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.

97

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?

96

Statistics Saturday: Final Words In 100 Comics I Read Thursday


  • procedure
  • carpool
  • know
  • mind
  • Corvette
  • you
  • silos
  • rubbish
  • you
  • child
  • end
  • espresso
  • see
  • inventor
  • the
  • Constance
  • idea
  • shade
  • manner
  • home
  • window
  • spineless
  • contactless
  • you
  • adorable
  • deck
  • again
  • guys
  • cards
  • fast
  • here
  • touched
  • grateful
  • shell
  • sir
  • stuff
  • what’s-his-name
  • transferred
  • scores
  • sauvignon
  • confirm
  • so
  • digested
  • whistles
  • again
  • smooch
  • dinner
  • in
  • plate
  • press
  • booths
  • right
  • ball
  • Glorg
  • click
  • Murphy
  • progress
  • another
  • play
  • epilepsy
  • you
  • bullhorn
  • die
  • there
  • the
  • Selfy
  • security
  • Dale
  • bad
  • you
  • winter
  • do
  • know
  • man
  • Frankenswine
  • Richard
  • journal
  • mode
  • statement
  • leave
  • that
  • lane
  • crumb
  • it
  • trumpeters
  • it
  • it
  • guys
  • competitive
  • kilts
  • minutes
  • pepperoni
  • on
  • fries
  • jungle
  • sideways
  • self-explanatory
  • Crunch
  • ball
  • mine

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

All right, five more points down on the index. We can handle this. It wouldn’t even be a big jump tomorrow needed to wipe out all those losses and were we really at a hundred and fifty just last week? Oh gads we were, it was so little time ago, whatever happened? Why did it happen? Why?

113

From The September 2016 Scraps File


The month may have got started later than usual, but that’s no reason not to empty out the scraps bin. Here’s stuff I couldn’t use in September and if you’re able to, please, go wild. All I ask is a simple acknowledgement that you couldn’t have done your work without me. I need it to pad my CV.

Connoisseur. Cut from several pieces when I realize that even with spell check and entering it into DuckDuckGo I can’t come close to spelling it right. I don’t know. It shouldn’t be this hard and it’s not like I wasn’t able to get the hang of ‘kigurumi’ eventually. So this goes into the special bin for “words that have appeared in Peanuts that I somehow can’t get straight”.

Really I never understood what problem the Federation was solving in dividing the galaxy into just four quadrants, especially when two of them were off on the far side where they’d only interact following freak events like the Bajor wormhole or whatever crazy pipeline sends everything from Earth, including dinosaurs and Amelia Earhart, into the Delta Quadrant. Cut from a post on TrekBBS about why the aliens on Star Trek: Voyager say they’re in the Delta Quadrant when that’s a human designation and surely can’t match any local description of space. Because you know, the part of TrekBBS I like best is how many people are sincerely worried that Benjamin Sisko might never come to reconcile with Jean-Luc Picard, even though they could go through the rest of their lives never seeing or thinking about the other. The part I like least is people starting threads straightplaining why Star Trek is at its best on issues of gender and sexual orientation when it mostly shows men worrying over their womenfolk. In any case the other people there aren’t living long enough for me to argue about how Delta Quadrant species make large-scale divisions of the Milky Way.

Cybernarc. Title of a novel by William H Keith, Jr, and cut from a piece where I was going to try to list the Most 90s Science Fiction Novel Titles ever. And it’s a good idea but it’s just so hard to try finding a bunch of 90s Science Fiction Novels, since they don’t sell novels from after 1991 back to used book stores anymore. And while that’s great if you’re looking for a 70s novel about the extremely sex-partner-ready inhabitants of a great domed city that get pushed outside it doesn’t help you scan the shelves and see what titles really jump out of the 90s and make you giggle. Oh, I guess there’s also Robert Thurston’s Bloodname: Legend of the Jade Phoenix II but you could probably make that a Most Science Fiction Novel Title Of Today too.

I like to think of this as a place where I occasionally buy queen-size bedsheets. Cut from the start of a new tumblr that I cancelled when I realized I couldn’t think what a third post on it would be. Also that I don’t understand tumblr because you respond to stuff by posting it from somewhere else and people looking at the original don’t see it and I don’t know. There are people who can explain this to me but they give up in disgust when they see my cell phone.

In his 40 years as Jacksonian Professor at Cambridge University James Dewar, pioneer of the study of heat flow, never fulfilled the requirement of the post that he find a cure for gout. Cut because while it is a wonder it doesn’t seem to be on-point to anything I’d be writing. I mean, I guess I admire James Dewar. Anyone who could get his name attached to Thermos bottles has to be doing something right. But why would it come up in September when I’m not even in school anymore and don’t need something to hit my siblings with? We’re adults now, we can just punch and gossip on social media.

You’re Steve Allen, aren’t you? Cut from an episode of Stan Freberg’s 1957 radio series where, even if it doesn’t look like much, it’s a pretty solid laugh. It’s in Daws Butler’s delivery unless it was someone else delivering it. I put the line back where I got it and I bet you’d like it there after all. It’s the show with the Grey Flannel Hat Full Of Teenaged Werewolves sketch and the advertising campaign for Food, so, you know, good stuff there.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Index was up a solid eight points and must admit it would be feeling invulnerable if it weren’t sure feeling invulnerable was the prelude to suddenly feeling very, very vulnerable. I mean, we’ve been through this before, we know what hubris is. And we’re not looking to see a demonstration of hubris brought against someone who claims to know perfectlyw ell what hubris is. That’s just not fair.

148

Statistics Saturday: 33 More WordPress Tags I Have Even Though They Match No Articles


I did promise.

  • planets
  • indigo
  • lavende
  • heliotrope
  • Heckle and Jeckle
  • pharmacies
  • comic strip
  • humans
  • malfunctions
  • Big 10
  • cultural differences
  • otters
  • Goodwill
  • filing
  • rock and roll
  • Block Island
  • metric system
  • Arbor Day
  • giner ale
  • San Giorgio
  • continuations
  • thalidomide
  • sausage
  • Pittsburgh
  • voids
  • lowbrow
  • Jon Oliver
  • Don Novello
  • merchandise
  • highway
  • timepieces
  • plays
  • eras

Now I’m all conflicted because I’d like to write about this one Heckle and Jeckle cartoon that was important to me when I was young and really quite undemanding from my cartoons but that’ll soil the historical value of this post. Maybe I can spell their names wrong, which is pretty easy to do. I know, the “giner ale” was a typo for “giner ail”, one of those old-timey disorders we don’t get anymore like consumption or Commodore 64 BASIC.

Statistics Saturday: 33 WordPress Tags I Have Even Though They Match No Articles I’ve Written


  • 30 Rock
  • genius
  • film numbers
  • time-savers
  • extroversion
  • ptr
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • group theory
  • modern dress
  • pop culture
  • Aquacade
  • Springfield Massachusetts
  • bad fashion
  • back-to-school
  • professors
  • nature imagery
  • pet
  • production
  • traffic incident
  • colleges
  • fantoms
  • entropy
  • bureaucracy
  • Bangladesh
  • Washington
  • Austin
  • international finance
  • Swiss chard
  • NewsRadio 88
  • existential dread
  • ASCAP
  • ignorance
  • pollution

Coming next time: otters, Don Novello, sausage. To sum up: ptr? I have no idea. Also no idea what ‘fantoms’ is doing there. Most of the typos I understand how I would make at least. Maybe it was supposed to be ‘OTR’? Yes, that would make sense.

Comic Strips Worth Reading: Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe’s _Sally Forth_


Comic strip fans, by which I mean people still passionately angry about what Lynn Johnston did to Elizabeth in the last years of For Better Or For Worse, tend to fetishize original artists. It’s understandable. The first several years of a comic strip tend to be its strongest, when the ideas are most exploratory, the writing the most fresh, the characters the most deftly realized. Even if the original artist and writer stay on they tend to fall into patterns and lose the sense of exploration and discovery of a comic strip’s universe and subtle boundaries. When a new person, often a child or grandchild of the original artist, takes over things tend to be worse-received. Perhaps the new artist doesn’t wish to venture too near breaking the comic. Perhaps the new artist, with the best will and talent in the world, just isn’t in tune with the material the way the originator was during the second and third years of syndication.

And yet sometimes the original artist isn’t the best at exploiting the creative idea. Ordinary comic strip readers, by which I mean people who have never while reading Peanuts wondered about whether Schroeder is his first or last name nor formed a strong opinion on the question, probably don’t care. If the comic strip is entertaining what difference whether it’s written and drawn by the original artist, or by her granddaughter, or by the person who happened to be walking past Comic Strip Master Command when the old artist said she was retiring? There is wisdom in this. Good art is its own justification. Only boring trivia buffs care about the first two film versions of The Maltese Falcon. Star Trek: The Next Generation was an intriguingly-designed but dumb mess before Gene Roddenberry was sidelined from it[*]. Sometimes the cover artist records the song better. So here’s the best current example of this phenomenon.

[*] (Admitting that the production of the Next Generation was deeply screwed up early on, and that a lot of the design of the show was David Gerrold’s, who was thrown off the show in its first season.)

Sally Forth, by Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe.

Greg Howard, a lawyer figuring he could get in on some of that sweet syndicated-newspaper-comic-strip money, began Sally Forth in 1982, and needed only fifteen years to learn better. He first turned over the art to Craig MacIntosh, who’s since turned it over to Jim Keefe. The writing went to Francesco Marciuliano.

Jim Keefe’s a fine artist, the last person to draw the Flash Gordon comic strip. Sad to say, and despite some game efforts by Marciuliano, there isn’t much chance to show off action in Sally Forth. There really aren’t any action-adventure strips left. There’s Mark Trail and if it runs in any actual newspapers Rip Haywire, but past that the only real action in a comic is the occasional sports sequence. The modern comic strip mostly uses art as a scaffold to tether the word balloons. We occasionally decry this, but we go on reading comics with indifferent art as long as the writing is there. Keefe does well, though. Even the talky episodes — and there is a lot of talk in the strip — avoid the trap of being static. We get movement.

``Another autumn, another six hours lost in a corn maze.'' ``We just need a better vantage point. What do you see, Hil?'' ``THRESHER!!!''
Francesco Marciuliano and Craig MacIntosh’s Sally Forth for the 3rd of September, 2008. Because the memory of this particular strip has caused me to giggle occasionally for eight years now.

But, yeah, it’s Marciuliano’s writing that draws interest. Comic strip readers, casual and fans, will put up with almost any art if the writing’s good. Marciuliano made the strip good by what’s probably the only way to make an established thing good again in a lasting, durable way. He looked for emotional honesty in it. After some time spent learning the comic (his WordPress blog has an enlightening description of the earliest days) he wrote to that.

Hilary and Ted Forth compete to be first with Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed. It ends, as such competitions will, with pancakes in the bed and give different types of cheeses on the stairs.
Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe’s Sally Forth for the 8th of May, 2016 (Mother’s Day). Yes, it’s wordy. But I make out eight distinct punch lines in six panels. Your count may vary. Note by the way Hilary’s quietly offended look in the first panel, bottom row.

An example. Sally Forth’s original boss, a pompous idiot named Ralph, would in any responsible organization be fired. And eventually he was, and he lived in the horrible loneliness of a middle-aged person whose identity’s been torn away. Marciuliano isn’t a cruel writer. Ralph was allowed to find a new space, a job he does all right despite his own fears, a relationship with someone (Sally Forth’s sister) whose strengths and weaknesses complement his, making them functional, happy people. It’s a set of storylines which retool a stock character into a person.

He also did this by giving Ted Forth a personality. He became the guy who knows every Monty Python quote and had gotten just old enough to not deploy them at every opportunity. You know this kind of person. I’m one. I can still function in normal society. Ted functions, more obviously ridiculously, but he’s supposed to. (The term “man-child” keeps being brought up, not unfairly.) He’s credibly threatened to take over the comic strip altogether. And the comic keeps running towards being a parody of family-and-workplace comic strips.

Then it draws back, returning to emotional honesty. This summer has had Sally and Ted’s daughter Hilary going off to camp, giving them the chance to live like newlyweds again. And then a few weeks ago they realized they don’t feel that way. That there’s something wrong. Something fixable but they don’t know quite what it is or just how to do it. It was a surprise to them. It surprised me as reader. It surprised Marciuliano when he realized it was going that way.

Ted and Sally Forth talk: Sally realizes that she's taken on a taskmaster role in their relationship while Ted plays the manchild and that isn't satisfying anymore. The original is rather wordier than that.
Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe’s Sally Forth for the 7th of August, 2016. It’s again wordy but it’s also worth the read. The “wrong Hamilton musical” here refers to a storyline from April in which it turned out Ted bought scalped tickets to a musical about the founding of Hamilton Beach. Which will happen.

But it was also true. Once made explicit it’s obvious this is a sensible way for their relationship to go. It’s the sort of developing human story that, ironically, story comics don’t do well anymore. The humor strips with continuity, and a storytelling style in which a theme is introduced and riffed on for a week, do it much better.

In one of the strip’s flights of fancy there’ve been a few weeks showing Hilary Forth and her friends ten years in the future, in that exciting time of life of being an adult but still relying on your parents because your car’s alternator is always burning out. Many comic strip fans saw it as a better Apartment 3-G than was the actual Apartment 3-G. Some proposed that Marciuliano was secretly auditioning to write it.

This week, Marciuliano takes over the writing for Judge Parker. That story strip’s taken it particularly rough from comic strip fans the last couple years. It’s gotten a lot of slagging for the not-even-glacial story progression — it’s hard to be sure, but I believe in all sincerity they’ve been covering the same three-day weekend since May of 2015 — and showering of the primary characters with undeserved and increasingly implausible riches, some of that from people who are actually thinking of Rex Morgan, which is pretty much the same strip anyway.

He promises, “Yes, there will be a car crash. And yes, the survivors will eat the dead. After all [ … ] it may be minutes before the band is found.” And he’s aware of the storytelling challenges: “If the car crashes then people will say, `I knew it.’ If the car doesn’t crash then people will say, `I knew it. Nothing bad ever happens to these characters’.” I am optimistic about all this.

Comic Strips Worth Reading: Tony Cochran’s _Agnes_


Richard Thompson’s death reminded me how long I took to start following Cul de Sac and how many people had the bad fortune never to start reading it. So I’d like to take some time this month and point out some currently-ongoing comic strips that are worth more attention.

Agnes, by Tony Cochran.

I’ve mentioned some Percy Crosby’s comic strip Skippy. It’s a powerful strip. It’s about the only comic strip from the 1920s that you can read and still understand what in it was supposed to be funny. There are comic strips from that era still going on that are entertaining enough. But they’ve all mutated so far from their 1920s starts as to be unrecognizable. Here you can take the original comic and tell what the joke was. It was an influential comic strip, too. All the comic strips about children concerned about things far beyond their age are working in its shadow. They may think they’re working in Charles Schulz’s shadow, but he was working in Crosby’s.

``You look grumpy today, Agnes.'' ``People tell me that all the time.'' ``Probably because of that grumpy look you have.'' ``I'm happy. Genetics just gave me a grumpy face.'' ``Maybe you could smile more often.'' ``Smile when you're born with a grumpy face, people think you're devious.''
Tony Cochran’s Agnes for the 31st of July, 2016. I don’t have a natural-born grumpy face exactly. But I’m aware that in every picture I look like I’ve decided the low cost of repairing the front steps must be because we got a second-rate job done and we’ll have to have it redone later at much greater expense and inconvenience. So Agnes has a point about the nature of faces.

Tony Cochrane draws one of these strips, and one of the best, under-appreciated ones. Agnes is about the person named in the title, and her grandmother/caretaker, and her best friend Trout. Agnes and Trout are somewhere in elementary school. They live in the sort of poverty that’s so all-encompassing that people who emerge from it grow up saying they never knew they were poor because there just wasn’t anyone who had money. It’s a quiet thing behind much of the strip, that say why Agnes would take up an interest in a horribly mutilated old doll she found behind a dumpster and turn it into a plaything. The poverty quietly adds drive to Agnes’s imagination, and why she should make so much elaborate play for herself.

``Look, Mewbella, you have two options. One is leaping into the abyss.'' ``Ha! You're a riot, you are.'' ``Two, you ca do a crab-like skitter back to this end, let me help you down the ladder and let mocking laughter follow you forever.'' ``I choose that one.'' ``Good. After a time you'll convince yourself it's an invisible herd of giddy geese.'' ``Easy lie to live.''
Tony Cochran’s Agnes for the 5th of August, 2016. We have all been caught on the end of the high diving board at some time. I remember my father coaxing us into jumping off it by promising he’d buy ice cream cones which, in point of fact, he did about two hours before the diving board issue came up. While I concede the truth of his logical implication we were still grumbling about that for … ah … I guess this makes it thirty years after?

She’s an imaginative character, the sort that draws other people into her play. Trout mostly puts up with this, despite reservations. Her grandmother is less interested, but does make clear she’s had an adventurous life she’s now content to rest from. The children and adults around her are often bewildered, playing along in that way you do when someone is being more interesting than social convention allows. She brings this operatic touch to everyday business, making more out of a long string of projects that start strong and peter out into little, the way most stuff you do as a kid does. and that without losing the wise-child comic’s ability to make sharp comments on the way the world works.

People learning to write comedy are told the value of picking funny words. It’s not wrong advice but it isn’t quite enough. You need funny words, but a funny word dropped into a boring sentence is amusing the way a Mad Lib is amusing. What you need are funny sentences, which requires more than just a glaze of funny words. Cochran is good at composing funny sentences, ones in which a character will answer Agnes’s request for books about teleportation with “We still have epic tomes on knitting”. “Epic tomes” looks funny; to speak in this context of an epic tome on knitting makes for a funny sentence.

``I have mastered all current yo-yo tricks and now I will make up new ones.'' ``You didn't master all the current tricks.'' ``Yes, I did. They are mastered. Mastered perfectly.'' ``Agnes, I had to cut you free from string six times today.'' ``Yo-yo mastery has been fraught with pitfalls.'' ``And whose blood is on the ceiling? Yours or mine?''
Tony Cochran’s Agnes for the 12th of August, 2016. I have never enjoyed such dramatic success with yo-yo. It brings to mind that great Ursula Vernon drawing with a hamster bound and dangling from the ceiling by the toaster and demanding that her friend never mind how it happened, just get help.

The core cast are two girls and a woman, each of them a solid and independent character. There’s not enough of that in the comics pages. I’m glad there are solid comics like this to read.

What The Flipping Heck Is *Wrong* With You, Funky Winkerbean?


If you’ve ever entered “funky winkerbean” into Google for some reason you’ve probably noticed the autocompletes are “misery porn” or “depressing” or “cancer cancer cancer cancer death die cancer death”. I haven’t checked recently but that’s all right. The strip made a staggering reputation for itself in the 90s and 2000s when Tom Batiuk decided to make it a serious issue-addressing strip by making everybody in it miserable and giving lead character Les Moore’s wife Lisa the traits of (a) being Les Moore’s wife and (b) having plot cancer. It’s an especially pernicious kind of cancer, what with how it can reappear years after a heartwarming conclusion just when the author thinks the readers least expect it, even though the readers have been saying in the comments section how they expect it ever since it went into remission.

So. Funky’s Ambiguous Relative (I think he’s a nephew maybe?) Wally had it particularly hard during the Misery Porn years. He went from troubled youth to soldier in Afghanistan, where he was captured by Enemy Forces and held captive for years. He was freed, though, and went home, but it turned out he still had a day of service left and so was called back to duty and shipped to Iraq. And by this point the readers’ relationship with Funky Winkerbean was so bad that even if this were based on something that actually happened to somebody it didn’t matter. None of us were buying it. And then he got captured by More Enemy Forces and held for … a very long time.

It’s hard to say how long. While Wally Winkerbean was off in Enemy Forces hands the strip did its second big “time jump”. This was a half-considered flash-forward after the Death Of Lisa Moore, Who Somehow Keeps Appearing In The Comics A Lot Considering How Dead She Is. The purpose of this was to allow Les Moore to transition from being a widower traumatized by his wife’s recent death from plot cancer into being a widower who’s somehow not even remotely over his wife’s death ten years before. I mean, to an extent I’m sympathetic. Should I outlive my love by a decade-plus I know there will be days I will be miserable, like anniversaries and my love’s birthday and some other special days. “Special days” does not mean, as it does to Moore, “weekdays, plus Sundays, and Saturdays too”. My love understands: a decade on, there will be days I smile even without having a reason.

Anyway, during the time jump, in which Funky Winkerbean got everybody ten years older and more decrepit while sister strip Crankshaft didn’t even though the comics share a universe and sometimes cross over into each other, Wally was held captive. Was he captive for more than ten years? Or was his captivity just retconned into the recent-yet-now-technically-unseen past? Good question and nobody has the faintest idea, Wally included.

As you might imagine Wally came out of this with post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a terrible case. Its primary trigger is being seen on-panel for his one storyline a year, which is about how he’s totally over his post-traumatic stress disorder unlike when he thought he was last year and now he’s ready to take some classes at Local Community College. And then we got to last week’s iteration of the story, in which Wally’s regularly present female companion of some relationship interrupts Funky’s work on his Tiny Laptop with a plan that can’t in any way possibly go wrong:

'Let me get this straight. You're going to the Monsters Of Metal Show to help Wally get ready for school?' 'Exactly. There's going to be a big crowd with lots of noise and pyrotechnics. It's sort of a final exam for his PTSD.'
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 3rd of August, 2016. I know I’ve only taught a few community-college courses. And they’ve been in mathematics, which Wally might not be interested in taking. But we never used pyrotechnics, not for explaining the z-score. We more used the motion-sensor light switch no mortal power could override and that would make the lights cut out when I was sitting down because it was the middle of an exam and I could see everybody was being discreet about their cheating. But the class was at two in the afternoon and there were windows all along the wall so the room would just suddenly go from a little too bright to really quite pleasant instead. The z-score is a mathematics thing in which we subtract one number from another, divide it by a third number, and call the result ‘z’. Not just any numbers; we pick those for special reasons ahead of time and call them x and μ and σ and if they mind they’ve never said so.

OK. Since the second Time Warp (the first one was in the early 90s when original characters finally graduated high school, then came back to work at the high school and suffer for it) Funky Winkerbean has moved away from its Misery Porn incarnation. It’s been much more about aged people sitting around being depressed. Also about praising this imaginary comic-book franchise named Starbuck Jones that’s produced some nice looking Silver Age-style covers and no actual stories. And the occasional halfhearted attempt to bring back the pre-1992 era’s flights of fancy and even whimsy. And yet I keep looking back on this strip and, well, see the subject line here.

If you have any explanation you’re doing better than Tom Batiuk.

SPOILER: Nothing went wrong and Wally is totally over his post-traumatic stress disorder unlike when he thought he was last year and now he’s ready to take some classes at Local Community College!

From The July 2016 Scraps File And Free To Good Home


Come one, come two, come at least a few of you and enjoy last month’s scraps file. I couldn’t do anything with these blocks of words. Maybe you’ll have some better luck. If not, you can get them at half-price in the August 2016 Scraps File in a couple weeks. Words are sold as-is and may not be turned into gerunds just because you didn’t have a better idea what to do with them.

and while you’d think that was good news you have to remember that noses, like all body parts, are terribly gross things — cut from riffing on this discovery of a new antibiotic produced by a bacteria that lives in the nasal cavity because while bodies are terribly gross things it’s not like antibiotics researchers have too easy a time of it and need some hassle from me. They know what body parts they have to touch all the time. I have to be responsible as a very slightly read blogger. I can be irresponsible later on if I metamorphose and I’ll try to keep you updated on that.

something something stray unattributed quote from Monty Python sketch something — cut from what was honestly a bit of comment-bait because I keep telling myself I’m better than that even though I’m not. I’d probably quote something from one of the lesser Monty Python sketches anyway, the ones the Internet hasn’t destroyed by endless quoting. Maybe the one where a bank robber goes into the lingerie shop. That one happened, right?

mandible — cut because it’s not really that funny a word, not when you’ve heard it already in the past three months, which I’m all but sure I have.

furthermore I do not know where your paranoid delusion that I am talking about you behind your back comes from; people think you incapable of telling the difference between “a good person” and “a person who flatters me endlessly” because of your own merry little band of sycophants and not my pointing this out to them — cut from that letter that really looks like it’s never going to be sent because while it’s not like I’m saying anything behind that friend’s back, I know the friend isn’t paying any attention here and that is PART of the WHOLE PROBLEM as I have said in many paragraphs cut already. Anyway, since I’m the one being honest in the whole fight I don’t want to descend to including stuff that’s merely technically true, even though, as has been the case this whole while, I’m right.

thatched — as above, it’s one of those words that sounds like it’s funny to start with, but really isn’t, not when you hold it up to close examination. I apologize for people who have fond memories of slightly famous mid-90s comic Thatch but there’s like four people who do and one of them is the guy who wrote it.

also where do we get off saying a dipper is a thing anybody recognizes anymore? Maybe there’s somewhere they deal with them, off where there’s all sorts of people keeping horses and stuff like that, but here in the city dippers faded away back when the “drinking fountain” came in. Drinking fountains were great. They were free, publicly available places to get tepid water dribbling a quarter-inch out of a metal receptacle. But we had them, and they made dippers obsolete. — cut from my thing about what constellation you’re looking at essay because I know with a rare metaphysical certitude that saying anything against dippers will bring down a force-two Internet Hailstorm of angry comments. And I’m willing to get into arguments online, don’t question that. It’s just I’m more inclined to put up with fights in which people insisting on one space after sentences try to get the rest of us to do it wrong. The dipper enthusiasts I don’t want to cross. For that matter, as much as I’ve riled up the constellation enthusiasts they’ve been willing to admit that I’m right about how we can’t see more than about six constellations anymore and I named all the big popular ones. I don’t want to get in trouble with their advocacy groups, Big Big Dipper and Big Little Dipper. Who would?

secret — removed from the phrase “my secret hope truckers appreciate how far ahead of them I get before moving back into their lane” as I can’t possibly call that secret now you’ve seen my explanation, can I?

Bob and Ray and the Campaign Microphone


I feel like listening to something today. Here’s an October 1959 episode of Bob and Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. As often for these shows it’s a set of several sketches, all done by Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding. None of the sketches really involve one another so if you don’t care for one premise — a Broadway actor going over the failure of his musical; a political-news interview with a possible candidate for the upcoming presidential election; the Bob And Ray Trophy Train arrives in Memphis — you can zip ahead a few minutes and enjoy the next. I wouldn’t.

While listening to the Vic And Sadecast, an hourlong podcast about Vic and Sade, my love assessed that I have a love for wordy humor. Not puns, mind you, or jokes that consist only of putting a word where it doesn’t belong. More humor in which there is wonderful care about picking words so that they are just odd enough to be funny even if you can’t point to a specific laugh line. I think my love’s right in this as with so many regards. Bob and Ray sound rambling and improvised; it’s part of their charm. I don’t know how much Bob and Ray and their writing staff got done by editing and rewriting into shape and how much they got done by being really good writers and improvisors. It’s hard to pick any line, though, and find a variation that would be better. You can make lines more obviously meant to be punch lines, but then the whole sketch would be lessened. Anyway, do enjoy, please.

In Which I Annotate My T-Shirt


There’s this amusement park in Clementon, New Jersey, called Clementon Park. Any questions so far? It’s a fine little place that survived a financial crisis that should’ve wiped it out and I’m glad it’s on the upswing. Quite good wooden roller coaster too.

I have a T-shirt from it. It’s the classiest amusement park T-shirt I own. It’s dark blue and has this nice diamond pattern down one side and it has a faux-heraldic shield with the park’s name and some of its rides and the letters N J on diagonal squares of the shield. If you didn’t know better you’d think it was for someplace where you couldn’t plausibly expect to buy a batter-dipped plastic fork.

A friend pointed out to me that the shirt was backwards, and I didn’t get it, but finally realized he meant instead of having it monogrammed J N. Well, I usually go by JFN when I need to go in initials. The F stands for what you would assume it does, assuming you assume it stands for my middle name. I smiled that this was a cute coincidence that hadn’t occurred to me and that was it until ten hours later when I thought of the response. “Oh yes,” I should have said, “I put my shirt on inside-out”, which doesn’t make sense but sounds enough like it should to qualify as a joke.

So now all I have to do is wait for some time when I’m wearing this particular T-shirt again, and someone happens to make a joke about the N J on the t-shirt matching two-thirds of my own initials in the wrong order, and then I’m set to sound all spontaneous! So I hope you’ll forgive me writing this here so I don’t forget it. I can’t sound effortless without this kind of work.

Statistics Friday: June 2016 As It Was For Humor Blogging


So the easy thing to conclude about my WordPress readership statistics from June is that my becalming has continued. There were 1,063 page views around here. That’s down from 1,198 in May, but kind of up-ish from April’s 1,043. The unique visitor count dropped from May’s 677 down to 606. But that’s still up from April’s 583. And down from March’s 632. Doesn’t seem like a lot of progress, does it?

Page likes were down to 180, which completes this strange little parabola the past five months. Both May and March had 201 likes. April, in-between them, had 213. And February? … had 178. I’m not sure whether I’m more bothered that two more people didn’t like me back then, or that two fewer people didn’t like me in June.

The ever-erratic comments count was up again. It popped back to 52 comments in June. Since that doesn’t count internal links I know that’s 52 times someone said something around here. I think most of that was talk about video games. May, my first month without internal links being counted as comments, only had 25 comments.

Ah, but here’s the exciting thing: for the first time in maybe a year none of my most-read posts were about Apartment 3-G. Coverage of that strip’s sad collapse was still in my top ten — people never tire of watching slow-motion, sad, confusing disasters — but I’m not looking for another comic strip to snark about relentlessly. Funky Winkerbean is already well-covered. 9 Chickweed Lane is just too awful to read on purpose. And, anyway, for the first time in I don’t know how long all my top five entries were things I had written, not public-domain Robert Benchley pieces or pointers to Vic and Sade episodes or the like. I’m glad when people read those, mind, especially since they’re fairly easy writing. But it’s gratifying to be read for my own voice whatever that is.

The most popular posts around here in June were, apparently:

There’s soe nice interesting search terms that brought people here. Among them:

  • why is funky winkerbean so depressing (Oh, gads, you could guest-write a blog.)
  • why does mary worth look different in comic strip lately (New artist for the Sunday strips is why.)
  • famous non functioning clock stuck at 10:06:26 (I never heard of it, myself.)
  • is someone else drawing mary worth? (Looks up two items. Um. Yes, Sundays.)
  • ants in the plants cartoon (?)

The month started at 36,952 page views, and 19,157 recorded unique visitors. WordPress also says there’s 664 WordPres.com visitors, which isn’t much up from the start of June’s 660. Maybe I need to advertise or something.

Now for what people really want: a list of countries. The greatest number of page views came from mostly the usual folks this past month:

  • United States (677)
  • Canada (57)
  • Germany (52)
  • Portugal (46)
  • India (31)

I don’t know why Portugal’s liked me recently. I have faintly nice thoughts about it, I guess, mostly based on grand strategy games and how convenient it is having Portugal on yourside. But I can’t imagine Portugal folks would single me out for appreciation based on that. It’s not like you can’t go it without Portugal if that’s what happens, for example. And why should anyone in Portugal care about my game-playing since I don’t do multiplayer grand strategy gaming?.

Single-reader countries this time around include:

  • Angola
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Georgia
  • Greece (**)
  • Hong Kong SAR China
  • Hungary
  • Kenya
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Mexico
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Norway (*)
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • South Korea (*)
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine (**)
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Zambia

The (*) countries were single-reader countries last month. (**) countries are on three-month streaks here. Nobody’s on a four-month streak. But things are looking good if I attract just a tiny bit of kind-of interest from Greece. … Also, hey, Singapore, what’s the deal? Poland at least sent me four page views. European Union, 2, and let’s just set aside the standard comment about that in light of whatever the heck the deal even is there.

If you aren’t a WordPress follower, or an e-mail subscriber, you could be. There’s still room. There’s a little blue button to “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” at the upper left corner of the page, to the left of the headline. Under that should be a Follow By E-Mail button. If there isn’t, nobody’s told me, possibly because they don’t know how to get my e-mail. And I’m on Twitter, where I don’t have to go looking so old-fashioned by including the – in “e-mail”.

From The June 2016 Scraps File: Unused Text For You


Text and other stuff, like spaces in-between text, that I didn’t make use of in June 2016. Please feel free to take what you can use if you know a better home for it. If you know a worse home, don’t tell me about that, it’s depressing and wasn’t June enough of a problem?

we all want to go viral while staying the unique special discovery of our readers — cut from my open letter to every social media ever. It’s a pretty snappy line and fits with so much of the flow of that. But I thought of it in the shower the morning I had that essay scheduled to post. I made sure to remember to add it in. I swore to myself I was going to add it in the moment I got on my computer. I next thought of it the Sunday afterward while driving to a competitive pinball event in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I do not blame Grand Rapids for this. Also I was right by where the alleged rather large piece of coal was yesterday and I didn’t think to go exploring.

Not yet! — cut from my response to the little girl from a couple houses down that just moved in the neighborhood. She’s nice and friendly and asked if I lived in the house I was always hanging around which is a fair enough question. And I mentioned I’d moved in just four years ago that Tuesday and she was awestruck and asked me if I was old. And I cut that from my answer because I didn’t think of it until like two days later. I suppose I could just tell people that’s what I answered and that would do for most anecdote purposes but then what if someone asked me how she answered? The lie would be exposed for what it was and I’d look terrible. But this is probably usable by someone who’s writing a wholly fictional anecdote could use this after all.

Ghostbusters became a thoroughly enjoyed icon of pop culture despite the warning that it was a years-in-development labor of love by Dan Aykroyd. — yeah, I pulled it back out of April’s scraps file because thought I could do something with it. And no, it’s not working. But I did get to digging around some old Starlog magazines from archive.org. I found some fascinating trivia about the making of Nothing But Trouble‘s production. Also I have to visit 1990 and punch some entitled nerds, mercifully none of them me.

and you betray what you spent ten years telling me were your most cherished ideals with your faithful re-creation of every bullying dynamic that made middle school a festering boil of agony and cruelty — yeah, so that reconciliation letter isn’t really getting any better. I don’t even know anymore. I’m sure there must be some value in writing it since otherwise I waste the four hours each night I spend staring at the dark ceiling composing fresh drafts, right?

but any reasonable person would agree the experience of the Majel Barrett “Number One” casting myth and the mutations in the famous Nichelle-Nicols/Martin-Luther-King-Junior story justify my asking how exactly we are supposed to know what the common lore tells us — cut from a TrekBBS forum thread arguing about whether the space shuttle Enterprise really had been slated to be named Constitution before the Trekkies put in a letter-writing campaign. I am confident the official story that the orbiter was to be named in honor of the US Constitution’s bicentennial is so obviously wrong that Bugs Meany wouldn’t try to pass it off. And furthermore I’m sure the preponderance of evidence is that NASA had no plans to name any orbiters before the Trimble/Hoagland campaign. But dear lord I am arguing when exactly NASA had the idea to name a space shuttle ‘Enterprise’ and complaining about the shortage of primary documentation on the subject in a Star Trek forum what is wrong with me?. Also I haven’t been back since. But I’ve been busy.

whatever happened to that book about competitive fox-hurtling — cut because I lost the name of it so now I just sound like I’m making up stuff by asking.

From The May 2016 Scraps File


Please, take what you can use. There’s so much more to give.

  • Overpants. — Cut because which of the two logical ways do you go from there? A new article of clothing solving some body-hiding problem we didn’t before suspect? Maybe. A method of disguising the United States’s ever-crumbling infrastructure particularly for highway travel? Maybe. Plus there’s probably some obscure article of possible Victorian-era clothing actually called “overpants”. I bet it has a Wikipedia entry that manages somehow to be six hundred words longer than Wikipedia’s entry for the Taiping Rebellion.
  • So you could do a story recasting the struggle about bimetallism and the gold standard and all that as a secret history. It’s really the struggle for power and survival between different types of dragons. Like, the silver dragons would be pushing heavily for gold to be the only recognized human specie. That way there’s less demand for their scales as units of trade. They can get used instead as scales. Whereas gold dragons might be well aware there’s no keeping humans off of them. So backing the Populists would at least lessen the demand on their scales. Or make trouble for the silver dragons. Meanwhile I the copper dragons are off to the side grumbling about how everybody is happy to use them and yet nobody respects them. The precious-metal dragons answer hey, who tarnishes beautiful around here? Fractional-reserve fairy folk pushing for a wholly notional medium of exchange could solve the whole problem. But they’re too longwinded and boring to listen to. — Cut because oh good heavens this could be the most anti-commercial story ever. Publishers would line up to gawk at this and ask who, exactly, is the supposed market for a dragon-fantasy story about the 19th century United States specie debate? “Look,” I can see them saying, “you were on to something spectacularly unmarketable with that idea for a 4X video game about standardized time. I mean, or we mean, in unison, you had a perfect capture of a nonexistent market with that. But this, this is just … this could destroy the very concept of money.” Anyway, if you can do anything with the premise go wild. I’m thinking the true secret power behind it all: aluminum dragons trying to destroy the concept of money. I know, there’s no doing anything with this.
  • And in your refusal to recognize that fifteen years of demands for ever-more stringent shows of loyalty just might result in one of the people who thought themselves friends expecting the slightest show of consideration from you — Cut from that still-unsent letter because you know, it is getting harder to figure out why I want to save this friendship after all.
  • Overwear. — Cut as being just the overpants joke again and no more promising this way.
  • Exclamation points are way too much. You can’t go on demanding that sort of attention if you’re an even slightly introverted person like me. And I admit I don’t set records for introversion, but still, an exclamation point is too much. Even a period feels too much like a demand on people’s attention. I’d love to end my sentences with ellipses, since that makes writing look more like it’s from an old comic strip. And it makes sentences look less like I’m committed to them. Except you make ellipses out of three periods. That’s three times as much period as one period would be. It’s even more attention-demanding. We need something for people more reserved. — Cut because while “punctuation for introverts” might be a good idea it’s going to draw out people trying to push interrobangs. Interrobangs aren’t happening, people, and trying to push them is just sad at this point. It’s not as annoying as people trying to push how chickens are dinosaurs. That’s not doing anything to make chickens look better and it’s not doing dinosaurs any favors either.
  • Overshirt. — It’s too far away from the overpants concept and is just a hoodie anyway.
  • It’s a fine trafficky day. The kind of day that makes you want to surround your car with a fifteen-foot-thick block of not-too-compressible foam. — Cut because it wasn’t all that much of a day. But I bet people would love to ride one of these. Or watch a YouTube video of it. But if the foam block does extend fifteen feet in every direction then you’ll need cars modified to have extremely tall wheels. And if you manage that then the cars will have trouble on the highway by the overpants.

From The April 2016 Scraps File


Bits from my scrap file that I couldn’t use in April 2016. Free to good home. No pedigree available on metaphors. Papers available upon request but don’t ask me to whom.

When I say it makes my hair look “good”, I mean it looks good enough for me. By “enough” I mean there’s room for obvious improvement. By “improvement” I mean a general bettering-ness of things. By “me” I mean the same old person I meant last time, only a little older. — Cut because I could swear it’s a Robert Benchley thing and while I would get away with it, I would know. And by “know” I mean “know”. By “I” I mean “me”, but in a different case.

seeming like it might be — Man, again I have this cropping up everywhere. I’m not even trying to write it, it just appears.

And then the label on the pumpkin can says “Good to connect! Visit us at LibbysPumpkin.com”. — Cut from the pumpkin can label because E M Forster rose from his grave to warn me that this was not even in the slightest what he meant. “It’s a can of pumpkin innards,” he said, “What could you possibly have to talk to anyone about that? There is no elaboration possible! Pumpkin innards are a complete explanation of themselves!” On hearing this, the ghosts of René Magritte and Alfred Korzybski got a heated quarrel going about whether a pumpkin was a sufficient representation of a pumpkin. They’ve been going at this since last Saturday and I would say I’m sorry to have got the whole thing started. Except that as a side effect Forster and the ghost of Marshall McLuhan have been watching my Arrested Development DVDs. You wouldn’t think that’s the kind of show someone could riff on, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. They don’t, not exactly. But their commenting’s got pretty sharp stuff anyway. Also the ghost of Korzybski has been in the dining room giving those “I’ve got my eyes on you” fingers to our picture of Immanuel Kant.

Nutmeg was supposedly so powerful it could bring things back to life, which makes it weird they’d use it to cover the taste of rotted meat. Would you want a slab of rotten mutton or whatever they ate in the 16th century coming back to life? But I understand scholars don’t believe Europeans were covering the taste of rotted meat anymore anyway. That makes more sense to me. Spices needed years to get from the East Indies to, say, Sheffield. Animals were right there. It’s much more plausible if Europeans used fresh meat to cover up the taste of rotted spices. — Cut from that time-in-New-Jersey essay because I’m not sure where I got that bit about nutmeg curing death. I’m pretty sure I read it in Giles Milton’s Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: Something Something Or Other Something Spice That I Just Bet You Changed The World but I don’t know where my copy is. And maybe Giles was having a little giggle with us all. If anyone knows him please ask and let’s find out. Also I really thought that time-in-New-Jersey post would get more interest from the standards-enthusiast community here. Go figure.

But then a fantastic arrogance has always been your truest métier. — Cut from that letter I’m still working on to that estranged friend because I am getting to wonder what exactly I ever got out of that friendship.

Ghostbusters became a thoroughly enjoyed icon of pop culture despite the warning that it was a years-in-development labor of love by Dan Aykroyd. — Snipped when I remembered there are already plenty of opinions about Ghostbusters on the Internet and that doesn’t mean I have to have one too.

Cartoon Characters That Have Been Caught In Giant Snowballs Rolling Down Mountains. — Cut from a potential Statistics Saturday post when I realized I couldn’t name all that many. There’s ThunderCat Lion-O, of course. Also Betty Boop. But after that? I would guess it’s happened to Bugs Bunny. And probably on Hanna-Barbera’s 1960s series Character Who’s Got One Catchphrase And A Bow Tie And That Will Have To Do For 17 Episodes. I guess Breezly and Sneezly. But that’s not a list. That’s a partially baked idea and there’s no sign that the Magritte-Korzybski quarrel will heat it well enough to finish.

Statistics March: In Which I Just Have February All Over Again


Well, that’s novel. For March, I had 1,107 page views. This is just what I had for February. I guess at least the decline in readership since the end of Apartment 3-G has stopped. The visitor count crept up, in the most strict of technical senses, from 629 in February to 632 in March. (There were 1,211 page views in January, from 645 visitors.)

Clearly I need to find some hook that’s as good as reporting that Apartment 3-G doesn’t make any sense, but who’s got time for that?

Anyway, the reader-engagement measures are ambiguous as ever. March got me 201 “likes”. That’s up from February’s 178, but down from January’s 272. There were only 36 comments, though, down from February’s 52 and January’s 66. I need to do more stuff that gets people to write back, but I admit I don’t know what that might be.

I can’t fault people for not writing, though. I rarely know what to write when I read and really like someone else’s humor writing either. “That’s great!” feels shallow somehow. Trying to follow up on the original writer’s joke makes me worry I’ll sound amateurish. Worse, I might make a joke the original writer had considered and rejected not funny enough, and then I’d ruin my image in front of everyone forever and have to hide under the bed and set my socks on fire. I understand if other people get seized with the same fear writing to me, although it seems bizarre. It takes at least four lousy jokes before I think ill of a person.

So what’s been popular here? The most popular stuff for March began, of course, with Apartment 3-G and then got into stuff that wasn’t the long-form pieces I try to post on Fridays:

The United States gave me the most page viewers in March: 769 of them. The Canada gave me the next-most page viewers, 65. The Germany came in next at 43, and then the United Kingdom at 28 and the Brazil with 25, which surprised me. India sent me 15. Singapore didn’t send me any, which, aw. What’s wrong, guys?

Countries sending me only one reader were: Bulgaria, Egypt, El Salvador, Indonesia, Israel, Macedonia, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam. El Salvador, Israel, Portugal, Qatar, and Vietnam are on two-month streaks like this.

The month starts with me having 33,648 page views, from 17,291 separate viewers. I’m surprised that it hasn’t overtaken my mathematics blog in page views (it’s got about a thousand more), although the humor blog is about four thousand ahead in visitor count.

WordPress claims I have 647 followers on it, which is up from 639 at the start of March. This might not sound like much, but I made the “Follow Me On WordPress” button a lot more prominent. It should be at the upper left corner of the page, at least as long as I stick to the current theme. I forget what it’s called. I’m also on Twitter, as @Nebusj, because I got assigned that screen name by my grad school when I entered it so many years ago and I’ve stuck with it because what would I do that’s any better? Jnebus? No, that wouldn’t work at all.