60s Popeye: Popeye Revere, a title that makes me remember the cartoon wrong


A confession to a cultural blind spot: I’ve never actually read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about Paul Revere. I know chunks of it, mostly because of cartoons quoting it, sometimes at what seems to be great length. This is one of those cartoons. Thanks to it, I feel like I know enough of the original I don’t have to know the original. There are a bunch of movies I know I’ll never watch either because SCTV gave me the essentials. That’s right, Humoresque, I don’t care if you’re showing in TCM or not! So there!

This is another Jack Kinney-produced cartoon. The story’s by Noel Tucker and the animation director Ken Hultgren. Here’s 1960’s Popeye Revere.

Some of these cartoons I remember nothing about. Some are seared into my memory. This was one I thought was seared in, largely by Popeye adapting Longfellow’s words. Who could forget about the chance “to hear// of the midnight ride of Popeye Revere”? Me, apparently, since that’s not what Popeye says. It’s Poopdeck Revere, everywhere except in the title of the cartoon. Why did the cartoon not have the correct name? What were you afraid of, Jack Kinney?

Which gets at my other question: why is Poopdeck Pappy in this? Were they worried it would confuse viewers to have Popeye-Narrator and Popeye-Revere both talking? In other tell-Swee’Pea-a-story cartoons Popeye gets cast as the male hero. Real Popeye does more narration this time than usual, yes. I think he says “to every Middlesex village and farm” at least eighteen times over the course of two minutes.

I’m not opposed to Poopdeck, mind. He’s a fun character. He can take the little-stinker roles Popeye evolved out of. But it’s not like Paul Revere is a little-stinker character. So why this choice?

Animation frame showing Poopdeck Pappy (dressed as Paul Revere) leaping handily over a barrel rolling toward him.
200 points!

The big addition to Longfellow’s poem, I assume, is Brutus as a Tory trying to stop Poopdeck’s ride. Brutus throwing barrels at Poopdeck, which he leaps over, reminded me “wasn’t there something about Donkey Kong starting out as a Popeye video game?” It’s more complicated than that but, yeah, the path to Donkey Kong included an attempted Popeye license. This is probably coincidence, though. The molasses, or as they spell it molassas, does give the cartoon a punch line.

There’s not much standing out in the animation here. There is one neat little effect, as Poopdeck rides and calls to every middlesex village and farm. As he turns side to side his figure grows larger and smaller. It’s a nice addition of life to a basic cycle.

Animation frame showing Poopdeck Pappy (dressed as Paul Revere) partly behind the barrel rolling toward him. His hand might be in front of the barrel; the animation cels are ambiguously placed. In any case it's too late for him to jump over the barrel, except by virtue of an animation error.
OK this looks bad but you actually want it, because it times-in a collision-detection glitch that gives you a frame clipping in your GPU that Metroids your gigablorpz. I don’t know how video game speedrunning works.

Swee’Pea seems to have an attitude about hearing all this stuff regarding Poopdeck Revere. At one point he holds up a sign, ‘PURE CORN’, for the audience. It seems like a cheap thrill, and an insincere one. (It’s your cartoon, after all. If you don’t like it, why didn’t you make a better one?) But then remember the opening of the tell-me-a-story frame. Swee’Pea asked if Paul Revere’s ride really went like that in the poem. And Popeye goes ahead and basically re-reads the poem, just with slight recasting. I understand Swee’Pea feeling caught in this fix.

A very little video game I remember from the 80s


You know something I got with some pack of cracked 80s video games? A Smurfs game. I’m not sure what genre it was. It was like a platformer, except that nothing happened. All that you had to do was not step on a dangerous spot. The thing was, the cracked version had this thing where you could turn off one or both of the sprites that made up Generic Smurf. One of those sprites was the upper half of his body, and the other the lower half. So if you turned off the lower half of his body, you wouldn’t ever hit the dangerous spots. You could just have the torso and arms and head of Generic Smurf floating over very many slightly different terrains, all while the tra-laaaaaa-lala-lala song plays over and over and over again, until you go mad.

My Extremely Rare Idea For A Video Game People Might Want To Play


Okay, so how about Oregon Trail, only for finding the Northwest Passage? Like, you pick an era of exploration, and what kind of ship and what sorts of crew, and how much you want to invest in stocks to search overland and over ice? And you make decisions about what currents to follow and when to keep poking into a bay and when to give up a path as probably useless? And trying to figure out which is just an estuary and which is a major river and where portages would be useful? Also so that you don’t go in knowing that there’s no finding one you have to go searching the shore of a procedurally generated Canada?

Yes, a good idea, sure. But mostly I say this because I want to get the concept of the “procedurally generated Canada” out there. Isn’t that a great notion? Sure. Just imagine a world where Montreal isn’t an inevitability but must instead come about by a lucky result on a random number generator. What about a Prince Edward Island tucked right in the middle of Baffin Bay? Ooh, there must be the chance there’d be, like, four Albertas, one right after the other, surrounding Labrador like it was ganging up on Saint Pierre and Miquelon? And wouldn’t it be something if the Saint Lawrence River led directly to — let’s say something hilarious here — Edmonton or maybe Churchill? A Toronto that’s balanced on top of Vancouver? And underneath a second Vancouver? Yes, this is a thing we should have. You’re very welcome.

While Waiting At Rite-Aid For Fifteen Minutes After The Flu Shot


They used to have a TV set here, didn’t they? Little thing here in the seating area outside the vaccination room. I remember they were always showing that afternoon chat show. You know. Four Women Excited That Bradley Cooper Will Be Stopping By Later. He’s never with the four women excited. He’s always supposed to be on a later segment, or maybe later this week, or maybe next week. No idea why they’d take out the TV set. People would watch that. Maybe Bradley Cooper finally stopped by and they’re retooling the show. Four Women Excited That Idris Elba Will Be Stopping By Later would have to be at least as popular, I’d think. No reason to take the set out.

Boy even for a free “health magazine” that’s all advertisements for prescription drugs this “health magazine” has a lot of advertisements for prescription drugs. Great set of tips for people buying sunglasses in October. I guess four sentences is enough for people doing that. We’re just going to have a hazy cloudy cover through to about April anyway and nobody sells cloudglasses worth anything these days.

Got to be something else here. Wonder what the Wi-Fi password is. ‘riteaid’? … no. ‘RiteAid’? … no. ‘Rite_Aid’? … no. They say there’s Wi-Fi in the store, why don’t they tell us what … it can’t be ‘password’, can it? While it can be, it is not. Good to have that sorted out.

Well, I can wander around some. If I collapse in the store they’ll send someone around to smoosh a mop against me. Hey, one of those Classic Video Game units-in-one thingies. Those are tempting. What do they have for the Atari? Oh, Tank. Tank II. SuperTank. Color SuperTank. Hm. Why don’t they ever have the god-awful games like E.T. or Superman? I bet they’re way less totally unplayable now that I have motor control and can read the eight-page instruction book. I’m in practice from all those grand strategy games. They have, like, an eighty-page instruction book that explains you can start a trade with another nation by clicking on the ‘diplomacy’ tab and clicking the ‘start trade’ button. They never explain whether putting a pile of rare earth metals on your side means you’re offering a pile of rare earth metals or whether you’re asking for them. So there’s never any guessing why your deal is getting rejected, until you give up even trying. Oh, Pong II. Hey, I remember that time at that boring con the only thing to do was play with this thing in the video game room. There was that whole baseball game where I never had any idea whether I was batting or pitching. And I drew a crowd of appreciative watchers, none of whom could tell either. We had similar results with the football game. And the guy who owned it asked if I wanted to take it home and I didn’t realize he was trying to give it away. It was easier playing games as a kid. You just argued with your siblings over whose turn it was, and punched. Didn’t even need the game.

“Now Better Crunch! Easier To Bite!” That’s a heck of a claim there, pack of granola bars. I bet they did it a chintzy way. I bet they nerfed the granola bars’s mouth-evasion AI. That’ll be convenient in some ways, I guess. I’ve had enough granola bars leap away from my lips and into my forehead, my left kneecap, into the mantle clock, over to the squirrel feeder. Too many light snacks have been ruined by my needing to disguise my mouth behind something that doesn’t trigger the granola bar’s fears. Maybe a picture of John Harvey Kellogg. Maybe a TV showing Four Women Excited That Chris Pratt Will Be Stopping By Later.

Ah, the local alt-weekly, that’s something. So … OK, why is the City of Lansing holding a tender to buy Harley-Davidsons? The city dates to 1847. It’s too old for this sort of midlife crisis. Oh, good, Dave still has his Reasonable Lawn-Mowing service going. Far better than those people who charge, like, four hundred thousand dollars and mow the lawn by beating it with an unchewable granola bar.

Maybe the password is “RiteAid” followed by whatever the store number is.

OK, what time is it? I should be able to leave in … thirteen minutes.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose a point just to see what all the noise up there was about. (It was an accident. They didn’t know their subwoofer was turned all the way up.)

134

Dirty Words At Work


A friend was talking about some Spider-Man video game he’d played as a kid. There was a screen where you could enter cheat codes. If you entered something that wasn’t a cheat code, mostly, the game just ignored it. But if you entered a cuss word or something else dirty or sexual or racist or something Spider-Man would come out and whap your entry. So the game turned into one of testing out every possible word to see what would be objectionable. It’s possible there was no actual Spider-Man game and kids were just entertained trying to figure out what wasn’t allowed as a cheat-code word.

It’s got me realizing that someone had the job of making a list of all the words deserving of a Spider-whapping. Maybe not at the game maker’s, maybe they grabbed the list from some industry-standard list. But that just moves the list-making. Somebody had the job of compiling a list of all the words kids might reasonably enter into a game and that they shouldn’t be doing. And I bet it wasn’t just one person either, because who knows every sexist or homophobic or racist term out there? You need to pool experiences to get something close to full coverage. There had to be meetings of people working out this list of offensive terms. And somebody deciding whether a word really was a common and offensive enough term to include in the list.

And then they had to do all this without breaking the rules about appropriate office discussion or creating a hostile work environment. And that’s got me boggled. It almost seems easier to just not let people cheat on their Spider-Man games.

(I’m kidding. I know tech companies don’t have any rules about appropriate office discussions and require the work environments to be hostile. But imagine if it were another way! How would they get things done?)

Oh, *Honestly*, Grand Strategy Games


From the tutorial for March of the Eagles, a variant on Europa Universalis III that skips Ancient Rome and is all about the Napoleonic Wars, which I picked up because it was really cheap and why not?

It's a tutorial, and yet a box that says what you're doing is obscured by other boxes. Wild stuff, huh? Yeah, this was totally not a phoned-in daily entry.
I’m not sure what idea it is I’m even picking here, although I had clicked on “Naval Movement Ideas”, so I imagine it’s some national- and era-appropriate idea for the Royal Navy, like maybe having ships that move or something. Still, at least it has a nice reassuring ! to fill right margin.

So I expect the box there with the ‘OK’ button is supposed to be double-checking you really want to do this (which is pick a National Idea that gives you some benefits). But it’s hidden by the List of Ideas, which can’t be minimized or closed, and it can’t be brought in front of the List Of Ideas, and, oh, I don’t know. I guess that’s a picture of a guy with a bandage around his head on the top bar there, with a 0.88 underneath it, and not a water balloon being filled from a tap.

If you need me I’ll be over in Roller Coaster Tycoon III Platinum.

Why Grand Strategy Games Take Seven Freaking Years To Learn How To Play


From about the second tutorial screen to Europa Universalis: Rome, a grand strategy game variant I bought when it was on sale and only just got around to now that I got the mothership game done one time. And depending on how wide a screen you’re looking at this on it might be hard to see what I’m pointing to, so you might want to click on the image until it’s big enough you can read the text easily.

A panel tries to explain the menu bar items. There's four items in a vertical list, and they're connected to the horizontally-arranged items by thin white lines, most of which intersect each other. And the lines don't end at the correct points on the menu bar. Three of them point to *other* menu bar items not matching what's described in text.
I’m sure the interface won’t be any harder to understand than the ancient Roman calendar, in which you might specify that today was, say, the 22nd of June by declaring it was the “tenth day to the kalends of July”, or how you’d say that the 12th was the “first day to the ides of June”, because the ides are the 13th in most months and the 15th in a couple of months. And sometimes they’d just throw in an extra month between the 24th and 25th of February because what the heck, why not, and I’m not even making that up.

And I am just awestruck by the multiple levels of failure involved with this screen. I would like to know how they overlooked a few ways to make this even better, such as:

  • Make the text dark grey on a slightly less dark grey background, possibly one with a lot of very dark grey cross-hatching.
  • When you pause or unpause the game, have it shriek.
  • Make the images less directly representative, like, instead of a pile of coins for the treasury and money use a pile of salt, represented by a bottle of soy sauce, which can be quite high in salt; or perhaps represent research with a plain footlong hot dog.
  • Set the screen to occasionally strobe, and in the midst of the strobing effect, have the computer grab some manner of blunt instrument and poke you in the ribs with it, then punch you.

So in summary, I would like to note that when one of the trilithons making up Stonehenge fell in 1797, a report in the Kentish Gazette placed blame for the fall on the burrowing of rabbits undermining the wonder. (Pages 39-40). Thank you.

Why Grand Strategy Games Are Thrilling


I have a deep love of grand strategy video games. Let me explain the genre. You know Sid Meier’s Civilization, possibly from the guys who spent 1993 through 1998 sitting continuously at the computer mumbling weird things about taking on the Ruso-Aztec alliance? It’s what that grew into. Civilization is still around, but it’s not nearly complicated enough a game for me. I prefer the Europa Universalis line of games, by which I mean, last week I just finished my first-ever complete game of Europa Universalis 3, a game I bought in Like 2009 and hadn’t yet understood. I did win.

Anyway. I was playing China, and along about the early 18th century came this exciting bit of pop-up news:

Spread of Discoveries: We have learned about CONNECTICUT. We must find a way to exploit this knowledge.
This is noteworthy because my China didn’t have the naval explorers to go poking around the world. Apparently someone just came up to the Imperial Mapmaker and said, “Hey, you wanna know something the rest of the world hasn’t been letting you in on? Oh, you’re going to love it. This is finally going to make sense out of those weird rumors you’ve heard about New Haven and Saybrook and fill in that gap to the west of Woonsocket!” … … I’m kidding, of course. Why would the Ming court have heard about Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at that stage in history? But, hey, access to Danbury, that’s something!

And I just haven’t stopped giggling about the potential wonders that alternate-history 1722 China hopes to find now that they’ve got an “in” with Connecticut.

In other stuff, my mathematics blog gave me reason to talk about comic strips yesterday. Also, Apparently Frank Page’s comic strip Bob The Squirrel has observed some problems similar to mine.

My Computer’s Turn


So it was in the news lately that they’ve made a computer that can beat people while playing Go. Not just anyone, I mean. Any computer can beat me playing Go, because I’m just not very good at it. My best Go move is to claim that I’m someone else until the opposing player goes off looking for the “real” Joseph Nebus.

But now they’ve got it so the computer can play Go better than even professional Go players can. That’s taken a while to get here. I remember when we finally got computers that could play chess better than any humans. I guess there must’ve been a time computers were no good at checkers or backgammon or whatever, but you never hear about that. I know I go out of my way to avoid hearing about backgammon.

I’m glad we’re getting computers that can play games, though. I’ve got some video games I’ve never been able to make sense of. I’m thinking here of Supreme Ruler: Cold War, which is this incredibly complicated and detailed grand strategy game where you can play any country in the world from 1949. There’s no useful manual, and the wiki describing how to play it is about four pages, all referring to broken-link images. It’s barely possible to work out what you can do with the game. I’ll be glad to turn it over to a computer and not have to slog through trying to make it do anything on purpose anymore.

Obviously we’re nowhere near the time when computers can play all our games for us. But at least now we don’t have to play Go anymore. Dad, I’m sorry for all the Go players I’ve sent in your direction over the years. Apparently it won’t happen again, though.

Dug It


I got to looking up the early-80s video game Dig Dug, which taught me how to better my enemies by wielding a bicycle pump at them, which has never worked for me. I’ve never got past the third board in the game, and a bicycle pump has done even worse at fending off my enemies in real life. But StrategyWiki delighted me by not just being able to tell me the names all the things in it, and revealing that among the “bonus vegetables” that pop up if you do far better than I have ever done are eggplants, pineapples, garlic, Galaxian, and green peppers, is that Dig Dug himself has a proper name and it isn’t “Mr Dug”.

Apparently his proper name is Taizo Hori, and he’s the father of “Mr Driller”, famed star of the Mr Driller series of video games that I never heard of before this. I don’t know why Mr Driller changed his family name. Maybe Taizo’s wife kept her maiden name, or they didn’t marry at all. Maybe Mr Driller wanted to get away from having a name that’s a Japanese pun, which it turns out his dad’s name is. “Horitai zo” apparently means “I want to dig”, although I’m not sure changing your name from “I Want To Dig” to “Mr Digger” isn’t just a lateral move, like going from “Mr Shepherd” to “Mr Fellow With A Keen Interest In Organizing Groups Of Sheep”. Obviously there are parts of the psychology of the Dig Dug universe that I don’t adequately understand.

It also turns out there’s backstory to Dig Dug that explains Taizo is digging around his own vegetable patch, which is why vegetables turn up, and it’s being invaded by those critters which is why he’s trying to blow them up, and now I kind of want to look up an explanation for how the Burger Time universe came to be, but I’m also afraid of finding out. I’ve almost gotten to the third board in that.

Also, garlic is a vegetable? I guess I can accept it as a vegetable. I suppose I didn’t have a clear notion of what it was, besides one of those things that comes chopped up in a bottle and that I put too much of on my burger. All right, so it’s a vegetable, then.

As Ever, Y’know, The Heck?


I am all but certain there was a time in my life when I could look at a sign and not feel helpless before the questions it posed, but now, I realize I can’t even look around one of those sad little minor arcades tucked in the far back section of the Cedar Point amusement park without noticing something like this “Guide To Coin-Operated Video Games”, and the description of game content. Particularly, there’s this pair at the bottom:

Language Mild: Contains commonly used four-letter words, presumably of the milder variety.
A guide to coin-operated video games posted at one of the minor arcades in the western-themed area of Cedar Point. And isn’t it charming they don’t just say “cuss words” instead?

LANGUAGE
MILD
Contains commonly used four-letter words.
LANGUAGE
STRONG
Contains strong four-letter expletives.

What do they mean by “commonly used four-letter words”? Since it’s “mild” language that suggests they mean words such as “word” and “four” and “used” and “mild” and maybe even “blue”, “them”, “malt”, “thaw”, “ever”, “pear”, or the mildest of all mild words, “chat”, a word so mild it only becomes enraging because anyone asking for a “chat” with you is transparently trying to manage you to becoming angry at someone other than them, the person you should be angry at.

And by pinning down the red-zone warning words to “strong four-letter expletives” they seem to be ruling out all cases where you take a popular strong expletive and turn it, say, into an adjective or adverbial form, or maybe where you insert it into the middle of some other word like “absolutely”. But also if they mean this then how do they qualify the phrase “h-e-double-toothpicks”, which is nineteen letters but so mild that you can say it anywhere that hasn’t been ravaged by controversy over the toothpick industry? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

Five Nights At Game Informer


Maybe you’ve heard about Five Nights At Freddy’s. I’m dimly aware of it myself. It’s a new horror game that’s based on everyone’s inherent love of being freaked out by Chuck-E-Cheeses, and apparently it’s sufficiently horrifying that my love has had nightmares about the game without ever having played it, inspired just by reading an article about how it isn’t a real horror game because all it does is scare you a lot. (I feel like I didn’t understand the thesis quite right.)

Anyway. This month’s Game Informer magazine just arrived, and it’s titled “The Horror Issue”, featuring your classic cover of Black Thing With A Couple Less Black But Still Pretty Dark Spots In It That I Guess Is The Monster From Aliens in it. Naturally we checked to see if they had anything about Five Nights At Freddy’s.

They don’t. Apparently, Game Informer‘s Horror Issue went to press just in time to miss this year’s big striking horror game that people can’t stop talking about. That’s got to be the Game Informer‘s editors’ worst nightmare, hasn’t it?

So, well played, Five Nights company, well played.

From The Technology Centers That Brought You Towels


I don’t want to alarm anyone but I have seen on the labels of a towel at a Holiday Inn the notice that it was part of the Holiday Inn Bath Collection, Patent Pending. There’s at minimum two things to wonder about in that fact. The first is that the Holiday Inn corporation believes it has somehow made an advancement in the technology of towels sufficient to be considered for a patent. The other is that apparently I am content to read the towel labels at a Holiday Inn. I have no excuse for this behavior. I’m sorry to have to make you all aware of it.

What would a towel technological innovation even be, though? I’m trying to picture it as I understand all technological developments by picturing how it would be explained in a little pop-up window in Sid Meier’s Civilization II, and it seems like towels have to fit in somewhere after “Mysticism” but before “Robotics”. But then we in the real world already have robots and Holiday Inn is putting forth more towel developments. So it’s not a perfect understanding, I guess, but it’s what I have.

Whatever happened to Coleco


A big part in the history of any business is when it figures to diversity, because that’s where everything gets really screwed up. The case example of this is Coleco, which started out making stuff for doing things with leather, and concluded that to be really successful it needed shoe-makers to be able to be able to install in-ground swimming pools, always a sign of moving upscale in the neighborhood. But to be able to support the new in-ground pool ventures it had to move into making video games so that people would have blinky, button-y things to occupy themselves with while beside the pool. This forced the company into the line of making computer hardware since without the hardware the video games were just, in those days, illegally copied discs accompanied by magazined that insisted you needed to know BASIC for some reason. This forced another diversification as Coleco needed its employees to be properly outfitted for clean-room operations, and to be properly outfitted they needed sharp shoes. This forced them right back into the business of making tools for leather workers. The company vanished in a recursive loop in 1987 and was never heard from again.