Posts filed under “Popular Entertainment”
Today is Mr. Orson Welles’ hundredth birthday, and you really ought to celebrate by watching Citizen Kane, or by hiding in the basement from Martian invaders—whichever is more appealing to you. If you are in Pittsburgh, you might head for the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, where you can celebrate by hearing retired Post-Gazette critic Bob Hoover, eating birthday cake, and then watching Citizen Kane on the big screen in one of the few undivided neighborhood movie palaces left in North America.
ANNOUNCER. And now the Bureau of Public Safety, providing fine police services since 1893, presents…
(Music: Theme, in and under for…)
ANNOUNCER. The Adventures of Scraggles, the Dog Detective! With senses keener than those possessed by any living human, Scraggles sniffs out crime and fetches the perpetrators back to justice!
ANNOUNCER. Today we find Scraggles interviewing Roger W. Suspect, a person of interest in the murder of yogurt magnate Irving Wolfe.
SUSPECT. Well, I must say, when my secretary told me that someone from the police wanted to see me, I sort of expected someone a little more—you know—tall. But anyway, what can I help you with?
SUSPECT. Yes, I heard about the murder of Irving Wolfe. Ghastly, isn’t it? I mean, to think that a murderer walks among us. I mean, of course it couldn’t be me, because everyone knows what I was doing at the time of the murder. I was busy in the office, putting the final touches on a deal that will merge Suspect Yogurt, Inc., with our biggest competitor.
SUSPECT. Yes, exactly—the Wolfe Dairy Products Corporation. But of course Irving Wolfe retired from the day-to-day management of the company years ago. It was a particularly tricky deal, but I’d finally managed to smooth out all the bumps in the road, so to speak, except one.
SUSPECT. You’re very perceptive. Yes, it was Wolfe himself. He still controlled enough shares to block the deal, and out of sheer pigheaded obstinacy— I mean, I loved him like a brother, of course, but let’s just say he was not willing to see reason in this particular matter. So I decided to see whether I could find some alternate route, so to speak.
SUSPECT. Yes, his daughter, Uvularia Wolfe. She could see the potential in the deal—potential to make her family rich, if only her father could give up his stubborn insistence on maintaining the independence of the company. I met with her, and she agreed to try to persuade her father to see the reality of the situation. But then later that day I got a note hand-delivered to my office. I opened it up…
SUSPECT. Good lord, you fellows don’t miss a beat, do you? Yes, it was from Irving Wolfe. He said he was furious that I had gone around his back and suborned his daughter, and the next day he was going to meet with his lawyer to change his will, cutting her out completely, and making sure that all his shares went to someone who agreed with him about the fundamental importance of keeping Wolfe Dairy independent. So, you see, that was why I was so busy, trying to work out a way to make the deal go through. In fact, you can check with my secretary: I was in a meeting at the very time of the murder.
SUSPECT. What? No, of course it wasn’t with Wolfe. Why would you say that? It was with Jeannette Hart, my business manager. You can check it out with her. In fact, my secretary remarked on how much the office smelled like Jeannette’s perfume after the meeting.
SUSPECT. No! I tell you, it wasn’t with Wolfe! What, did Jeannette sell me out? That disgusting lowlife schemer! She promised! Yes, blast you, I did go out and meet Irv Wolfe! And I killed him, you hear? I killed him! But it was an accident. It was self-defense. I mean, he had it coming to him.
SUSPECT. All right! It was premeditated! I told my secretary I’d be in a meeting with Jeannette, and I locked the door, and I poured a bottle of that stinking cheap Metro Mart perfume she always wears into the aspidistra, and then I slid down the drainpipe and went over to Wolfe’s house and killed him and came back here and climbed up the trellis and no one was the wiser! It was the perfect murder, and I would have got away with it if the stupid Bureau of Public Safety hadn’t sent its very best detective!
SUSPECT. So, um, did you bring somebody along to cuff me, or do I have to do that myself?
SCRAGGLES: Woof woof.
(Music: Theme, fade in and under for…)
ANNOUNCER. And so once again Scraggles uses his keen senses and awe-inspiring deductive powers to thwart another murderer! Tune in next week for more of Scraggles, the Dog Detective, when pretty much the same thing will happen. Meanwhile, remember, friends, when you’re a victim of crime, don’t try to scrape by with any old off-brand cut-rate police force. Insist on genuine City Police brand police from the Bureau of Public Safety. Only City Police brand police offer the famous Bureau of Public Safety Money-Back Guarantee. Why settle for anything less? Don’t be a victim without the number for City Police brand police in your pocket.
(Music: Theme, in full then out.)
Dear Dr. Boli: For months now I have been attempting to develop superpowers without success. Nothing has happened, not even when I goaded a radioactive wallaby into biting me. What can I do? —Sincerely, A Man Who Has the Costume and Everything, but No Superpowers.
Dear Sir: Perhaps you ought to concentrate on your own robust mental health. You could be Normal Psychological Development Man. Given the current fashions in superheroes, your lack of paralyzing moral ambiguity, soul-sapping angst, and crippling depression would give you such an advantage against the competition as to constitute a superpower in itself.
What the world needs most today is order.
When I am in charge, I will stop this senseless discrimination against the differently sane.
Though I control a vast nuclear arsenal, I trust in my henchmen’s martial-arts skills to defend me.
What others call my “monstrous egotism” is merely a reasonable and informed self-esteem.
My character judgment is infallible, and my underlings are unswervingly loyal.
Although the United Nations could never agree on a protocol for ordering pizza, they will nevertheless accede to my demands unanimously within twenty-four hours.
A self-destruct countdown that cannot be stopped is a feature, not a bug.
The fact that my extravagantly gorgeous daughter has an eye for square-jawed hero types will in no way impede my ultimate victory.
Anger clarifies my judgment.
Reason alone will persuade the hero’s plucky girlfriend that I am a more suitable mate.
You say “psychotic”; I say “perceptive.”
Two Bedrooms, One Bath. Hilarious door-slamming bedroom farce in which four superheroes forced to share the same apartment get into all manner of comical mixups.
Mystery of the Orchid Chamber. At a weekend party for superheroes, Capybaraman is found murdered in a locked room. Can the other guests figure out which one of them is a supervillain before the killer strikes again?
Hatman. Award-winning documentary follows the Capped Crusader in his epic three-year battle against trademark lawyers from DC Comics.
Twelve Angry Heroes. Riveting courtroom drama in which superheroes summoned for jury duty must decide the fate of a masked vigilante.
The Tights Unit. Gritty procedural follows a day in the life of the “Tights Unit,” a special office of the New York City police department charged with investigating superhero-on-superhero crime.
Well, here we are with Al’s Wilderness Survival, a brand-new show where we learn how to survive in the great outdoors. I’m Al, and some of you may know me from Herb’s Cooking for One, where I’ve been filling in for Herb while he’s feeling a bit out of sorts, which—well, the doctors are saying we should see an upturn by 2023 or so, so hang in there, Herb.
I’ll still be filling in for Herb, but today I’m doing this new show, because my wife said I had to get a real job. So I thought, What am I really good at? And my wife answered,—cause apparently I talk when I think,—she answered, “Surviving.” And I said, “Why do you say that?” And she said, “Because we’ve been married twelve years and I haven’t killed you yet.” Ha ha! I think that was supposed to be a joke.
So I went to the producer of Herb’s show, and I told him my idea, and he said, “Sure! And let’s make it really real, you know, by sending you way, way out in the woods with no crew or anything—just a camera you can put on a tripod, and there you are.” And here I am. I had to buy the camera myself, but I know the budgets aren’t what they used to be for these shows.
So the first thing you need when you’re stuck out in the woods is shelter. Now, I could sleep in my car, which is parked right over there, but hey, we’re guys, right? What’s the point of surviving in the wilderness if you don’t build your own shelter, just like the pioneers had to do?
So that’s what I’m going to do. I brought my trusty old chainsaw—see how it’s “Pioneer” brand?—and I thought I’d make myself a nice little log cabin. I’ve never made a log cabin before, but I’ve seen pictures of them, and they’re basically just logs in stacks, right? So all we need is some logs. And there are lots of logs in this big old tree right here, if we just get them out of the tree. So we fire up the chainsaw and—
Well, that was kind of my fault. One of the things you have to think about when you’re cutting down a tree is which way it’s going to fall, and one of the other things you have to think about is where your car is parked. But that will probably buff out, once I find all the pieces of the roof. But anyway, we have our tree down, so we can start making it into logs. And I think I’ll just stop the camera for a while, cause it’s going to get kind of repetitive. I’m just going to take off the branches, and then saw this trunk into six-foot lengths.
Okay, we’re back with some logs, and we’re ready to start piling them up. Now, I’ve left this big log here, and then I figure I’ll take this other log and—well, gosh, logs are heavy, aren’t they? I don’t think I can move this at all. I mean, how did those stupid pioneers ever get these things built? They must have been crazy. So I think what we need is something else, like maybe a twig cabin. Or a teepee. After all, the Indians knew everything about wilderness survival, didn’t they? What we can do is set up a bunch of these branches—well, the big ones are kind of heavy, too, aren’t they? But I’ll take some of the smaller ones, and we can sort of stand them up in a sort of teepee shape. Well, they fall right over, don’t they? I guess the Indians were idiots, too. I don’t know how they ever got anything put up. Maybe they had, like, more than one guy working on it.
All right, well, it looks like I need help. One of the things you have to learn, guys—and I know it’s hard, because you want to be all macho and independent—but one of the things you have to learn is to know when you need help, and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
That’s why I brought this cell phone, and why I made sure I had the numbers I needed in it if I needed to get help. So I’m dialing one of those now. See, I have it right here in my favorites. It’s ringing, and— Hello? Oh, good, I got you. Listen, this is Al. I’m about three miles off Route 173 on this dirt road called County Route 1283, and what I need is an extra large, with pepperoni and sausage. Oh, and some of that cheese garlic bread, too. Yeah, and a six-pack of Duke. Okay? Forty-five minutes? Great. Thanks. —You see folks, when you’ve got to survive in the wilderness, the essential thing is to be prepared. That’s why I put the Giordano’s Pizza number in my cell phone ahead of time. So this is Al for Al’s Wilderness Survival, saying, Hope you survive till next week’s show. See you then.
You may tell Dr. Boli that you have no wish to see this movie, but Dr. Boli will know you are lying. Since a reader asked, here is the original source of this cartoon. The picture advertised here was released in 1913, and Dr. Boli is not aware of any surviving prints; but he would be happy if someone could find one. The plot, incidentally, was taken from a novel by Gaston Leroux, author of The Phantom of the Opera. There was an English translation published in 1913—the same year this movie came out, since production cycles were very short in those days—but Dr. Boli has been unable to find it. If you read French, however, you can find the original on Google Books (click on the image below). —UPDATE: A regular reader went to Australia to fetch us back a copy of the English translation (see the comment below).
Dear Dr. Boli: I keep hearing some cop shows called procedurals, and I was wondering: what’s the difference between a procedural and a detective story? —Sincerely, Prof. Arthur Conan Dinkleberger, Duck Hollow University Department of Popular Entertainment.
Dear Sir: A procedural is a particular kind of detective drama in which dogged work alone leads to the solution of the mystery. In the classic detective story, the detective must make some clever deduction from the facts of the case, which are in themselves apparent to everyone; the solution comes because the detective sees some pattern or indication in those facts that no one else sees. In a procedural, the detectives gather facts until the last fact falls into place, and then the solution to the mystery is obvious to everyone, including the janitor at the precinct house. In other words, a procedural is a story in which the mystery can be solved by Dr. Watson alone, without any assistance from Sherlock Holmes, or by the Parisian police without Auguste Dupin. We might say that the difference is that the classic detective story is interesting, whereas the procedural is a slog. Or to put it another way, a procedural is a detective story for stupid people.
“The Purloined Letter,” by Edgar Allan Poe, is a perfect illustration of the difference between a procedural and a detective story. The Parisian police gather all the evidence it is in their power to gather; they poke and measure and even bring out the microscopes. In a modern “procedural” drama, that would be the story. But they fail, and Dupin, possessing the same evidence, comes to the conclusion that only he can come to.
Here is the original story, as it was first printed in The Gift for 1845.