Monday, April 08, 2024

The vast unknown powers of the sun and moon

 There's a total eclipse of the sun in America today, and not nearly enough people are talking about this guy!
Another great Bob Haney creation who I said I should write about some time, and still haven't. I'll do it one day! Maybe the next eclipse...

Friday, April 05, 2024

The Bendertaker

 Remember that time Boris photoshopped my head onto Christopher Dean's body? Seventeen years ago? Wow, that's a long time now I come to look at it. Thankfully, I've just made more friends since then who do things like that - Don Michael Vickers in a conversation about wrestling on Facebook said I'm his favourite wrestler!

I would be great on the WWE. I can totally see the storyline already. It would involve The Miz and guest-star Lars Christiansen, perhaps the only memory master who could pass for a WWE superstar. I should write it down and send it to whoever writes their scripts nowadays.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

An Actor's Life For Me

 Remember the short-lived sitcom with John Gordon Sinclair? It was sort of okay. But the point is, I'm an actor now, and a puppeteer too - I write this on the way home from a weekend's rehearsals, with a whole new appreciation for the cleverness and complexity involved in a stage production! I've never done this kind of thing before, and the whole experience is just brilliant! I don't care if it's a thing none of my blog-readers are going to see, or want to see, I'm officially considering myself an experienced stage actor from now on!

Friday, March 29, 2024

A good Friday

 I like four-day weekends. There should be more of them. Especially when I've got nothing I needed to do except arrange travel and accommodation for a trip to London tomorrow for puppet rehearsals. I can't really afford it, but sometimes you need to splash out a tiny bit. Likewise, I've got my bike fixed (more money) and went for a ride this morning, trying and nearly successfully managing to avoid the downpours and only be out in the sunny bits.

And I had a bath and played a memory league match against Tohirbek O'rolov in my pyjamas. Why he was wearing my pyjamas I'll never know, but he won, which puts paid to my chance of promotion to division 2 for next season. But that's fine - I still play reasonably well without any training, and I know what it would take to improve.

Here's an alternative take of that joke: I played a memory league match against Tohirbek O'rolov in Uzbekistan. Why I went all the way to Uzbekistan to play on the internet I'll never know, but it's really great to see new explosions of memory competition enthusiasts in parts of the world are new and exciting to me. I'll never get tired of seeing the constant expansion of memory sports! What unexplored territories are still remaining to us? I should investigate which countries have never had a competitor, and go over there to introduce the people to an all-new national pastime!

Thursday, March 28, 2024

I came 53rd

 Well, it's an improvement on 72nd. I stupidly rearranged the order of part but not all of the data page and had to go back and fix it, or I would have had time to do a bit more, but really, this is unimpressive. I need to get better at this.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

How to excel at Excel

 It's the third battle of this year's Excel esports on Thursday morning, and it's fair to say I haven't done excellently so far. I came 72nd in Battle II. That doesn't really qualify as excelling.

I don't think I've got worse at it; there are more people competing this year who are really good at it. But this is something I need to work on, and it's all about speed and technique. I'd really like to do with this what I did with memorising cards, and devise a way to solve problems using Excel more quickly and efficiently than has ever been done before. I don't know if that's possible. You can't invent new Excel formulas. But Excel has a LOT of formulas, most of which nobody in the world ever uses. There's scope for believing that if I can get familiar with them all, and how to apply them... it's definitely possible.

Brilliantly, the spreadsheet provided for Battle II accidentally had a formula left in the example box for task 4 - if you noticed that (which nobody did), you just had to copy it down into the answer boxes! No brainpower required! But the point is, it's a really great formula!


That's so much more efficient than the way I did it, which had lots of intermediate steps. I did those steps really quickly, but I need to get to the point where I can instinctively see that one complete formula, and set it up! It gives me something to aim for, at least...

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Strong men and nude frogs

 I'm suitably chastened. Right after I posted yesterday's blog, Kurt Busiek (in a comment on an unrelated article on Tom Brevoort's blog which I nonetheless take as a personal reproach) extolled the virtues of the great John Stanley in a way that makes me ashamed not to have recognised the name at once. But it's actually the fault of a deep, dark psychological flaw within myself, which has been very much brought to light by my recent chipmunk obsession.

I think I have to make a full and frank confession here, and apologise to everyone for it, but it has to be said. Deep down, much to my shame... I think girls are ickypants.

There's no denying it. While I was deluging my brother with Alvin and the Chipmunks during his stay here, the first thing he wanted to see was one with the Chipettes. Which took me by surprise a bit - not because he said it (he always liked them and other girly things when we were young, though he tried to keep it more of a secret in those days lest I jeer at him for it) but because it made me realise that I'm still, even in this day and age, really not interested in Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor. I mean, look back at everything I've written about the Chipmunks this last couple of months - I haven't made a single passing mention of the girls!

It's not that I dislike them. There are some good episodes all about them. But all the ones I instinctively identify as great episodes, both watching the 21st-century series today and watching the 1980s series on Saturday mornings when it was new, are the ones focusing solely on the boys. Simon especially, as I've mentioned, but really all three of them! The girls kind of get in the way of that beloved brotherly dynamic. It's the ickypants factor. I should do something about that.

Which explains why John Stanley, celebrated for his fifteen years in charge of Little Lulu, hasn't made such an impact on my consciousness before now. Funnily enough, although I'm (thanks again to my brother, who now he's an adult is disturbingly in touch with and open about his feminine side) more than usually familiar with Little Audrey and the many other Little girl heroes of classic comics, I don't know all that much about the first and foremost of them, Little Lulu herself. I really should do. And for that matter, Nancy, whose adventures John Stanley apparently contributed a lot to over the years.

And there's no excuse at all for me not knowing about Melvin Monster! Created by John Stanley and starring in ten issues of his own Dell comic in the sixties, he's a boy and clearly a great comic hero! I'll add him to my must-read list! 

But now, let's put all this unnecessary girlishness behind us, and talk about Men. Specifically, Strong Man, Cuckoo Man, Tornado Man, Rope Man and Diaper Man - the Mighty Heroes!

Actually, this is where I have to annoyingly break off what was intended to be a long, coherently-plotted blog post with everything leading from one subject to another. I can't find the Mighty Heroes comic from 1967 online. I used to own them, but don't any more, and thought I'd have no problem finding a few snippets to illustrate the point I was going to make about comic book adaptations.

I'll just have to go from memory, and encourage you to read things like this review with irritatingly broken image links to learn all about this fascinating series. The cartoon version of the Mighty Heroes (a supporting feature to Mighty Mouse) had a strict formula - we'd see the above sequence when an emergency arose, and then the rest of the episode would consist of the five Men trying to stop the villain, with a whole lot of crashing into each other and apologising. It was one of those cartoons where you knew exactly what you were going to get, and enjoyed it hugely every time.

And that kind of cartoon always seems to run into trouble when they make it into a comic - it always feels a little different, and fans of the cartoon never seem to quite like it. There's a tendency for comic adaptations to start out doing slightly different kinds of story, and then take note of reader feedback and try to replicate the cartoon more exactly. Mighty Heroes is a great example - in the cartoon, we never see anything of the Heroes' civilian lives beyond that bit of stock footage that appears in every episode. The comic showed them at home, going about their everyday business, for a little while! It just felt wrong.

But the really interesting thing about the first issue of the comic (as best I can recall) is that there were little things different about the appearance and personality of the Heroes. Strong Man's hair was the wrong colour, and he said "duh..." a lot. He's not supposed to be particularly stupid, but the writer, unfamiliar with the cartoon personality, assumed 'musclebound oaf' was the stereotype to go for.

The really, really, interesting thing was that Tornado Man was drawn throughout the 'civilian identity' sequence wearing his superhero cowl! It's a very strange communication mix-up somewhere in the production process, and I'm really annoyed I can't post pictures of it here. I thought EVERY comic ever published was illegally pirated and broadcast to the world nowadays! What's wrong with these evil pirates? Don't they appreciate the great heroes like they should? Someone should have the law on them.

Still, if you have a look around you can find the classic cartoons, not to mention the triumphant return of the Heroes in the Mighty Mouse cartoon of 1987, in which they have retired from heroics and become the law firm of Man, Man, Man, Man and Man, who come back into action in the traditional heroic way. Diaper Man announces that now he's 36 years old, he's changing his name to Plastic Training Pants Man.

Which is the segue into the next subject I was going to blog about! We're back on track now, and I ask you this - can you imagine Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy wearing diapers?! Well, that's what Marvel Comics promised in 1985, but not what they delivered...

I should point out, in the name of unnecessary pedantry (one of my favourite things in the world) that even in the cartoon, the Muppet Babies don't wear diapers (except Rowlf and arguably Animal). Although potty-training was still a taboo subject in kids' cartoons until Rugrats made it mainstream in the nineties, there's ample evidence that our heroes aren't wearing them under their clothes, and people really need to be aware of this fact. But the first issue of Marvel's tie-in comic takes things just that little bit further.

All the way through the first issue, all the characters are wearing their standard costumes (first established by the dream sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan in 1984 and quickly turned into a long-running and quite brilliant cartoon series), except Kermit. He, for who knows what weird reason, spends the entire comic stark naked. Not a stitch of clothing. Not even a diaper!

The artist is Marie Severin, the writer is Stan Kay. I know nakedness is the adult muppet Kermit's usual state, but they clearly must have had the full Muppet Babies character designs in front of them, because everybody else is exactly on-model! What happened to Kermit's sailor-suit? It looks weird even taking the comic on its own merits, when everyone else is fully clothed. It's even weirder to people who know the Muppet Babies cartoon, where nakedness isn't anywhere near as prevalent as it was on The Muppet Show. How did it happen that Kermit ended up in the buff? This is the kind of thing it's possible to think about too much. I should find some more healthy entertainment.

(PS I can't let this go to press without noting that in the later and inferior portion of the classic Muppet Babies cartoon, Bean Bunny joins the cast and wears nothing on his lower half, just like his puppet self. He goes to the bathroom in one episode, too, which rather undermines what I said about Rugrats breaking new ground. But Muppet Babies was well past its best by that time, so we can safely ignore it.)

Let's all turn to issue #2 and beyond, and see Kermit after he's remembered to put his clothes on! It's good stuff, I promise you. Although I never really used to like Piggy. Ickypants, you see.

(Skeeter was always cool, though)