I was, at first glance, a little surprised that Randall Munroe took this personal view of time, since his geeky genius approach to xkcd often includes exquisitely detailed plays upon How Things Work or insider jokes that require you to understand the same.
Then I realized he’d taken an Angry Old Man rant — traditionally based on moronic oversimplification — and turned it into something unbearably complex and totally unworkable. Which I like a lot.
Time didn’t matter a whole lot when we stayed where we belonged and didn’t have so much dad-blasted technology. The only thing that started at a particular time was church, and they’d ring the bells to tell you when that was happening.
The Inuit could use Bootes — art by Dylan Meconis, tech advice from Brian Fies and Sherwood Harrington — to tell time, as his elongated plow rotated in the sky, but that works best during the times when the Sun doesn’t come up at all and you can see him whenever you look up. I don’t know how they knew what time it was the sunny half of the year, but, then again, I don’t know what the hell difference it would have made.
The bodhran player in my Irish band, a wonderful fellow who’d grown up in the 30s as the son of a thatcher in rural Limerick, epitomized the changes in Ireland a half century later with a joke about some American tourists stopping to ask a pair of farmers what time it was, the reply being, “Why?”
I suppose it started to matter — to city folks, anyway — when sailing ships started to traverse greater distances which caused them to wonder where the hell they were. Up until global trade became a thing, there were some terrific navigators, but they weren’t under any particular pressure to be precise.
It wasn’t expected and everyone was happy if you just managed to more or less find, say, China, and get back again. And China’s a pretty big target, after all.
However, as the fellow in the cartoon notes, time is wound up in latitude and longitude and so there you go.
As for the rest of us, time zones were the result of the railroads, whose transcontinental schedules meant it suddenly mattered what time people thought it was, as “We’ll be there in about ten days” became “We’ll be there Wednesday at three.”
Even then, it’s not like the trains were so precise that fifteen minutes one way or the other was going to make a difference.
But now we live in a world in which one plane is departing at 3:47 and another is departing at 3:51, which sounds wonderfully precise unless you’ve actually been to an airport and ridden on an airplane in which case you know it’s still rather theoretical.
For my part, I’m at that stage of life where I’ve been loved and put aside, and I’ve been crushed by the tumbling tide and I guess you might also say my soul has been psychodelicized, to the point where I’m not sure anybody outside of Greenwich really knows what time it is, and I rather wonder if anybody really cares, nor can I imagine why.
Now that you’ve all got your earworms installed, let’s move on.
Juxtaposition of the Day
The Juxtaposition here is in the area of generational references, and I had no idea that Dick Tracy was set in the 1950s, when young people would know the daily themes of the Mickey Mouse Club. And perhaps it’s not, since part of the enjoyment of the strip is how completely unanchored it is from reality.
Which I would argue it always was, only I’m not sure Chester Gould knew that, while the current crew revel in it.
Meanwhile, Barney & Clyde is very much anchored in the present and here lampoons comics that make cultural references that nobody under retirement age is going to get and that a lot of people who do get them won’t care.
Nothing against Burt, who was an amusing Hollywood lightweight and even assembled, for a brief but moment, a sort of redneck Rat Pack that made some fun movies.
I’ll even give him cred for upping his game in “Starting Over,” a film that might be better known if it didn’t so accurately portray the pain of divorce in what was also often a comedy. It was like “Annie Hall” for people who spent more time in barrooms than analyst’s offices.
But the Selleck reference is brilliant because another common comic strip reference is the old middlebrow fart who watches reruns of “Matlock” and “Magnum PI,” which in turn makes that final panel a genius punchline, not just for the text but for the sad, middlebrow, humorless principal.
Who may be delighted that someone at CBS has greenlighted a revival of Magnum PI, though not everyone thinks it’s an entirely brilliant plan.
Speaking of hilariously painful divorces
My own divorce was quite civilized, though I’ve certainly seen ones that weren’t. However, even we quarreled over money, so the ongoing tale of Clive’s hilariously disastrous divorce in Alex has had a few touchpoints even for me.
This one caught me right off-guard, because all I could think for three panels was “For god’s sake, man, quit whinging” but I’ve been trying for two decades to get free of my own alma mater and my hat is off to Clive for his ability to turn lemons not into lemonade but champagne.
To which I’d add that, if you liked “Starting Over,” you should read “Alex,” and if you like “Alex,” you should stream “Starting Over.” They’re both delightfully, insightfully masochistic.
I didn’t get to the AAEC Convention, but my pal and steadfast Friend of the Blog Brian Fies did, and reading his write-up will give you a pretty good sense of what you’d have read here if I’d been able to go.
Though I kind of doubt Zunar would have wanted to hear more about my work.
Good Old Brian Fies. How I hate him!
Oscar-nominee Candice Bergen inadvertently rescues her STBX
from the disaster of a horizontal reunion. Run, Phil, Run!