CSotD: Noncritical Errors, or Fun with Fiction

Having railed against inaccurate history the other day, let’s relax a bit and note humor that relies on either not knowing much about the topic or not caring about it.

If you’re going to read comics at all, you have to have a well-developed willingness to suspend disbelief, not only to accept talking animals but to accept the idea that dogs not only sleep on their backs but could do so perched on the sharp peak of a doghouse roof.

There are certain strips — Frazz being chief among them — that regularly send me clicking off to Google and Wikipedia to fact-check odd premises, only to find, for instance, that, yes, there is indeed such a word as “callipygian.”

In the spirit of the strip, I shouldn’t have provided that link, but here’s another that I loved so much that the original hangs over my desk:


The point being that Jef Mallett believes in making people think and in rewarding those who do, this one requiring you to know three different things in three different disciplines.

Bizarro, by contrast, floats back and forth between True Facts and Popular Notions, not simply dependent on whether it’s one of Wayno’s dailies or Piraro’s Sundays, and today’s panel is so defiantly inaccurate as to dare you to give a damn.

Pterodactyls died out about 136 million years ago, while the first cavepersons appeared about 300,000 years ago, so it isn’t even close.

The point being that, if you’re going to get hung up on that, you probably won’t enjoy the comics page anyway.

And the joke is that being lifted up by the hair makes wrinkles disappear, the pterodactyl being a comparatively safe way to get a laugh, since the old standard of cavemen dragging cavewomen around by the hair is not simply inaccurate — women rule the roost in most hunter/gatherer societies — but offensive anyway.

Though there’s also an anthropological element in the other woman saying “You look awesome!” that ties into Jeff Foxworthy’s classic “Do these pants make my butt look fat?” routine.

Men have trouble learning that there are times to be supportive and times to be frank, and that the time to be frank is “never.”

Which brings to mind those pictures on Facebook which invariably get replies of “How beautiful!” from women friends while men are quiet, perhaps thinking about how their children, raised on electronic timekeepers, would not understand the old expression “could stop a clock.”

And some men foolishly continue to write a paragraph or two after they should have gone on to the next cartoon.


Today’s Pardon My Planet sent me to the Internets to confirm what I was pretty sure of.

I knew Sir Isaac hadn’t actually written any laws of matrimony. That was the joke.

But it occurred to me that he avoided the topic not simply in his writing but in his personal life, and, from what we know of his personal life, that was a very good thing for the women of England, one of whom would otherwise have had her hands very full indeed.

Fortunately for whatever statues of him may exist, he was too firmly focused on chemistry, physics, optics and alchemy to make any rude, iconoclasm-inducing statements about women and minorities.

Not an incel so much as an ohthankgodcel.


And today’s Brewster Rockit is a headscratcher in that, first of all, there are way too many (meaning, more than five) people who really do believe things like Stonehenge and the pyramids were left behind by aliens.

Which, by the way, is a sort of racism that assumes pre-industrial people were also stupid.

While the fact is that we’ve figured out that Stonehenge and a whole lot of other megalithic structures will accurately predict the winter solstice but we haven’t got a clue as to what else they were for, and it seems unlikely that they were simply there as a one-day-a-year calendar.

So who’s stupid now?

(Brewster Rockit being another of those strips that will occasionally send you to the Googles to confirm that he’s smarter than you. Which is probably why Blondie and Beetle Bailey do better in those phony comics polls papers love to run.)


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Strange Brew)


(Jeff Stahler)

First, thanks to John Deering for the megalithic segue. I’ll even forgive him my suspicion that the ancient Egyptians didn’t use a whole lot of mortar.

I like the dubious connection between Deering’s joke about a cynical prediction taking 4,000 years to come true and Stahler’s observation of the losses we’re about to realize.

I don’t plan to be one of the 200,000 dead, though I’m not foolish enough to lay down a bet on it, but I am being impacted by store closings.

I was an Amazon customer back when Jeff was sending out mousepads and insulated cups to thank his customers, the reason being that the closest bricks-and-mortar bookstore was a $12 ferry ride and 40 miles away in Burlington.

It was great if you were already there, but not worth the trip when you just needed a copy of “The Sun Also Rises.”

Now, as we prepare for the recovery, we’ve got a lot of small businesses announcing that they won’t be able to reopen, but we’re also losing both our K-Mart and our JCPenney.

Proving that it raineth alike upon the just and the unjust.

And sending us either to Wal-Mart or on-line and ‘scuse me if I don’t see much moral difference.


And, finally

I like Jimmy Margulies’ commentary on BunkerBoy’s need to fence himself off from his adoring public, but Frost didn’t say that. His grumpy neighbor did.

What Frost said was

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.


Which does not diminish Margulies’s thesis, but, in the poem, Frost was a great deal more diplomatic than Mayor Bowser, in the reality.

Though he only had to deal with the antisocial SOB once a year, which likely helped.


8 thoughts on “CSotD: Noncritical Errors, or Fun with Fiction

  1. Benchley wrote a short essay from annoyance at a caption for a museum exhibit: “Remarkably lifelike drawing of a goose” from some Egyptian dynasty. Why, he wanted to know, was it so surprising that the Egyptians might be able to draw a goose?

    I thought of that when Von Daniken was pushing his nonsense (and through the years of Alan Landsburg “In Search Of” shows, which I pretty much avoided watching, but which figured disproportionately in the limited selection of programs on any given night).

  2. Here’s Benchley and the goose, well worth the read (since he does mirror my thoughts on the topic or I mirror his, his coming earlier):

  3. It takes nothing away from the gag to note that, while we obviously have no way of knowing, Newton has long been thought to have died a virgin. There’s no record of him having any sort of romantic relationship or, due to his off-putting personality and obsessive dedication to his work, even many friends.

    Ancient people were as smart and clever as we are. They just lacked our accumulation of tech and knowledge. Still, I was amazed to visit Naples and see paintings from Pompeii that looked thoroughly modern in style, almost Impressionistic. Those old Romans could do more than draw a goose; they could draw a goose like Monet.

  4. Then I’d lower the believer level to 4.

    It’s just another way of declaring that pre-industrial people are incapable by coming up with elaborate and unlikely explanations to discount clear evidence to the contrary.

  5. In a recent re-run of ‘Have Gun Will Travel’, Paladin has a job where he rescues Oscar Wilde.

    At the end, Paladin says something about choosing your enemies as carefully as your friends.

    Oscar says it that sounds like something he, Oscar, would have said. Paladin replies “Oh, you will”.

  6. If I may play devil’s advocate regarding the “lifelike goose”: Not every culture has largely valued representational art. Egypt went hundreds of years with very little change in it’s stylized representations of animal and human forms. It’s possible he was just pointing out an interesting anomaly, though I haven’t read anything from this guy and can only speculate. (Art history minor)

    From Cork Encyclopedia of Ancient Art:

    “Due to the general stability of Egyptian life and culture, all arts – including architecture and sculpture, as well as painting, metalwork and goldsmithing – were characterized by a highly conservative adherence to traditional rules, which favoured order and form over creativity and artistic expression.”

    “Egyptian sculpture was highly symbolic and for most of Egyptian history was not intended to be naturalistic or realistic.”


  7. gezorkin, Paladin was echoing James McNeill Whistler, and prefiguring the Monty Python “Oscar Wilde Sketch” when he said that. As perhaps you knew.

    I don’t think I’ve ever managed to see “Have Gun, Will Travel,” but I got a big laugh from an unheralded appearance Richard Boone made in that character on a “Maverick” episode, where he shows up in a saloon Maverick is in, and sits silently, staring at Maverick. Every so often, Maverick turns and looks, and he’s still there, still staring. I don’t think they ever explained it, either. I should look for the episode–I’ve forgotten everything else about it, but James Garner’s expressions when he’s faced with the stony stare of (presumably) Paladin are priceless.

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