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Thursday, November 05, 2020

415 years ago today...

 Remember, remember

 the fifth of November

The gunpowder treason and plot.

I see no reason

why the gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

(with thanks to David Lloyd, Alan Moore, Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and whoever drew BUSTER)

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Making the world simpler in the most complex way imaginable...

Okay, hear me out. I know this is a pointless exercise which will almost certainly never catch on, almost the dictionary definition of tilting at windmills, spitting in the wind or whatever metaphor you want. But this came to me in a restless dream and unlike almost all other ideas born that way actually still makes some kind of sense in the light of day.

I've always been a little annoyed that, with 26 letters of the English alphabet and only 7 days of the week, somehow they still managed to use the same letters twice two different times. That means if you want to abbreviate them, you have to either use two letters or some clunky method (in one school I went to, they somehow settled on using "K" for Thursday classes. Yeah, I felt the same way). And the sources of the names are just a hodge-podge of random astronomy and mythology references that just look a mess, as anyone who had to learn to spell "Wednesday" knows.

The months of the year are somehow even worse. Twelve of them, and somehow they manage to use "A" and "M" twice each, and "J" three times. And even simple two-letter abbreviations aren't enough, since "March/May" and "June/July" would get get confused. And those are even worse on the sources, with a mix of Roman gods, then a pair of Emperors, and then finishing with four numbered months which are numbered wrong according to the current calendar. Seriously, "Octo-" for the tenth month, that doesn't bug you every time?

But what can you do about it? You can't just change the names of the days and months, can you?

Well, yeah, you kind of can, since they're already different in other languages. It looks like most languages that use the Latin alphabet have some of the same repeating letters problems, since they use similar sources, while other systems sometimes don't but that doesn't really help our problem unless you you think using Kanji or Cyrillic characters will somehow make something simpler. But the point is, you can have other names for these things, and it wouldn't be that hard for people to learn 19 new words.

Especially if you solve the other problem, and put them in alphabetical order. Seriously, we have an order everyone learns in a song from an early age, and uses every day to look up names and places, that computers are already well programmed to sort by. Why not use that order for something as elementary as the system we use to know when we are and when we have to be someplace?

So let's start with the standard 26


For weekdays, let's eliminate those already used in English to avoid confusion


And let's get rid of I, L and O, which are easily confused with numbers or each other (that's a whole other rant, so many possible shapes and we have to deal with "O/0" and "I/l/1"?), and X because there aren't a lot of words beginning with that (another rant, why do have letters not pulling their fair share of the load?).


Doing the same with months and we get


Since we want to avoid confusion, it makes sense not to have any weekday start with the same letter as a month, so lets take every letter that appears in both sets and eliminate it from one.

Weekdays - ADJNQVZ 

Which leaves us with seven letters for weekdays and twelve for months, just what we need. Almost like it was meant to be.

Now for naming them, well, the common "-day" suffix seems to work with days, so might as well keep that, or something similar if you want to avoid confusion. Maybe borrow "-di" from the French. For the prefix, well, the good part of this system is that it doesn't really matter. There can be a simple default name, but if you call it "Queensdi" or "Quotationdi" or "Quietdi", everyone will know you mean the fifth day, Thursday if you're starting the week with Sunday (yet another rant, but one windmill at a time).  I'll get back to that, but I'm thinking the default name for each day should be a simple single syllable, but you can also just use the letter since there's no chance of confusion ("Your class meets DNV at 7").

For the months, maybe we figure out a good default suffix, instead of the current non-system of "-uary" twice, then nothing for half the year, then "-ber" for four months. Maybe something as simple as "-mon".  Maybe the default name could be something simple and two syllables to distinguish from the weekdays. And whatever it is, if someone says they're thinking of going on vacation in Gamemon or Goalpostmon or Gadgetmon, you know it's what the ancients called April. And if they're in a hurry and refer to P-Mon, you know that's July.

The more I write, the more I'm beginning to think this isn't crazy. People with a specific interest can probably create a set of day and month names based on their interest (band names, movie names, super-hero names) that can be easily converted back to standard names without any esoteric knowledge. You can sort a list with names of months without having to convert them to numbers (and remember that September is the ninth month, even though a septagon has seven sides).

Okay, that's enough on that. I'll try to post some more on comics this month, maybe something next Duckdi, but if not maybe I'll get to some Halloween stuff in Uglymon.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Dark Horse Twenty Years [2006] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre

Dark Horse Twenty Years [2006]

This is a one shot pin-up book priced at just 25 cents which, as the title makes clear, celebrates two decades of Dark Horse publishing, going back to DARK HORSE PRESENTS #1 back in 1986. Mike Mignola handles the cover, with a cluttered desktop with action figures and imagery from some two dozen or so Dark Horse published features.

For most of the book the pattern is that each pin-up features a character associated with the artist of the previous page. So after Mignola's cover, the character is Hellboy, drawn by Adam Hughes, then the Hughes-designed Ghost with art by Arthur Adams, and continuing from there. This pattern breaks down a bit in the last few pages, after Rick Geary draws Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey, with the last two pairs being straight switches (Joss Whedon drawing Emily The Strange while an artist for that, Buzz Parker, draw's Whedon's Fray, then Stan Sakai does a Sin City piece to pair with a reprint of a Frank Miller drawing of Usagi Yojimbo from a few years before).

This is an interesting little curiosity, well worth the original cover price, but probably not too much more.  The highlight is definitely Sergio Aragon├ęs drawing Conan, long before the actual GROO VS. CONAN book actually came out (and in that one, Tom Yeates drew the Conan figures).  That's in the middle of a nice stretch of the book, with then Conan artist Cary Nord doing a nice Aliens piece ahead of it and Paul Chadwick taking the next page to draw Aragon├ęs' Groo. There's also some nice work by Matt Wagner and others.

Worth picking up if you can find it cheap. It'll almost certainly never be put out digitally, with several of the licensed and creator-owned features having left Dark Horse in the intervening years.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Gumby #2 [2006] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre

Gumby #2 [2006]

Gumby was a claymation cartoon created by Art Clokey in the 1950s, with cartoons created into the 1960s and some later revivals. I have no memory of ever seeing it as a child, although I did see (and usually actively avoided) Clokey's other famous claymation series Davey and Goliath. Like most of my generation, I think I first encountered the character in the rather absurd version of the character Eddie Murphy did on Saturday Night Live.

For some reason the character appeared in comics in the late 1980s, most famously in two one-shots drawn by Arthur Adams, one written by Bob Burden and the other by Steve Purcell. Then in 2006 Burden returned to the character for this series with artist Rick Geary (the two had worked together one two issues of JUNIOR CARROT PATROL in 1989/90).  Looks like it was planned to continue at last one more issue but only lasted three. Burden even did one of the covers for this issue, which very much feels like a FLAMING CARROT cover.

Each of the three issues is a standalone story, with some light continuity around the girl introduced in the first issue, Cuddles. In this one, Gumby wants to get a fancy pair of boots to impress Cuddles, working some odd jobs and eventually winding up in the same circus where he had an adventure in #1, this time getting a job as a clown and then later getting turned into a golem. And then it starts to get really weird.

A pretty decent story, a long 34-pages in a packed issue which also has a frontispiece (which kind of gives away the ending of the story), a letter column and a biography of Geary plugging his various other works.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

The Wasteland [1989] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre

The Wasteland [1989] 

THE WASTELAND is a one-shot comic of single page comics by Dan Sweetman and Dave Louapre, published in 1989 by DC's short-lived Piranha Press imprint in the first year of its brief existence. The publisher was already several months into Sweetman and Louapre on-going title BEAUTIFUL STORIES FOR UGLY CHILDREN (the imprint's only on-going book) when this came out. Louapre's foreword is deliberately oblique on the source of the comics (being more concerned with the seemingly persistent comparisons of the strip to Garfield, instead of the obviously preferred Family Circus pedigree he aspires to), except to note that they were created over a four year period. Checking around, it seems they appeared in publications like FANGORIA and THE L.A. WEEKLY.  The result is 124 single panel comics, plus cover and foreword.

Other than the aforementioned Family Circus, the most obvious comparison for the comics is to the work of Gahan Wilson, in particular his gag strips for magazines like PLAYBOY and THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION. There's a similar macabre sensibility, especially in looking at the more mundane aspects of normal life and giving them a dark twist, often predicated on a small bit of wordplay. That kind of work might be best known today from probably also Wilson-influenced newspaper strips like The Far Side and Bizarro, although taking it in a more extreme and explicit direction than you can in syndicate-approved comics.

Like any such collection, it doesn't always hit, but there are a number of excellent strips which I remembered vividly ever since I first read this some 30 years ago, even if I didn't always remember this is where I read them (one particular strip I always think of when I hear expression "leisure suit"). Sweetman's art goes through a few phases, as you'd expect from a four-year creation process (I don't think the strips are presented in anything resembling the order of creation), a lot of places you can see him settling into a few of the many styles he'd use for BSFUC.

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