The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

If you didn’t catch all of the dailies this past week, you really missed an in-your-face sex act in Monday’s strip. Hoo boy! It did not leave much to the imagination and I’m surprised it got past the comic strip censors! Maybe they really do spend more time scrutinizing Pearls Before Swine, as Stephen Pastis likes to imply.

In any event, the adventure this week focused on a growing realization that something might be wrong with the Bassigator Hunting Party, based on Cherry’s tracking device (surreptitiously dropped into Rusty’s backpack) showing a total lack of movement on Cherry’s tracking app. Seems the tracker stopped at an unknown horseshoe-shaped cove in the river (as Duke described it). Neither Cherry nor Jeanette knew about it, but de-bait team member Duke described it as a hot-spot for alligators.  Curiously, everybody seemed intent on referring to the cove all week long as “the horseshoe-shaped cove”, as if the shape, itself, was somehow important. Do alligators play horseshoes?  Is the shape symbolic of an alligator’s womb?

Cherry and Jeanette got more and more concerned (OK, Jeanette was starting to panic) about what was going on and what they should do about it. Surprisingly, Mark was never a topic of this discussion, even though he was “the responsible adult on the boat”. So, rather than attempt to do something novel, such as calling Mark or Rusty on their phones, Cherry, Jeanette, and Duke decided to drive to the horseshoe-shaped cove and see what they could do to save the kids. To make this closing scene dramatic in the way intended, we have to imagine cliff-hanger music reaching a climax as we cut to the Sunday nature presentation.

This is a fair demonstration of how one’s beliefs can be challenged when physical reality conflicts with tradition and superstition.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Yeah, this is yet another weekly summary of the past seven dailies. But is this really a true summary, or have I fabricated alternate facts to create a phony deterministic weltanschauung in order to support my own philosophical and aesthetic biases and gain international Blog Fame? Frankly, I have no idea, so I hope you can figure it out.

Anyway, did you miss any days this past week? It was a rough and tumble time on the boat, as heated exchanges between Rusty and Robbie were replaced by heated reactions of several alligators. How did that happen? It seems that this nighttime boat ride was going well until eagle-eyed Mark bumped into a gator. Didn’t he know where he was going? Didn’t he know about the alligators?

Mark tried to gloss over this mishap with the kids, but the waters suddenly started getting rough. A growing swarm of gators who were none too happy with Mark’s piloting skills were making themselves known. Whether he was boating into rapids or churning waters somehow created by the gators, Mark was unable to keep a steady course or even pilot the boat away from the trouble. For someone claiming to know how to operate a power boat, that’s disappointing. Anyway, the boat ran aground onto a beach as if it was D-Day. Unfortunately, they grounded alongside a giant collection of upset gators! Good thing gators can’t jump.

Artistically, this has been a fairly good week, with more consistency and a return to more dramatic, creative scenes. It won’t convert old school holdouts, of course, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Now Mark talked about alligators last Sunday. Let’s see what’s got him interested today.

Is this a real problem today? I know that back in the colonial days of our country people kept squirrels as pets, especially youngsters. There are lots of paintings of the time showing this to be true. The painting of a boy with his flying squirrel by John Singleton Copley is one famous example.

The attack squirrel story mentioned here comes from a 2019 incident where an Alabama meth seller hoped to turn the squirrel into some kind of home defense attack dog. But this is a singular incident, not a trend. The bigger picture, though, is wild animals are wild and should be left that way. Too many knuckleheads want to give their lunch to deer, raccoons, and pigeons, thinking they are being nice or humane. This just makes the animals more and more dependent on human intervention, which is bad.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

A brief recap: More squabbling between the boys this week, as Mark tried to distract them with questions about mythological creatures having a link to real creatures. I think. But you probably knew that, right? Of course, a boat ride to find a cryptid would not be terribly exciting without a crisis of some kind, and two boys wrestling on the aft deck will not do it. What could go wrong!?

In a bow to Mark’s well-earned reputation with boats (especially borrowed boats), our last view was on Saturday showing this borrowed boat crashing into something, with alligators nearby. Was Mark distracted by his own teacher pose, or perhaps by cruising at night without a search light? Reckon we’ll find out tomorrow, but for today, Mark presents the Sunday nature chat.

Reusing that “see ya later” joke so soon, Rivera!? I think panel 3 is hilariously ironic, showing Mark and the boys boating around gators while questioning how you would handle yourself. Mark answered that on Saturday.

Moving on, Rivera continues to customize the Sunday title panel each week, and this one is a pretty good take-off on the effect of trees reflecting in the water. This title panel is actually a sacrifice in time and imagination by Rivera, as newspaper editors sometimes edit how much of a strip to print or even how they display it. They need as much space in the Sunday Funnies as they can get for those preschool puzzles and fill-in-the-dot panels that eat up so much more of the page space. The title panel is thus a sacrificial panel.

Anyway, this is a curious theme:  alligator viewing in the wild. There really are not that many places you can do that in the US, outside of zoos. Still, if people like spending tons of money for the chance to get up close and personal with dolphins and whales, I reckon they can do it with gators. As for me, I’ll depend on the safe distance provided by my TV set.

Happy New Year! And the Sunday Week in Review

As I close out the week and the year, I’ll mention a new comment from long-time reader and sufferer Mark, who admitted that he never figured Rivera would last this long. I’m sure many Trailheads agree. She is now into her third year. I worry that she seems to have listened to somebody, as some of her more recent stories do not have the quirkiness, grit, and craziness of her earlier efforts. So I’m hoping for some significant hyperbolic action in Rusty’s current adventure, as opposed to his earlier cryptid hunt.

This week saw Rusty’s Bassigator hunt become more of a reality with the addition of several friends and the loan of a boat from the De-Bait Team. At least one of Rusty’s friends (still unnamed) turns out to have a personality, even if it is as a rival in the same vein as Mark’s childhood nemesis, Rob Bettancourt. Rusty’s temper (and pride) flared some but remained in check. But for how long? There are bets on who screws up this trip the most, Mark or “Cricket Bro, Jr.”

Surprisingly, Rivera focused on Rusty for most of December, which is a first. Not even Mark gets that much coverage at one time. Rivera’s usual procedure is to split story-time between Mark and Cherry. So, will Rusty continue to hold Rivera’s focus into January, or do we cut over to Cherry, to see if there is any aftermath to the uncovered love affair between Honest Ernest and Violet Cheshire? Got me, but I’m gonna spend some time looking at today’s notes from the natural world.

Regarding the health of the salmon population, local tribes have pushed for the demolition of the dams for 20 years or so. Salmon are important to the local tribes in the areas. Sources state that this is probably the largest dam demolition project in the world. Tens of thousands of area residents also benefited from the electricity produced by the hydroelectric dams, though their performance has suffered from aging and the impact of draughts. What energy source they will get to replace the dams was not specified. Perhaps very large solar farms will be installed.

Also significant is that this Sunday nature chat is not based on the current location of the main storyline in the strip, being Lost Forest. I suppose that is because the location of Lost Forest is never specified.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Well, Ho! Ho! Ho! Mark continued to court Rusty’s favor by sucking up to him, while at the same time deriding Rusty’s ongoing fascination with cryptids. But Rusty really wants to hunt down the Bassigator and Mark finally agreed to the hunt.

Is Jules Rivera trying to build more nuance in Mark, or just pile on more contradictions that reveal him to be a typically clueless dad trying to stay relevant in his son’s life? As every parent knows, a child’s belief in imaginary beings can seem cute, but it is hard to strip away that belief without looking like a hypocrite or liar to your child.

Anyway, let’s hope that Mark gets through this adventure without making Rusty even more jaded. Next thing you know, Mark will tell Rusty that Santa is just a marketing gimmick to sell toys.

Rivera brings up a timely issue that has a lot of bark on it. I thought that Christmas Tree farms were a good alternative to cutting down trees in the wild. But are pesticides truly as rampant as she suggests? They almost certainly are used in virtually all commercial tree farms, but there seems to be an ongoing trend to minimize their usage, relying more on a process called integrated pest management (IPM). And tree farms are essentially managed forests. These are some points that Rivera could have brought up to provide more balanced reporting. Here are some links that explore these issues:

https://christmastrees.ces.ncsu.edu/environmental-impacts/

https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/christmas-tree-environmental-impact/

https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/integrated-pest-management-ipm-principles

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

As we sometimes experience—and from observations of others—it can be hard to weigh anchor and sail on from a favorite, comfortable port in our mental stream of memories. But streams are not pools, and they never stay the same. All this is to say that this week saw Mark getting gently led out of his illusory notions of Rusty’s wants and expectations by Cherry. We’re still not convinced that Mark got the whole message, but he did grasp the fact that Rusty is no longer the pre-adolescent father-worshiping kid he knew. There is a point in a father’s life when he realizes his children no longer feel the need to rush to the door when he comes home from work (think The Dick Van Dyke show). However, Mark seems to be taking it rather well, in fact. Good on him. (This is not to say that mothers do not have similar experiences, as I’m sure they do; but we are talking about Mark, not Cherry.) While you reflect on your own experiences, take a break and reflect on the Sunday nature chat, below.

Another good Sunday title panel! 

“Well, class, let’s thank Mr. Mark Trail visiting with us to give this most educational and . . . uh, most entertaining . . . well, let’s all thank Mr. Trail for coming in and showing us a bunch of pretty pictures of moose and deer . . . What’s that, Kathy? No, Santa does not use moose to pull his sled. That’s Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’s job. Have any of you ever watched “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”? No? Well, I’m not surprised, given the generally unimaginative, homogenized, and boring dreck that passes for animated cartoons these days. Anyway, class, let’s pick up from where Mr. Trail’s talk left off . . . now, Ahmed, “Nowhere” is not a nice thing to say! So, your homework tonight, children, is to research moose and write a page on where moose live, what they eat, and how they interact with humans.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

America lost its bid to win the World Cup and Tess Tigress lost her bid to keep her questionable Tiger Touch Center. It fell apart, not so much from Mark’s investigations as from Rex Scorpius’ dismay and disgust and Gemma the Rampaging Elephant’s inopportune appearance, resulting in the destruction of the Center and Tess’s abandonment and flight to a foreign country.  

Mark spent this week filling Bill Ellis in on the aftermath of his assignment, though I assume Mark sent his article in to Amy Lee for publication (this is much more information that we normally never got from earlier Mark Trail stories). The tigers were all liberated by Mark, Rex, and Diana and seeded out to various legitimate zoos. “Broken-heartedRex resumed his Internet show and apparently now has the hots for a zookeeper in California (of all places). The abandoned employees were left to fend for themselves and likely wandered off into the desert. Mark is not a social worker. Gemma plodded off into history. But the whereabouts and whatabouts of Diana Daggers have been left to the imagination. So, you are now up to speed and can relax a bit with today’s nature talk!

The customized title panel makes a clever link to the just-completed Tiger Touch Center story. Otherwise, this comes across as something like a student’s PowerPoint presentation, “Our friend, the elephant”. On the other hand, the drawing is fairly good here. We could have dispensed with the faux Wild West reference panel and used it more wisely to impart more useful information.

For example, it seems that elephants like music, especially classical music. For some time now, Paul Barton has been playing classical piano alongside rescued elephants living at “Elephants World” in Thailand, for therapeutic support. Barton’s YouTube video of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played for Mongkal the elephant is enlightening and heartwarming.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

This past week saw the termination of several enterprises: The Tiger Touch Center; Tess Tigress’s hopes to keep Rex; Rex’s hopes to escape his meaningless life; Gemma’s revenge on Tess Tigress; Diana Dagger’s growing irrelevancy; and Mark Trail’s lack of purpose.

When looked at objectively, it isn’t as if Mark had much meaningful influence on this adventure. Rex was already scheduled to visit the Touch Center, and did so; he became enchanted by Tess, in spite of Mark’s warnings; Rex only disowned Tess after Gemma came storming into the Touch Center. Sure, Mark provided the necessary backstory for Rex, so we can give him a little credit. Gemma pretty much put “PAID” to Tess and her operation.  As I’ve said before, Mark is not suitable for relationship-type problem adventures. Anyway, it’s possible we will see this adventure closing down this coming week, just like the Touch Center, itself.

In spite of the fact that Rivera did not appear to embed a tribute to Charlie Brown on Saturday (she could have had Rex exclaim “Good Grief!” in Saturday’s panel 1), let’s see what she has to say today.

A nice sentiment, but I wonder if the impact is quite so significant. It seems more like a feel-good suggestion to help us believe we’re making some kind of positive contribution to the future of humanity, since our governments are reluctant to do anything. Could it be because of the stranglehold of corporate interests (i.e. contributions)? Naahhhh!

Well, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? But making a pie directly from unprocessed pumpkin pulp is a lot more work than opening a few cans of Festal Golden Pie Pumpkin filling. Mark also brings up compositing, but that also produces methane. I’d go with Rusty’s recommendation.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

This week either brought about either the beginning of the end of Cherry’s Rash Decisions adventure or a significant turning point. Honest Ernest’s wife, Caroline, confronted Cherry about hubby’s apparent interest in another female, based on her finding a florist shop receipt stupidly left at home by Ernest. Cherry was able to convince Caroline that she had no interest whatsoever in Ernest, but under pressure, let slip that he was making time with Violet Cheshire. Cherry suggested that Caroline take all of Ernest’s Lawn Libation and dispose of it (safely), as partial payment for Ernie’s indiscretions. This should also, at least, cut back on the possibility of additional injuries to pets and wild animals, which is Cherry’s main goal. What is unknown here is exactly how Caroline wound up driving Ernest’s work truck with all of his chemicals inside. Where is he, anyway?

What better way to celebrate the coming of Winter than with a PSA designed for summer smimmers? Okay, so they are wearing wet suits, but I don’t think swimming is at the top of most people’s minds at this time of the year. Unless you live in San Diego.

In a break from her tradition, this is a Sunday topic that has nothing specifically to do with the country of Mark’s current assignment (Texas).  

Am I the only person wondering what that shape is in the next-to-last panel, the one in the mustard-colored semi-circle?

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Welcome back, action fans, to the latest Mark Trail Week in Review! Yes, there has been some actual drama and action this past week. Rex agreed to prove his commitment to Tess by allowing himself to be chained inside a circular enclosure where a grown tiger would be let loose. Tess is some tough date!

But Mark was having none of this and started having fits outside of the ring, trying to get Rex to call it off. Rex told him to bug off. We saw this scene before. Mark tried to tempt Rex by talking about his dog, which had a small effect on Rex’s determination. But right then, the tiger entered. And right after that, what would show up next but the fugitive rampaging elephant, blaring his proboscis and stopping the fun. Yes, even the tiger stood down. It was pandemonium all over!

Now, is this elephant (Gemma, by name) really after Tess, as Mark once theorized?

Well, looks like Mark actually has been working on his article, after all. What with all of his handwringing and emoting, I was sure he had pretty much forgotten why he was sent out there. But I’m a big enough joker to admit he was wrong. “Good job, Mark. Still, you really should cut back on the histrionics.