Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Little Pick-Me Up

Okay, complicated personal pun coming up.

A few days ago, I was doing some basic grocery shopping. I bought some stuff I was running low on (or what I figured I should stock some more of). I bought some Tomato sauce, some Pizza bits, and Raisins in a box. However, my backpack was getting pretty full on account of filling it with so many books, and I was worried about getting the pages warped from the frozen Pizza bits.

So I piled most of the smaller stuff on top, and the top-heavy stuff near the bottom.

When I got home, I was horrified to find out that the zipper in my backpack (where I was carrying everything) had unzupped (I know that's not a real word, but it should be) to the point where my books fell out.

I was extremely nervous about the prospect of having to retrace my steps to find anything missing. Fortunately, none of my library books were gone, and I put my Pizza and Tomato sauce away.

It was only later that I realized that I forgot about the box of dried fruit that I put on top, and that must've fallen out from behind me.

In other words, I lost my Raisins through my Derriere.
Normally, the story would end here, but it turned out there was more to tell.  I posted the above on Social Media, with little reaction from my small circle of friends.  My family was more receptive, and two days later, I got a text from my Mother saying she was out shopping, and asked if I wanted any raisins, and wanted to know if I'd gotten any more.  I gave her a reply... one hour later.  By then, she was no longer in the store.

Later, my Father confronted me, saying he had something interesting to tell me, and asked me an unusual question: Did I happen to lose a box of Raisins recently?  Because when he went out to get the mail, he noticed that there was a box of Raisins just sitting on top of the mailbox, where I went a few days earlier.  He figured, "Hmm.  Somebody's lost their Raisins.  Good thing it wasn't me."

It was only later that he heard the story from Mom that I posted earlier, that he put two and two together, and figured that two missing boxes of Raisins was too much of a coincidence.

Incidentally, I looked around that same area a day later, but was looking more at the ground than on any overhead flat surfaces, figuring that if anybody happened to chance upon a gift of free food, they'd jump at the opportunity to make it their property.  But our neighborhood is so safe and offense-free that no one bothered to steal a container of sweet dried fruit.

So basically, I knew that a box of Raisins fell out of my backpack, and so did my Mother.  My Father knew some books fell out, but didn't know about the lost Raisins, since he doesn't frequent online opinions much.  He also knew that there was a box of Raisins on the mailbox, but didn't think it was mine.  As he said later, we all had bits of information, but we hadn't quite put all of them together.  Very much like those Soap Operas where characters do foolish actions due to complete misunderstandings.  And you're mentally screaming at these characters for not revealing their innermost thoughts.  "SHE LOVES YOU, YOU IDIOT!!  CAN'T YOU SEE THAT?!  ONE SIMPLE PHONE CALL COULD RESOLVE THIS WHOLE STUPID SITUATION!!"  But the audience has the luxury of knowing what the cast doesn't know, and being aware of the conventional cliches the players are totally blind to.  It's not that smooth in real life.
So, my Dad went back to the Mailbox to see if the Raisins were still there.  (Spoiler alert, they totally were)  He joked that since they were out in the sun, they'd been dried even further.  Though the moisture from the plastic casing when it rained the other day probably offset it somewhat.  Even though they'd been out for a good two days, they still tasted pretty good.  A simple matter of rewashing the wrinkled grapes and putting them on a plate to dry off was enough for me.  I paid a good $4.00 for these Raisins.  I'm not letting them go to waste.

And by total coincidence, today is National Raisin Day.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Paleolithic Stone Soup

Before Jan Eliot started out with her comic strip Stone Soup, she started out by testing the waters for a potential audience with a weekly featurePatience and Sarah that was loosely inspired by her family relations, with a smattering of For Better or For Worse behind it.  After gaining a cult following for three years, she was able to expand her repertoire to another larger newspaper, the Eugene Register-Guard under the monkier Sister City.  After five years there, it was picked up by Universal Press Syndicate and rechristened Stone Soup.  Though, by looking through the early uncollected comics, Sister City seems a better fit.

This early sample shows a first draft when Holy was originally named Sarina, and is probably the closest we'd ever get to seeing any of Elliot's early work.  For now, we'll have to be content with these samples of the first few months.

If we discount the first provided sample above, this would officially count as their first weekly comic.  Keen observers will notice a subtle difference between the lead sibling's hairstyles, and more varied body language and movement between panels.

Interestingly enough, the Mother, who would become a larger focal point in Stone Soup was more of an off-screen presence in early strips.

If there's something I have to confess, I've never actually found Stone Soup to be particularly funny.  The characters don't really speak to me, and are rather one-dimensional in their attitudes.

This comic for instance is a direct rip-off of an old Garfield comic, and expanded to the point where the humour loses its impact.

A single action (spanking and name-shaming) divided into two separate panels is the kind of thing that drives me nuts.  There are ways to combine consequentive actions effectively, and some cartoonists don't seem able to bridge that divide.  But this is still early in Jan Eliot's career, and maybe she was having an off day.

Strangely enough, the very next strip has a three-panel tier, when the majority of her comics are four-panels.

After a month of being an invisible presence, we get our first look at the Mother, whose look is pretty similar to how she'd look later.

It would take another month or so before she would appear again.

The month of September is missing from the online archives, so baring a physical copy elsewhere, there's a gaping hole in this collection.  But that's fine, since we get to move on to the second notable half of Sister City:

The presence of the Mother's sister and her baby, who's remained stunted in the same age bracket years later.

I mentioned earlier that Sister City was a better fit, and this strip shows why.  If we take the relationships between the women as a given, then obviously their tortured arguments between each other would be considered greatly identifiable for anyone who's experienced such things.  (And why it doesn't speak to me)

For the most part, Sister City mainly focuses on the younger siblings, with the occasional input from the Mother.

From these samples alone, Alix seemed to be quite popular for her outspoken and unreserved attitude towards life.

And of course, Holy, the older sister would never pass up a chance to lord over her younger immature rival.  I oftentimes found Holy's attitude grating.

Occasionally, there would be the odd strip that would be the size of a Sunday comic.  There was no clear pattern to these, but it's likely Jan Elliot was preparing herself to try to experiment with a slightly larger format before hitting the big time.

The remaining month of 1990 revolve around Christmastime, and since Spring's just getting over, it seems a little out of season.  There's celebrating the holidays early, and there's celebrating the holidays EARLY.  (Only 240 Shopping Days until Christmas!)  But for the sake of completeness, I might as well get it over with.

And in conclusion, one more Sunday-esque comic showing the vast disparity between Alix and Holy.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Referendum Neverendum

I always thought Mr. Bellows looked a lot like Lucien Bouchard.
As disastrous as the U.S. election was (with political repercussions yet to be perceived), there’s at least some semblance of recovery, even in the face of overwhelming opposition against the status quo, the Brexit situation is just as unnerving.  Other countries are now attempting to separate out of sheer distaste of the surrounding countries they’re associated with.  It’s as if the older generation were disfranchised with the advantages Millennials got, and instead of taking to heart of all the sacrifices their ancestors made to provide for their current state of living, instead decided that the current generation is simply too soft, and needs another war in order to appreciate what they already have.  The current political situation overseas is bringing up painful memories of ages long past.  I may not be alone, as others may also be experiencing trigger warnings from current events.

In the mid-90s, there was a humour columnist in the same vein as Dave Barry, Josh Freed, who coined the term, Referendum Neverendum to describe the constant votes in the Province of Quebec on whether to secede from Canada.  Believing that Quebec wasn’t as respected as the rest of Canada, the PQ (Parti Quebecois) Party felt that they would gain more respect as a singular country, despite not having any definite plans for future prospects,  jobs or even a replacement currency.  In the words of one of the PQ’s more popular members, Lucien Bouchard said, “Canada is not a Real Country.

To get an understanding of the kind of political turmoil that was typical around the 1970's, refresh your memory of the October Crisis.  Outbursts of violence were rare, which made the situation even more tense, because there was so much pent-up frustration just waiting to be unleashed.  1995 was an extremely tense time in Quebec, because it was the closest the Separatists ever came to actually separating from Canada.  Originally intended to hold a Referendum in spring, plans were pushed back until they could finalize an appropriate question that would cover all possible loopholes and leave no room for negotiation.  The accepted wisdom was to wait until ‘Winning Conditions’ were favorable.  An Air Farce skit (the Canadian equivalent to Saturday Night Live) had then Separatist leader, Jacques Parizeau hem and haw over which month would be the best month to hold a Referendum election.  He tore through a calendar, rejecting various months over reasons one or another.  “February?  Too short.  March?  Too windy.  April?  Too wet.  (...)  July?  Too hot.  August?  Too close to July.  (...)  November?  Never hold a Referendum in a month with the word NO in it.  That brings us to December.  Having settled on a definite month to hold a Referendum, I have yet to decide on which year.”  While intended as a joke, the actual date for the Referendum was on October 30th 1995, over six months past the first planned date, drawing out the suspense.

In addition to being cagey with the Referendum date, the PQ was notorious for creating an overly complicated questionnaire over whether to Separate or be part of Canada.  Just read the following and see if it makes sense:
Do you agree that Québec should become sovereign, after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership, within the scope of the Bill respecting the future of Québec and of the agreement signed on 12 June 1995?
It couldn't be any simpler!  If the people could actually understand that impenetrable labyrinth of Bureaucracy Gobbledygook, stonewalling sanctions couldn't get passed, and nothing would actually get done.  This wasn't the only bag of dirty tricks employed - devoted believers made their contribution by de-voting election results in rejecting ballots for the ‘No’ side, over claims that they weren’t sufficiently “checked in” properly, according to the whims of the zealous administrators.

Canada was visibly unnerved at the prospect of Quebec potentially separating from them that mass numbers of them flew over via Air Canada at a mass rally to show their solidarity with this sole wacky Province.  Ontario may be considered the so-called brain, but Quebec is the Heart.  Only 15,000 people were flown over, but more curious spectators showed up to bolster their support.  If other countries had done the same, instead of heavily relying on their superior knowledge that everything would proceed as business as usual, would Brexit still have happened?
Answer: e.  Rally?  What rally?
Among the conditions for allowing Quebec to separate from Canada was a consensus of an average of a 50% plus one vote.  Quebec voted with 50.58% NON to 49.42% OUI.  It cannot be overstated or emphasized enough:  the results were VERY CLOSE.  Parizeau then blamed the results on “money and the ethnic vote”, which forced his early retirement.  (Even in a Multi-Cultural society like Canada, a lot of resentment stems from being uncomfortable around the presence of immigrants)  There were suspicions that the mass migration of Canadian citizens across the Provinces cost them the Referendum.  After that, enthusiasm to separate has largely died off, and promises of separating no longer have the same appeal to younger voters than it did to the half of the population back then.  Indeed, there’s a lot of grumbling over the redundant need to separate in the first place.

But that hasn’t stopped the Separatists from trying their damned best to try to get their points across, no matter how much it hurts their bottom line.  One of the more zealous hard-liners was Premier Bernard Landry, who was famous for his outbursts and losing his temper, and calling the Canadian Flag “A Red Rag”.  One small newspaper article at the time had a story about a laundromat that suffered some bizarre damage.  The headline read: Laundry Explodes, and at the time, I thought that Landry got so upset over something or other that he Spontaneously Combusted.

For all of Landry's bluster, the most visible face of the PQ remained Lucien Bouchard, who remained popular, despite failing to deliver on his Fairy-tale promises.  Ironically enough, for a man who was relentlessly parodied on Air Farce for making mock Nazi salutes, and his preference for Arrowroot Cookies (normally reserved for babies), his saving grace was in resigning from his party when there was negative associations with Anti-Semetic elements.  That alone elevated his status in my eyes when his previous attempts were aimed at fighting for a doomed cause.

It was our hope that after the dismal failure of the PQ and the Bloq Quebecois that there would never be another Referendum that could potentially break up Canada.  Why spoil a good thing?  Even with the influx of old-timers who long for the day when Quebec is a solely French country, the most they can muster up is a mere 36%, nowhere close to what they'd need to convince another needless election.  But the division of countries like Britain and Scotland is bring attention to this dead horse issue again, in the faint hopes that if they succeed where they failed, then maybe there's still hope.  I, for one, don't look forward to such a possibility.  I don't want these countries to fall to ruin over misplaced pride, but I also don't want my country to be broken up over something so trivial.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Harry Potter Relay

Lately, I've been going through my old stuff, transferring whatever files I have that are still readable onto new memory devices before they get infected or die out from data rot, viruses or planned obsolescence.  In the process of digging through, I came across an old story in 2006, back when Harry Potter was exploding in popularity in the form of a Fanfic between two artists, Ryuuen and Akane.   The former using full-body style art, and the latter using Chibi-like art.  (If either artist wants said offending images removed due to embarrassment, let me know)

Now, back then, I wasn't entirely privy to the risks and rigours of the Internet, being fearful of potential Trojans, Worms and Spies attached to downloadable material, and the thought of having my saved pics be available for the world to see (on the Family Computer, no less) was something of a major dilemma.  Not to mention I didn't like the idea of having to constantly click to enlarge the image every time.  So, I would copy the image, and then paste it on a Word document, which I could then view at my leisure later.

This wasn't always perfect, since it involved having to open said images in Internet Explorer first (Netscape wouldn't allow it for some reason), and there would be an annoying downtime for the picture to load  To counter this, I would scroll past all the pages I'd already done, and then go all the way back up and read from the start.  I had entire volumes of Hikaru no Go and 20th Century Boys done like this before I figured out more efficient ways of viewing these stories.  (The data space for the Word documents holding these volumes were bigger than the individual pages themselves)

While pasting the images in Word substitute programs was relatively simple, retrieving said images was more of a pain.  I had to highlight said image, then choose the Edit Image option, and THEN paste said image onto a Paint document for easy viewing.  This was the same strategy I employed to retrieve my Sprite WebComics earlier.

The process to undergo this was labourous and time-consuming, and I didn't begin to seriously consider undertaking a hefty project until the prospect of losing such things became a very real possibility.  That, and my Vista computer is currently disconnected from the Internet.  I couldn't connect even if I wanted to.  (And I want to)

Technically, there IS another HP relay comic out there, but most of it (by the author's admission) is pretty lousy, and she says doesn't exactly improve until the 20th installment.  Considering that there's only 32 parts so far (since 2007!), reading that is an optimal endurance course.  And nowhere near as fun or interesting as the pages I've got here.

More silliness after the cut:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Chew Your Ears Off

When a comic has a long shelf life lasting beyond the first year of their life, some strange traditions may pop up entirely up to the cartoonist's whims.  These can result in lengthy inside jokes appealing to longtime readers who notice such things.  Peanuts had Lucy pulling away the football before Charlie Brown could kick it.  BC had his annual Easter Bonnet, later traded for Visual Religious Metaphors.  And Sally Forth has her tradition with eating Chocolate Easter Bunny.  But not HER Easter Bunny, but preferably, somebody else, most likely her daughter.

The tradition continues with Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe who've carried on the strip after its creator Greg Howard retired in 1999.  The Easter comics they've done since then are available for online viewing, but records of the originator's are hard to come by.  I've been scouring through online archives, trying to find any instances of Sally indulging in her sadistic pastime behavior.  Even with a narrow timeframe of Weekends in April, it wasn't always an exact science.  Some Easter comics would show up at the tail end of March, and there were a lot of holes not of my making.  Starting out, Sally Forth was Syndicated in 1981 in roughly 200 papers, this comic from 1983 is the earliest instance of Sally's Chocoholicsm popping up.

Another thing to consider was that not every Easter was cause celebre for Sally to indulge in her guilty indulgence.  Below is a rare Easter comic that doesn't necessarily have any instance of cruelty to Chocolate Animals and little girls.  There might've been an ear-biter comic sometime earlier, but the lack of available sources prevent me from finding out.  I'm lucky enough to even have this example available in the first place.

After that, there's a big fat hole where 1985 should be, so we skip over to 1986.  The keen observer will note that the Father is using crutches in the last two panels.  Ted's crutches are the result of his breaking his leg while playing Basketball long past his required age, dealing a severe blow to his masochism.  A rare instance of Sunday comics synchronorizing up with the dailies.
This next entry wasn't found online, but in one of Sally Forth's few collections, A Woman's Work is Never Done.  It was this particular comic that I noticed a certain pattern emerge.  Also, the collection is one of the few that actually leaves their dates available in the margins, otherwise, I'd be agonizing over whether this appeared in 1985 or 1987.  A quick purview at a calendar narrowed down the choices rather quickly.
Over time, Hillary would devise more and more elaborate safeguards against her valued chocolate bunny, which, very much in the vein of Wily E. Coyote's inventions, were constantly squelched through unconventional means.
With Sally constantly eating her beloved bunny ears, Hillary started getting more and more desperate in her attempts to ward her mother off.  Whether it was in the process of using decoys...
...hiding them in elaborate places...
...or giving in to the inevitable, she never quite got ahead.
This ordeal wasn't made any easier with having to constantly deal with her Mother's constant casual snark.
After this point, there's an entire gap in the years 1993 to 1996, where no Sally Forth Sundays could be found.  Fortunately, I was able to catch the tail end of the Easter comics before the turn of the Millennium.
As we can see, things haven't changed that much.  Hillary still has her trademark twin ponytails, and Sally still has her mystical ability to find any cocoa-flavored animals within the confines of the house, much to her daughter's consternation.
This comic below is arguably where Greg Howard leaves the comic for good, since the trademark cursive name at the bottom, Mac, is left all on his lonesome and Greg's name is only included in the throwaway panel.  That throwaway panel is exactly why I've included it here, purely for the sake of completeness.  If you want to see what happens next, you're free to click the earlier link up above, or choose it here:
There was an Easter update on April 9th this year, but it was more of a prologue of things to come.  Will Hillary be able to foil her absurdly singular talented Mother this year?  Don't be ridiculous.