CSotD: That’s Not How It Works

To be clear, I like today’s Edison Lee (KFS), which riffs on new ways for kids to screw up, though my guess would be that Jack knows ways to make the refrigerator sit up, roll over and beg that his parents will never figure out. There are plenty of times a parent at the kitchen table will say, “Wait … how did you do that?”

In case you thought computers were the only place where you needed a 12-year-old to show you how it works. Your house is full of things that include computers.

However, it repeats the “Well on the Hill” fallacy that has dogged this nursery rhyme for a century or more. The idea of digging a well on top of a hill is nonsensical. They were likely hiking up to a spring, which can pop out of the rocks just about anywhere.

The Hambrocks are off the hook on this one: Little Edison is simply telling the story as it was told to him.

Incorrectly, dammit.


If that’s not enough, over at Hogan’s Alley, Tom Heintjes shows a vintage activity from a comic book of decades past: How to make a tin can telephone. We made these things all the time, though more often with a nail anchoring each end rather than a knot. I had also forgotten how the comic books assumed we knew all about solder, perhaps a vestige of the days not so long gone by then, when young geeks assembled their own radio sets.

But the important factor is the sentence “The thread must be drawn tight so that it will carry sound vibrations.”

Cartoonists continually depict them with slack threads. It makes me wonder how they spent their childhoods.


Wallace the Brave (AMS) would know how tin can phones work from experience, and Rose would realize that the strings must be taut because she understands how things work.

But today’s strip shows why, 20 years from now, Wallace and Rose will not be an old married couple. My experience in the 60s and 70s was that, while the Roses are fascinated by a lack of inhibition, they are, in its actual presence, as shown here, prone to burying themselves in their books and claiming not to know anyone.

Wallace has none of her inhibitions and no sense of how impossible it would be for her to join him in the ongoing wild rumpus of his life.

Hollywood, being run by old guys who gained power by obeying the rules, is besotted with movies in which a hidebound middle-aged duffer meets a free-spirited young thing who teaches him how to liberate himself. I would suggest he is more likely to find a dug well atop a hill or speak through a slack-stringed tin can telephone.

The reality is more like the classic Russian novel, “Oblomov,” in which an indolent man lies in bed all day planning things he ought to do and accomplishing nothing, until he meets a free-spirited girl who draws him out into the world in which he discovers the joy of love and spontaneity.

Then he chickens out and basically ghosts her, sinking back into his bedclothes and lethargy.

It’s not terribly cheerful, but it’s highly realistic.


Continuing our discussion of well-behaved people, in today’s Reply All (WPWG), Lizzie wonders how people can bear to make such asses of themselves on TV, just as she’s about to fear doing the same on Zoom.

I don’t know that there’s any difference in speaking up in a meeting around a table or speaking up in a Zoom meeting, and my guess would be that people who won’t step up in one format won’t step up in the other, particularly since, on Zoom, everyone seems to be looking right at you, even though they aren’t.

Of course, a good moderator will carefully draw out each person in a meeting, and, in all the meetings I’ve sat through over the decades, I’ve certainly seen that done.


Meanwhile, she’s right about reality TV. Anyone who thinks that’s “reality” has no idea how the world works, much less how TV works.

The popularity of the format shows how gullible the average person is.


Which brings us to Jeff Stahler (AMS)’s cartoon, illustrating the fact that Russia has been showing clips of Tuckyo Rose to demonstrate American support for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It’s particularly fascinating since we’re hearing reports of anti-war demonstrations there, which seem surprising, given how criticism from groups like Pussy Riot have been received by the authorities. Then again, the fact that we even know about Pussy Riot is a sign that walls don’t really work in the modern world.

Even in the Olden Days, Russians knew, for instance, about the Beatles, and I think it’s reasonable, today, to wonder how many of them accept the government’s contention that Tucker Carlson speaks for our country, and how many realize he’s a disloyal extremist.

Though that’s something I’m still trying to figure out on this side of the globe.


Meanwhile, Robert Ariail (AMS) seems something of a defeatist, and the question here is when he drew the cartoon currently posted at GoComics, because it’s clear the Ukrainian fish hasn’t gone down so smoothly, and kitty may have some work ahead — and a lot of Pepto-Bismol — before he’s ready for a second course.

Biden-haters say Putin was emboldened by our experience in Afghanistan.

But did he learn nothing from Russia’s?


A lot of us are still having problems figuring out the fellow depicted here by Ed Wexler as “The Toddler in Chief,” a nickname bestowed upon him by those who had to work with him.

It’s a great nickname because it captures both his lack of deep knowledge, his utter distractibility and his attraction for childish, dramatic superficiality. As Wexler draws it, the T-in-C is fascinated by Uncle Vlad’s manly physique, which is why he has complimented Putin on the invasion.

And, again, it’s not that this real estate developer has foolish views of the world. It’s that he has a sizeable following of people who agree with him.

But the world is changing. Even Putin doesn’t have the grip he once enjoyed.


3 thoughts on “CSotD: That’s Not How It Works

  1. The return to status quo brings to mind the “Flitcraft” story that Hammett takes time away from the storyline of The Maltese Falcon to have Sam Spade recount, in which a businessman is nearly killed by a fluke accident, and the incident jars him out of his complacent life, and he goes to another city, and… takes up a life just like the other one.

    Also, right again about the can phones. I learned from one of those half-size comics the shoe store in the big city (Denver) gave away with new shoes.

  2. Wait! We had a house on top of a hill. We had a well. Our neighbors had wells.

  3. If your property is on top of a hill, that’s where you drill your well, though — assuming a stable water table — it will cost you more than if you lived in the bottomlands, since well drillers charge by distance.

    But that’s why rich folks live in “the House on the Hill” and farmers live in the valley. And, given the 18th century roots of the poem, it’s unlikely anyone living in the valley would hand-dig a well on top of a hill — the premise of the story being that Jack and Jill are sent there to fetch a pail of water.

    Far, far more likely that there is a spring on top of the hill. At one point, I lived in a place where the local well water contained sulphur — okay for showering or dishes but nothing you wanted to drink. I drove about eight miles every week or so to fill jerry cans with clean, fresh spring water, and could stand and enjoy a great hilltop view of the nearby town and forests while the cans filled.

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