Saturday, 2 July 2016

Guitar Accessories For Beginners

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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Trapped in a Loveless Marriage

Ahhh, sweet overindulgence. What else gives life such meaning?

Here, on full display, is the blitheness that makes The Dinette Set so special. Characters talk openly and earnestly about something they ought to be ashamed of. And we are invited to laugh knowingly at their faults along with the attractive younger couple in the background.

Did you forget to laugh, too? Oh, well.

What really sets this particular panel apart, however, is Jerry's comment. Jerry, as far as I can tell, is Burl's sister's husband. I am assuming Verl is Burl's sister despite the fact that, physically, she resembles Joy. My logic is that her name rhymes with Burl. And in the world of one-panel comics, rhyme defeats physical similarity.

Getting back on topic...Jerry is the hirsute person with the stupendous toupee to Verl's right. While Jerry agrees in principle with Joy, I'll be damned if Jerry is going to let something like a missing intermission deny him a second slurp at the concessions trough when he has a wife to fetch stuff for him. Of course, it's rude of her to want a summary of what she missed, especially when Jerry has a second tub of popcorn and 64 more ounces of Coca Cola to plow through...with just half a movie to go.

As for marginalia:
  • Jerry's first line of dialog has the most tortured punctuation of any 4 word/10 letter sentence I can imagine.
  • Is there an inconsistency in the fact that Verl and Joy are sneaking sacks of candy into the movie and yet they expect refills at the concession stand? Or is this just more indication of their gluttony?
  • Is Verl's bag meant to contain her oxygen supply? Or is it, like Joy's, making the joke that something important (oxygen, first aid) is being replaced with candy? Maybe it's a reference to the Oxygen channel? Given her subserviant relationship with Jerry, I imagine Verl spends a lot of time watching Oxygen.
  • Thanks to a helpful commenter in another post, I now understand that the Pong on Burl's shirt is a lame play on the golf equipment manufacturer Ping. I think someone could write a dissertation on the pathology that compels the artist to substitute silly mocking brand names in The Dinette Set.
  • Speaking of which, let's note the movie titles. Seven II, a reference to the psychological thriller Se7en and Porky VIII, a reference to the teen-sex film Porky's. I'm willing to forgive not correctly writing the name of the move Se7en. However, leaving off the apostrophe from Porky's was completely unecessary to the joke. And not doing 10 seconds worth of research to find that they only made 3 Porky's movies was just plain lazy.
  • Anyone who can explain Jerry's shirt should win a prize, if only I had a prize to offer. All I can find about Matt Helm is that he was a fictional U.S. government counteragent. No mention of diseases. Maybe he was a mysoginist and it's a reference to Jerry's relationship with Verl.
  • I love the way the artist crammed the price of movie tickets in as an afterthought. Better complain about that while were here since there's no knowing when Burl and Joy will get back to the movies. Of course, where I live, $8.00 for a movie ticket is a complete bargain. Unless we assume they are going to a matinee. Which is probably a safe assumption, but has forced me to think too deeply about a joke the artist could barely fit between dialog balloons.

Friday, 14 July 2006

Next Up: Fear Factor

Hey, it's Pyschiatrist John again! Accompanying him is the same "26K Marathon" joke the artist used 10 days ago. Apparently John is a fitness nut obsessed with charity runs, if these two panels are indicative of a larger pattern. Or the artist is running out of material. Or she believes that repeating something often enough has the alchemical ability to transform the un-funny into the funny. Take your pick.

The joke here, such as it is, revolves around obese middle-age men confusing a marathon with a buffet or a pot luck. Which qualifies as one of the least common of life's many misunderstandings.

By extension, we're supposed to wonder how far they are willing to go for free stuff. They donate blood for the free cookies and juice. They are willing to attend a lecture on accumulating wealth coupled with a free dinner. They are willing to sit through a seminar on the value of time-shares because the rest of the weekend can be spent at a luxury resort. They appear on Fear Factor.

Of course, we also have Burl, the savvy negotiator. Burl is immediately willing to capitulate on the free refreshments because all he really cares about is getting something, anything. So desperate to find hidden value that he's willing put himself through 26K of agony as long as he gets reserved seating at a picnic table.

Once his fat ass is planted on the picnic table, he will swell with pride at having gamed the system and gotten something for nothing. He won't leave that picnic table of course, not until the ambulance arrives, but that's not the point.

By the way, the trio of obese middle-age men are Burl, Jerry, and neighbor Dale. Dale, (according to The Dinette Set website) "never lets a lull in the conversation go by." Which raises the question: how exactly would a lull in the conversaton be portrayed in a single panel cartoon?

Scribbled about the margins:

  • Why, dear God, why am I forced to see Dale's butt crack?
  • If you squint really hard you'll notice that the only legible parts of the entry form in Dale's hand (beyond the name of the race) are the words "Age" and "Weight." I'm glad I squinted to read those because, otherwise it may never have occurred to me that Burl, Dale, and Jerry might be too old or fat to run a marathon.
  • Is John supposed to be at a sign-up table? If so, it lacks all sense of a 3rd dimension and instead looks like the kind of screen you'd expect at a puppet show, behind which the puppeteer crouches but above which the puppets are visible.
  • Burl's shirt and pants are not funny enough to warrant wrenching the poor man's neck off. If you look at Burl in isolation, and then imagine him lying on the ground, you'd assume he'd had his neck broken by a Navy Seal.
  • If you are wondering, Lloyd J. Harris is the author of The Book of Garlic which is evidently an encyclopaedic discussion of all things garlic. If you are keeping score, our list of obscure references this week is now up to 3, including the Bell Witch and Matt Helm.

Thursday, 13 July 2006

Witch Detail Should I Focus On?

Today's panel is absolutely maddening because Burl's hostile response to Joy's mother is actually funny. But the artist maniacally focuses the entire panel on a single word that is tangential to the joke and the overall effect comes to nothing.

Okay, I am willing to grant that Joy's mother could be described as a "witch", thus explaining one facet of Burl's desire to be anywhere she is not.

But who cares about the why? The why is not what makes this funny. Imagine the same basic joke in the hands of the Lockhorns, with its minimalist approach and undercurrent of deep hostility. It would have been hilarious.

Instead, we're baffled by crazy details and tenuous links to the word "witch", the first being the casual reference to the Bell Witch in the first place. I pity the poor people reading this panel in their newspaper because they don't have immediate access to Wikipedia to look up this obscure reference. I'm imagining the artist is obsessed with the supernatural and, in her mania, has forgotten that 99% of the people in the world havenever heard of the Bell Witch.

Furthermore, I curse her for the fact that now I am in the 1% who have heard about it.

Next up is the existence of generic "Bell Witch attractions" that Burl and Joy will be visiting. If you can't be bothered to do some research and find out that the attraction is called the Bell Witch Cave, just make a name up:
  • Six Flags Over the Bell Witch
  • The Bell Witch Festival
  • The Bell Witch Institute of the Paranormal
  • The Bell Witch Casino of the Damned
  • The Bell Witch Petting Zoo
The rest of the witchy references are a part of today's scornful marginalia:

Famous cartoon witch B. Hilda = 411. No guesses about the name on the 911 post-it.
Burl and Joy's mugs. Ha ha, a Wizard of Oz reference. Whatever.
The key rack suggests that Joy is a witch. Or at least requires a securely locked broom closet, for reasons passing understanding.
Do you figure the first to-do is supposed to say "Ma's camera" or "Motion Camera"? I could go either way.
A heat sensor? Why would a ghost show up on a heat sensor? Why do they own a heat sensor in the first place?

Was it really necessary to mention Tennessee? Twice. Tennessee is a long word. It adds nothing to the joke. It takes up a lot of space and things are already cramped. Not all details are equally important.
Let me try to re-write the last to-do note so it makes sense to the English-speaking world: "Research all other witch attractions in Tennessee for price, concessions, motor tours, souvenirs." Unless the artist actually meant they wanted to specifically narrow the research on souvenirs to Tennessee.
Finally, on a personal note, I want to say that I hate the artist for forcing me to write an entire entry without using the word "which" because everytime I used that word, it sounded like a bad pun. Blame her for any tortured syntax.

Tuesday, 11 July 2006


A tour de force, worthy of a borscht belt comedian today...

Burl is so cheap...

How cheap is he?

Not only is a price that would be low to you and me outrageously high to him, but he's willing to wallow in human excrement to prove it.

You have to wonder at the fact that the artist is still not sure everyone will understand the joke as told in the dialog balloons. So she layers in multiple supporting details.
  • A little birdie in the background says "cheap cheap" to reinforce the point.
  • Their female friend's shirt insures that we understand that Burl is complaining about the price, not happy about it.
  • And, in case you're still missing all the subtle nuances of the joke, Burl and Joy's mugs reinforce the scatalogical content, with an assist from their male friend's shirt.

I'd say "thank you for the extra help" if I didn't harbor a nagging doubt that the artist included those details to insult me by implying I'm an idiot.

Some priceless marginalia today also.

Burl's shirt contains a predictable and groan-inducing pun, once again worthy of a borscht belt comedian.

I love Joy's garden. A whirligig, a scarecrow, and a large tomato cage to protect a single tiny plant. It has nothing to do with the rest of the panel, but there's something very sweet about the individual attention she gives to the one plant she's growing.
And, thanks to the motion lines on the whirligig, we know the wind is blowing. A crucial detail that helps tie the entire strip together.
It looks like the artist used cut-and-paste to duplicate the women's legs before drawing Joy's unnatural-looking hand in front of her leg. Was drawing two individual legs really that hard?

What is going on with the pool? I tried to convince myself I was looking at a pool cover since the surface looks nothing like water, comes much too close to the top edge, and the inner-tube is perched on top of it in an unnatural (for water) way. But, in truth, I think it's just a lame drawing of a pool.
Regarding the inner-tube, why does Krispy Kreme rate so highly that the artist doesn't mock their name with the standard sophomoric substitution (e.g., Adoodas, Pong). Maybe the illegible scribbling of the word "Kreme" contains a hilarious substitution I am unable to read.

My thanks to Josh over at The Comics Curmudgeon for the kind mention.

Monday, 10 July 2006

The Gay Man at the Spa

I think it should go without saying that if you need to reverse the meaning of a common phrase ("We don't look good unless you look good.") in order for a joke to work, then you need to come up with another idea. Sadly, in this case, it needed to be said before the panel was published, but no one had the courage. Or, perhaps, no one had another idea.

But as long as the artist has already done the deed...

I think Burl is being disingenuous or downright unobservant when he says that the problem is the chicken/egg thing. Burl should be more concerned that Deb, Tawny, Dot, and Babs don't have a basic grasp of the English language. Far from being afraid that the employees do not look good, Burl should be worried that Joy might ask for a perm and get a crew cut instead.

But even that pales in comparison with the obvious hygenic problems of the hair-clogged combs. Thank goodness the Spa has a box of Lice Control (or perhaps a Lice Control procedures manual?) on the shelf, because they will need it.

At this point, giving Deb, Tawny, Dot, and Babs unappealing physical attributes was really just gilding the lilly. I mean, when faced with the prospect of getting an unintended crew cut and hair lice from an unsanitary comb, what does it matter that Deb has acne, Tawny has a band-aid on her face, Dot has a 5-o'clock shadow, and Babs...hmmm.

I'm not sure what's supposed to be wrong with Babs to tell you the truth. About all I can say is she looks more like a guy in makeup than a girl. The minor evidence to the contrary is easily dismissed. Babs is a girl's name but we all know how much gay men like Barbara Streisand. And Babs does seem to have a bit of curvature in the chest area, suggesting breasts, but those could just be male breasts.

I think we're left with the obvious conclusion that Babs is a gay man with man breasts. Furthermore, Babs is the only one without a hair-encrusted comb, rather conspicuously. So, I think the subtext to today's panel is: Let the gay man at the spa do your hair.

  • Burl's shirt has no intrinsic joke and its only connection to the strip is the use of the word "egg."
  • Shouldn't the large, brightly lit sign be outside the building?
  • Check out Deb's fingernails...yikes.

Sunday, 9 July 2006

Tasteless in 2005

The Houston Chronicle site, from which I view The Dinette Set, doesn't carry their Sunday strip. And I'm not sure I want to stare at 3 panels worth of marginalia anyway, so instead, I'll pull something from the archives which catches my fancy.

Way back in April of 2005, for example, The Dinette Set decided to wallow in some serious tastelessness, revolving around the taking of fish oil tablets. Burl and Joy's visitors have apparently been hearing about the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. But, since they don't care for fish they decide to take the tablets instead. Fair enough.

Unfortunately, this leads to a comment about Burl's digestive system which I think we could all have done without. Especially since that comment (instead of being a joke or even, say, funny) is just a description of something fairly unpleasant to either experience or imagine.

I suppose, by extension, we're supposed to be making fun of the couple taking the pills because it doesn't really eliminate the taste problems. But once you introduce the image of Burl belching, you've crossed a line and it doesn't matter what point you are trying to make.

Amazingly, however, Burt's belching isn't the most tasteless thing on display. Not by a long shot.

The heart shaped quotation not only conjures up a disgusting image, but the attribution to Karen Carpenter is in unbelievably bad taste. Plus. it shows an appalling lack of understanding of Bulimia (they don't eat their own vomit, for crying out loud). And the to-do list item regarding aphrodisiacs puts an image of Burl and Joy into one's mind which I think we could all do without.


In this case, the running 911/411 gag features the fairly predictable "Smells=911". But the 411 gag is hopelessly obscured by tiny, fat-lined writing. I am open to guesses from any hawk-eyed folks out there.
Joy's "I [heart] Cape Scrod" shirt is a needless pun, since "I [heart] Cape Cod" also contains a fish pun. Though, perhaps the artist though Scrod was a funnier fish name than Cod. She's probably right about that, but it doesn't make the shirt any funnier.
Between the artist not having the guts to go ahead with the homoerotic gag and yet putting the thought into our head anyway, the less said about Burl's shirt, the better. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
I have to assume, given the context, that the guest's mug is supposed to say "CARP", although there's no doubt that it actually says "CARQ."
Credit where credit is due: I like "Check ingredients in Cod Liver Oil."
Points scored for, once again, being aware that they are in a one panel comic and making allowances in the spacing and indenting on their to-do list. I'm especially amazed at the foresight in leaving a touch of space inside the word "list" to allow for the word balloon.
Points off, however, for redundancy: "Spellcheck the list for mispellings." As opposed to spellchecking it for what, exactly?