Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Homer's Odyssey

As I've mentioned before, I used to mispronounce 'odyssey' as 'ah-dee-ah-say' because a Lego commercial lied to me I misheard an announcer on a Lego commercial. I bring this up because this episode's title has 'odyssey' in it. The episode is one of my favorites and it's not just because it features a lot of street signs.

We open on Bart's fourth grade class getting ready to go on a field trip. We hear what other field trips the class has been on including the state penitentary and water park. Today they are going to the nuclear plant and later on they will go to a chocolate factory which makes me wonder how something as boring as the box factory got in there. Oh well, I guess not all field trips can be exciting. Because Bart is late getting on the bus, he has to sit next to Wendall, who always gets sick and always throws up. I've been thrown up on before while riding a school bus. The kid behind me threw up and it went between the seat and the window and I was sitting next to the window. It got on my arm and in my shoe. We are also introduced to twins, Sherri and Terri, who not only insult Homer but also get Bart in trouble by kissing him. Bart's punishment is to serenade the bus with "John Henry Was a Steel Driving Man."
Well, they took Bart Simpson to the graveyard
And they buried him in the sand, oh yeah.
And whenever the locomotive came a-rollin' by
they said 'There lies a steel-driving man. Lord, lord!
The field trip at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant starts off with the kids watching a short film about nuclear power which introduces us to corporate logo and mascot, Smilin' Joe Fission.
The film talks about how wonderful nuclear power is and all the amazing stuff you can do with it and it just touches on how it's made. The part I always loved was when Smilin' Joe talks about the waste nuclear power causes but says the waste can just be swept under the rug where no one will find it for millions of years. One of the pieces of waste finds its way out so Smilin' Joe just kicks it off-screen. Another well done part of the film that I never really paid attention to is the shot of everything being powered by nuclear power.
I love the pig roasting in the living room and the man shaving his face/eye most
of all.
We finally get to the main crux of the plot as Homer, trying to find the children, gets distracted by Bart and crashes into a pipe. Homer is then fired, ironically, by Sherri and Terri's dad who is apparently black:
One thing I noticed during this latest rewatch is that Homer only bursts one pipe which is turned off rather quickly. I know Sherri and Terri's dad says that it's the last straw but of all the things Homer has caused at the plant, this seems rather tame.

So, now Homer is unemployed and spends his days watching Loaftime. He attempts to look for another job but all he can find is one for a technical supervisor and Homer's background is as a supervising technician. For some reason, this episode always worried me about unemployment. Not working seemed horrible. Now that I'm older both work and unemployment are horrible. After Homer is unable to find a job and unable to gather enough money to buy a beer, he decides to kill himself. Along with unemployment, this was the first thing I watched that talked about suicide. For some reason, the unemployment part was much more traumatic.
I'd kill myself too if I held a pen like that.
Instead of choosing the easy way out, Homer decides to tie himself to a boulder and throw himself off a bridge which requires him to tie a boulder around himself and carry the huge rock to a bridge. Homer is nearly hit by a car because that intersection doesn't have a stop sign, meanwhile, Bart and Lisa wake up and realize Homer is missing. The kids and Marge find the suicide note and run off to save him, nearly getting hit by a car themselves causing Homer to realize that he should devote his life to public safety.
Why is there a boulder already on the bridge? A joke that Homer didn't have to
carry the one he has?
The Simpsons go to a city council meeting where Homer requests a stop sign be installed at 12th Street & D and Lisa sits by this guy:
The council approves and thus begins Homer's journey, or odyssey, if you will, into public safety. A montage of the many signs Homer gets installed, the biggest waste of money being the "Sign Ahead" sign. Is Homer getting paid for any of this? He's just getting signs installed and it's not like he's on some sort of board or committee, he's just himself. It's always nice to have meaning in your life but the Simpsons need money. Despite all the good he's doing, Homer is not satisfied and he won't be until he shuts down the nuclear plant. To be fair, it's not clear if Homer wants to shut it down or just make it safer but either way, it puts a big hurt on Springfield's economy.

Homer then has a rally where we are introduced to Black Not-Flanders prototype (because Flanders has already been introduced) who lists Homer's accomplishments of a speed bump (yay!), the dip sign (yay!) and the 15-mile-per-hour limit on Main Street (boo!). Burns is surveying the demonstration from his office above who calls Homer into his office and offers him the job of safety inspector. Here is where the ending falls apart. Burns offers Homer the job on the condition he tells those people that the plant is safe. Homer thinks about it and decides to it but backs out when he fears compromising his principles. Burns then points out that he'd be giving up a good job and money by not taking the job which Homer agrees with and says he will use every free minute he has crusading for safety but that he would have fewer of those minutes if Burns gave him a job. It just seems like a weird scene to me. Maybe I'm not understanding it right.
I love the Xs in the stuffed bear's eyes.
The lasting legacy of this episode for me is when Marge is congratulating Homer for the dip sign and she says that "now drivers won't be caught off guard by that little mmm in the road." For years after this episode I would call dips "mmms". I think I finally stopped when I got interested in girls.
Holy god, look at those Springfieldians.

1254: I Said I Won $80, I Didn't Say That I Kept It

I have to give today's strip credit that it's a joke about losing $480 instead of a "Oh, I don't have any extra cash--I do have a wife, you know" joke. Geez, I just thought: $480 is a lot of money. Maybe Brutus' friend here has a gambling problem.

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Help me edit a story! Go to yesterday's post and click the links to read and give me feedback on the draft of Riley & Tyler. The story link will be available until Saturday.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

1253: Does That Look Like the Gut of a Health Nut?

I've been trying to get some writing done over the summer while I am off from work and while it seems I have really upped my game on what I write online, my short stories, novellas and novels have not fared well. I'm trying to fix that but in the meantime, I have a story that need beta writers. It is tentatively titled Riley & Tyler and is about two juniors in high school who start dating. What makes this slightly different from a typical YA story is Riley is transgender. There is also a B-plot focusing on Riley's sister and her relationship. It's still a work in progress but I need to know what works, what doesn't and when I need to keep my white cis straight male privilege in line. Below is a link to Riley & Tyler to read and a link to a short questionnaire that you can fill out to give me feedback.

Thank you for participation.

Riley & Tyler (46 pgs/10,818 words)

Questionnaire Form (10 questions)

I'd be careful angering the cook, Brutus. This is a man who looks like he's been to prison a couple times. Not for assault or murder or anything but something with drugs. Possibly writing bad checks.

Monday, July 27, 2015

1252: But Yet You Still Watch It

What? There's never any mindless drivel on television. Unless you consider reality shows and competition shows mindless drivel which I do. I estimate that out of network TV's 95 combined hours, only about 30 hours are worth it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

1251/9: Origins

A cowpuncher is basically just a cowboy. The word 'cowboy' entered American lexicon in 1725 as a direct translation of the Spanish 'vaquero'. It's suggested that it literally meant "boy who tends cows" but by 1849, it had gained the definition that we know and love today as a cattle handler of the American West. The term 'cowpuncher' was mainly used in and around Texas. Avon Publications started in 1941 publishing paperbacks to compete with Pocket Books. They also published pulp magazines and in 1945 began publishing comic books. One of these comics, debuting in 1947, was Cow Puncher Comics which featured western tales that lasted for seven issues. The only notable character to come out of Cow Puncher was Kit West who would appear in later series published by Avon, Geronimo: Indian Fighter and Wild Bill Hickok. Kit was a hard-living but sensual pioneer who could fight Indians with the best of them, as this panel shows:
The dead Native is called Little Snake. His father (not pictured) is named Spitting Snake.
But I'm not here to talk about Kit West but about Alabam. Alabam was created by comic book legend Joe Kubert. Alabam is the tale of a cow puncher who becomes the sheriff of a town after his uncle is killed. Alabam only appeared in two issues which I find hard to believe with an origin story like this so I can only imagine Joe Kubert got better-paying gigs with DC Comics.



















scans courtesy The Digital Comic Museum
It's too bad that Aunt Hilda couldn't become the western genre's version of Aunt May and it's too bad that Alabam seems to have jumped the shark so early in his career. We go from him protecting the city of Broken Creek from people similar to Mike Mantee and honoring his uncle to fighting giant mountain lions. That sounds more like a story best saved for issue 30 of Alabam as readership plummets, not issue 2.

Speaking of origins, here are some of the things Brutus has done to earn the name "The Born Loser." However, I do have some quibbles. First, the lottery number thing is just ironic bordering on coincidence and veering off toward unbelievable. Second, the millionth customer thing is purely coincidental but also strange considering that I don't think grocery stores do a millionth customer promotion anymore because how would you count it? Third, the car thing is just pure stupidity and Brutus should be ashamed of himself.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Randy #2

RANDY


Randy walked into the Strang Line Funeral Home, it always weirded him out how homey funeral homes were. Strang Line was actually in a home, an old Victorian built in the early 1900s saved from demolition in 1985 when the funeral home bought it. Randy stood in the foyer for a couple minutes then noticed a sign above a button that read “Press button for service.” He pressed the button and waited a couple more seconds.

“I will be right up,” a voice answered.

From the basement, Brian emerged, in a suit and tie. “Brian?” Randy asked. “You work here?”

“I thought you knew. I went to school to be a mortician and funeral director,” Brian explained. “I’m the only one here right now. How can I help you?”

“Dad and Erin sent me here to see if I wanted to add to anything to Mom’s service. Do you know what they requested for her?” Randy asked.

“Come into the office and we can look that up,” Brian motioned for Randy to follow him and they went into an office. Brian flipped through some files on the desk and found the paperwork for Sally Brubaker. “Ooh, good choices. The gold-trimmed walnut-mahogany casket, It’s in our showroom if you’d want to see it. She will be buried with this jewelry,” he held up a baggie with her wedding ring, pinky ring, a cross necklace and earrings that Randy had given her after selling his book. “The clothes she will be put in are downstairs.”

“Were you working on her?” Randy asked.

“Yes.”

“Can I see her?”

“No. You’ll see her tomorrow.”

“Why can’t I see her?”

“It’s illegal and only authorized people can be downstairs and that’s limited to the five people who work here.”

“How come I didn’t know you were a mortician? Actually, how come I didn’t know you wanted to be a mortician?”

“I’ve always had respect for the dead and I wanted to help people,” Brian shrugged. “It was a good career move because people like me will always be needed.”

“So everyday you work on dead bodies, cutting them open, removing organs, embalming?”

“So what are you working on?”

“Absolutely nothing. Well, I have 1,600 pages of complete bullshit on a flash drive right now and a publisher breathing down my neck threatening to revoke my advance,” Randy said.

“Who would’ve thought that writing would be hard when you aren’t stealing a life,” Brian said.

“I know,” Randy jokingly agreed. “How is Becky?”

“Becky? I haven’t seen Becky in years. We broke up after college.”

“What? But you were high school sweethearts, you got engaged senior year. What happened?”

“I don’t know. She said that the reason was that she had thought that she would never do better than dating me. Her words,” Brian said.

“I can’t believe you broke up. Do you know what she’s doing now?”

“Eh, she’s been dating around, I can see some of her profile online since she and Jess and Chrissy are friends. I miss her art.”

“Her art sucked, Brian. Everything looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie,” Randy said. “Are you seeing anyone? Been sowing your oats?”

“What about you? You seeing anyone?”

“No, he broke up with me the day my Mom died. He didn’t know that she was dead so it’s okay. We’d been together for three years and I guess he...we...weren’t feeling it anymore.”

“I’m not seeing anyone,” Brian answered. “I haven’t seen anyone since Becky so I’ve been focusing on my work.”

“You’ve been single for six years? You haven’t had sex in six years?”

“That’s kind of personal, Randy,” Brian said.

“We were best friends, Brian. We used to tell each other everything. It was your description of going down on Becky that I’m pretty sure turned me gay.”

“I’ve only been with one girl since Becky and me broke up. It wasn’t serious, we just both needed something a bit different,” Brian explained.

“Who was it with? Do I know her?”

“It was with Erin.”

“My sister?”

Brian nodded.

“Why my sister?”

“It was shortly after Aiden was born and Jeff had abandoned her. She had been working twelve hour shifts and then caring for Aiden the other twelve hours. She needed something to calm her down,” Brian said.

Randy sighed. “I didn’t think it was possible to become even more gay,” he said. “Erin never told me. Did you guys date or what?”

“No, we just slept together. We had sex three times over the course of two months. Had we had sex a fourth time, I would’ve asked her out but she started seeing someone else so she didn’t need me anymore.”

“Remember what we used to do back in high school?”

“Oh, God, why? We can’t do that, Randy. We’re in our late-20s.”

“After the funeral, we’re going to do it,” Randy said.

“It’s so juvenile, I’m not going to do it.”

“You will and you will love it.”




“Nathan? What are you doing here?” Jess asked as Nathan approached the playground at the daycare center where she worked.

“Picking up my niece, Sammy,” Nathan said as he pointed to a little girl. “Heather has to stay late at work so she asked me if I could pick her up.”

“I didn’t know Sammy was your niece,” Jess said. “Are you close with her?”

“I see her a couple times a month.”

“Hi, Uncle Nathan,” Sammy said, coming over to Jess and Nathan.

“Hey, Sammy,” Nathan kneeled down and rubbed her hair. “Ready to go?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Sammy,” Jess said.

“See you tomorrow, Miss Jess,” Sammy smiled and waved.

“Hey, Jess?” Nathan stopped and turned to Jess.

“What is it, Nathan?”

He was silent for a few seconds. She was starting to get confused so he had to say something. “You’ll be at the funeral, right?”

“Of course.”

“Okay. I’ll see you then,” he said. He sighed as he helped Sammy into a car seat. “That is not what I wanted to ask her.”

1250: Maybe They Want You To Play More Than Just 'Chopsticks'

When I was a kid, I wanted to learn how to play an instrument. My mom never really had the money to pay for lessons nor did she really think I would end up playing my entire life. Maybe I wouldn't, we'll never know will we?

Maybe instead of talking to Brutus about this, you should talk to your parents. I wouldn't even think Hattie would have parents who would want their daughter to learn piano let alone afford it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

1249: Handwriting's Not Bad, Just In a Hurry

Oh, look. Yet another shooting.

You know how news outlets already have obituaries typed up for some celebrities and heads of state in the event they suddenly die? They can start doing that with mass shootings. "A shooting at a [insert place] in [City, State] has claimed the lives of [insert number] people. This is the [insert number] mass shooting in [insert number] [timeframe]. Since [year] started, there have been [insert number] deaths caused by a mass shooter. While we're all tired of hearing about gun-related deaths, nothing will be done to stop them."

Two days of doctor-related strips. Chip must have recently been to the doctor. I can picture him, sitting on that examining table in a paper gown as his doctor is scribbling down his prescription. "Hey, doc," Chip begins to giggle. "Does bad handwriting equal being a better doctor? Is there a course on bad handwriting in medical school?" Chip bursts out laughing. The doctor finishes the prescription and sighs.

I hate cartoonists, he thinks.