Why are all of the comic strips (except maybe “Fred Basset”) hilarious one day . . . and “bordering on lousy” the next?

Today’s helpful hint
Leading to: Comedy Meets Science

D. Ziner writes: “Subject: Comics and their consequences.

“Many years ago, a dental hygienist said my gums would be a lot healthier if I just spent more time brushing my teeth. I took her advice, but became increasingly concerned that boredom would have me returning to my old habits — so I began putting the comics section of the Pioneer Press next to the bathroom sink and would read all the cartoons and strips on one page while brushing my uppers and all the comics on the opposite page doing the lowers.

“I have been an avid fan of the comics since before I could read the words, but until starting this new process, I paid attention to only five or six of my favorites. Reading all of them on a daily basis gave me a new perspective and a few things to ponder.

“First, I developed even more appreciation for the cartoonists I already followed. I am awed by a creativity that repeats on a daily basis where the first panel introduces an interesting premise, is developed in the next two panels, and often there is not one but two zingers for the finale. I also found some comics that grew on me and slowly found their place among my favorites. For those that never budged from the bottom of my list, I still had to consider the effort and realized they might be favorites of some of my family, friends, and neighbors — all good people in spite of our taste differences. So along with healthier gums, I also gained some tolerance.

“More interesting was the variation from day to day in what I considered the quality of the comics. Generally, I try to be non-judgmental, but it was difficult not to rate them — almost in a subconscious way. And the science guy in me wants to attach solid numbers to these things, so I looked for a method to gather the data and plot the trends. At one time, I thought I had it figured out. It came about because of two of my habits. If they really tickle me, I tend to laugh out loud when reading the funnies. I suspect this is not a common trait, because I don’t see it happen that often when I observe others. The second habit might be more common: my tendency to throw my head back when I laugh. This combination resulted in chortled and snorted toothpaste on the mirror. I figured all I had to do was to use my stopwatch to time my cleanup efforts and thus have a solid number to assign to the funniness.

“I thought I was on to something for a while; even wrote to the late Bob Thaves and let him know the puns from ‘Frank & Ernest’ made me clean my mirror more often than the other comics and thus might soon be recipients of yet another cartoon prize. He responded kindly and suffered my nonsense with good humor.

“There was the expected random ups and downs in quality of each cartoon, but the most interesting thing about this experience was that on certain days, just about all the comics were exceptionally good — funnier, punnier, more clever, or with exceptional artwork. On those days, even ‘Fred Basset’ would cause me to get half a grin, and I would surprisingly make sense of what the ‘Pinheads’ were saying. But on the other side, there were days when just about all the comics — including my favorites — were not so good and bordering on lousy. The payoff panels were a stretch, and nothing tickled my funny bone. My first thoughts were that this was just a reflection of my own mood cycles, but as a science guy, I plotted that for a long time and found no correlation. I never have figured out the repeating pattern, but suspect with more time and data, we would find there is a Mirth Cycle at work. My questions are many: Are only cartoonists affected? Is it worldwide? Is it related to stellar activity — or is it due to earth-bound phenomena?

“Obviously, we need more information. It could get serious if the cycle could be in opposition with different individuals. You would not want to propose marriage to someone whose sense of humor is in opposition. You would not want to send a high-level government negotiator to another country where they would not find the introductory, tension-lifting jokes to be that funny — or, worse yet, find them offensive. On the positive side, if we knew a peak period was approaching, that would be the time for a new-product-development team or an ad agency to schedule the brainstorming session.

“Epilogue: I have no idea why I recently retrieved this unfinished work from my drafts folder in my old computer and added paragraphs to it. Maybe it was that asteroid that came close to Earth not long ago. Then again, it might have been one of those days when the funnies were all good — or all bad. This also made me wonder just how many unfinished BB writings are in draft folders — and what we might be missing.”

The Permanent Maternal Record

Stinky Bananalips of Empire: “Subject: My mom’s stories.

“My mom is about to turn 73, and I’ve noticed she’s starting to tell me little stories from when she was a kid that I had never heard before. This is a fun age, and I’m going to document these stories — maybe with the help of Bulletin Board.

“For some background: My mom, N, is the youngest of three. Her sister, A, is four years older, and her brother, D, is eight years older.

“Last weekend, I mentioned that I woke up to gunshots that must have been pheasant hunters.

“Mom: ‘Oh, I used to go hunting with my dad and D. They made me be the dog.’

“Me: ‘You had to be the dog?!’ I totally laughed out loud at this.

“‘I had to walk in front and flush out the birds.’

“‘Did they make A be a dog, too?’

“‘No, A was all girl, always wanted to be with Mom. D was all boy, always with Dad. And I was kind of . . . both, I guess. So if I wanted to hang out with them, they said I could come if I was the dog. Then I got a little older and didn’t want to go out with them anymore — and D got a real hunting dog, so they didn’t need me, anyway.’

“She couldn’t remember how old she was exactly, but I imagine that if my Uncle D was 12 to 14 when he started hunting, my mom would have been 4 to 6 years old, and my grandma would have been happy to have two-thirds of her kids out of her hair for a few hours.

“Thanks for letting me share.”

The Permanent Paternal Record

Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “My dad has been gone for 21 years now. He went into the hospital to have routine hip surgery on October 22, 1998, and a micro-fragment of bone from the sawing done during surgery traveled to his compromised lungs and eventually took him out. His funeral was November 13. I don’t remember the exact date of his death because he died — when we had to take him off life support — before he officially died. His spirit — his essence —  had left his body earlier. He was responding when we first arrived, and he was no longer responding the last time I went to see him.

“That year, I just hated Halloween. I resented the hospital for having decorations that included ghosts, graves, and skeletons while my dad was dying down the hall.

“I didn’t think I would ever enjoy Halloween again, but I do. I love the kids and their costumes and excitement about trick-or-treating. This year we’ll get to join in the fun of taking my dad’s 4-year-old great-grandson out into the neighborhood on Halloween!

“Every day, I get to live surrounded by nature and the pine trees he planted on this property. He transplanted a tamarack tree here (which is now huge), and the other day I found two tiny seedlings that had grown from the seeds of that tree. Life does go on and is good in so many ways!”

In memoriam
And: Our community of strangers

Friendly Bob of Fridley is the bearer of sad tidings: “On Thursday, October 17, my sister Mrs. Patches of St. Paul lost her two-year-plus fight with cancer. She had done quite well for a while, but ultimately the disease itself and the weakening from the treatments were just too much. She was the oldest sister in the family, and we’ll all miss her very much.

“She loved pictures of the beauty of nature — especially flowers, autumn trees, and cloud formations. The day after she died, I was on my way to hospice to gather up her remaining earthly possessions, and I believe she sent me one last gift:

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“This was only one of several shots I took of the sky that day. But this one truly represents the kind of display we both always marveled at.”

Our theater of seasons

Monday email from Mounds View Swede: “Subject: Six orange/yellow/red leaf photos.

“With the lovely, sunny days lately, I went out to check around the neighborhood looking for some good yellow leaves to try to photograph with the sunlight shining through them. They were harder to find than I expected.

“This first tree was about perfect, especially when compared to its neighbor and the trees across the street.

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“And some of the leaves were in pretty good shape. Getting the sun behind them, though, for a photo was not so easy.

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“This orange leaf looked pretty good, too.

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But most of the yellow leaves had many flaws, with tears and spots all over. Two of these leaves had just a touch of red on them, and I wonder why and how this happens.

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“In a few places, the reds were really dominant for attention-getting.

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“A neighbor across the street had a bush with these bright red leaves.

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“I never notice the bush until this happens. Then I say: ‘Wow!’

“I like how as the days shorten and the weather cools, the trees ‘warm us up’ with their colorful fall show.”

Our theater of “seasons”

OTD from NSP: “I realize it is road-construction season and that road construction is needed and must be done during the summer, but I wish all the multiple different agencies (federal, state, county, local, utilities and whoever else is doing construction) would work together.

“I live in the East Metro. There is a lot of road construction. Some of the detours have detours.

“The one bright thing is that the Hadley/Highway 36 area seems to be going well and is supposed to open partway in a few weeks.

“Currently 120/Century has been closed all summer south of Highway 36 for Xcel to install a new pipe (this work has taken all summer and has affected McKnight and White Bear, also). County Road B between 120 and past White Bear has been closed off/on all summer. White Bear at B was open for a couple of weeks, and then B was closed again.

“Sign on McKnight today said the road would be closed October 26 to 28.

“Per STrib, White Bear will have construction.

“Interstate 694/494 has construction at 94 (and farther south), and traffic backs up for a mile at times.

“This means that ALL the direct East Metro north/south routes from Highway 36 to 94 will have construction somewhere.

“Hope everyone knows the side streets and which ones go through (or at least for a few blocks and can connect to another through street), and which parking lot you can go through, etc. Frost was a through street, but it has been under construction from White Bear to English all summer.

“One of the worst things is the fact that several small businesses have been affected, and Facebook/Nextdoor have had items asking people to think about them and patronize them if possible. One small meat market/convenience store has lost 70 percent of its business, and someone started a Go Fund Me to help them keep open. Cities keep pushing to shop local, support the small guy, etc., and then a decision is made to close the only street to them for several months. Does not make sense.

“Thanks for listening to my rant, but it has been a bad summer for construction in the East Metro. I went to the grocery store one day; no construction when I left; on my way home, the street was blocked and listed as closed except the thru traffic. And no central location to check what street/road is closed/open that day, as every agency/utility has a different website.”

Where’s Andy Rooney when we need him?

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Read while channeling Andy Rooney.

“My car keys disappeared again today. It happens more in the fall and winter than in the summer. We wear more pockets in the cold months.

“There was a time when I always knew where my car keys were. They were in the ignition switch right where I left my car. I had keyless entry 60 years ago.

“My key chain wasn’t very heavy in those days, either, as the only time you needed a house key was at the closing when you sold the place.

“I always knew where my phone was back then, too, and I don’t remember ever getting a call from a scammer, or even someone I didn’t know.

“The only passwords I knew of were the ones used by the military in the war movies — and then you only had one chance to get it right, as I recall.

“Can you imagine how simple and stress-free this modern world would be if we were more old-fashioned?”

In the bucket (responsorial)

Dragonslayer of Oakdale reports: “At my age and circumstance, bucket lists seem frivolous. I’m a primary caretaker for my wife. It’s one day at a time with us.

“But as a youngster I had ambitions. (Back then, ‘bucket lists’ were not in the common vernacular.) When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had two recurring responses. The first was to be an elegant bum and drive around in a Lincoln automobile. The second one was to be a garbage man; back then, people put their raw garbage in a can in the back of their lot, and a man with a truck came by weekly and collected it. I thought this would upset my mother, as my aspirations did not meet her hopes for me. But somewhere in the back of my mind, both of these vocations held some real interest.

“I guess I could now call them my unachieved bucket list.”

David the Scudderite: “In response to a bucket list from Kathy S. of St. Paul, Bulletin Board invited bucket lists from other readers.

“A bucket list is things you’ve never done and want to do before you die. I don’t have a bucket list. Instead, I have a hole-in-the-bucket list, which consists of things I’ve done but, with luck, will never have to do again. Here’s a partial list:

“1. Sleep in a tent.

“2. Watch a B-squad soccer game.

“3. Go ice fishing.

“4. Square dance.

“5. Chaperone a junior-high dance.

“6. Ride a Ferris wheel.

“7. Eat fruitcake.

“8. Play broomball.

“9. Ride a horse.

“10. Haul bales.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Your hole-in-the-bucket lists are most assuredly welcome here.

A joke for today

From The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: No one likes a know-it-all.

“From ‘YOU GOTTA LAUGH’ in the October issue of the AARP Bulletin:

“‘Officer: “Stop, you’re under arrest for stealing encyclopedias from the library.”

“‘Jan: ”Wait! I can explain everything.”‘”

Unfamiliar quotations

This one comes from Semi-Legend: “Subject: Police business.

“‘Police business is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get . . . .’ — Raymond Chandler, ‘The Lady in the Lake'”

Our times
Including: Everyone’s a (books & movies) critic!

Kathy S. of St Paul: “As I’ve mentioned before, politics has been loud and scary to me lately. I can’t read or watch thrillers until things become ‘nicer.’ When I’m really stressed, I reread books by Robert Heinlein, Donna Andrews and Georgette Heyer.

“Since I’m having trouble finding movies that aren’t violent or macabre, I want to suggest that filmmakers check out some of the Robert Heinlein books aimed at teen boys.

“Right now I’m rereading ‘Citizen of the Galaxy.’ [Bulletin Board notes: SPOILERS DIRECTLY AHEAD!] It starts as a young Caucasian boy named Thorby is being resold as a slave — and in danger of being killed for being uncontrollable. He is bought by a handicapped old beggar — a military veteran spying on the slave trade.

“Thorby is smuggled off that world on a traders’ spaceship. And of course he saves the world in the end. It is a great adventure, with side commentary on slave owners, greed and the meaning of freedom.

“But, a caveat to movie makers: If you change Thorby into a young girl who is a sex slave, I will sic #MeToo on you. I like my heroines fully clothed, like those in the movie ‘Black Panther.'”

The Lowest Common Consumer

Sally, the cleaning lady of Shoreview: “Subject: It’s not milk.

“I needed some new ink for our Epson printer at home, an unwanted expense. I promise I’ll heed the first warning to keep the ink ‘out of the reach of children.’ For that matter, I don’t think I’ll ignore the other instruction, printed in bold: ‘Do not drink.'”

This ‘n’ that

Pollyanna of Lakeland writes: “Joy of juxtaposition: At the gym, I listen to music only while using the rowing machine. It keeps me from getting bored. Yesterday I decided to listen to Mike Rowe’s podcast, ‘That’s the Way I Heard It.’ I listened to episodes 1 and 2, then it skipped to 141. It told how Caryn Elaine Johnson became Whoopi Goldberg. Tonight I am reading the October Reader’s Digest. In an article bemoaning the lack of nicknames, it tells the same story of Whoopi. I had not heard of Caryn, but have definitely heard of Whoopi!

“In August I bought a book called ‘Little Minnesota: A Nostalgic Look at Minnesota’s Smallest Towns.’ My watercolor-artist sister and I have started visiting these tiny towns. A few weeks ago we visited Manchester (pop. 57), Heidelberg (122), Walters (73) and Myrtle (48). On Saturday we visited Delhi (70), Cobden (36), Evan (86), Revere (95), Seaforth (86) and Wanda (84).

“We really enjoy our road trips. I always drive; she always takes photos, then paints pictures from the photos. Traveling with her is very slow, as sometimes we go only 5 feet  (literally!) between sets of photos! It once took us nine hours to get from Lakeland to Lanesboro! We had to stay overnight!

“Anyway, Saturday’s trip took us through New Prague. We stopped by a school and got free bags of apples and seed pods for purple moon flowers. We had lunch at Lau’s Czech Bakery (Czechs accepted!) and bought great stuff from the Humble Pie gift shop. Everyone we met was friendly and fun. It felt a bit like Mayberry!

“I can hardly wait for our next adventure!

“Oh! One more thing. I was reading the BB with the kids at the driving range yesterday. After each article was an ad for toe fungus. It was a little weird.

“So glad you’re still here!”

Could be verse!

Tim Torkildson writes: “‘For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.’ — Deuteronomy 15:11

“An open-handed spirit is commanded by the Lord;

“a cheerful giver will be blessed for sharing what he’s stored.

“Poverty and want are never far from any door;

“fatness in an instant can become a lean eyesore.

“While I’ve got to give, O Lord, please help me not to judge,

“but share with those whose painful road I someday too may trudge!”

Everyone’s a copy editor!

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: ‘Subject: A three-team game?

“Mike from Stillwater, a sharp-as-ever high-school classmate, alerted me to this error in the ‘from the archives’ section on Page 3E of the October 13th edition of the Pioneer Press.

“This was the text beneath a photo of the press box at a University of Minnesota football game.

“‘Oct 23 1948

“‘Reporters from a host of national media outlets packed the press box at the University of Minnesota’s Memorial Stadium for a hotly anticipated game between the Gophers and the University of Michigan. With the Little Brown Jug at stake, the rivalry matchup attracted 50 million viewers on television and a record crowd of 65,130 in the stands. The game was also broadcast live on the radio and telegraphed updates were instantly available to newspapers through wire services, courtesy of the fellows in the front row. The Spartans beat the Gophers 27-14.’

“Take it away, Mike: ‘Must have been 3 teams on the field — Gophers, Spartans & The Boys from Ann Arbor — and the only time in History that the Spartans won the Little Brown Jug. I must have missed something, because I was at the game with my Dad & brothers — Dad had gone to Michigan.'”

The Broad Street Bullies
2019 Edition

Donald: “Subject: The tools of the trade?

“From ‘SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE’ in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated: ‘The Flyers opened a room in their arena in which fans can pay $35 to smash objects with hockey sticks. bats and sledgehammers.’”

The darnedest things

WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from Vertically Challenged: “I was texting with our daughter today when 4-year-old Adriana said: ‘Mom, get off the phone! Can’t you hear that?’

“Mom said: ‘Hear what?’

“Adriana: ‘My lunch. It’s calling my name!’”

Band Name of the Day: Little Brown and the Jugs

Law Firm of the Day: Chortled & Snorted

Website of the Day: Winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019

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