Saturday, March 10, 2018

Florida Trip

So I was in Florida for a week. Here's what happened, in some excruciating detail:

Saturday the flight took off around 1 pm. Got to Miami, found my way to the rental car center, and picked up my more expensive than anticipated car, since the cost of insurance wasn’t covered in the quoted price, and, you know, insurance. Brown Toyota Corolla. Also prepaid gas, which wasn’t a bad idea, since the gas near the rental car center was stupidly (predictably) expensive. Drove about 15 minutes maybe to a place called Hudson House, a ridiculous place. The guy met me, but refused to show me to my room or anything – he talked to other guests, took phone calls, it was infuriating. Didn’t print out any info to check me in, and actually tried to sell me on the concept when I just wanted to get to bed. Showed me the bathroom – the curtain had fallen down in a pile. The room was a bed with a dresser, nothing else like A/C. I slept, I got up early, showered (the curtain fell and I kept showering ‘cause the place sucked) and left.

I drove about an hour to Biscayne National Park (NP), getting there around 8:15 am. Not yet open, but hung out, wandered about. Really nothing to do there that early. At 9 we departed on our boat filled with paddleboards. Nine of us, rest all couples, all NP collectors like me, and mostly from the north – Michigan and Wisconsin and such. On the trip out to Jones Lagoon we see dolphins slapping the mud and clouding the waters to confuse fish – a hunting technique apparently only seen in that spot. We get to the paddle location, it’s pretty, and I kneel or sit for the paddling (no luck with standing, too knock-kneed). Upside-down jellies, baby sharks, not much else. Not sure what I was expecting. Nice experience, though, friendly young tour guides. We get back to the NP HQ around 1 after approx. 2 hours of paddling. A slight redness on my knees from when I was sitting is currently a bit itchy. Get my magnet, and drive to Cubavana, a nice Cuban restaurant. Got pork with onions, with rice and black beans, and sweet plantains. Also got fried plantains for an appetizer, which were a bit odd. Get down to Everglades International Hostel, checked in by one of the two managers, a fellow with dreads who asks me about CA’s marijuana, who shows me around the place. I took a particular fancy to the pink-interiored gazebo, and the hammock. Took a siesta, ‘cause paddling and food, and then head to Walgreens to get some tea for the next couple days, before heading to Rosita’s right next to the Hostel, where I get some chicken nachos which were mighty tasty. Back in the gazebo a conversation with a French-born fellow, maybe 50(?), named Zoubir was a pleasant end to the evening, talking about history and politics.

Monday I woke up after an excruciating night – I think I may have had my first migraine, or perhaps it was my sinuses revolting against the change from cold California to subtropical Florida – my teeth were in agony, I couldn’t sleep. I got enough sleep, thankfully, and had gone to bed early enough, to feel rested, and drove out to the Coe visitor center at the Everglades’ southern entrance. Went to the Anhinga trail, and saw lots of nice wildlife, including anhingas and gators. Fish, turtles, nice conversation, and then went on to the Gumbo Limbo trail, which apart from lizards kind of sucked. Indeed, that was sort of the tone the first two days. When, as a HS Senior, I worked with SEAC on Cumberland Island / Tallahassee, I already saw gators, manatees, etc. Anhingas, frankly, were the best part. Drove through some rain to Flamingo, at the far end of the park, stopping to see a nest of wood storks. Saw manatees at Flamingo, and an osprey at Eco Pond. It was sort of a grey day. Back into the rain I went to the Pa-Hay-Oke boardwalk / platform, where you could gaze into the wilderness…I don’t know. It’s swamp. I’m glad it’s preserved, and I’m glad it’s a World Heritage Site, but I was pretty underwhelmed as I left the park. After a pitstop at the Hostel I drove to The Pit, a BBQ joint about 45 min away, and got gator (chewy and greasy, as foretold) and some mozzy sticks. The service sucked, few people, not a great dining experience. Drove back a different way, down the pike, and got the most cartoonishly tropical, gorgeous, orange and purple sunset ever. That night in the gazebo talked with a French girl, Aude, who was a PhD student in town for a conference, and a fellow Jason, another NP collector.

Awoke Tuesday and headed up to Shark Valley to do the tram tour and observation tower. I got there just after a tour left, so I had about an hour to kill looking around at the critters, like Flamingo there's not much of a visitor center. The tour was very good – lots of wildlife, better than the day before. Baby anhingas and baby gators were highlights. Guide talked about being licensed to extract Burmese pythons, which are a real menace, and we learned about the different ecosystems and vegetation. Got done around 2, and decided to see the historic art deco area of Miami. Drove from Shark Valley out to Lummus Park, Miami Beach, and wandered up and down Ocean Drive and Collins Ave. The beach itself was getting set up for some sort of event, but there were people on it. Took lots of pics of buildings, more my style instead of critters, and got a tasty appetizer platter of hummus, dolmas, eggplant, falafel, tabbouleh, etc. at Miami Mediterranean. Lots of locals, police, etc. eating there. Traffic back to the hostel was a bummer, and hung out in the gazebo listening to Led Zeppelin with the other hostel manager and a couple other guys before bed.

Wednesday, the last day of February, “checked out” (dropped stuff at counter) and headed down the road to Key West, about 2.5 hours’ drive. Got gas on the way, and near Key West stopped and got linner at Hogfish Grill. Conch chowder was unexpectedly a spicier red soup, like a Manhattan style, and the hogfish and chips was good, but the coleslaw was very weird. Went first to the “Little” Truman White House upon arriving at Key West. Took a nice tour, most of the objects are original. They kind of skipped over the nuclear weapons, though. Headed to my hostel / motel and checked in. Walked a few blocks to “the southernmost point of the continental United States” and queued to get my picture taken (It's not actually - but it is for the public). Then walked to Kermit’s, to get some key lime pie before going back to the hostel via Simonton St, and resting. It was still very early, so around 10 I went out to Duvall St, which was bustling, but about half the shops were closed. 

The next day I got up early and got breakfast at Ana’s, a couple blocks from my hostel (sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich with watermelon juice, to go, ‘cause I was in a rush due to a line for food). Got to the airport and found parking, signed my waiver, met more national park collectors, got my snorkel gear and a small cooler of bottled waters (both complimentary). There were two groups flying out at 10, due to demand, I suspect, created from the lack of a ferry. The seaplane can hold nine, or in our case ten, if a guy sits next to the pilot. More NP collectors, of course. We hit about 500 feet in elevation. Saw two shipwrecks on the way out. The plane landed on the water, which was cool, and we had about 2.5 hours on the island, part of which was closed due to seabirds (tons of frigate birds). Got my magnet – what a ridiculous place for a shop! – and toured the fort. Cool place, albeit a bit decrepit. There was a crew working on it, which always seems odd when you’re preserving ruins… Went around to the left (facing the fort entrance) to snorkel. My mustache made that more difficult than need be, and so I had to hold my nose as seawater seeped in. Made it about halfway around the moat walls (exterior, not interior) but my underwater camera failed after one or two shots and broke. Not a huge loss, nothing too spectacular, no rays or turtles like St John, but nice fish, coral, and sponges. The plane back takes off from the water, which is also cool, and I was the last to board, making it right on time. Drive back to the motel, and walk to Mo’s, a Haitian restaurant with incredibly amazing food. I got teriyaki wings to start, and then oxtail, both falling off the bone, with a side of red beans and rice, and veggies – everything cooked perfectly, deliciously, top 50 meals in my lifetime, and topped with a complimentary slice of pumpkin pie. Just run by a couple of laidback Haitian guys with Bluetooth earpieces in. Go up and down Duvall and Simonton again – this time early enough in the evening for things to be open, and buy a book, Devil on the Cross, by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, from a local bookstore (and a virgin mango daiquiri). A jerk from France kept turning off the A/C in the hostel, which made for a rough night. Not sure why I kept running into French people at these places...

Friday had been my “explore Key West” day, but of course much of that had already been done. So that morning I climbed the lighthouse first, then went kitty-corner across the street to the Hemingway home, one of the two official plans I’d made for the day. The tour was sort of pointless, but there are 54 cats, half of them polydactyl, on the property, so that’s neat. After seeing the house in depth from the pool to the writer’s room, I wandered over to Fort Zachary Taylor, the other only official stop. It was a neat little fort, I guess. Not too exciting, well maintained. Hard to compare having seen Ft. Jefferson the day before as the largest masonry-built structure in the western hemisphere. Stop in at the Eco Discovery Center, for the A/C, but there was actually a good little 20 min video on the Keys. By now it was around 2-ish, I head to Firefly, where I get some tasty duck wings (smothered in thick sauce – and actually legs) and a “Key West” Cobb salad, a bed a kale with tons of quality bleu cheese, with a hunk of fried chicken and southern pickles atop. Weird, but tasty. Good for the price. More time to kill, head to the Tennessee Williams Exhibit. His house is still privately owned, but it was a nice little exhibit, and discounted for having gone to Hemingway’s home in the morning. Unlike Hemingway, Williams’ homosexuality was openly discussed and presented. Recouped at the hostel afterwards. For the third night running I wandered up and down Duvall and Simonton, taking in the crowds.

Saturday, I got up earlier than expected, around 8, and checked out. Drove up to Miami, and got to Vizcaya after nearly 3.5/4 hours. Toured and explored it on my own, which was a good choice. Gorgeous, if a tad effete for my tastes. Great gardens, though – just the right size. Nice blend of Italianate style of house and local limestone and such. Gave it that worn feeling. There was a weird stone barge, though, which reminded me of Port Myron’s boat from The Prisoner. My final wildlife encounter came in the form of an iguana walking up to me. From Vizcaya headed to a nearby Portuguese restaurant, Old Lisbon, which had great food, but lousy service. I just got the Portuguese version of paella, which was very tasty, and a huge portion. Mussels, squid, clams, lobster, fish, and shrimp. Once sated from my repast I had a serious quandary – it was very early, and even if I wanted to be at the airport three hours early… But I had no desire to see more of Miami. Dropped my car off (after getting a bit lost due to horrible GoogleMaps directions). The flight departed at 9-ish, fell asleep after playing some plants vs zombies, and got my bag from the carousel around 1:30 am. I drove fast, but not too fast, to get home, taking 101 instead of 17, and parked right around 3:35 am.

So that's my trip! Three National Parks and a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with cool landmarks like Hemingway's house, and the Vizcaya mansion. In all I can sum up this Florida experience as: Generally good food, very warm, lots of water and swamps.

There you go.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

NaNoReMo 2018

It's March, and so it is time once again for National Novel Reading Month, a concept initially proposed by the very talented John of The Bathroom Monologues. The idea: You pick up some novel you're supposed to have read, or one that's been sitting on your shelf a long time, a classic ideally, and take the month of March to read it. I've been doing it for years and it has always led to a delightful feeling of accomplishment.

This year I'm starting a few days late, because I just got back from a relaxing trip to Florida. Also I sort of forgot. But I have decided that this year's book will be: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. It has been on my shelf a long time, one of the longest, and more to the point, it's one of the books I've been dreading reading the most (I blame Jack Nicholson - did not like that movie).

I hope the novel is more rewarding than I'm expecting. So far I've not read anything by Kesey, and while NaNoReMo is usually a time for old (pre-20th century) tomes, I have increasingly few of those left...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

American Democracy


So this is just a quick run-down of a dozen laws Congress needs to pass so that we 1) fix broken institutions and 2) never end up with another Trump. Clearly we can't be trusted with norms, so here are actual laws to replace them. Some of these I've mentioned in the past, but here goes:

1. Presidential candidates must disclose their health and tax records. Your privacy goes out the window on this one.

2. Failure to adhere to the emoluments clause or disclose financial ties becomes grounds for impeachment.

3. No more appointing family members to government positions. I like Bobby Kennedy as much as the next person, but we need, at the very least, a Congressional waiver that attests to their qualifications for the position they hold. Also anyone unable to get a security clearance after a background check is not allowed access to the building, after a six month grace period during which no red flags can show up in their record. White House entrance logs need to be public, too.

4. No more partisan gerrymandering. Hopefully the Supreme Court will do right by this this upcoming summer. If not Congress needs to get in there and fix it.

5. Get rid of barriers to voting - remove ID laws which disproportionately keep the poor and POC from voting, add same-day registration, make the day a paid holiday and insist employers give shift workers time off to vote, etc. On a related note: you can't have the Census ask about citizenship. (And you need to, you know, fund it properly.)

6. Insist that the one hour of requisite nightly news is free of advertisements. And, while we're talking FCC, ensure the internet is protected under the terms of net neutrality.

7. Amend the Constitution to specify that freedom of speech does not include corporations, nor the spending of money on elections. Get rid of PACs and overturn the ghastly Buckley, Citizens United, and McCutcheon decisions of the past twenty years. While we're at it let's get rid of lobbying, or make it so very transparent as to be off-putting.

8. On that note, replace PACs with publicly funded elections, which would be cheaper, more transparent, and less indebted to corporations and special interests. Over a certain threshold of support all candidates would get equal funds - this also applies to the airwaves, television spots, debates, and official internet presence.

9. Make D.C. and Puerto Rico (combined with the USVI) states. There are more Puerto Rican Americans than in 21 other states. This is bullshit. There are more Americans living in Puerto Rico and the USVI than Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and both Dakotas combined. Even D.C., on the smallish side, is bigger than our two smallest states. Full and equal representation.

10. Make the Legislative body proportional again. The random cap at 435 is dumb. Instead we should make the proportion one Representative for every 500,000 people. Wyoming and Vermont are still safe, and California will actually be represented fairly. It would add about a hundred members (including Puerto Rico and D.C.'s now voting members).

11. Dereliction of duty. If the Legislative branch does not follow the guidelines of being a check to Executive power there needs to be a repercussion beyond 'censure' and such 18th-century niceties (which are rarely invoked anyway). In other words, if a Congress or members of Congress, fails to do their job, the next Congress can come in and whup their sorry butts. Barring members from holding office, prison time, fines - whatever. There needs to be an incentive to do their jobs. They can't ignore laws, and not impose clear constitutional and legal redress to Executive overreach.

12. A Constitutional amendment to get rid of the Electoral College. This keeps fucking us. Time to get rid of it. The popular vote should have the say-so in the 21st century. At the very, very least they need to insist on the Nebraska and Maine system being adopted nationwide, where a state's electoral votes can be split among parties, so it's not winner take all. But really, we should just can it.

These twelve laws, including two constitutional amendments (freedom of speech and the electoral college), would actually fix the system. We would see government start humming again, and *gasp horror* getting things done on major issues like, say, gun control. Global warming. Education reform. The minimum wage. Immigration.

You know, little things.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Academy Award Animated Shorts 2018

I watch the nominees of every year, but the last post I did was in 2015. Pleasingly there was a very good crop of animated shorts this year.

Image result for dear basketball

Could Kobe Bryant win an Oscar? The first short was a very touching love-letter about the game which made Bryant who he is, a thank you for the years of fame and pleasure. I found myself unexpectedly moved, although perhaps a score by John Williams was mostly responsible. The animation admitted;y was very good, but in all the sentiment was a bit... repetitive.

Image result for negative space animation

Second, Negative Space was a pleasing stop-motion animation. It seems as though every year the Academy has to nominate a short with tragic father issues, and this certainly fits that bill. I would not mind if this won, however. It's French and has those vibes, a 'My Life as Zucchini' feel (admittedly I didn't watch that film, but I felt like I didn't have to to get the Frenchness of it.) Besides Dear Basketball, starting with Negative Space, all the others had foreboding and dark themes, and humor.

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Lou follows. It's Pixar's offering, and features the increasingly standardized Disney-Pixar humans, children on a playground this time, and a powerful Eldritch God named Lou, immortal and mighty, who keeps the guise of an assemblage of Lost and Found items, waiting in a bin to lure unsuspecting victims in and devour their souls. Or so I hoped. But instead the lesson is bullying is bad but bullies are broken too, and Lou is more of a Giving Tree type. Pity.

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I was particularly fond of Revolting Rhymes Part One. At 29 minutes it told a long, very funny, updated, Roald Dahl version of Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Three Little Pigs. The voice acting was good, it was genuinely amusing and fresh: an animated short I would want to show my own kids someday. The style was well-done, too, and the BBC talent (Rob Brydon!) was top-tier. Both directors have been up for the Oscar before, for Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo. Maybe this is their year?

Image result for French language

That said, the final installment, Garden Party, was absolutely amazing. It pushed the boundaries of animation into new territories of sophistication, told an excellent story, was provocative as well as laugh-out-loud funny, and had frogs. It is my clear choice for best film and most deserving of the Oscar. It should also win Best Picture.

Even if Lou or Dear Basketball wins, though, it won't be a bad year. Lou is sappy, but it's not a bad film. Dear Basketball is trite, but really very well-animated.

Honorable Mentions:

In between the nominees there were these odd interludes about a blue monster and a yellow monster. They were kind of funny. French, I think... The other Highly Commended selections were:

Lost Property Office. A rather bleak short with a slightly uplifting message at the end. He keeps lost things, the color palette is sepia, you get the idea.

Achoo. A racist and generally awful French short that makes fun of the Chinese and plays to the lowest common denominator and oh my God.

Weeds. So ridiculously, over-the-top, saccharine it almost reaches "so bad it's good" territory. Not very well animated, though.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


So I predicted 2016 would by Hillary vs. Rubio. I knew Clinton would almost definitely be the nominee, but like most pundits, I didn't predict Trump being a serious contender in the field. In a group where the only serious contenders were Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Rubio I still think Rubio probably would've pulled through just to avoid a Clinton/Bush showdown.

Anyway, for 2020 I've learned from my mistakes and I've decided to not predict who I think will get the nod, but merely who my dream team combo is, which is:

Newsom - Duckworth

Gavin Newsom is probably going to become California's governor in a few months, when Jerry Brown retires. That'll bring him to national prominence. Former experience: Lt. Governor / Mayor of San Francisco who legalized gay marriage, and GQ cover model...

Image result for kimberly guilfoyle gavin newsom
No, but seriously...

If. as it seems, all people care about is appearances Newsom looks like a President. A young, handsome man who will look good on a stage next to Trump. And who will wipe the floor with him during debates. He's a brawler and has liberal bona fides for the Bernie-ish part of base. For those who miss the young energy of Obama, for those who wanted a progressive, for those who want more West Coast representation, and for those who for whatever reason need a man to be in charge, he's the guy. For the old guard moneyed Dems, he's one of them. 

Tammy Duckworth is the current junior Senator from Illinois, and soon-to-be first Senator to give birth during her term. She was first elected in 2016 after serving in the House (elected in 2012) and is very popular with her constituents. She also served as the Assistant Secretary of the VA Department, due to her service in Iraq:

Image result for tammy duckworth
...And this is what inspiration looks like.

Now, I know the Trump base is the definition of 'shameless', for whom any sort of mockery is 'in-bounds', but I suspect a combat veteran who lost her legs in war may just be a bridge too far, especially for some of the military-background conservatives. She's more centrist than Newsom, and more mid-western. She can help with Michigan and Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. She's the perfect person to have on the ticket for recapturing Obama democrats who went Trump, talking to the dispossessed in town halls, and showing the DNC's commitment to women. Oh, and she's an Asian-American. Which some people may, you know, notice.

In election hierarchies popular sitting Presidents defeat all comers, but then there's more of a toss-up with unpopular Presidents and popular Governors (Consider George HW Bush v. Clinton, or Carter v. Ford). Governors also tend to be likelier Presidents, generally. In the 42 years since 1976 we've only had 14 years under Senators, as opposed to those under Governors (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush). And this holds up historically: From Grover Cleveland (1885) to FDR (1945) Former governors-turned-Presidents included Cleveland, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt. You want a governor at the top of the ticket.

To balance the knowing, Executive power, at the top of the ticket, you want a Senator VP who can corral the Senate, be the tie vote, and knows D.C. Granted, Duckworth is a bit young for this role, but after Hillary lost I think it's essential we have a (preferably Midwestern) female Senator, and she has the most nationally-visible profile. (Not that there's a lot of competition in that field...) I would love to see her go up against Pence on a debate on values.

Both are youthful, which is critical. We don't want grandparents after 2016. I love Warren, and Bernie, but the Dems are seen as too old. Schumer, Pelosi, Feinstein - they're all so old. Duckworth is 49, Newsom is 50. Both will be the right age to take on Trump and Pence in 2020.

Spoilers / Other Good Candidates:

Corey Booker, Senator from New Jersey
Tammy Baldwin, Senator from Wisconsin
Kamala Harris, Senator from California
Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon
Muriel Bowser, Mayor of D.C.
Joe Kennedy III, Congressman from Massachusetts

Image result for joe kennedy iii
'Cause we Democrats just can't help ourselves...

Monday, January 22, 2018

Albums by Year

A few months ago there was something going around of favorite movies by year since you were born. Here, then, is the musical equivalent. The album's overall rank (according to me) follows in parenthesis.

1986 - Graceland, Paul Simon (76)
1987 - Appetite for Destruction, Guns n Roses (13)
1988 - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy (201)
1989 - The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses (66)
1990 - I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, Sinead O'Connor (253)
1991 - The Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest (47)
1992 - The Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack, Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman (122)
1993 - A Meeting by the River, Ry Cooder and VM Bhatt (28)
1994 - Illmatic, Nas (20)
1995 - Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette (50)
1996 - Endtroducing....., DJ Shadow (49)
1997 - Dig Your Own Hole, The Chemical Brothers (90)
1998 - Ronroco, Gustavo Santaolalla (60)
1999 - Global Underground 013: Ibiza, Sasha (27)
2000 - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, PJ Harvey (12)
2001 - Discovery, Daft Punk (13)
2002 - Sea Change, Beck (55)
2003 - Elephant, The White Stripes (24)
2004 - The College Dropout, Kanye West (130)
2005 - Come On, Feel the Illinoise!, Sufjan Stevens (271)*
2006 - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case (54)
2007 - Neon Bible, Arcade Fire (91)
2008 - No Albums
2009 - No Albums
2010 - Hadestown, Anais Mitchell (34)
2011 - Bastion Original Soundtrack, Darren Korb (283)
2012 - Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding (319)*
2013 - The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae (339)
2014 - No Albums
2015 - Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda (35)*
2016 - No Albums
2017 - No Albums

* Only album I own from that year

For the past ten years I've acquired mighty few albums. :( Get on my level, music industry!

Superlatives: Highest rank - 2000, PJ Harvey, at number 12. None of my top ten are from my own lifetime. Indeed the most recent albums to make my top ten are Talking Book and Ziggy Stardust, both from 1972.

2013 - Not a great year, with Monae's concept album the lowest ranked, at 339. Remarkably, though, there is a 2013 album lower on my list: The Unfortunates, by Casey Hurt, ekes out the 443 spot.

There is an album I liked in 2017, but I don't yet own, which is Ism by Steelism. It's good! I enjoyed it. Also for 2014 I may need to check out St. Vincent's self-titled release again. I liked it, but at the time was a bit underwhelmed.

I own at least one album for every year between 2008 all the way back to 1953. Besides those listed above in recent years, I also own no albums from 1952, 1950, 1949, 1948, 1947, 1946, 1944, 1942, 1939. My oldest recording is 1938. The ones I do own between 1953 and 1938, ranked, are:

1951 - A Streetcar Named Desire, Alex North (450)*
1945 - Zodiac Suite, Mary Lou Williams (500)*
1943 - Stormy Weather Soundtrack, Various (157)*
1941 - Songs for John Doe, Almanac Singers (134)
1940 - Dust Bowl Ballads, Woody Guthrie (31)*
1938 - The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert, Benny Goodman (352)*

So there you go.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Questionable Content

Questionable Content (QC) is a web comic by Jeph Jacques. It started in 2003, and has been updating M-F for many years now.

The original cast of Western Mass-dwelling 20-somethings were: Martin, indie-rock aficionado, Faye, his curvaceous and geeky roommate and love interest, Steve, his friend, Dora, the girl he eventually ended up with, and Hanners, the girl next door but not in that way. Martin also owned a small robot companion, Pintsize.

As time went on the cast grew, with relatives, relationships, and friends. But a pattern began to emerge which I have come to find very annoying.

Early on the three female leads, Faye, Dora, and Hanners shared equal time. The first two because of a Martin-based love triangle, the third because Hanners was initially mysterious and sort of kooky. But once a steady relationship formed, Jeph started introducing more and more female characters.

There was Marigold, an amime-watching curvy geeky girl. She was accompanied by

Momi, her anthro-PC companion who looks like a Japanese schoolgirl.

Then Tai, bisexual leader of a small crew of library grad students which included characters such as Emily and

Claire, the geeky trans girlfriend Martin ended up with after Dora (who paired with Tai).

Then we had Brun, a geeky curvaceous girl with an interest in clocks and a possible love triangle between two supporting male characters.

Then Bubbles, another, far more curvaceous female android and former combat vet who may be romantically interested in Faye.

And now Tilly, who uses them/they pronouns…

And I’m done.

 I don’t care anymore. No more wacky or woke female characters. Please. Each one gets a story arc that can last a very long time, but then they’re dropped when Jeph gets bored, and we never hear from them again. And I left out some of the secondary female characters who didn’t get big story arcs, like Martin’s dominatrix mom, the curvaceous geeky (see a pattern?) savant Raven, or Penelope, who is secretly Pizza Girl. Nor do I know whatever happened to the leftovers of the original cast, like Steve and his girlfriend whose name I’ve long since forgotten because it has been literally years since we’ve checked up on them.

Examples of what I’m talking about: Marigold’s arc began around strip 1600. (She also had a boy crush, name lost to the ether.) By 2650 she was wrapped and done, hardly seen since. Claire had showed up as a supporting side-character somewhere around 2250, got together with Martin around 2900, and shortly thereafter she (and Martin largely, by extension) started to disappear. Around 3300 Brun showed up, by 3400 Bubbles was the star of the strip, and by 3600 we’re now on to Tilly.

There’s something unsettling in discarding these women. Each has a different woke aspect. Hanners had OCD, Brun is autistic, Bubbles had PTSD from combat, Claire is trans, and now Tilly is some form of gender queer. The original cast successfully carried the strip with minor supports until around the Marigold arc. More worrying still, Jeph made a point that he loved the new focus on Marigold, calling her his favorite character. Then he said the exact same thing about Claire. And then turned to Bubbles…

And I’m done. It was a fun run, but instead of working with what he has it’s clear he’s just going to keep introducing characters and neglecting the women he’s already created.