartoon makes sense it stops making sense at about 19:23. This is after Popeye’s given all his friends, plus Bluto Brutus, a million dollars. He’s decided to wear a costume as a sailor so he can secretly check on his friends. The cartoon immediately forgets this explanation. I don’t want to cast aspersions but I wonder if this was meant to save the cost of drawing a new walk cycle for Popeye.

Popeye’s surprised to see Olive Oyl doing exactly what she said she would do, getting a million-dollar makeover at the salon she either ran or bought. Wimpy’s bought a herd of cows so he can be forever in hamburgers. It’s not a deep character beat, although it is cute to have Wimpy discover he hasn’t the heart to slaughter them. It’s a pretty funny cow herd considering they’re the same cow photocopied many times. Good cow design. Again, freeze the video at about 20:09 and just look at how silly a picture that is.

Swee’Pea’s got a chocolate factory, and has a scheme to justify eating the entire output. I can’t say that’s wrong. I don’t know what Popeye imagined would happen. Bluto Brutus runs his car over Popeye, then backs up to punch him into a mailbox, such well-timed gratuitous violence that it’s a good laugh for me. Besides the chauffeur-driven car Bluto Brutus spent his million on buying all the spinach farms in the country and plowing them under. If you question whether a million dollars would let someone corner the spinach market and destroy it, well, this is why you and I were treated like that in middle school. It’s a weird cartoon. Roll with it.

So of course Bluto Brutus shoves some cash money down Popeye’s throat. And of course it’s good for a spinach power-up because something something spinach ink something and … huh? It’s a bunch of great facial expressions on the way to the story’s conclusion. I’m not saying to make Popeye’s face at 21:30 your new user icon for anything. I’m just saying you’ll stand out in a crowd with that.

Popeye's face, both eyes wide open, grinning goofily, with his neck extended and surrounded by a light pink glow.
My new LinkedIn picture.

Having eaten spinach-inked currency Popeye … see, it’s just weird. But we get some good violence against Bluto Brutus, and a fine bit of body horror where Popeye punches Bluto Brutus into a stack of coins. And then get an extra dose of body horror when Olive Oyl shows off her million-dollar makeover, and Popeye laughs, and she’s so furious the thing crumbles. This cartoon doesn’t reach the body-weirdness heights of It’s Magic, Charlie Brown, but it’s trying.

All that’s left is a wrap-up, Olive Oyl and company begging Popeye for one more chance and learning Popeye’s already given away his last million. It’s an efficient way to wrap up the cartoon, which was trying to hard to end Popeye didn’t even have a couplet to sing at the end. He just tells us he’s Popeye the sailor man.

It’s another cartoon where Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea have noticeably the same voice actor. Mae Questel also does the voice of Millionaire Popeye’s unseen secretary, in a performance that confuses just who’s talking and why. Jackson Beck, the voice of Bluto Brutus, does better as opening narrator Ichael-May Ants-Pay. Jackson Beck did a lot of this kind of narrator or announcer work for radio.

I’m happy with this cartoon. But I can see where a dreamily plotted spoof of a sixty-year-old tv show that may well exist only in parody form wouldn’t work for everyone. I still say they’re funny cow designs.

A Follow-Up Regarding A Harmless TV Show That I Act As If I’m All Superior To For Not Caring About


I did give in and start searching for Two Broke Girls on DuckDuckGo because, all right, in that way I am superior, so far as I know. Anyway I started out typing all right and then it turned into Two Stupid Dogs, and that left me fondly vaguely remembering that early-90s cartoon. And I see absolutely no reason to go checking back on this fondly-vaguely-remembered early-90s cartoon because I’m absolutely sure there’s nothing about it that’s, in fact, embarrassingly sexist, or homophobic, or racist, or showing off the start of some trend that would become really bad in animation in the following twenty years, or highlighting the straight-from-the-id work of someone we now publicly acknowledge to be creepy and evil. Nope! That could not possibly ever have happened!

In Which I Pick On A Harmless TV Show As If That Made Me A Superior Person Or Something


I realized I had no idea whether the sitcom Two Broke Girls was still on the air, or whatever happened to the characters, since I remembered the episodes ended with a summary of how much money they had. I was tempted to look it up, and then realized then this would be a person who made an effort to know something about Two Broke Girls. Anyway, I’m a little curious yet but I also acknowledge that I have no responsibility for the show — if they’ve gone and made me the show-runner and they’ve been sitting for years waiting for direction, well, that’s on them for not letting me know — and if the universe really needs me to know, then the knowledge will come to me in time. Please don’t take this as a request to tell me what’s happened to the show. If it fits the unfolding of the universe for me to know, then it will be impossible for me to not know. We need not do anything to make me know.

Please Send Cables


So you know that stage in life where everything you have is plugged in to an adapter of some kind? And those adapters themselves are plugged in to some other kind of adapter? And you’re not sure whether something is broken, or the adapter it’s plugged into is broken, or the adapter after that is what’s broken, or whether everything is working as designed and it’s the adaption concept that’s broken?

That is a stage of life, right? That’s normal to be in, right?

Well.

Back to seeing what happens if we unplug things and then re-plug them.

Where I Should Be And Where I Am


So what I should be doing is working out some messes with web site APIs. An API is a thing which is supposed to let your web site do a thing, but that doesn’t work. Then you search for explanations of why it doesn’t work, and you find people who’ve had a problem that seems like it might be the same one you have. It has some answer that the original poster says worked, but when you read it, there’s somehow just enough words missing that you can’t be sure quite what you were supposed to have set up already and what was supposed to change and what’s a completely different conceptual framework from your traditional ideas of “working” and “not working”. It’s all good fun.

What I am doing is watching a bunch of low-effort gangster movies from the 1930s with ever-growing fascination at the intense nasal twang with which actors of this era would say, “HEL-lo, in-SPECT-or”.

I believe history will vindicate my choice.

Statistics Saturday: Some Movies Set Wholly Or Partially In 2019


  • Blade Runner
  • Akira
  • The Running Man
  • The Time Machine (1960) (think about it)
  • 2010: The Year We Make Contact (in the epilogue, with the two suns setting over Washington, D.C.)
  • Parks and Recreation: The Motion Picture
  • Thunderbird 6
  • One Million B.C. (1940)
  • Back To The Future 2 1/2 (the direct-to-DVD ‘sidequel’ doing the Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern bit for the guys in 1955 Biff’s gang, not the fan-made one about the future of Alternate 1985)
  • Space: 1999: The Next Generation (1982)
  • The Fly II
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Transformers: The Movie (1985)
  • Spaceballs (the story’s framing device scenes, cut after the first theatrical run)
  • One Million B.C. (1966)

Reference: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, Lutz D Schmadel.

Some Unwise Resolutions


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:

  • Things which may be deleted.
  • Things which belong in an archive where they will never be read.
  • Things which are the pants vendor at the outlet mall near the city where you used to live six years ago hoping to reestablish some kind of relationship with you.
  • Things which need an answer.

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.

Statistics Saturday: Christmasy Stuff To Watch On The DVR While I Finish Wrapping And Decorating And Stuff


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Seasoned Greetings, this 1933 short about the invention of greeting-card records and even including Sammy Davis Jr; Breakin'; Breakin' 2 Electric Boogaloo; Madam Satan (1930); Mon Oncle; Barry Lyndon; You'll Find Out (1940); Like 84 Episodes Of Stephen Colbert; Terror Rides The Rails, episode 9 of the Mandrake the Magician serial Columbia made in 1939.
Oh yeah, also we have The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold even though I’m like 85% sure we’ve already watched it this year and thought we’d deleted it? I don’t know. We live in complicated times. Sammy Davis Jr is appealing even though he’s like seven years old and playing the black kid who eats a record so almost all the time he’s on-screen it feels uncomfortable. Anyway, the important thing is if you haven’t seen Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle you’ve been wrong, but you still have time to fix that. Also other Jacques Tati movies.

Not included: Arthur Christmas, because we have it on DVD but our DVD player just broke. Also not included: Robert Rossellini’s 1971 Blaise Pascal because that’s really not a Christmasy movie, right?

Reference: Wind Tunnels of NASA, Donald D Baals, William R Corliss.

Everything Else There Is To Say About Decorating For Christmas


I’m flattered that you’re still coming to me for advice about Christmas decorations after learning I used to be a teenaged boy. It’s not what I would do, but, what the heck. I guess the worst that can happen is a family that’s fled some aesthetic catastrophe within the house, huddling together, promising that no, there’s a reason all those Star Trek comic books were on the wall. Hey, here’s a real thing that really happened in real reality for real: the second issue of the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic from the 80s was about Captain Picard having to save the Spirit of Christmas from some leather-clad Alien Space Grinches.

Anyway a holiday is always a good excuse to decorate. Not without limits, of course. There are only so many things you can put up to commemorate, say, Washington’s Birthday without people asking questions. And not the good kind, like where you can show off what you know about George Washington’s presidential tour of all thirteen states. They ask questions like “… the heck?” And most anything you put up for the August Bank Holiday will get you strange looks. The New Jersey Big Sea Day seems like it ought to have great decorating potential, but most of that is water. Maybe flip-flops.

Ah, but Christmas. And New Year’s. These are holidays that have no socially accepted limits for how much to decorate. You could festoon your house with enough Christmas lights that structural elements crumble, and the building collapses under this load of twinkling merry. Survivors would stagger out of a heap of belongings, drywall, and ornaments. And people would just say, oh, they’re maybe a little much but it makes up for the other houses on the street. It’s one of the few chances you have to festoon things in a socially acceptable way. Heck, it’s one of the few chances to even talk about festooning. Go ahead, list three other times this past year you were able to festoon a thing without authorities getting involved.

Which gets to something important about Christmas decorating. Make sure that you’re decorating someplace or something that you have permission to. Once the authorities get called in you don’t get to enjoy a giddy night of adorning things with tinsel. You have to start sneaking around instead, hiding behind the Christmas tree or unusually wide coat-stands whenever a bunch of people in, I’m assuming, tall blue hats tromp past. Then they hear a suspicious cough off somewhere. One of your confederates, no doubt, if you’ve got this well-organized. And you have to throw a ball of tinsel at a thing you hope is a tinsel-bearing decorative structure unit, like a tree or a wreath or a cat.

That’s not the right way to do things. That won’t get you decorations that festoon a thing. The best you can hope for is that you’ll have decorations strewn about. And strewning is great, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that strewning is great in the right context. The context you want for decorating is that you aren’t trying to dodge people who want you answering questions. You want to have some beloved Christmas special that you’ve watched so often that you no longer watch it. You just have it on in the background while forming questions about the worldbuilding.

After a couple decades of this you start to wonder exactly how much thought the writers put into the mythology behind, oh, the one where Frosty the Snowman creates a wife, and then they have to go create a snow-parson who can “legally” marry them because the human parson voiced by Dennis Day isn’t sure he can do that? And somehow creating a new snow-life is less problematic? And you never see what happens to the snow-parson after that? And it’s not about getting answers to these questions. If you wanted answers go out and become an authority yourself. Not saying about what. An authority on Christmas specials would get you the answers faster, probably. But becoming an authority on, say, tidal pools? Graphic design? It’ll take longer to get answers, but maybe the joy of the season is discovering these things.