What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? May – July 2017


Hi, readers of Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s weekday-continuity The Phantom. This is an essay meant to help you catch up on what’s happened in the strip through to late July, 2017. If it’s not close to late July, 2017, for you, the story might have progressed or a new story begun. I’ll try to have more recent essays that bring you up to date at this link. There’s also a separate, independent, Sunday continuity for the comic strip. That one’s written by Tony DePaul also, but is drawn by Terry Beatty. I’ll also have updates on that continuity, sometime soon.

And if you’re interested in comic strips plucked entirely out of continuity, my mathematics blog discusses comics with mathematical themes, and had a fresh post about that mere hours ago. Please read and enjoy, if you think that’s plausible.

The Phantom

8 May – 29 July 2017

Our last check on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, was about six weeks into The Curse Of Old Man Mozz. The Phantom, 21st Ghost Who Walks, had been so busy clobbering low-level thugs that he barely noticed Old Man Mozz was on the brink of death. His wife, Diana Walker Phantom, investigates. Mozz has been in a series of physically and mentally taxing trances, forseeing …

She’s coy about it, but it’s the death of the current Phantom. In a factory that’s by a charming scenic water wheel, a “weak man” with one of the most punchable faces in the comics will “strike from hiding”, killing the 21st Phantom, shooting him from behind. Mozz promises that this is destiny and no one can save The Phantom. Diana figures she can maybe do something about that. If there’s one thing that’s always avertible, after all, it’s destiny, because we don’t know what the word means.

How To Save The Phantom. Mozz: 'Say NOTHING!' Diana: 'Save his life by doing nothing? NO!' Guran: 'Mozz is right! The DEATH Mozz saw may be the RESULT of us warning the Phantom!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 24th of May, 2017. So, my Rosencranz-and-Guildenstern fanfic for this: one of the other villagers has a vision where Mozz, Guran, and Diana Walker get into an irresolvable squabble about whether Mozz’s vision is a result of warning the Phantom or not warning him, and they have to debate whether to tell Mozz what will happen if he lets his vision be known to anybody else. And then they have to go back in time and prevent the vision from ever being assimilated by the Borg.

But Mozz goes along with it. He decrees that maybe the vision of The Phantom being ambushed was caused by some well-meaning member of his support team warning him. So in a critical moment he would be thinking “is this the critical moment” instead of reacting. Diana is unimpressed by whatever the heck the rules of prophecy are in this story, but chickens out of telling him. Nevertheless, she’s plagued with doubts, and goes to the Whispering Grove, home of Bangalla’s largest forest of demon-haunted trees that seem to be crying out the Phantom’s name. There she reflects how much would get screwed up if the 21st Phantom dies: not least, he’s the only person who knows exactly what strange school in the Far East Kit Walker Junior is in.

The Whispering Grove ... where wind through hollow trees makes an eerie sound. The trees, many of them looking like haunted faces, call 'phan ... tom ... phan ... tom ...' as Diana walks between them.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 12th of June, 2017. Most of The Phantom’s legend seems like the kind of stuff that would naturally grow if we allow the existence of a long-running small-family project based on heroically saving a patch of what turned out to be Africa. The forest full of jack-o-lantern trees whispering The Phantom, though, that’s hard to explain. Also not explained: are they whispering The Phantom in English or in the Bandar tongue?

She can’t stand it, and fetches The Phantom back from his mission of riding his big white horse around the jungle. And she makes Mozz tell him of the vision and his doom at the Waterwheel Factory. His team encourages him to take a pass for a couple weeks, wait out the current crisis and then get back to his world-saving duties. Mozz paints a solidly egotistical picture of this, arguing that The Phantom ought to be killed by some great monster like Chatu. Not by some drip who wears an orange shirt with green stars on it and a vest that looks like it ought to be a Home Depot apron but somehow isn’t. Walker thinks it over and decides no thinking necessary. Ghosts Who Walk just don’t ditch their job that way.

Mozz narrates his vision: 'Felled by no great enemy! A common COWARD! Your thoughts are of THE NOMAD! Of CHATU THE PYTHON! TRUE EVIL you leave to the 22nd PHANTOM!' Describing The Phantom laying, dead, as the common-coward cries with joy.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 6th of July, 2017. The great unasked follow-up question: “wait, so, Mozz, in your visions you can read my mind? Or are you just taking a fair guess based on what you know about me? Because, have to say, there are some serious privacy concerns here, even putting aside the whole death-at-a-coward’s-hand thing. For one, how far before the moment of my death does your mind-reading ability extend? Do you know what I’m thinking of when I think about Jamie?!”

The Phantom rides his horse to Destiny Date Road, where he finds a truck hauling guns to the Waterwheel Factory. He sends his hose off, riderless, to stop the truck. One of the thugs has always wanted a horsey just like this and Phantom Horse is happy to play along enough for The Phantom to clobber them and take the truck. It’ll be a way into the Waterwheel Factory.

Thug, swinging his gun around randomly in the dark, beside The Phantom's horse. 'All right! Hey, uh ... HA! Pretty good TRICK with the HORSE! Who are ya? I'll, uh ... you know! Hey, I'll SHOOT HIM [the horse], man!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 20th of July, 2017. There is something comforting in knowing that however close The Ghost Who Walks might be to his death, low-level minions at the Thug Factory are still going to be in completely over their heads.

The envisioned killer’s scouted out the waterwheel and figured it’d be a great spot to ambush somebody from, just in case. He’s thinking how awesome it will be to kill The Phantom and can’t imagine any way that any of this could go wrong in the slightest, so that’s good for him.

The summary sounds sparse, but that’s because this is a plot summary. Much of what’s gone on has been atmosphere or self-inquiry. Particularly, Diana spent a good while tormented by the question of what she could do to prevent her husband’s getting killed. This included a couple gripping sequences, including her sitting in the Whispering Grove, or enduring nightmares based on her knowledge. That all condenses out of a couple paragraphs about the events of the story, though.

As I’d said recently, I won’t be making guesses about whether The Current Phantom dies this story. Either outcome is properly foreshadowed and set up. Either would be a logical outcome, and it’s doing pretty well to have such a believable ambiguity this far into a story.

Next Week: I change up the order of these strip recaps a bit and return to the time of King Arthur, with a check on Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose three points today to make its third day out of the last four spent at 331, which is a little weird. Also nobody’s seen Lisa since she said she was putting together that Tiny McMansions pilot episode. These are unrelated problems.

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What’s Going On In Alley Oop? May 2017 – July 2017


Thanks for trying to work out what’s going on in Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop. I’m writing this in mid-July 2017. If it’s a lot later than July 2017, the story might have moved on, although I admit right now that’s not looking very likely. There might have been enough story development that this stuff isn’t useful anymore. If I’ve written a fresh follow-up since this essay, it should be at or near the top of this page. Let me know if you don’t see something and if the story has got so baffling you need an update.

And before I continue may I point out that on my other blog, I talk about whatever comic strips the past week touched on some mathematics subject. These are almost never story strips, but that’s all right. There’s interesting stuff brought up by them. Also, this week it features bunnies wearing eyeglasses, although not as well as they could.

Alley Oop

1 May – 22 July 2017

The current storyline in Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop started sometime in October of last year. The end of April and my last update of the strip coincided with what looked like the end of the story. Volzon, an alien plant-frog-guy with a mind-control ray gun, had been foiled in his attempts to colonize prehistoric Earth. It turns out dinosaurs, like Dinny the brontosaurus, aren’t subject to alien mind-control rays and don’t see any reason they couldn’t eat invading alien spaceships. Good stuff to know.

Alley Oop, knowing a loose end when he sees it, tosses the remains of Volzon’s mind-control gun out of Moo, and rejoins the quest for food and whatnot. King Guz, reasonably annoyed at yet another attempt to overthrow Moo, starts talking crazy about building a dome that will keep invading aliens out. Alley Oop reminds him that just because someone has an idea doesn’t mean that idea isn’t incredibly stupid. And he soothes the mind-control-wary Moovians. Even if Volzon or another Jantrullian return, it’s not like dinosaurs are going to vanish from the face of the Earth.

Tunk, examining the mind ray: 'There are some strings inside this thing.' Lemmian: 'Whatcha got, King Tunk?' Tunk: 'I'm not sure yet, but once I join these strings back together, I'll be able to tell what this thing is!' He gets zapped. Queen Loola: 'Am I imagining things, or is that my husband I see? It's about time you came home, Tunk!' Tunk: 'Quiet, dear, I'm concentrating!' Loola: 'You're concentrating? On what?' Tunk: 'I found a very delicate piece of equipment that needs to be repaired!' Loola: 'Hmmm... What is it?' Tunk: '(Sigh) I don't know yet!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 21st of May, 2017. A couple notes about the art. First, I like the composition of the first panel, bottom row, close-up on the mind-control ray gun and with the characters receding behind it. It’s the sort of composition I’d use for a dramatic picture. Second: I really like Queen Loola’s ‘Hmmmm’ drifting into smaller and smaller characters. These days the use of computer-typeset letters seems common, and I understand why. But that does seem to discourage cartoonists using varied sizes to emphasize tone and pacing of dialogue and that is a loss. I’m glad to see size used.

This fine example of dramatic irony gets a little bit weirder when you remember the premise of the comic strip. Alley Oop is a time traveller. He’s been, repeatedly, to the present day and knows that dinosaurs do vanish. On the other hand, he also knows the Jantrullians don’t manage to conquer the Earth, not before about 2016 anyway. (I don’t know if he’s ever been to our future.) I’m not sure how wry this is all supposed to be.

Meanwhile in the loose end, it turns out Alley Oop threw the remains of Volzon’s mind-control gun all the way into Lem, where King Tunk found it. As he only just got in the story he doesn’t know what it is or what it should do, but he can tell these are a bunch of sparky wires that got ripped apart. He figures he could twist the wires back together, cover them with tar, and wrap the whole remains of the gun in a palm leaf and maybe then it’ll work again. I admire his ingenuity and his success. I mean, I’ve needed the help of the car care place down the street just to take off my license plate holder. Twice. He’s fixing up an alien mind-control gun using sticks and leaves.

King Tunk, thinking how to repair the ray gun: 'Let's see - I need something sticky t'glue these things together! Hmm ... I've got it! Th'tar pit!' (He runs to the tar pit) 'This should do it! There's nothing stickier than this tar!' (He glues the ray gun together, and wraps it in a leaf.) 'Maybe once those strings are coated with this goo, they won't shock me anymore! I guess I'll just hafta settle for making a skin for this thing to cover up that hole! The tar should keep it secured. Not bad! Now it's time to figure out what this thing can do!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 4th of June, 2017. Seriously, folks, give it up to King Tunk and his hacking skills. This is a great bit of problem-solving and thinking outside of the box by someone who lives tens of thousands of years before boxes were invented. Think what this guy could do at your town’s Maker Faire.

At least he’s trying to. He tromps into Moo with the repaired gadget, accusing King Guz of designing a weapon to attack Lem. His attempt to use it backfires, leaving him in a dazed and suggestive state. King Guz sees an opportunity, figuring “I think it’s high time Tunk did something good with his life”. This serves as a reminder that there are people who can’t be trusted with mind-control technology, and that would be pretty much “people who’d use it on the unsuspecting”. And I’m not sure it should be trusted to people who’d volunteer to have it be used on either. I get the idea, but there’s such major issues about consent and the respect of personal autonomy that I can’t see a way around it.

King Tunk: 'You designed this weapon [ the ray gun ] to attack Lem!' King Guz: 'You're crazy! I didn't make any weapon!' Tunk: 'Let's see what it can do!' Alley Oop: 'Noooo! STOP! Quick, Guz, shield your eyes!' The gun shoots out a fizzly bunch of lines that boomerang back at Tunk. Tunk: 'What's goin' on with this thing? Is this what this thing's supposed t'do? I'm ... ' And he falls over, wide-eyed and staring vacantly.
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 9th of July, 2017. I didn’t realize until this point that all the plot-representative strips were from King Tunk’s storyline, with nothing about Alley Oop trying to talk King Guz out of building a stupid dome and promising that nothing bad can happen to Earth as long as there are dinosaurs. Well, all right. Again, have to give it up for King Tunk that the mind-control ray gun is working at all he repaired its dinosaur-chewing damage using tar and leaves. Also have to give it up for Jantrullian technology that the thing can be repaired in the field so easily. I bet Volzon would feel the right fool that it ran off so fast.

Anyway, this storyline keeps puttering on at the lethargic pace of a strip that makes sure the Sunday strip contains all the plot of the six weekdays around it. I would have bet the mind-control ray story was over with the end of April, so I’m not going to make guesses about when this story will end. There’ve been some teases that King Tunk needs to learn about working with people, and maybe that’s where the mind-control gun is going. We shall see, I assume.


Next week: News about Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom. The weekdays storyline, not the production of the comic strip.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose — wait, this can’t be right. OK, it’s what everybody is saying, anyway. All right. The index rose 36 freaking points during the day, blasting way past the 300 margin and raising questions about whether the whole project is properly ballasted or what. I’m skeptical. Not looking to cause trouble but I’m not one of those people cranky about how they didn’t buy when it was at 80 or that did sell when it was at 256 because whatever this is, it’s not right.

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Phantom Enjoys Daring Last-Minute Escape From Certain Doom


Tony DePaul, writer for The Phantom, was kind enough to stop in and give news about his strip.

The news is that he and King Features Syndicate have reached an agreement about the rights to the stories he’d produced for the comic since 1999. And they have an agreement to have him keep writing as long as both sides are happy with the way things are working. The breakthrough apparently grew over June, after he’d announced the intention to leave. King Features’ general manager for syndication, who hadn’t been directly involved in negotiations, asked for an informal meeting to see what could be done, and after — well, suppose it can’t have been more than a month of talks, yes, something could be done. And just in time, too; DePaul says Jeff Weigel, the Sunday artist, had just run out of story to draw. Mike Manley, the weekdays artist, had about six weeks of story yet.

I’m glad, certainly. The Phantom‘s been reliably interesting and who would want that messed up? Also the hint about how long the current Sunday storyline has to run confirms my resolve to change some of my “What’s Going On In” schedule. I’d been thinking to separate the weekday and the Sunday summaries for better pacing. Moving the next Sundays recap to closer to the end of the current storyline suits me. I was also thinking to move around some of the other strip recaps. I’d set the order without any plan, and I’d like to break up what seem like blocks of too-similar comics.

DePaul teases the idea that the current daily storyline will end in the death of the current Phantom, especially in saying how the story “would have been a superb sign-off to my Phantom career” and describes just how screwed up things would be if the 21st Phantom were to die just now. Me, I’m not making guesses. While the narrative would fully justify the current Phantom’s death this year, escaping certain death is just what superheroes are all about.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose an astounding fourteen points after looking up the lyrics and finding that the karaoke machine had it right. There is a bit in “I Just Called To Say I Love You” that goes “no Libra sun”, and hey, there’s this whole stanza that just goes through the months, one at a time, and counts Libra for September which is fair enough, although is there really anything distinctive about September’s sun? Granted that April is the cruelest month, what is September? The snarkiest month? When it’s up against November? No, that doesn’t make sense.

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What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? April – July 2017


Thanks for finding my little attempt to explain the goings-on in Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man comic strip. All this explains what’s been going on through to about the middle of July, 2017. If it isn’t a little bit after the middle of July, 2017, this probably won’t help you much figuring out where we’ve got to. If I’ve written a new update on the stories, they should be at or near the top of this page. Good luck.

The Amazing Spider-Man

24 April – 15 July 2017

I left Spider-Man in Los Angeles, at the end of Rocket Raccoon suggesting that maybe Newspaper Spidey would get to meet the Guardians of the Galaxy sometime. It’s possible. The newspaper Spider-Man is its own continuity, separate from the mainstream Marvel Univers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it is a continuity: guest characters sometimes come back after getting into new fixes that they need Peter Parker to not really do a lot about. The current story is such a case.

At their hotel Peter Parker and Mary Jane run into Aunt May, who’s taking a vacation from her work back home of being over forty thousand years old. Also Mary Jane’s Aunt Anna, who I didn’t know existed. I think she vanishes after the first week or two anyway, to my regrets. I’m going to assume a talent scout spotted her and realized she’s perfect for the lead in the dark, gritty, action-packed Mary Worth Cinematic Universe kickoff movie.

As Mary Jane spins out three anecdotes and two improvised gags on a chat show a mysterious eggplant wearing sunglasses starts hitting studio security with a stick. It’s the Mole Man, familiar to Amazing Spider-Man as the ruler of the subterranean world of … Subterranea. They were caught by surprise when someone asked the name of their land. Mole Man is also, per a story from a couple years back, a would-be suitor to Aunt May. See what I mean about continuity?

Aunt May had rejected his proposal, since as fun a date as he was they lived in separate worlds and barely knew one another and I think he met Aunt May when he was busy kidnapping her. I forget. Anyway, the separate-worlds thing might no longer be an issue because he’s been deposed. Tyrannus the Conquerer, fresh from thinking of the first name he could for who he was and what he would do, has taken over. And now Tyrannus is coming for the surface world.

Mole Man: '1600 years ago the usurper's name was AUGUSTULUS, back when he was the LAST ROMAN EMPEROR.' Petey: 'Assuming that's true - how has he LIVED so long?' 'SUBTERRANEA is home to MANY wonders, Peter Parker, as your WIFE and AUNT could tell you, having actually BEEN there! One of them is what you could call ... the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH! Having discovered it, he's had many centuries to AMASS POWER. Now he calls himself TYRANNUS and I fear he'll not be CONTENT with ruling the mere INTERIOR of this planet!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 4th of June, 2017. I am trusting this Augustulus thing is from the main comic book history and had no idea. I’ll suppose the Fountain of Youth being in Subterranea is also from the comic books, but that leaves me wondering, like, is the Mole Man also hundreds, maybe thousands of years old? Or was the fountain just hanging around waiting for a spunky young failed Roman Emperor to put it to use? Also, does this mean we should add the newspaper comic to Augustulus’s Wikipedia page as part of his Legacy?

Before anyone can ask serious questions (“Wait, to Tyrannus was the Western Roman Emperor Augustulus, deposed in 476 AD, and kept alive by the Fountain of Youth that’s in Subterranea? Is this a thing in the real comics or … the heck?”) a giant rampaging armadillo-beast breaks through the Los Angeles streets and starts rampaging, giantly. Also Mole Man says the beast’s named Lenny. Mole Man can’t bear to hurt Lenny, but Spider-Man shames him into doing something, since giant rampaging armadillo beasts seem like they’re too hard a problem for Spidey to handle. Mole Man knows how to handle Lenny: chop off some of his scale, then toss the scales down the pit he’d just dug, and Lenny follows. This works because … I’m not sure, exactly. Giant rampaging armadillo monsters can’t resist following their own scent, I guess is what they say.

Mole Man: 'You must SURRENDER me to that underground entity before he LAYS WASTE the entire city!' Spidey: 'My specialty's FIGHTING, not surrendering. Didn't it used to be YOURS as well?'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 17th of June, 2017. It’s difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t read the newspaper Spidey regularly just how humiliating it has to be for Newspaper Spider-Man to have to nudge you into action.

Spidey and the Mole Man face a giant ARMADILLOID ... Spider-Man: 'Any idea how we can send that thing PACKING?' Mole Man: 'I thought you had SPIDER-STRENGTH.' Spidey: 'I do. But then, I seem to recall that armadillos are a lot like ANTEATERS ... and anteaters EAT spiders for breakfast!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 19th of June, 2017. Now that’s more the Newspaper Spider-Man we know and love: fobbing off his job on other people and thinking about when he can get back to sitting in a dark room, moping and watching Press Your Luck reruns. Also, while I suppose Spider-Man’s paid more attention to this than I have it seems like if anteaters do eat spiders for breakfast then they’re suffering some mission creep. Just saying.

Mole Man recognizes that Lenny was sent to bring him back to Tyrannus. And while Lenny failed, Tyrannus will send more, possibly harder-to-foil monsters. He resolves to surrender himself to spare the surface world, which underscores how complete a heel-face turn he’s done in the face of Aunt May’s affections. And nothing is going to talk him out of this except if Aunt May asks him to stay and what do you know happens but? She accepts his hastily renewed marriage proposal. The gang retreats to discuss options and how Mole Man can afford to support Aunt May in the style to which she’s become accustomed and maybe next week they’ll talk about stopping Tyrannus or something.

The aftermath of the attack by a huge subterranean monster ... Mary Jane: 'Sounds like every POLICE CAR in LA is headed our way!' Mole Man: 'If they recognize me, they'll IMPRISON me and throw away the key! You see, Spider-Man? It's just as I told you. There's NO PLACE for the MOLE MAN in the outer world! I MUST go below and surrender to Tyrannus!' Spidey: 'WAIT! Maybe we can ---' Mole Man: 'NO! I will NOT stay on the surface - no matter how many times you ASK me!' Aunt May: 'Then, Melvin, what if I asked you?'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 2nd of July, 2017. I realize that Mole Man hasn’t got the highest self-esteem, what with his being a pop culture character with the name ‘Melvin’, it seems premature to say there’s no place for him in the Outer World just because the tyrant of the inner world sends monsters out to drag him back. He’s got a lot of drama surrounding himself, yes, but that’s due to other things.

Next week: Jack Binder and Carole Binder’s Alley Oop and the aftermath of the pantsless alien’s mind-control gun. And one final note for this week: if you like more talk about comic strips but would like them to be more about word problems, please consider my mathematics blog, which reviewed the past week’s syndicated comic strips with mathematics themes on Sunday. It also does this most Sundays and sometimes the odd extra day of the week, such as “Thworbsday”.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

And now the index jumped up thirty points to what’s got to be an all-time high as traders realized they’re not Belgian and don’t have to eat crickets if they don’t want to. This is just proving my point, guys, and I don’t see why you think this is anything else.

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Statistics June: Or What Was Popular Around Here


Now, finally, I’ve run out of excuses and will talk about my popularity around here as measured by WordPress’s statistics page. June was my second-most-popular month this year, based on readers. There were 2,118 page views, up from May’s 1,944 and April’s 1,765. I credit this to people wanting to understand what was going on in Judge Parker, which has seen a lot of stuff going on the past couple weeks worth keeping track of. There were 1,501 unique visitors in June, my second-best count of unique visitors ever. That’s the highest it’s been since the Apartment 3-Gocalypse, when The Onion A.V. Club casually mentioned my existence and people checked to see that I do indeed exist.

This surge in popularity did nothing about the long-term decline in the number of likes: there were only 122 of them in June, the lowest total in years. Comments were up to 19 from May’s 10, but that’s still below April’s 26 and it’s meager in any case. I need to find somebody I can banter with and force them to say something every post, I think is the problem. I am a little surprised the story comic review posts don’t inspire more responses. Maybe I’m giving off vibes that I have said everything I can imagine ever saying about Gasoline Alley so nobody feels the desire to see if I could maybe say a little more.

The most popular postings in June were all comic strip stuff:

You have no idea how much it bugs me that I took so long to decide between “What’s Going On In” and “What’s Going On With” the various story strips. I’d go back and change the inconsistent ones but I feel somehow like making a change like that now would be falsifying my historical record, unless I put in a note saying what I had changed and why, in which case I’d still see it every time. And the URLs would have the old, inconsistent titles anyway.

And as you can see, I could probably shut down everything I do around here besides the comic strip story summaries and not lose that much readership. The only original-writing piece of mine to crack the top ten was a couple words about how impractical an idea for a supervillain I had. The most popular long-form piece I wrote came in 11th, How To Program (Computers). Perhaps I do need to yield gracefully to what people are telling me they like.

So where am I getting readers from? According to WordPress my page views for June came from:

Country Views
United States 1669
India 73
Canada 53
United Kingdom 44
France 27
Australia 23
Brazil 18
Germany 14
Philippines 12
Romania 12
Russia 12
Sweden 12
Mexico 10
New Zealand 10
Austria 9
Poland 9
Kenya 7
Bangladesh 6
European Union 6
Norway 6
South Africa 6
Argentina 4
Japan 4
Portugal 4
Denmark 3
Hungary 3
Italy 3
Netherlands 3
Pakistan 3
South Korea 3
Spain 3
Thailand 3
Afghanistan 2
Chile 2
Colombia 2
Georgia 2
Indonesia 2
Jamaica 2
Nepal 2
Puerto Rico 2
Ukraine 2
Armenia 1
Belgium 1 (*)
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1
Bulgaria 1
Cambodia 1 (*)
China 1
Croatia 1
Curaçao 1
Egypt 1
Finland 1
Ghana 1
Greece 1
Iceland 1
Laos 1
Lebanon 1
Malawi 1
Malaysia 1
Mozambique 1
Nicaragua 1
Panama 1
St. Kitts and Nevis 1
Taiwan 1 (***)
Turkey 1 (*)
US Virgin Islands 1
Vietnam 1 (*)
Zambia 1

I honestly believe that to be 67 countries, up from May’s 58 and April’s 51. I also make out 26 single-reader countries, up from May’s 17 and April’s 13. Belgium, Cambodia, Turkey, and Vietnam were single-reader countries in May, also. Taiwan is on a four-month single-reader streak.

The month started at 56,793 page views, from something like 31,335 unique viewers. Sundays were the most popular day for reading around here, with 16 percent of page views coming that day. In May it was Fridays that got 16 percent of page views. That’s so close to one-seventh of the readership that I suppose it shows no date is particularly tredy around here. The most popular hour was that from 12 to 1 am, which is also the hour I set most things to post. That got in 12 percent of page view, just like in May.

I failed to check how many people were subscribed via WordPress at the start of the month. There are 744 right now, and two of them have been around fewer than eight days, but that doesn’t tell me anything about who might have unsubscribed between the 1st of July and today. It’s somewhere around 742 readers that I started the month with, anyway, up from 736 at the start of June.

If you’d like to be a subscriber, please use the blue “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” strip on the upper right of the page here. If you’d rather get this delivered by e-mail, there’s a “Follow Blog Via Email” box just underneath that. And I’m on Twitter as @nebusj if you’d find that more fun.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose nine points today when the adoptable pet of the day turned out to be two puppies even if they only had a picture of one. Traders are willing to suppose in the existence of puppies they haven’t seen. Aren’t so many of us like that?

224

In Which I’m Afraid I Just Let You All Down


I don’t mean to disappoint. It’s just that my love and I have been busy the whole last week, visiting small amusement parks and giggling at mistakes in their signs. I should say we’re not doing this maliciously. We go in expecting we’re going to have a great time, wearing the T-shirts for other small, obscure amusement parks, sometimes on other continents. And we do have a great time, because there is a real delight in a small park where they’re still going on about how they put in a frog jumper ride in 2011, and at any moment you might blink and be in the middle of a swarm of up to forty kids, some of them reaching up to the lower end of your knee, in a screaming birthday-cake riot. But the point is I haven’t had the time to write anything amusing and I apologize for that. Here’s my mathematics blog writing about comic strips yesterday. Thanks and I’ll be back to normal not tomorrow because that’s going to look at the June statistics. But sometime or other. You’ll know it when you see it.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose above 200 which is being treated as a great triumph for the long investors what with this being index territory nobody has seen in two days. Well, if it makes them happy, good. They can deal with it.

201

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? 8 April – 2 July 2017


Greetings, fans of Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker who aren’t just reading Marciuliano’s blog in the first place. If you’re interested in my working out the last couple months of plots, and it’s around July 2017 when you read this, good. Otherwise, the stories probably will have developed some. At or near the top of this link I hope to have my most recent Judge Parker recaps. Thanks, reader in the future. Good luck finding what you need.

Judge Parker.

8 April – 2 July 2017.

When I last checked in on the Parker/Spencer/Davis clan, Marciuliano had not just gotten the kidnapped Sophie Spencer back home, but her bandmates had been rescued too. They told a harrowing tale of kidnappers, a mysterious woman who sounded like Abbey, and a lot of gunshots and violent endings that would leave anyone pretty well-traumatized.

Sam Driver, having got nowhere with his Crazy Evidence Wall, chose to meet up with Totally Legitimate Non-Suspended Non-Crazy Not-An-Ex-Cop Sean Ballenger. He’s the father of one of the other kidnapped teens and wants Sam’s help finding any booby traps and remaining homicidal gunmen at the kidnappers’ hideout. On the way there Ballenger mentions that, oh yeah, he’s been suspended from the force and isn’t handling a really severe trauma any better than Sam is and oh yeah, here’s the booby traps, right where the homicidal Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey left her webcam pointed. Sam starts to suspect a trap, but Ballenger’s so enthusiastic about it he gets himself severely wounded even before the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey can shoot them.

Sean Ballenger smashes through a door. Sam: 'Ballenger, are you okay?! You really cut yourself!' Ballenger: 'Forget it! FORGET IT! Keep moving!' 'This is turning into a giant fiasco, ballenger.' 'Stay alert Just stay sharp.' 'We're walking right into a trap, Ballenger.' The Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey is vanished, disappeared through a tunnel.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 16th of April, 2017. I have to say I understand why the police put Ballenger on indefinite leave from this. Also, I like the little artistic touch of the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey not having finished her soda in the title panel there.

While Ballenger distracts the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey by bleeding profusely, Sam discovers her wall of Off-Model Spencer Family Photos, plus her time bomb. He grabs Ballenger and runs him right out into waiting police with drawn guns ordering them not to move. Sam’s not even able to explain that he’s both rich and white before the bomb explodes, destroying the compound and what’s left of Sean Ballenger’s career. With this mess on their hands the police give the whole kidnapping investigation a serious escalation, moving it into the hands of some guy with a much darker suit jacket.

Back home, Sam shares with Abbey some evidence he’d been withholding from the police. The Off-Model Spencer Family Photo he’d taken just before the bombing leads to the discovery Abbey’s father had a whole second family. It’s a good juicy bit of gossip, and a nice proper soap-opera development. It does make me wonder, though, like, was Abbey’s father already an established character back in the day? What would Nicholas P Dallis, or whatever later author introduced Abbey’s father, think of this wrinkle being added to his life? I suppose they don’t really have a say, what with being dead or retired from the strip or whatnot, and maybe they’d like having something juicy and exciting like that added to the character’s story.

Sam, to Abbey: 'I wanted to show you this first, before I showed it to the police. I found this photo of you and your dad in the kidnapper's house. Do you know who the woman is?' Abbey: 'Sam, I don't even know who this kid is!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 16th of May, 2017. By the way, has Sam got around to showing this to the police yet? I’m not sure and it’s too late in the day for me to go double-checking. Just curious. Also, belatedly but: ‘Kabrash’? Is that a Rip Haywire reference?

It makes me realize among the reasons I shouldn’t write a story comic is that I’d be afraid of breaking someone else’s universe by doing something like that. That’s not to say I think Marciuliano is breaking anything; the development’s a fine enough one. It’s about my worries about how ineptly I’d do something like this. I mean, ask me to write about the week Captain Kirk spent falsely accused of a jewel heist on Rocket Raccoon’s planet? I could probably whip that one out. Ask me to write something that changes our ideas of what drives Captain Kirk as a person? No way. Something mentioned a good deal in how-to-write texts is that there’s a certain arrogance in writing. The writer has to assume that she has something worth reading. It seems like it requires a certain greater arrogance to do your writing with someone else’s work. At least it takes self-confidence.

Sam shaves off his Crazy Beard and takes down his Crazy Evidence Wall, to restart it with a perfectly rational and appropriate thumbtacking up of the Off-Model Spencer Family Photo. And Sophie Spencer, released from full-time psychiatric care, goes to her (biological; she was adopted by Sam and Abbey) grandfather’s grave in search of reassurance. Abbey follows, and can give a hug, in a scene that is touching.

So with that done Sophie offers some more information about the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey. The Woman — named Senna Lewiston, it transpires — believed Abbey’s father was going to leave her mother and marry Senna’s mother. In revenge for the “stolen” life Senna had Sophie kidnapped and was trying to gain her sympathy and support in destroying Abbey’s life and place in life.

Sophie, to Abbey: 'But you know what the worst part is? [The Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey] almost had me believe [you had stolen her life]. She almost made me side with her and hate you. But ... I couldn't. I was confused. And I was really angry. But she never got me to hate you.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 21st of June, 2017. Part of the family-healing moments that make for the resolution, at least for now, of this broad and dangerous kidnapping scheme that marked the complete upending of the strip when Marciuliano took over writing. You know, I’m cool with Rip Haywire references. It’s a pretty fun comic even if the mandatory pop culture reference each panel get tiring and I honestly can’t tell if they’re rerunning comics or doing a variation on the Catpocalypse story. I’m just curious is all.

Meanwhile, one can’t help but notice we haven’t actually seen the body of the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey. So, you know, soap opera rules. Plus, Senna Lewiston, the police had worked out, somehow bought the kidnapping compound in cash, despite the lack of visible means of supporting massively complicated, expensive revenge schemes. How to explain this? Good question and possibly related to a plot thread that’s been dormant for months, possibly since Marciuliano took over the strip last fall. April Parker, wife of the current Judge Randy Parker, and sometime CIA … person, was sent off on a mission to one of those foreign countries the CIA is always sending people off to in soap opera stories like this. She hasn’t been head from since. And Randy suspects his wife “may have betrayed this country, and she certainly betrayed our marriage with secrets upon secrets”, since she’s gone missing and the CIA won’t stop asking him where she went. So he’s been letting the house get disarrayed enough that the Judge (ret) Alan Parker has noticed, and he’s thinking about putting together his own Crazy Evidence Wall.

Caught up? Good. The strange thing to me about all this is how much there’s been both a lot happening and yet it’s only been one story. And, for that matter, only a couple of days of action within that story. It’s not so breathtaking and baffling as immediately after Marciuliano took over. And basically all the crazy stuff has been explained in ways that pass an initial reading. There may be implications that don’t make sense, but the emotional tone and course of stuff has been believable enough. And with the April Parker storyline heating up I’m looking forward to this fictional CIA fiasco almost as much as I’m looking forward to our next real-life CIA fiasco. Can’t wait.

Next week: a hopefully fiasco-free look into the life of Gil Thorp. See you then, I hope.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

In its third straight day of sliding the Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped below two hundred bringing it to territory it hasn’t seen since the 9th of June and that’s somehow the worst thing these people can imagine happening even though that was like three and a half weeks ago. I mean, they sound a little whiny to me, too.

196

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? March – June 2017


Interested in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth? Sure, who here wouldn’t be? If you’re looking for a recap of the current plot, it’s cruise ships. But in case the cruise ships plot ever ends there might be something more to say. So if you’re reading this much later than June 2017 you’ll want to see my most recent story summary. It’ll be at or near the top of this page. Good luck, meanwhile.

Mary Worth

26 March – 18 June 2017

I mentioned last time the new Mary Worth had lurched into action. Mary Worth had taken Toby’s warnings that they hadn’t been important to a story in ages. Mary Worth decided to make her big story a cruise ship. I had understated then just how much Toby and Mary Worth told each other about how awesome cruise ships were. You know, how they let people with different interests have fun despite travelling together and all that. This had been the focus of like 18 weeks of strips in a row before my last summary. I thought that had all been prologue to make sure no readers questioned why someone might decide to go on a cruise ship as a recreational activity. And I imagined most of you would be willing to take that as read.

Since that time, Mary Worth and Toby have gotten to the cruise ship and been on the cruise ship. A lot. I’m not sure the cruise ship vacation will ever end. I’m not sure it’s capable of ending. This is a cruise ship vacation that my parents and their friend who always went on cruise ship vacations with them might well say was too much cruise ship.

Mary Worth overheard Derek and Katie Hoosier thinking about how this was their first cruise and latched onto them with the resolve and determination of Lieutenant Columbo noticing that Patrick McGoohan is in this episode. But she establishes pretty quick that the Hoosiers are indeed linked in an approved heterosexual monogamous relationship. What possible problem could they have? Well, Derek’s hoping the cruise will help him finally break his smoking habit.

Katie Hoosier: 'I can just imagine us getting LOST as we RUSH from one part of the ship to another to attend events!' Mary Worth: 'The ship is BIG, but if you ever lose your ORIENTATION and don't know if you're facing the FRONT of the ship or the AFT look down at the CARPETING. In the hallways, the FISH PATTERN points to the FRONT of the ship!' Katie: 'THANKS! That'll help FIRST-TIME cruisers like us!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 2nd of April, 2017. I have no idea if this fish-pattern thing is generally true about cruise ships. My only cruise-like experience was an overnight ferry we took once from Amsterdam to Newcastle, England, that was great fun and had soooooo many clearly-labelled vegetarian options in the buffet and then a whole table with nothing but cheeses and crackers and if we weren’t going to Blackpool Pleasure Beach I believe we would still be there, eating. Anyway, I didn’t notice the carpets that I remember and my camera was only barely working after getting soaked in a rainstorm at Efteling amusement park in the Netherlands so I can’t check my pictures.

Mary Worth and Toby talk with each other about how CRUISE SHIPS offer all manner of relaxation and entertainment options, including towel folding, lamb chops, and theater. Derek and Katie go to one of the professional entertainments, a show featuring professional entertainment professional entertainer Esme, who sings and dances and wins the wide-eyed gaze of Derek. And that attention is returned by Esme, who meets him at a secret smoke break. She’s smitten by him, which is understandable. Women with tolerably successful entertainment careers are hard-pressed to ignore starstruck young-adult males who exist and have definite physical properties and are able to set cigarettes on fire.

Derek: 'I SHOULDN'T be here!' Esme: 'WHY NOT? What's WRONG with an INNOCENT cigarette?' Derek: 'I PROMISED someone I'd QUIT.' Esme: 'Promises are made to be BROKEN.' Derek: 'I SUPPOSE. In any case, let me INTRODUCE myself. My name is DEREK.' Esme: 'We spoke BRIEFLY after my performance last night. Glad to know your NAME.' Derek: 'Where are you FROM, Esme?' Esme: 'ARIZONA.' Derek: 'I would have guessed SHANGRI-LA ... or OLYMPUS ... or VENUS!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 7th of May, 2017. The first of a great many smoke breaks Derek and Esme take, making me wonder if there’s maybe some new rule about smoking around the offices of Comic Strip Master Command that Karen Moy and June Brigman are worried about? I don’t know. Anyway, they’re staying very calm considering in the first panel the smoking deck is like sixty feet above water and in the center panel last row it’s like ten feet above the waterline.

So smitten, in fact, that when the CRUISE SHIP stopped in Haiti for a bathroom break, Esme locked Katie Hoosier in the nation’s bathroom. Derek gets all tense and worried about this. Not unreasonably, I should say, and I’m reminded of an anecdote my father tells about their honeymoon whenever he needs my mother to roll her eyes at him, about what turned out unexpectedly to be a pay toilet in Spain. They knew about the Spain part going in. Not so much about the pay part, nor about the attendants making sure users didn’t leave without paying. Mary Worth suggests Derek try checking Haiti’s bathroom, and what do you know but she was right and everyone was silly not to ask her sooner. All return to the CRUISE SHIP, but Derek ponders what kind of world he lives in that innocent American tourists can get locked in foreign bathrooms.

When Derek and Mary free Katie from a locked restroom. Mary Worth: 'WHAT HAPPENED?' Katie: 'When I went IN, the door was PROPPED OPEN, but when I came out of the stall, the door was CLOSED and LOCKED!' Mary: 'Maybe it was a PRANK. It could've been a KID who did it.' Derek: 'We LEFT the States to get some PEACE ... only to get THIS!' Mary: 'The MAIN thing is you're ALL RIGHT!' Katie: 'YES, just a little SHAKEN UP! Let's get back to the SHIP before it LEAVES us BEHIND!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 21st of May, 2017. I am not sure I have ever enjoyed a person’s emotional state more than I have enjoyed Derek’s rage at Katie getting stuck in Haiti’s bathroom.

Derek fumes about this all the way through the CRUISE SHIP’s stops at Jamaica and Cozumel. At least he joins Esme for smoke breaks through all this. The smoke breaks aren’t enough for Esme, who follows Derek to one of the CRUISE SHIP’s piano lounges to give an impromptu concert. Katie catches Derek committing some solo smoking and kicks him out of their cabin if he’s going to be doing that to his lungs. Moments later Katie checks on him and sees that not only is he smoking, but he’s kissing Esme, a woman who is not her. Derek protests that it wasn’t what it looked like. The entertainment professionals on CRUISE SHIP will just naturally pursue and kiss innocent smoking passengers.

Derek: 'My WIFE won't let me BACK in the room tonight.' Esme: 'Stay with ME ... I'm in cabin 1122.' Derek: 'Esme ... you're BEAUTIFUL, TALENTED ... and an INCREDIBLE woman.' Esme: 'Then come to my ROOM tonight! We'll make MAGIC together!' Derek: 'I'm SORRY, but I have to DECLINE ... I think I need to be ALONE right now.' Esme: 'I'M LEAVING THE INVITATION OPEN, DEREK! FOR WHEN YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 18th of June, 2017. Go ahead and mock the formalism of Derek’s “I’m SORRY, but I have to DECLINE”. Go ahead and wonder about Esme’s lung capacity if she can shout out “I’M LEAVING THE INVITATION OPEN, DEREK! FOR WHEN YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND!” (Remember she’s a professional singer: she’s surely learned a few things about breath control and good projection.) I’m saying, switch to Turner Classic Movies one of those hours they don’t really care what they’re showing, and you could slip this scene into some 1930s play-done-on-film and it could work. The cruise ship would be a canvas backdrop and there’d be none of these fancy non-level camera angles, but you know, I’d watch the rest of it.

Katie is having none of these excuses. Fair enough given that her husband’s been acting like the character in a Jam Handy film whose thoughtless behavior we, the audience, are supposed to discuss amongst ourselves. Plus she got locked in Haiti’s bathroom. It’s going to take a lot to get her to like CRUISE SHIP vacations again. But, then, Mary Worth has barely had anything to do this story except explain to the Hoosiers how CRUISE SHIP carpeting will show you which way is forward and which way is back. And eating things. And going to that towel-folding demonstration. Plus, after all, Katie and Derek are having one actual breach of trust (the smoking thing) and one crazy-but-basically-a-misunderstanding issue (Esme). I bet she has them meddled back into a happy marriage, possibly with children, well before the CRUISE SHIP finishes its tour, if it ever does.

Next week: Terry Beatty’s CRUISE SHIP Rex Morgan, M.D., if all goes well.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose seven points today as someone finally explained how to make a cell phone actually scan a QR code so it does something, although projections are for the market to drop precipitously tomorrow what with how we’ve already forgotten how to do it.

223

In Which I’m No Good At Creating Supervillains


I was listening to a Flophouse podcast episode that got onto talking about supervillains and how so many supervillains were just making life worse for themselves trying to conquer the world. Why not try selling their super-inventions instead and get rich so their evil will be socially acceptable? And that’s when I realized you could totally make that a supervillain’s backstory. Like, someone invents her army of mind-reading robot soldiers and they try making an honest living on it, and then the companies they sell it to all steal her invention without respecting her patent rights. And then she’s not just got her supervillain science going but also has a logical reason for turning against society and fighting society’s lackey superheroes. And just as I thought I had a great idea for cracking the supervillain motivation problem I realized: I was building a story premise on long-running corporate abuses of patent law. Once again I am reminded of just why everybody kind of had a point treating me like that in middle school. Please forget I said anything and if you can use this idea for your supervillain origin story I will neither sue nor send an army of battle sheep or whatever after you. Promise.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell twelve points as the house down the street that somehow throws out a sofa every two weeks this week threw out a toilet and whatever that signifies it can’t be good for the neighborhood.

214

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? March 2017 – June 2017


Hi, reader. This is my best attempt at explaining what’s been going on in James Allen’s Mark Trail for the last couple months. If for you the last couple months do not include, like, May of 2017 then I might be writing here about a story that’s not going on anymore, if the current story ever ends. Right now it’s not looking promising. But in case the story has ended by the time you read this, try reading this instead, as a more current essay might be among its first links. I hope this helps you find what you’re looking for.

Mark Trail

19 March – 10 June 2017

My last Mark Trail report coincided strangely well with the start of a new adventure. 17-year-periodic guest star Johnny Lone Elk had invited Mark Trail to South Dakota, there to watch the prairie dog census and to find out if there’s some way to get the black-footed ferret to explode a boat. I’m interested in this because as a kid I was deeply impressed by that Peanuts sequence where Snoopy pretended to be a prairie dog. To this day I think of the punch line “prairie dogs are making a comeback” as the sort of appropriately odd not-a-joke thing to be dropped into a conversation and so make it that much needlessly weirder, so once again I’m reminded why everybody treated me like that in middle school. Anyway, this would be the start of a lot of talk about prairie dogs by Mark Trail.

Meanwhile in Rapid City, South Dakota, a local tough has robbed a bank, taken a woman hostage, and spotted in the fresh-arrived Mark Trail just the unwitting getaway driver he wanted. Mark Trail, thinking fast, has enough of an internal monologue to ponder the need to alert some official without betraying what he’s doing to the bank robber. And, to a wonder, he does it without letting the reader in on his plan.

Bank Robber: 'Being a writer must be a pretty lame job these days! I mean, does anybody even read anything anymore?' Mark Trail: 'It has proven to be a good career for me to provide for my family!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 11th of April, 2017. Granting that this is impossible, is there any way that all cinematic portrayals of Mark Trail could be done by Michael Rennie? Because I feel like he’s just perfect for deploying dialogue like “It has proven to be a good career for me to provide for my family!” in the wake of being kidnapped at the rental car counter.

My best guess: he’s figuring to pull a Ransom of Red Chief only instead of being a holy terror, he’s going to drive the bank robber past every possible scene of animals interacting in some way. Am I being unfairly snarky? From the 19th of April through the 28th the strip showed the car driving past a clutch of groundhogs, wolf pups, some falcon-class bird learning that it can’t just pick up a jackrabbit, a herd of sheep, another falcon trying to prey upon the dialogue balloons, a couple rams head-butting one another, and some moose or something. After that the bank robber has enough of this, figures out Mark Trail’s got a tracking device put on the car, and rips that out.

Kidnapped Woman: 'Mark Trail, wow! You know, I read your work! In fact, I just read your latest article online!' Mark Trail: 'Oh yeah? What did you think?' Kidnapped Woman: 'I hate to sound like some of the snarky comments made by people online, but you're no entomologist!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 27th of April, 2017. I would like to think this isn’t back-snarking at me for getting tired of the endless volcano explosion on Invasive Ant Island but who knows? Anyway that’s burying the lede, which is: Mark Trail is aware of the existence of snark. This changes everything!

After driving past some buffalo, antelope I guess, and groundhogs looking disapproving at a wolf the bank robber tells Mark Trail what they’re going to do. They’re going to go to Johnny Lone Elk’s, tell him that the bank robber and the kidnapped woman are his new camera crew, and put the stolen money in Mark Trail’s camera bags. Then they’ll all go off together to see these prairie dogs and an abandoned airstrip that Mark Trail exposited about earlier.

Meanwhile the local FBI, looking for the bank robbers, is following the clue that there’s something weird about how Mark Trail rented the car. I admit I have never tried to rent a car while being held at gunpoint by a bank robber, but for the life of me I can’t figure how I’d do something weird with my car rental. I mean weird enough that car rental people would notice. Maybe tell them yes, I’d love the car insurance that’s an extra $75 a day and doesn’t do anything my home insurance doesn’t do anyway.

Johnny Lone Elk's wife: 'I've got a bad feeling about this - that bald guy looks shady!' Johnny: 'That's because you suffer from peladophobia!' Other Guy: 'Ha ha ha!' Mrs Lone Elk: 'That's not entirely true ... I think guys with man buns are creepy too!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 19th of May, 2017. Life goal: hire an acting class to figure some way of staging this conversation that doesn’t come across as some theater of the absurd stuff. And I will record every single run-through and trial and release it as an experimental film that will sweep, I tell you, positively sweep the Capital City Film Festival’s coveted “The Heck Am I Even Watching?” awards.

Mark Trail does his best not to act weird around Johnny and his wife and their handyman Nick Charles. But a stray $100 makes Johnny’s wife suspect there’s some connection to the Rapid City bank robbery, suggesting that she’s not really into this story and hopes to get it to the end as soon as possible. On the trail, Johnny knows something’s wrong and arranges for some dramatic talk about trick riding. Meanwhile a prairie dog tries to evade another swooping hawk, possibly the same one that was getting kicked by a rabbit a couple weeks back.

Mrs Lone Elk: '[ The bank robbery ] might explain Mark's odd behavior - Not coming in the house and leaving with potentially bad weather headed this way!' Other Guy: 'Plus it would explain why Mark left his new camera equipment in his vehicle!' Mrs Lone Elk: 'That's the same thing Sheriff Stober said when i told him!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 30th of May, 2017. I love the dirty look being given the cougar by what is either an abnormally skinny raccoon or else a ringtailed cat that doesn’t realize this story is taking place in South Dakota, like five hundred miles from anywhere it has any business being. Maybe he’s taking a vacation or getting in on that prairie dog census.

I know this sounds like a lot. But I gotta say, reading it one day at a time, it feels like the whole story has been waiting for stuff to happen. I expect James Allen is going for suspense in the question of how Mark Trail could possibly have arranged for help in all this, but the lack of specifics, or even hints of specifics, undermines that. I’m hoping that we’re about to see some action that brings this to a clear resolution. I’m also curious how the strip is going to turn into some major natural disaster that teaches us to never go anywhere more wild and untamed than an Apple Store. Well, there was threatened bad weather. That could mean anything.

Sunday Animals Watch

Animals or other natural phenomena featured on Sundays recently have included:

  • Bees, 19 March 2017
  • Moose, 26 March 2017
  • Platerodrilus Beetles, 2 April 2017
  • Feather Stars, “Crinoids”, 9 April 2017
  • Dracaena Cinnabari, the “Dragon’s Blood Tree”, 16 April 2017
  • Giraffes, 23 April 2017
  • Male lions, 30 April 2017
  • Parrotfish, 7 March 2017
  • Saiga Antelope, 14 May 2017
  • Alligators, 21 May 2017
  • Black Rhinoceroses, 28 May 2017
  • Sanguinaria Canadensis, “Bloodroot”, 4 June 2017
  • Tornadoes, 11 June 2017

Next Week!

Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. Not to say too much about what’s been happening, but: cruise ships!.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders were feeling optimistic and full of pep today as they got like four half-filled loyalty cards at the mediterranean fast-food place merged down into … well, all right, three loyalty cards, but two of them were filled so that’s good for one free lunch today and one free lunch next time if nobody loses the filled card.

203

Is This Funky Winkerbean Supposed To Make Sense?


So a little something roiled the normally calm world of ridiculing Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean. Last week the strip did one of its occasional grab-bag weeks, with just spot gags and no storyline or attempt at one. Before I get into that, let me share this link to my mathematics blog, since I did my usual Sunday comic-strip review over there. Thank you.

So. Snark-reading Tom Batiuk strips is usually pretty easy. The comic presents a couple of the lumpy, sad main characters talking about one of their ongoing problems, with something involving words used in slightly unusual ways in the last panel, while everyone smirks and waits for the death of joy. The snarky reader looks over this, points out the joke barely parses, and that the problem as presented could not happen because something or other does not work like that, or because he’s confused parts of the continuity. Then the snark readers wait for the next day. I’m not ruling myself out of this group, by the way. Rolling eyes at Tom Batiuk strips is one of the joys of being a comics fan who never gets enough chances to showcase learning what “bathos” meant for that vocabulary quiz in eighth grade. (Hi, Mrs Furey!)

Then this came in on Tuesday.

Donna, to Crazy Harry: 'Crazy, this bottle was with the stuff you picked up in town ... and I just wanted to let you know ... that you can only get two or three shampoos out of a bottle of this head-cleaning solution.
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 23rd of May, 2017. Surely not intentional but in the first panel Crazy Harry looks like he’s upset Donna walked in on him googling adult images for the tiny modernist yacht he’s got a model of in the second panel there.

So, the question: what the heck?

More specifically, who are we supposed to be laughing at here? The Comics Curmudgeon laid out how it’s either a joke that Crazy Harry can’t shampoo correctly, or else it’s a joke that … Mrs Crazy Harry who probably has a name … imagines that head-cleaning solution would be an exotic name for shampoo. (It’s Donna.) Son Of Stuck Funky guest author Billy the Skink thought it more likely that Donna didn’t know what head cleaner was, and identified this as dumb given that she ought to know something about Crazy Harry, whose days are filled with transferring stuff from VHS and moping. Comic book superstar author Kurt Busiek tried to autopsy this mess:

And now I’d like to make my argument. Please feel free to disagree. Busiek’s right, by the way, that the deadly problem is the comic timing. The first two panels are nothing. Trying to make the punchline also carry the load of setting up the strip is a mess.

But I think the snark-blogging interpretation, that Donna or Crazy Harry has to be too stupid to be plausible, wrong here. I think that Donna’s supposed to be facetious. To say with a straight face the obviously ridiculous is so important to comedy that if we’re to rule it out then I can’t comment in any web forums or Usenet anymore. I think there are line readings that would make the joke work. At least work as well as it can given the attempt at jamming all the setup into the punchline.

Which is still a structural problem in the comic. Written comedy has limited powers to direct how a line should be read. A comic strip has a bit more power, since it can show characters reacting. But the Funky Winkerbean standard is to draw people moping, smirking, or despairing and that doesn’t offer much support for whimsy. A comic strip also has more power to suggest timing and where to pause a line and what to emphasize in it. But those tools aren’t used here.

So that’s my best attempt at making this Funky Winkerbean make sense: Donna is being silly and playful, and we don’t know how to react to that anymore. I’m curious what you kindly readers make it out to be.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose two points as the market digested reports that the Earth has an extra layer of tectonic plates within the mantle, which should be reassuring to everyone worrying about whether we had enough. It might have pushed the index higher still if we were sure we understood why it doesn’t look like any other planets or moons have tectonic plates, which seems like a weird oversight. Are we maybe looking for theirs in the wrong places or something?

212

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? February – May 2017


And as with my other low-daisy-content story strip reviews, this one might be out of date. This post should be good for explaining plot developments in the couple of months before late May of 2017. If it’s later than, oh, August 2017 when you read this, then if all’s gone to plan I have a new post updating things further. My most recent Gasoline Alley posts should be at the top of this link. Thanks for reading and I’ll do my best to be not too wrong in describing the goings-on.

Gasoline Alley, 27 February – 26 May 2017.

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley has four major kinds of storyline, with many variations possible in those types. Three have been seen since late February. The missing one is the magical-fantasy storyline, wherein Walt Wallet or crew visit the Old Comics Home or something similar. The kind of story that just warps what reality could be. That hasn’t been around the last few months.

The second time is your classic old-style sitcom, ah, situation. The kind where one of the main cast has some scheme that gets advanced and then falls apart. You know, every sitcom from the 50s and 60s, and many of the radio sitcoms from the 40s. It’s an old-fashioned format but it’s still a perfectly workable one. Last time we looked at Gasoline Alley they were coming near the end of one of these. Walt Wallet had been invited to the TV show Shark Bait to pitch inventors his idea: put every household appliance together in one big raging appliance monster. The millionaire or billionaires (the strip made a point of raising confusion about this) don’t see how it would work, and one of them finds that exactly this idea was patented by the Hotenkold Appliance Company in 1935 and still makes the things. As predicted by everyone who’s encountered stories before, Walt Wallet does not go home wealthy. (The strip didn’t pay off the millionaire-or-billionaire question.)

'Skeezix! Do you think it was worth the embarrassment going on the 'Shark Bait' TV show?' 'Well, you're richer by $500 and a case of cereal, Uncle Walt!' In the other car: 'Boog! I want Chipper to look at you when he checks out Aubee!' 'Can he multitask?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 7th of March, 2017. One storyline gives way to another. Yes, Boog is the kid’s name and yes, much of the online comics snark-reading community is horrified by his name and his appearance but that’s just because he has those huge devouring-void black dots of eyes that suggest the Mirror Universe Dondi.

The strip passed things off to Hoogy Skinner and her kids Boog and Aubee, for a medical check. This led a couple of weeks of pediatrician jokes and let us follow the Physician Assistant, Chipper Wallet, into the third of the stock Gasoline Alley plot kinds. And I’d like to mention the smoothness of the segue: we followed Walt Wallet out of the TV show plot, passed off by switching from one car to the next with characters that brought us to Chipper Wallet, and from that into his story. It’s all smoothly done; I wonder if daily readers even notice they’re being passed on like that.

Chipper: 'I love my kids and am proud they decided to go into the medical field ... ' 'Excuse me, Chipper! I hate to interrupt, but there's someone here to see you!' 'Who's that, Reg?' 'You'll see.' In the distance a barely visible woman approaches.
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 18th of April, 2017. I never spend time discussing this in the main articles so let’s take some here. Boy does Scancarelli draw well. The scenes are well-composed and nicely balanced, and look at how good Wallet’s hair and beard look in the second panel there. The third panel is also a treat; comic strips rarely get to display depth of field, but here it is, used for good dramatic effect.

Anyway, this third kind of storyline is the public service announcement. Chipper Wallet leaves the office to drive to Durham, North Carolina, where he’s to speak at the dedication of the Veteran’s Memorial Garden of the Physician Assistant Society. Wallet gets waylaid by some car trouble and meets Reverend Neil Enpray and mechanic Don Yonder whom I’m just going to assume are from the Earth-2 Gasoline Alley. They gave me the vibe of being established characters but I don’t know the canon nearly well enough to guess. But it’s mostly a chance for the characters to explain to the reader about what they are, what they do, why they’re important. The story ends with Wallet being reunited with a woman he, as a Navy Hospital Corpsman in Vietnam, helped deliver a child. As I say, a bit of story and a good bit of public service announcement. It’s also a chance to fundraise for the historical society.

Scruffy: 'I ain't ate since yestidy!' Rufus: 'Well, hadn't yo' better run home an' get yo' momma t'feed you'? 'T'aint my day t'eat! It's my sister's turn!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 12th of May, 2017. I know this is my own peculiarity, but: oh, I’m not looking forward to this. Not because I expect the story to end badly. I project it turning out pretty well for Scruffy and his family. But just because I know, deep down, there’s a depressing number of real-world families going through this and the story will end without things getting better for most of them, and that’s the sort of thing that breaks my heart. It’s not Scancarelli’s fault, and I certainly don’t blame him for telling a story about one of those sadly realistic problems and having it turn out well for his characters. But it does make me think of deep down what a rubbish job we do at having a society.

And this led into the current storyline, one of the fourth type. It’s the weepy melodrama. It stars Joel and Rufus, two of the (bluntly) stupider adults in the strip. They’re usually busy with more outlandish hijinks and misunderstandings. (The segue for this story was Rufus bringing his cat in to see Chipper Wallet on the grounds that of course he’s a vet; he served in the Coast Guard.) Rufus has just met Scruffy, a kid whose family just moved into the abandoned old grist mill and is so poor they can only use parts of the Walt Kelly Pogofenokee comic-strip-southern dialect. The story’s in its earliest days so not much has been established past that the family’s desperately poor. I expect this is going to lead Rufus and Joel in a story in which they make some grand and slightly overcomplicated gesture to help that which misfires but still results in their being a little better off. (At this stage it’s playing Santa Claus Running Late. This may evolve.) That’s the kind of story Gasoline Alley does.

The Sunday strips have all been one-off jokes, mostly characters setting up and delivering corny old gags well, and not part of any continuing storylines. That’s fine and pleasant but there’s no context I can usefully give to them. They’re whole on their own.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose eleven points as everyone was relieved to learn everyone else had clicked on that silly clickbait ad about ten ways to earn money from your hobby and there was no reason everyone should feel ashamed that, like, apparently there’s people whose hobby is investing in real estate? I mean, come on. Anyway the index is at 210 and that’s not even an all-time high and isn’t that amazing too? It’s amazing, yes.

210

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? December 2016 – March 2017


[ Edited the 15th of May, 2017 to add: ] I’m grateful you see this site as a place to learn what’s going on in Mary Worth. My most recent story summaries should be at or near the top of this link’s essays, if you are looking for the current or for more recent stories than this post has.


When I reviewed Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth back in December I wrote that it had changed rather less than Mark Trail and Dick Tracy had. Only the artist had changed; the writer hadn’t. And that’s still so, although I suspect a pretty significant change in the nature of Mary Worth may be happening. Let me explain.

Mary Worth

12 December 2016 – 25 March 2017

If readers have any expectations for Mary Worth it’s that there will be a series of relentlessly literal, linear stories resolved by people having very heteronormative romances ideally ending in weddings, thank you, and recapped on Sunday with the decoration of a dubiously-sourced quote of dubious relevance. I’m not saying the strip doesn’t provide that anymore. But I do think it’s getting a little more textured than that.

When last we left things Iris and advice-columnist Wilbur had agreed to a pause on their relationship while he went around the world interviewing sandwiches of other lands. Mary Worth gives Iris some legitimately useful advice, helping her ambivalence following a dinner invitation from Zak, a much-younger community college student pursuing an Associate’s degree in Probably Being A Rotten Millennial, Those Rotten Millenials.

'I really like him, Mary. I don't know him well yet, but I really like him! He wants me to have dinner with him! If I continue to see Zak, it may lead to ... something more. He's my son's age, Mary! Should I still see him?' 'Iris, I think as long as you're seeing Zak out of genuine interest and not backlash at Wilbur ... Enjoy getting to know him better!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 11th of December, 2016. I admit I have not been in a situation like this. My relationships have been almost entirely with people who have names that were trendy around the time of my birth, so they don’t seem trendy or weird or anything but instead proper and right. The bigger problem is more that it’s not clear Zak has anything to talk about. But not having anything to talk about is a common problem in the youth, and it can be cured by doing stuff, which, must admit, youth is good at.

Meanwhile Mary Worth keeps on grinding out “Ask Wendy” columns for Wilbur, who’s too busy globetrotting to tell people to listen to their hearts. She gives some wishy-washy advice to a person torn between two jobs, and that surprised me. The relationship between the two-jobs and the two-boyfriends questions is obvious. But it seems unusual to me that Mary Worth would manage the trick of having characters talk about something that isn’t directly the plot. It’s a basic storytelling craft, but it’s one of those crafts for a story that’s more than just a plot delivery service. Case in point: Mary’s original advice isn’t enough, and she has to give it again, at a later point in Iris’s Zak-versus-Wilbur debate.

Iris tries dating Zak some. She goes to a concert with him and some of his rowdy college friends, who notice that she’s way older than him. She makes a reference to Casablanca that goes completely over Zak’s head, and she decides it isn’t working out. This might be premature. There’s a lot of pop culture from before you were born to catch up on, even the great movies. On the other hand, “Here’s looking at you, kid” is not an obscure reference these days shut up I’m not old have you thought about how you’re the old one instead huh? They part amiably, anyway.

Iris: 'I see you with your friends ... and I know you belong with them. Not with me. Zak, thank you for everything. It's for the best we say goodbye.' 'If you say so. Iris ... ' 'Yes?' 'One last thing.' And he gives her a deep, bending-over-backwards kiss.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 12th of February, 2017. Must say that Zak’s taking it well, possibly because they were only on maybe two dates and they were pretty casual ones and it’s possible he doesn’t yet understand that she’s breaking up with him.

Now for the next bit that surprised me. Before the Zak story started, Iris’s son Tommy got addicted to Vicodin. But he’d been assigned a help group and resolved to stop getting fired and that seemed like the resolution of that. The storyline reappeared, though, at the end of Zak’s adventures in the comic. The Sunday panel even noted how recovering from an addiction like that isn’t a straight path; one will have setbacks and feel like any progress is lost. To see that fact faced directly in the comic feels novel. I expect a problem fixed to stay fixed. It’s another bit of better crafting.

'I wonder if I should be further along by now. Better. Stronger. Calmer.' 'Give yourself credit, Tommy. Embarking on your recover is a brave and wise thing.' 'Thanks, Ma.' 'Like the tide, progress is made in an ebb and flow pattern. Rarely is progress advanced on a straight path. You're doing fine. It's okay to pause and wrestle with demons along the way. I've had to do it myself.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worthfor the 5th of March, 2017. I’m not sure which demons Iris is talking about here. Her most recent encounter had been deciding whether to girlfriend it up for Zak or to stay true-ish to the globe-wandering Wilbur. That’s not demons, though. But the comic has a long run behind it and Iris has probably been up to all sorts of weird yet minor problems during it.

Life continues. Wilbur Weston pursues his around-the-world tour for his column about disaster survivors, showing up to ask people who’ve been through a mudslide why they haven’t died. Just imagine. You’re in Sao Paolo. The earth itself slides out from under you, and from above you, washing away the whole world in a cataclysm that takes a moment yet goes on forever. You make it out somehow. And then, there, is longtime Charterstone resident Wilbur Weston. He’s standing with notebook in hand, camera strapped around his neck, and a jar of mayonnaise wedged under his opposite arm. He says one thing to you, heedless of whether you speak English: “What are you doing, being alive like that?” He surely must be an image from the deepest recesses of … well, not the deepest recesses. Maybe one of the lighter ones, from the less-serious areas. A vision from the outskirts of the Greater Heck Metropolitan Statistical Area, the place where it’s all strip malls and commercial office parks just before the farmland takes over from the main drag of Heck. Seeing that wouldn’t haunt me to the end of my days, but it would throw me off for as much as a half-hour, like the time the cashier at Wendy’s saw me come in and warned they were out of potatoes. How can I have gone to any Wendy’s enough times they know I’m there for the potatoes and Freestyle Coke machine? How?

Toby mentions to Mary Worth how the two of them haven’t been in any stories worth anything in donkey’s years, hint hint, and they figure to take a cruise. Mary’s longtime would-be fiancee Jeff doesn’t come along, what with Mary figuring he probably wouldn’t have any fun anyway what with his knee and how it connects his upper to his lower leg through a complex mesh of cartilage and muscle and she’ll totally talk with him about how he didn’t want to go after they get back.

And here I’m not sure if the storytelling is getting clever or if I’m just giving them too much credit: Wilbur’s current round-the-world trip interviewing disaster survivors got its start when he went on a cruise and that ship had your usual sort of cruise-ship disaster. He was so moved by the experience of not dying he wanted to find out about other people not dying from stuff instead of writing the “Ask Wendy” advice column he’s turned over to Mary. Are cruise ships a new leitmotif of change and new beginnings? Or is it just fun drawing people on boats? We’ll see. I’m just surprised the craft is getting more advanced like this.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell seven points today as someone came across the French franc on the street and it started haranguing them about how nobody calls or visits or checks up on it anymore, and the whole scene was so awkward and tense nobody was in a good mood all day.

120

From The February 2017 Scraps File


As often happens, free to a good home. Text is not guaranteed to be free of mites because, hey, free mites! You know?

I’m rotten at choosing clothes. You can judge that from the slightly pained but amused look on my love’s face when it becomes obvious that once again I’ve dressed myself. If you can’t see my love’s face, I’m sorry that you’re missing such a fine experience. But instead look at any picture of people from the 70s or 80s and identify the person wearing the most regrettable outfit. I’ve worn that as recently as Tuesday. I don’t care. They’re clothes and I’m happy to wear them. — Cut from something or other I was writing about clothes because I realized it was a topic I’d already done a couple time already recently. Warning: this is really only useful by you if you dressed in spectacularly bad fashion in the 70s and 80s and have overcome it by looking at how much my love winces at you today.

The Wikipedia statement: “The Tasmanian rainforest is considered a Gondwanan relic.” — I know, I’ve put this out before, and taken it back in before too. I keep thinking I could do something with this because it’s got so many nice features. I mean, it even has “Gondwana” right there in a prominent, easy-to-notice spot. But then I try tucking it into the middle of a piece and I realize I’ve got nothing. It’s a shame, I tell you. Please especially let me know if you get something going with this.

I was easy to track anyway because I was watching Land of the Lost. — Cut from some piece or other that was getting all autobiographical because I’m still easy to find and for the same reasons. I’m talking about the 70s show because the 90s show was just embarrassing. I mean, they had a treehouse, cool enough, but the also had a truck? How are you supposed to believe they’re roughing it when they’re stomping around a lost, timeless world in a truck? Ooh, they only have the four CDs that happened to be in the glove compartment to listen to? That’s not roughing it, that’s a Kampgrounds of America weekend. Also there’s one episodes where the Sleestak gain the power to turn the dad of the 90s Show family into a turtle. The family turns him back at the end, but there’s never any explanation why the Sleestak can’t do that again, or why the rest of the show isn’t just a constant tug-of-war between the pro-turtle-dad and anti-turtle-dad forces. Maybe it is. I haven’t watched all the episodes. I just think the power to turn dads into turtles is a universe-breaking possibility. We don’t talk about the movie.

Literally. — Trimmed from the follow-up to any joke I’ve made in which I describe what actually is in a silly way. I’m coming to accept that it doesn’t make the joke better if I dare people to go check that I did my research and things really are like that. It also doesn’t help if I want to remind them that I did some clever bit of wordplay, like the way I used “fashion” in explaining the first clip up there. See? You maybe were faintly amused without knowing why when you ran across it, and now that I’ve gone and emphasized it, you like me as a person less. Maybe you even like the concept of me less. I should cut this entire paragraph except then I have to put this paragraph back in the scraps file lest I break the rules of blog-scrap-file sharing!

An earnest young woman who starts out by declaring that you’re all lesbians, and did revelation that blow your mind? No? Maybe you didn’t hear it enough. Is your mind blown now? Perhaps if she restates her thesis and supports it with how she and her girlfriends will go to movies. In short, lesbians. — Cut from open-mike night because they had too many people signed up and as she was ready to go on stage someone from the Chinese restaurant next door came over with a basket of eggrolls and passed them out because that’s just the sort of thing that happens, somehow, as if that were perfectly normal? Weird.

Pardon me, please. — Cut from every time this past month I said “pardon me, please” to someone I was trying to get around, apparently, based on how I couldn’t politely get around someone and instead had to plough zamboni-like through them. I don’t know, maybe it was just a bad February or something. Don’t mind me.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose like thirteen percent today and don’t think we aren’t all pleased as punch about that. We mean Fanta Zero Fruit Punch flavor from the Freestyle Coke machine that the person in line ahead of us at Wendy’s took way too long to understand.

103

Seeing As How It Is Washington’s Birthday More Or Less


I’d just like to remind people that it’s completely within their rights to see how much of Parson Weems’s biography of George Washington they can read aloud, to as large a crowd as possible, before cracking up. Here’s a practice sample from the Introduction:

And in all the ensigns of character amidst which he is generally drawn, you see none that represent him what he really was, “the Jupiter Conservator,” the friend and benefactor of men. Where’s his bright ploughshare that he loved — or his wheat-crowned fields, waving in yellow ridges before the wanton breeze — or his hills whitened over with flocks — or his clover-covered pastures spread with innumerous herds — or his neat-clad servants with songs rolling the heavy harvest before them? Such were the scenes of peace, plenty, and happiness, in which Washington delighted. But his eulogists have denied him these, the only scenes which belong to man the GREAT; and have trick’d him up in the vile drapery of man the little. See! there he stands! with the port of Mars “the destroyer,” dark frowning over the fields of war — the lightning of Potter’s blade is by his side — the deep-mouthed cannon is before him, disgorging its flesh-mangling balls — his war-horse pants with impatience to bear him, a speedy thunderbolt, against the pale and bleeding ranks of Britain! — These are the drawings usually given of Washington; drawings masterly no doubt, and perhaps justly descriptive of him in some scenes of his life. But scenes they were, which I am sure his soul abhorred, and in which, at any rate, you see nothing of his private virtues. These old fashioned commodities are generally thrown into the back ground of the picture; and treated, as the grandees at the London and Paris routs, treat their good old aunts and grandmothers, huddling them together into the back rooms, there to wheeze and cough by themselves, and not depress the fine laudanum-raised spirits of the young sparklers. And yet it was to those old fashioned virtues that our hero owed every thing. For they in fact were the food of the great actions of him, whom men call Washington. It was they that enabled him, first to triumph over himself; then over the British; and uniformly to set such bright examples of human perfectibility and true greatness, that, compared therewith, the history of his capturing Cornwallis and Tarleton, with their buccaneering legions, sounds almost as small as the story of General Putnam’s catching his wolf and her lamb-killing whelps.

And to help you get into the spirit of the thing and past that bit about Washington’s neat-clad servants with the rolling songs, here’s the statue Congress commissioned Horatio Greenough to carve of Washington that they decided, after a while, to hide while they looked for something less pompous to remember him by, like maybe a 555-foot-tall stick.

Marble statue of Washington, dressed as Jupiter more or less, holding up one hand and extending a sword in trade for your pants.

Yeah, that’s a miniature Christopher Columbus or somebody in the corner behind him.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading dropped six points amidst concerns that the Nicaraguan peso might be overvalued and also that the currency of Nicaragua might not be pesos. “Back a couple decades didn’t they rename, like, everything for Trujillo? I bet they trade in Trujillos,” said Robert. Nobody was completely sure which Dave took as his excuse to tell, once again, how they would have built the Panama Canal in Nicaragua — “shut up, you know what I mean” he added defensively — except Americans are a-scared of volcanoes. The Nicaraguan córdoba is trading at about thirty to the US dollar. Rafael Trujillo was President of the Dominican Republic, not Nicaragua. Probably he visited Nicaragua at some point in his life. That would make sense.

103

What I Need In A Science Fiction Novel To Get Me To Read It


  1. It should have a city enclosed in a transparent dome, whether glass, plastic, a force field, or some exotic form of matter of energy.
  2. That’s about it.
  3. Really, yeah, give me a domed city and you can have just about whatever else you want in the story.
  4. Thank you.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While trading was open for a normal day there wasn’t much exchange on the floor. Everyone was caught up on how Other Matt cut a piece of paper snowflake-style and then cut it again into a valentine heart and it seems like some crazy mixed metaphor and it also seems impossible to do. But he keeps insisting it’s not hard, just a “little fiddly” is all. Anyway it’s all anybody can think about today.

103

January 2017’s Scraps File


Some things I couldn’t find any use for writing in January; if you can find a good use for them, please do. I ask only to hear if any of them went on to be happy.

I’m rotten at choosing clothes. You can judge that from the slightly pained but amused look on my love’s face when it becomes obvious that once again I’ve dressed myself. If you can’t see my love’s face, I’m sorry that you’re missing such a fine experience. But instead look at any picture of people from the 70s or 80s and identify the person wearing the most regrettable outfit. I’ve worn that as recently as Tuesday. I don’t care. They’re clothes and I’m happy to wear them. — Cut from some piece or other, I think the one about crafts. Not really relevant to the main point of the article and besides it ended up long enough as is.

The thing is that gives me the idea to start wondering about something. — Cut from like fourteen pieces because it could go into any of my bits and that’s one of those warning signs I shouldn’t be putting it in any of them. Warning: I might use this to see how long a sentence I could make that doesn’t say anything at all. You’re still free to use it, just, there’s no being sure you’ll have it all to yourself.

If you have that job you either grew up wanting to be someone who makes those little paper flags hung on toothpicks or else your life took turns bringing you to making them. — The thing about my clothes (to get back to them) is that I don’t need to talk about it that much because you’ve seen ugly clothes before. Not necessarily on me, but yeah, on me.

I’m not going to stop making boxed macaroni and cheese wrong because I know it’s easier to keep doing it wrong than to remember to look at the directions and do it right for once. — Also cut from that crafts essay which had more cuts than usual. Also I don’t want to make my clothing problems seem too bad. Like, that look my love gets when noticing I dressed myself? It’s not, like, horrified or anything. It’s like, imagine if you were fixing a car engine. And you called to your dog saying, “Monty! Fetch me the 15 mm socket wrench” and figured you were making a good joke. And the dog was confused but understood there was something about fetching going on there. And the dog came back holding an ice scraper in his mouth. Also the dog’s named Monty. You know the look you’d give the dog, delighted that he was doing his best to do the perfectly hopeless? That’s the look I get when I dress myself. It doesn’t hurt any and I can usually find the socket wrench after that.

“The Tasmanian rainforest is considered a Gondwanan relic.” — I brought that back from an earlier scraps file because I was sure there was something I could do with that, and there wasn’t. It’s pretty nice as it is, on Wikipedia, but I got nothing.

I remember coloring when I was a kid, and we’d get boxes of crayons from school. There’d be as many as 62 Extremely Dark Colors Equally Likely To be Purple, Black, Navy Blue, Blue, Or Any Other Color You Do Not Want, all with the wrappers peeled off in every box of sixteen crayons. — Cut because my problems with coloring in elementary school weren’t so much about what shade of some extremely dark blue-like-or-black color I had available but more that I was never satisfied with how uniformly a crayon could color things. Also I liked the part where you colored in letters. By you I mean me, or in this context, I. I couldn’t get enough letters to color in like that. So in hindsight, again, I understand why I was treated that way.

And then the person working the Wendy’s counter warned me they were out of potatoes, which means they know me as the guy who comes in like once a month and orders two baked potatoes, so now it’s too emotionally involved going there and I don’t dare visit ever again. — Anyway these days I just wear a solid shirt of one color and pants. Pants of a different color. I learned my lesson the day in grad school when I went out wearing an orange shirt and orange sweatpants and caught a glimpse of myself in the glass door and realized what I was doing. So I have learned to do slightly better, that’s the important thing.

Good luck with February, everyone!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped nine points after Michigan’s official state groundhog refused to emerge from her lair and make a weather prediction, which is surely all normal and just fine, right? Tell us that’s normal and just fine. We don’t know anymore.

106

Meanwhile As I Scrutinize My E-Mail Like Every Five Minutes


I’m starting to suspect WordPress isn’t going to send me that “look how your 2016 was!” report with the animated picture of fireworks going off for every post and talking about how many people from what countries read my blogs. I hope it isn’t because of something I did, like keep on using the old-fashioned way of entering new posts. I tried, I really tried, using the new system but it’s designed the way web sites are done anymore, where everything is a bunch of floating loose islands and they’re all colored borderless rectangles and there’s no guessing what’s a button and what’s a label and what’s done automatically and what you have to find and press a button to do. I don’t want to sound prematurely old. It’s just that when I look at a web site and wonder if they’re trying to gamify my user experience I feel like I have to wash my hands. And I already do that like 260 times a day which should be enough except it never is and maybe I should go do it again. Anyway I liked the fireworks thing.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped back below 100 again, daring people to insist that it’s a psychological barrier or in fact any kind of barrier at all. “Ha, ha,” say traders, “we can go anywhere we want as long as it isn’t below 90 again,” and then curled up on the floor sobbing and declaring there’s no such thing as 89, there’s no such thing as 89.

99

From The November 2016 Scraps File


November 2016’s scrap file, free to anyone who didn’t feel like just scrapping the whole month and doing it over:

that unsettling feeling when you see an out-of-town news van driving into your neighborhood — cut because while I was waiting at the light a news van for Channel 8 drove on down Saginaw Avenue. There isn’t a Channel 8 here. I’ve never lived anywhere that even had a Channel 8, and I always knew deep down if I were someplace that had a Channel 8 it was some weird moon-man possibly alternate universe like, I don’t know, mid-Connecticut. I don’t know what’s happening and I’m afraid to go and check because, sheesh, Channel 8? That’s gotta be from some fictional town like Kalamazoo or something. I can’t handle that, not this year.

because what I really was looking for in a box was one that was smaller than the thing I hoped to fit in it — cut from a letter to whoever it is makes Meijer’s plastic storage bins for making a storage bin whose linear dimensions apparently refer to the maximum width of the overhanging lip rather than what can actually be fit inside. Really, it’s my fault, what with thinking I could fit a punch bowl that’s 14 inches across inside a plastic bin with dimensions given as 14 7/8 inches by 18 1/2 inches. The more fool me, right? Anyway it’s probably easier to just return the stupid thing and go looking at cardboard boxes since what are the chances the next cardboard box for it is going to get ruined by rainwater? I’m sorry to even bring it up. I bet I sound like I’m whining.

Sometimes reading the news leads to the suspicion the world is becoming alarming. A headline could read “Leapfrogging mayor injures woman dressed as tomato”, which may fairly describe the event, but it’s still bizarre. Or you might come across a three-column headline “World Denies Sneaking Up On You”, subhead, “UN Rep: `That’s No Blindfold And Gag Either’.” It’s certainly not a gag, as you’ll find out if you don’t retreat to your bedroom and lock the door, but you have to admit it’s sporting of them to warn you. — cut from a bit of odd-news reporting because while I like the flow of it, (a) there’s nothing going on in the world that isn’t alarming and (b) the paragraph isn’t really about anything. You could put that paragraph in front of absolutely any little essay inspired by odd news and it won’t fit any better or any worse than before. I need something more definite. Also I don’t know if I made up that leapfrogging mayor story anymore. It doesn’t sound like the kind of thing I might make up. I’d make up a woman dressed as a hippopotamus, maybe. Unless I realized “duck” was punchier. And I’d write it so it was clear whether the mayor, the woman, or both were dressed as tomato ducks. Really the whole paragraph is badly flawed and I should take it out back to have a serious talk about whether to even include it in this scrap file.

Saturn enters the house of Aries, only to find Aries is not present. It playfully rearranges the dishes so they and the coffee mugs are on the wrong sides of the cabinet. It leaves undetected. — Cut because it comes all to close to being a spoof horoscope/zodiac column and have you ever read one of those that was funny? Have you read a second one, after your high school paper ran the “Horrorscopes” for its edition your junior year? Yeah. Seriously flawed premise to the whole joke. I was off my game all November.

zippered banana sleeves for reclosing an opened one — cut from the notepad on my bedstand where I figure I’m bound to have a billion-dollar idea. This clearly isn’t it. I’m sure there’s a market for banana-resealing technology, but I can’t see that netting me more than about $2.25 million once all the startup work is done and I get through with all the court costs against companies stealing the idea from me. And at that point is it really worth doing? I’m just going to keep the banana underneath a tea towel until someday I clean the kitchen and lift the towel and find a dense gravity-warping nebula of fruit flies. This will be followed by my screaming, which is certainly a better use of my time.

If you find anything useful in all this please, do. I just want to be remembered fondly.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Everybody is still extremely optimistic about getting the mainstream and the alternate Another Blog, Meanwhile index traders back together again. Incredibly optimistic. You might be momentarily blinded by how smilingly cheerful their faces all are. Both indices dropped nine points. They blame the stairs feeling “wobbly” as they were carrying points down to the first floor.

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The October 2016 Scraps File: Some Stuff I Didn’t Use Last Month


As ever, free to a good home.

“Changing your mind’s a good thing to do occasionally. The newest model minds are compatible with 1080 i, which is apparently good for some reason. I understand some of them are able to let you get as many as five songs stuck in your head simultaneously. Not forever, of course, just until they all end at the same moment, which will never happen.” — cut because I did some further investigation to the 1080 i-compatible brains and it turns out it’s really only four songs plus a jingle. Hardly seems worth it, does it? But maybe you see something there that I don’t.

“If it’s warm enough then your ceiling will be a semi-molten surface which holds back oceans of liquefied lead and clouds of sulphuric acid vapor. This is a sign that your room is on Venus.” — cut because I can’t find evidence that anyone from Venus reads my blog. Maybe someone with a broader audience can use this, which I think was supposed to be part of a string of house-cleaning tips. That sounds like me anyway.

“Ours is the leading open academy for teaching people to be a bit more uncomfortably warm. Any school can give you the experience of being unpleasantly hot, simply by pouring any academy-certified lava down your throat. But we specialize in a simple warmth that makes you feel like you should have stopped dressing sooner than you did. It’s a rare talent.” — cut when I realized I had no idea where I was going with this even though it’s been sitting around in my scraps bin for like half a year now. It seems like it ought to be something more than that and maybe it could, who can say. If nobody uses this in the next, say, two months I might bring it back in the shop and try it out again.

“No matter what time it is there’s someone in the world who’s dizzier than anyone else in the world feels dizzy. And there’s someone in the world who’s been dizzier longer than anyone else in the world has been dizzy. And if those traits are ever manifested by the same person, just watch out! And clear some space so the poor person doesn’t trip. Someone could get hurt.” — It’s all true enough, but is this going anywhere funny? I don’t want readers to think I lack empathy for folks who trip over stuff even if they are holders of current dizziness records.

“The door is a domesticated version of the `wild’ or `undomesticated’ door. The wild door evolved in southern India, where the naturally solitary but not unfriendly creatures would often stand upright and swing just enough to let people and animals walking at night crash into the side. Almost uniquely among home furnishings (only lighting fixtures and half-walls share this trait) the door is warm-blooded, and so never truly falls into torpor even in the hottest or coldest weather, which explains its usefulness in all climates.” — cut because I did some fresh research and learned many more home furnishings are warm-blooded than was believed as few as two years ago, when I last took a course in this stuff. Doors still don’t truly hibernate, but they’re happy to perpetuate the rumor they do in order that people leave them alone. It’s fascinating stuff, certainly, but requires more research than I’m able to do this week.

“It’s never easy to say just how long the biography you write should be. To make the respectable kind eligible for prizes it should be at least ten pages for each year of the subject’s life, or 532 pages, the winner to be decided in a best-of-seven contest.” — cut when I learned there’s not even close to agreement in writing circles about what contest should be used to establish the biography’s length. I like baseball, myself, although not so much that I think to go see games or watch them on TV. I guess I like the principle more. But I know there’s people who would root for basketball or hockey or one of those weird sports that the sign at the town border says the high school team won two years ago. I suggest someone with strong ideas about what to use as a contest might use this.

“all sorts of squirrel Instagrams” — cut from a conversation I overheard while entering the library because while it’s not my conversation, I like the notion of there being a wide variety of squirrel Instagrams. I only follow two squirrels on Twitter so I don’t know how representative those can be.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped a point in trading and blame that on the World Series ending in such thrilling form. Analysts are pretty sure it just rolled under the counter and as soon as they get there with a broom they’ll find it again. You don’t think they’re fooling themselves, do you? We remember when the index dropped to numbers like 94 or 90 or 91 or other dreadful things and why isn’t anyone worrying about that?

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