What’s got my plans diverted now


Yeah so I woke up with the phrase “Vampire-Elect Dracula” running back and forth through my head. So I guess I’m stuck writing a supernatural romance/political thriller now? I’ll let you know how it turns out. It’s going to depend whether I can think of something witty to do with “electoral coffin”.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Did Svengoolie bust an actual vampire? August – October 2020


Svengoolie did not. For a moment it looked like the vampire-killer was confessing to the horror-movie host. Svengoolie was instead used, with some elegance, to provide exposition about how a gadget needed for the story should work.

This essay should catch you up on Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy through to the end of October, 2020. Any news about Dick Tracy that I get, or after about February 2021 new plot recaps, should be at this link.

On my other blog I continue writing about mathematics terms, one for each letter in the alphabet. This past week, I revisited a topic I’d already written, because I forgot I already wrote an essay about tiling. Come on over and stare at my embarrassment!

Dick Tracy.

9 August – 31 October 2020.

Dethany Dendrobia, star of Bill Holbrook’s On The Fastrack, was the guest star last time we checked in. She was in the Greater Tracypolitan Metro Area to investigate weirdness with a warehouse her company was buying. The weirdness: Coney, an ice-cream-themed villain. He’s searching the warehouse for a fortune left behind by Stooge Viller, a villain who died in 1940, our time. Coney’s desperate because the property management company “accidentally” sold the warehouse to Fastrack. To buy time and the warehouse, Coney’s gang kidnaps Dendrobia’s fiancee, Guy Wyre.

Sam Catchem’s informant has a tip for Wyre’s whereabouts: “some old warehouse”. It’s kind of a crazy lead, but you know what? Sometimes the crazy leads pay off. With the help of FBI Inspector Fritz Ann Dietrich they raid the warehouse, catching Coney mid-lick. Coney tries to put it all on Howdy, the Howdy Doody-themed henchman and yes you read that right. Dendrobia finds Wyre, and more, the restroom behind him. And one of those old-fashioned toilets with the water tank that’s up by the ceiling. She pulls the chain and finds piles of cash. This because none of the people searching the warehouse for Villier’s Millions ever looked in the toilet water tank.

Dethany Dendrobia, washing her hands, notices: 'Wow, there's an old-fashioned water tank in this bathroom.' She pulls the chain on the elevated water tank. The bottom of the tank falls out and bundles of money drop from it.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 20th of August, 2020. Yes, Dethany’s washing her hands in that first panel and I don’t know why. She rushed past her bound fiancee to do it, too. One of the GoComics.com commenters speculated that Howdy was planning to keep the loot for himself, and pretended to have found nothing. Possibly relocated the loot while waiting for his chance to sneak it out. This isn’t explicitly supported in the text. But it would answer my doubts that in 80 years nobody checked the water tanks.

So all’s squared away, and Dendrobia and Wyre can get back to their Halloween-scheduled wedding. (It did go on, over in their home comic strip of On The Fastrack, as a mostly online event. Some family attended, after a strict two-week quarantine.)


The 23rd of August started another two-week Minit Mystery, with guest writer Mark Barnard and guest artist Jorge Baeza. The mysterious ‘Presto’ makes the city’s new Aurora Rising statue vanish when his ransom isn’t paid. The story is one of how Tracy follows his one lead. But there is a legitimate mystery and the statue’s disappearance is by a more-or-less legitimate piece of stage magic. Also, there’s a guest appearance by Smokey Stover, so, you’re welcome, Dad. I had nothing to do with it.


The Halloween story started the 7th of September with a mad sciencey-type carving fangs. And in an atmospheric and silent week, does a vampire-attack on a woman, Faith Brown. She dies of blood loss from two wounds in her neck, and there’s chloroform in her blood. He goes on to admire his fang-and-pump apparatus. And how after a “minor adjustment” he’ll be able to add Faith’s sisters’ blood to his “collection”.

Honeymoon Tracy and Adopted Orphan Annie pop into the story the 13th, as their journalism tutor Brenda Starr gives them an assignment. Pick a story from the paper and they do their own investigation. They’re interested in the “vampire” killing. Starr recommends talking with Professor Stokes, Biology Professor at Local College. He’s the guy with the fangs, and he’s known to be an expert on vampire lore. Honeymoon and Annie go to Dick Tracy to see if he can get them an introduction. They’re too young to realize that if you’re even a bit female, and ask a white nerd about his obsession, he will never stop talking to you, including about it.

Professor Stokes, showing his fangs to Honeymoon and Annie: 'There are 'vampire fans' who do practice the consumption of blood, but it is always voluntary, from a donor.' Honeymoon bleahs her tongue out. Stokes: 'Ha ha! I admit I'm not tempted to try it either. If you really want to explore the vampire subculture, I've made a list of books and sites to visit.' He hands Honeymoon a bundle of papers, labelled 'VAMPIRE BOOKS' on top. Honeymoon: 'Thanks, Professor Stokes.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 22nd of September, 2020. So this one time decades ago I was taking a picture in a dimly-lit computer room. When the flash went off, this friend who had an online vampire roleplay going howled in an instinctive pain. He said it was because the flash was right in his eyes but … you know? I should check how that picture came out. Since it was a photo I took in like 1997, probably unfocused and with everything interesting under-lit.

Tracy goes along with them, though, since he needs to get some suspects into the story. Stokes admits how he’s part of the local Nosferatu scene and sure there’ll be a certain amount of blood-drinking there, but not him. And it’s always from volunteers. And he has some literature.

Meanwhile Faith’s bereaved sisters — Hope and Charity — are not too bereaved not to talk themselves into buying a car with their inheritance. Not from Faith’s death, particularly; a fortune they’d come into before her killing. Their Uncle Matthew had been a “patron to some really eccentric types”. If Faith-Hope-and-Charity weren’t found, the money would have gone to the eccentrics. Have you spotted the eccentric in this story?

Then there’s another break. TV horror-host Svengoolie had a fan send him a “working artificial vampire system”. Could it have something to do with the vampire killing? No, it turns out. The machine’s from a Local College student, and does have actual blood-draw gear, but its motor wouldn’t draw enough blood to kill. And “confessing to Svengoolie” would be weird even for the Dick Tracy universe. But, the Local College student did find the parts he needed from the college lab. And here we get explained how Stokes could make this vampire machine, without a villain monologuing and without anyone telling someone things they should already know.

Honeymoon, to Dick Tracy, driving: 'We're going to see SVENGOOLIE?' Tracy: 'He called and wants to meet us at the TV studio.' Annie: 'I watch his show on Saturday nights back home. I can't wait to tell Daddy, Punjab, and the Asp about this!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 28th of September, 2020. “Daddy Warbucks is busy this week informing heads of government at the G8 summit just what symbolic reforms the wealthy are going to allow them to make in the next year. And after that he’s visiting Mr Am, his immortal friend who’s Ambiguously God. But once he’s back from all that he’ll be very impressed I saw a man who says `Berwyn` while stagehands throw rubber chickens at him.”

Professor Stokes learns of Hope and Charity buying a car with the money he feels entitled to. I don’t know how. He calls Hope Brown, though, with the promise of running a new-car-warranty scam. And stops in, coincidentally as Brenda Starr is visiting. Starr mentions she bought a new car and needs a warranty scam. He doesn’t have a card, he explains, but jots down his name and number.

Starr goes into action, because what kind of agent meets a client without business cards? In 2020, when I’m assuming smartphone owners transfer contact information by waving their phones in someone’s direction. So she calls Dick Tracy with her suspicion that Hope Brown’s the next vampire victim.

Hope Brown: 'I'm sorry about the interruption. I'll work up your travel plans right away.' Brenda Starr: 'It's all right. Meeting Mr Stoker was a bonus.' Brown: 'Have a nice day, Ms Starr. I'll be in touch soon!' Starr, thinking: 'Maybe sooner than you think, Miss Brown. I know I've seen 'Mr Stoker' before. And what kind of agent comes to an appointment without business cards?'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 15th of October, 2020. Starr knows Professor Stokes, at minimum by reputation, as she’d recommended him to Honeymoon and Annie for vampire information. This may make you ask, then, why didn’t Stokes recognize Starr? But there’s no reason to think they’ve met. She’d habitually be making notes of “people with deep knowledge on esoteric subjects”. And even if they had, normal people do not remember every person they’ve ever met. Even people who, like Brenda Starr, have hair that’s always sparkling in the light.

Stokes descends on a woman leaving Brown’s office. She turns, beating him up. It’s not Hope Brown. It’s Officer Lizz Grove, in disguise. Stokes breaks free, though, and runs to a nearby Jazz festival. And into the path of a cop car, that kills him. The police are aghast at killing a white guy who wasn’t protesting police violence, of course. But that wraps up the vampire problem.

Now the parts where I’m confused. It’s in motivations. I understand Stokes wanting to kill the Brown girls, on the hypothesis that would somehow get him the inheritance. (I can imagine ways Uncle Matthew might have set things up so this could work.) I could also understand him just taking “revenge” on people he’s decided wronged him by existing. I can also understand Stokes wanting this “collection” of blood he mentioned. I don’t understand these motives applying at once. Well, maybe Stokes was a complicated person.

Brenda Starr has one last question, though, for Adopted Orphan Annie. It’s one I would have thought too obvious to ask. Annie could have picked any story in the newspaper to investigate. Why was Annie interested in a weird, freakish killing that drew a six-column, two-deck headline? Why not the business piece about soy futures coming in even more in line with forecasts than analysts expected? Annie explains she knew murder victim Faith Brown, from a distance, aware she had been a kind and helpful fixture of the neighborhood. I guess it’s nice to learn give Faith Brown some traits besides being the inciting victim. But if Annie never met her how did she even know Faith Brown’s name? It’s an explanation that makes me less clear about what’s going on.


Besides the Minit Mystery and the number of guest stars were a few special strips over this era. The 18th of October was dedicated to James “Bart” Bush, a longtime Dick Tracy super-fan who recently died. On the 6th of October much of the strip was given to Sam Catchem reading the “Quowit the Happy Hangman” comic strip.

On the 1st of October we saw a mysterious gloved hand emerge from the rapids. That seems likely to be Abner Kadaver, TV horror host-turned-killer for hire. Last we saw him, back in 2016, he died going over the Reichenbach Falls, like that could ever work. I am surprised he didn’t somehow get into the Halloween story.

Next Week!

I think the story about Joe Pye and his kids, escaped from jail, wasn’t a rerun? So we get back to Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley and see how they’re handling a reunion with Joe Pye’s wife. Again, that’s if anything goes to plan. Good luck to us all.

I Just Want To Check That I Understand A Technology Thing Right


Check my work on this. The reason every web site nowadays, including the ones that just show you what the Linotype keyboard layout looked like and reprint old tips for how to get proficient at mechanical typesetting, ask for permission to send you notifications is because they’re run by vampires, right? And they need you to say they’re allowed in before they can come and vampire out all over you? Because I can’t think of another answer that fits the available facts.

Some Unconventional Beliefs


Here are some beliefs it is fine to have, even if you will never encounter a group of hundreds to thousands of people gathering in a hotel in some affordable hotel space on the outer edge of town for a weekend of merriment and panels and cosplay and frustrated attempts to get a group of six people together to go to the build-your-own-burrito place.

  • That if your mind insists on fusing the songs American Pie and My Brown-Eyed Girl into one massive, never-ending whole, that’s fine. Your mind is your own. You can put not just any songs but any experiences together you like. If you wish to merge Hotel California with the experience of hollering at the movie theater’s automated ticket booth because you just don’t care where you sit to watch Barton Fink reboot origin movie, that’s your right. I mean, of course, if you aren’t at your gig-economy job putting in a few hours being part of the collective massmind. But that’s a special case.
  • That it is the year 2019. By this I mean the ninth or maybe tenth year of the second decade of the current century. There is considerable evidence to suggest that we are instead in the nineteenth year, somehow, of the first decade of the current century. But consider: how is it that we still have eighties nostalgia? The 80s are now so long ago there’ve been, like, five movie Batmans since then? How can we possibly feel any warmth to a time so long ago? If we are still in the first decade of the 2000’s, then that’s just two decades in the past. It makes plausible how, say, people might have any specific warm memories of the Whammy. So let’s take that: we’re not in the year 2019 but rather in the nineteenth year of the 2000s.
  • That you just don’t have the emotional reserve to hang out with your fossa pal. That’s all right. Fossas are great, everybody agrees. They also have plenty of issues. It’s all right to let your fossa buddy march off to whatever it is they’re up to. You can recover your mental energies hanging out with a quokka or maybe a binturong. It’s not selfish to take some time not dealing with somebody else’s bizarrely complicated situation that’s somehow a fractal hyperfiasco, where every part of their fiasco is itself some deeper fiasco that’s just as impossible to deal with. Don’t feel guilty just hanging out with somebody who’s sleeping a lot and smells like popcorn.
  • All right, so the planet is a sphere. What’s so great about spheres? Maybe we just have a sphere because nobody involved in making it put any thought into the question. If we put our minds to it we could probably have a toroidal planet or maybe one that’s a great big Möbius-strip band. And it’d be fast, too. It would take, like, four days at the longest. There’s three-room apartments you couldn’t clean out for moving anywhere near that fast. Anyway nobody is saying this would solve all our problems, or any of them. It’s just an option we haven’t given serious consideration. No, we’re not doing Menger sponges. We’ve totally read the ending of The War With The Newts on Wikipedia.
  • That it would be a heck of a thing if it turned out vampires didn’t mind garlic. Like, maybe one didn’t, and everybody assumed all vampires were repelled by garlic? But it was just that guy’s preference? So what if it turns out vampires see garlic the way anybody might see, oh, Brussels sprouts? Where some just won’t eat them, and some kind of like them, and some love how it looks like they’re giants eating whole heads of lettuce in one bite? And it turns out that vampires actually have an issue with horse radish instead, which is why they only have lunch at Arby’s when it’s part of a long, serious meeting with their financial planner? Anyway you can have that belief and if need be donate that to a needy improv troupe.
  • That the messages that would be on the answering machine, if there were any, would be very interesting ones. They might even change everything, if they did happen to exist. It’s your answering machine. You can have any imaginary messages you like on it.

There are more things you can believe even if they are not commonly held. Good luck.

In Which I Am Concerned About My Shirt


It reached the temperature of Like Thirty Degrees Too Warm For Late March today and I put on one of my short-sleeved yellow shirts. It’s a kind I like: it has a pocket in case I need a pen in my shirt pocket. And it’s yellow, so that I show up in photographs. (I have this condition where I can’t be noticed in photographs unless I bug out my eyes and turn my head slightly to the side so I look like I’m doing a bad job pretending to be surprised by my birthday party. It’s inherited; my grandmother had the same problem. We carry on, proudly.)

Anyway, the shirt turns out to be incredibly faded. It’s still yellow-ish, but it’s gotten very near white since I last wore it and I can’t think why. Fading from the sun? Maybe, but who lets my clothes out in the sun? Fading from bleach? No, we put bleach to other purposes around the house. I have to conclude it’s fallen prey to a shirt vampire draining its essential dye and while it’s got a few more rounds left to it, it’ll soon join the legion of undead clothing. Which is a shame, but it is part of the cycle of clothing life.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell seven points today on allegations that having the number be a round figure like ‘130’ caused it to look made-up, and ‘125’ wasn’t really any better, is it? Maybe we need to start measuring in eighths of a point or something so it looks the more credible. What do you, the viewer at home, think?

118

Picturing Me Some More


OK, so, Pinball Selfie Leagues. That’s what I meant to describe some. It’s a new thing in the world of Competitive Pinball Which Is So There. This is a new kind of tournament where your seeding is based on games you play on your own. And we know there’s no cheating because SNAKE! Totally a snake right over there! Look at that! But really, who’d do anything underhanded in the search for glory in competitive pinball rankings? And here I pause to consider the number of rules that the United States Lighthouse Society’s Passport Program has in place regarding how to count visited lighthouses. I do not know how many there are, other than there’s at least one. But why would we expect cheating in competitive pinball leagues from a species that has people who would try to gain renown for a fraudulently great ability to see lighthouses?

I’m still not sure what I think of Selfie Leagues, other than that they aren’t leagues. Also the first one I participated in wasn’t all that Selfie-bound. After some consideration the organizer ruled we didn’t need to actually take selfies. We could just photograph the score instead. Sometimes that’s the only way. There’s older games where they only show the score a split second. We’d be fumbling for weeks trying to catch that moment if we weren’t looking directly into the camera viewfinder. “Has that got my score?” players would ask. “No, you just took a picture of the hipster bar’s fan-made poster of Rocksteady and Be-Bop confessing they secretly love turtles.” “How many points is that worth?” The answer is 4.5, but only in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan rankings.

My love and I decided to respect the concept of the selfie. We’d put a hand or thumb or something into the pictures too, although we always used one of our own. But in the main I tried to respect the integrity of something called a Selfie League and take actual selfies with my pinball scores. After all, there’s good reason to have yourself in the picture with your score. It lets the league organizer know if you’re a playing vampire, and so wouldn’t be able to make it to playoffs before dusk. I’m assuming vampires don’t show up in photographs. It seems like something that would fit with the not-appearing-in-mirrors business. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they just made that up for the movies anyway. I guess vampires would have to just coordinate these things with their league president.

As said I’ve never been much for taking pictures with me, or any identifiable human being, in them. I’ve photographed statues of people like Benjamin Franklin, such as Alexander Hamilton, that didn’t even have the statue in them. And the history of photographs of me hasn’t been promising. Every picture of me used to look like a dough-filled guy who dressed himself just ripped out of bed and posed in front of something. Unless I was trying to not look asleep, in which case I look like a dough-filled guy who dressed himself just ripped out of bed and with my toes set on fire.

But since those days I’ve lost a lot of weight. And I’ve internalized my love’s advice on how to dress so I look less bad. (I have to not pick out the clothes that I would pick out to wear. Yes, there’s a logical paradox here. Isn’t that a merry bit of fun? To resolve it I have to start picking my clothes out early. Usually as early as 8:30 pm two nights prior. And I still come out with “maybe the green shirt that hasn’t got any holes visible from under my not-really-a-hoodie thing?”) And it’s produced dramatic improvements in how I get photographed. I mean improvements for me.

Because I’m pretty sure the ideal for this would be a picture of me standing beside a good game score and smiling. At least grinning. Not what I do manage, which is to be just far enough off-center that I appear to be creeping up on what’s otherwise a fair enough score on Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. Or hanging around acting suspicious around a respectable score on Game Of Thrones: Not Subtitled The Pinball Adventure. Or, worse, looking on in despair at a score of Lord of the Rings: Not Every Pinball Machine Is Actually A Licensed Tie-In To Something Although It Does Seem Like It Anymore. “Oh, don’t cry,” I can imagine other people in the Selfie League saying. “64 million isn’t so abominable a score, given that you probably had somewhere else to be. You are going to go back and try again, right?”

I don’t know. I do like the pinball side of this but having a whole bunch of pictures of me hanging around is suspicious. There might be something better to try.

The Autocomplete Wonder


how to tell someone you're a... autocompletes to: angry, a virgin, a vegetarian, an atheist, anorexic, or a vampire.
I’m also surprised it takes any particular effort to tell someone you’re a vegetarian, when you could give it away by just admitting that you’re tired of having bacon made a new topping layer on every product, including wide-screen TVs, campaign flyers, and streaming video services.

I honestly did not realize there were enough people trying to break news of their vampire-ness to other people that it should be one of the top autocomplete results to “how to tell someone you’re a”. I choose to imagine most people being told this say, “Oh, you sweet dear, we knew long ago. … How? Well, the fangs, the long cape, the Transylvanian castle you had transplanted brick-by-brick here to Mantoloking, New Jersey. They mean things.”