Home » Uncategorized » The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Another week that wasn’t. Or was it? Aside from a welcome cameo by Ralph the Rat Snake, we saw Mark jump on Rusty for slamming “Professor” Bee Sharp because a) Sharp posted incorrect information Rusty used in a report that made him a laughing stock; and b) Rusty discovered Sharp was not a real professor at all. For his part, Mark shamed Rusty for dissing Sharp because “the Professor” was in the hospital suffering a broken leg. But how was Rusty to know this? Didn’t matter to Mark the Moralist.

Given Mark’s own history with Professor Fraud you’d  have thought he would be sympathetic to Rusty, but ‘twas not the case. Instead, Mark was fixated (as we have seen) on Sharp, as if he was a long-lost brother. Mark has been unusually focused on Sharp and his health, to the point of ignoring his own assignment. He didn’t have much to do with Cricket Bro, either. But Mark has started pondering whether there is a nefarious hidden conspiracy underlying the accident as well as the missing reporter. This presages a change to a more dramatic mood. But, can Rivera pull this off without making it a farce?

Warning: At this point, you can keep reading or skip down to the Sunday strip and avoid my rambling analytical musings on Rivera’s art. You’ve been warned! No take-backs.

Comments on Rivera’s drawing came up again, so it’s an opportunity for me to respond:  I really do share people’s frustration with Rivera’s art. It certainly conflicts with the more naturalistic styles of Dodd, Elrod, and Allen. But honestly, some of their work was crude, mawkish, and just mediocre. We’ve all joked on their overuse of clip-art (cut-and-paste) and hokey stories. Of course, that was part of the charm:  That unintended corniness. The traditional Mark Trail style could be cloyingly sentimental, like a petit point embroidery. The old Mark Trail was everybody’s grandfather with silly jokes. As “Mark Trail Confidential” author Mark Carlson-Ghost cataloged, Elrod (and maybe Dodd) even went so far as to recycle older stories. Hey, you want to see great adventure strip art? Look at Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, and John Prentice (Rip Kirby, in the vintage section of Comics Kingdom.). Daily newspapers focus on quantity over quality, so reduced-sized formats can no longer faithfully reproduce their work.

Rivera’s art (and writing) was originally a wake-up call and a bold redo to bring the strip into the 21st century. Bravo for that! But Rivera’s current flat, sketchy style with virtually no modeling and a deliberate disregard for proportion mirrors her sometimes chaotic, weird storylines. I like a bit of parody and weirdness; but I also like variety of mood.

I still believe Rivera’s original vision and style was more appealing, sophisticated, inventive, and fitted the grittier storyline she had. Start back in October 2020 and view those earlier strips. Even the storyline moved between drama, comedy, and social issues. I don’t know why Rivera abandoned all that, unless she didn’t have the time to keep up. Her predecessors had assistants, which certainly made it possible for them to maintain their traditional Mark Trail style.

Okay, a good, informative Sunday strip! Nice try on the title panel. As long-time reader Downpuppy commented earlier this week when he complimented Rivera’s awareness of this recent event: “The reordering of Artiodactyla [is] based on molecular biology.” I do have one nit to pick:  In the penultimate panel, Rivera notes that “…new information can shake up established beliefs”, which I think includes a careless term. Neither science nor scientific results are based on beliefs, but on the results of observation, experiment, and testing to arrive at a supportable conclusion based on the evidence.  New evidence can cause scientists to revise their conclusions. These are not beliefs, since the concept of belief does not have to be based on research or evidence. It would probably be more accurate to state that new information can shake up established knowledge.

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4 thoughts on “The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

  1. I have no problem with calling traditional taxonomy belief, in the non religious sense : an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. The structural similarities & fossil record are facts & knowledge. The ancestral trees produced based on these facts have always had provisional elements, as they’re put together from bits and pieces of information to make maps of events that go back millions of years.
    Those of us who didn’t create the trees accept them on our faith in the systems & people involved in science, and our understanding of how it works, with only a bit of reading & thinking “Oh yes this fits. This makes sense.”

    • Okay. I agree for the most part. By the way, I certainly did NOT intend to criticize YOU, but if you took it that way, I apologize. I should have been more specific in stating that my concern was with the term only, not the writer. Or maybe I should not have written anything at all?
      Sure, we have to have a certain amount skeptical trust (a term I prefer) that information and conclusions presented by scientists (for example) are as accurate and reasonable as possible, subject to criticism and revision. I trust that several hundred years of observation, measurement, and confirmation support our current understanding of the solar system and universe. My overreactive concern was that terms such as “belief” and “faith” are often linked by other people to religious usage, making it easier to question the validity of the evidence-based process of scientific inquiry. So, I appreciate your comments, Downpuppy! Hope I haven’t made a hash of my response.

      • The version of belief where any fact that people don’t like is dismissed as fraud or a test of faith has way too many people locked in an epistemic bubble, i.e, what you just said.
        I’ve had no success in trying to get through to people who’ve adopted asinine beliefs, even obvious nuttery like vaccines replacing your RNA (which normally gets replaced about 30 times a day).

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