The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

(I’m recovering from all that typing on Saturday!) For this past week, Mark pretended to know how to manipulate a video camera while Tess seduced Rex during a tour of the Tiger Touch Center. Yet Mark did little actual filming. He spent most of the time talking to himself about animal abuse and possible quackeries at the Center. He was also bothered by the sensual manipulation of Vulnerable Rex by Temptress Tess. Mark feared that Rex might be drawn into Tess’s cult (for which no evidence has yet appeared), as Diana Daggers feared.  What to do, oh what to do?
Rivera ended this two-week’s story arc with Tess looking over her shoulder at Mark with an arched eyebrow and sly smile. Is she confirming Mark’s suspicions or recognizing Mark’s ulterior motives? On Monday we go back to Cherry’s story and see whether she and Doc have made any progress in proving the source of the pet rash. But, to help you transition from Mark’s reality to Cherry’s, first rest your eyes on the Sunday Nature Chat.

In Minnesota, it is legal to trap and remove live raccoons from your city property. I’m all for that. As far as killing them is concerned, that depends on the circumstances. “Inhumane” is a ridiculous and erroneous term. A better word is “cruel”. I have a younger brother who actually leaves food out for raccoons, though away from his house. Well, truth be told, my father does the same thing, and also away from his house. I think it is a bad idea. Wild animals are not to be coddled or trifled with. Get a pet cat, if you must, preferably an aggressive one that will patrol your yard at night and scare away the raccoons. “Here first” is also an over-used and simplistic argument. Rattlesnakes and poison ivy may also have been here first, but I wouldn’t let them continue to exist on my property.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

If you missed this past week’s strips, you won’t be too far out of the loop. Mark started his pretense of filming the Rex Scorpius Show in the Tiger Touch Center, without knowing how to even run a video camera. But then trouble appeared when Mark got sidetracked by Tess taking a baby lion cub out of a holding pen to demonstrate its calming influence. This resulted in Mark holding an internal discussion with himself on the mistreatment of lion cubs and whether he should get involved. That took up most of the week.

Mark’s concern conflicted with Tess and Rex, who wanted Mark to film Rex holding a cub. Mark didn’t want to, thinking it would be exploitive, rather than evidentiary (for the undercover exposé). Mark offered up a weak excuse about not having enough battery life to film Rex holding a cub, but strangely enough, he said there was enough battery life left to get location shots of the Touch Center!

How Rex and Tess will respond to this transparent lie is something we’ll have to wait for Monday to discover. Anyway, if your newspaper doesn’t carry the Sunday Mark Trail…

Unlike the daily strips, there does seem to be a larger reader acceptance and even appreciation for Rivera’s Sunday nature strips. Rivera might even agree. I’ve read that she enjoys doing them the most; possibly because she has an affinity for nature and animals. I’m betting it’s also due to the fact that the drawing space allowed is much bigger than what is mandated for the dailies.

And following her habit, Rivera once again focuses on an animal that is popular in the state/location that is the basis of the current Mark Trail story. Once again, an animal is endangered by urbanization and farming. Mark makes a fair point about the horny toad eating harvester ants, but for that to matter, a farmer would need hundreds, if not thousands, of those creatures. That would not likely be possible or practical.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Hard at work you say? Spent too much time stressing over the Emmys? Couldn’t keep up with Bik Bok shorts? And couldn’t find time for Mark Trail?Fret not, dear reader. I’ve got you covered.

It’s been a Cherry Week! Rivera dedicated this week to Cherry searching for the suspect lawn (tainted by Honest Ernest’s lawn elixir) she believed could be the source of the pet rash. She was aided by Rusty and their canine witness, Lassie. I mean, Sassy! And what better way to search for a suspect lawn then to take a walk through the woods of Lost Forest. So they did.

Surprise! Surprise! They discovered a property along Lost Forest hitherto unknown to them, which is kind of odd when you think about it. The lawn was golf-course green, raising red flags in Cherry’s mind.

Rusty took it upon himself to carry Sassy over the property fence and across the lawn, when a menacing voice and accusing finger challenged Rusty’s trespass. Turns out it was Violet Cheshire, so  Cherry and Rusty feigned an apology and retreated to the woods. Looks like they missed a big lawn sign with a yellow triangle, similar to the logo on Honest Ernest’s lawn treatment bottles. And it looks like Cherry forgot to grab grass clippings to analyze. Well, before Mark’s adventure resumes on Monday, let’s check out today’s nature expository!

Yes, indeed! Try planting some milkweed seeds in your garden or along the house or garage. It’s enjoyable to watch Monarchs up close. And it beats a boring lawn of just grass and edged flower beds.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Okay, action fans! The simple overview is that Mark, Diana, and Rex arrived at the Tiger Touch Center, presided over by Tess Tigress, who was costumed in a fetching tiger dress. She was flanked by two male assistants in matching tiger shirts and caps. Their Hawaiian inspired greeting was brought down by snarky comments from Diana Daggers. This resulted in Tess banning her from the Center, whereupon a put-upon Mark was left to handle production for Rex’s intended on-location show.
The understory here (according to my team of literary experts after polishing off a case of beer) is that Diana deliberately created and reinforced this confrontation, resulting in the ban. This meant Rex would have to rely on Mark, something Diana wanted. As you might recall (and as Diana reminded Mark in Saturday’s strip), Diana manipulated Amy Lee into getting Mark to take this assignment so that Diana could convince Mark to help save Rex—being filled with self-doubt and lacking confidence—from the clutches of Tess Tigress and her cult. Quite the story, I think. Yeah, I know, I’ve been carping off and on about how this story sometimes seems to dip into Reality Show memes; but we can’t deny that they are part of our contemporary vocabulary, for better or worse.

He! He! Another pun title panel. But what elements make up that title (“Mark Trail”)? Is it what I think it is:  the stuff you bring plastic bags for when you take your dog for a walk?

I’m pretty sure we didn’t buy our house because of our pet(s). Never heard of anybody who bought property primarily to accommodate pets. Well, it could happen, I reckon. I am with Mark when it comes to a yard:  ditch the grass and go with native plantings. Less maintenance, less cost, and less hassle. And I’m 100% with Mark on the value of spiders. If you see a spider (inside or outside), that means there are insects and other bugs lurking around. Leave the arachnids alone to do their job. They’ll leave on their own when the food source dries up.

Oh, and thanks for your valuable contribution today as a lawn ornament, Cherry. You nailed it!

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

I won’t claim that this past week was a snoozer by any means; it was more like narcissistic arrogance. Even though Rex Scorpius had already told Mark he was tired and just wanted to go home and sleep, Mark acted as if Rex’s departure was an unsolved mystery that he needed to resolve. At least, that is the excuse Mark gave to Diana Daggers (remember her?) as he wandered over to Rex’s trailer and snooped around.

Assuming he had the right to do so, Mark started peeking through a window, only to discover that Rex was talking to his dog on the phone. Accidentally making a noise—as all peeping toms are required to do in TV shows and comic strips—Rex discovered Mark’s creepy activity. But Mark quickly distracted Rex by admitting that he, too, was a closet pet caller. So they decided to have a “four-way” conversation. Afterwards, Rex opened up about his depression and disillusionment. It was touching, in a way, if you define touching as something resembling getting hit on the head by a 2×4. Before we, hopefully, head out on Monday to the tiger zoo, let’s spend a few minutes reading Sunday’s nature lesson!

Pretty lame joke, Mark! Don’t quit your day job. Today’s strip seems more like a random collection of factoids with no overarching point to make, other than highlighting (no pun intended) another Texas lifeform. The National Wildlife Federation website claims that the nine-banded armadillo is, in fact, the only armadillo species in the U.S., and found throughout the southwest and even in the southeast. With regard to road-awareness, slowing down isn’t the only issue. When surprised, these “little armored” mammals tend to jump several feet straight up in the air, turning them into unintended highway suicide commandos!

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

In case you somehow missed this week’s strips or <sniff!> my postings, you could scroll down and enjoy my barely coherent analyses and grade-school humor. Or you can simply read the following summary and get on with your life.

This is a Cherry Week, so we return to the mysterious animal rash spreading throughout the Lost Forest community. Cherry showed up at Doc’s veterinary office with his prescribed healthy lunch and a bottle of lawn treatment she got from Honest Ernest. Suspicious that it might be the cause of the rash, Doc and Cherry spent the rest of the week evaluating the chemical. Apparently, this lawn treatment has some “corrosive” quality to it, as it quickly cleaned a penny faster than a bottle of soda pop could. Is Honest Ernest’s home brew the cause of the shared rash? It might be difficult to establish a solid link unless Honest Ernest’s lawn business is very popular, or these pets roam free and hang out together.

Now, will we get a second week for Cherry or will we return to Mark and the Tiger Cult? Ponder that mystery as you view the Sunday nature lesson, below.

Close readers of the Sunday strip should notice that Rivera tends to discuss animals and natural events that are related to the area where Mark’s current story is happening. I think that is a really good idea, as it also provides the opportunity to explore more aspects of that area’s ecology. This is an informative topic, though I don’t think the artwork is up to Rivera’s usual “Sunday” standard. For example, she could have drawn the scorpion and its meal options larger, with more detail (panel 4). They look too sketchy to me.

That the only dangerous scorpion exists in Arizona makes me feel queasy. Years ago, I spent a few weeks in Arizona visiting relatives. One morning, as I got dressed, I got STUNG (not bit!) by a scorpion that had gotten into one of my hiking shoes. This happened inside a house, mind you. Happily, it was not the dangerous species. But I was pretty nervous and depressed for a few days. I would add to Mark’s advice to not simply wear proper shoes or boots, but to shake them out each time you prepare to put them on!

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

Once again, here is the weekly recap for people too lazy, too busy, or just too pissed to read the dailies for the past week, but secretly hope that Jules Rivera will start drawing like Jack Elrod! This week Diana Daggers and Mark drove from the airport to one of Rex Scorpius’s video shoots. Still dressed in his “Yes, I’m a yahoo” faux western garb and talking like a rube tourist from Ohio, Rex dismissed Mark and got on to his assignment:  herding a gaggle of Canada geese hanging out on some goofball musician’s front yard (He might want to hook up with Reptilionnaire. I think they’re made for each other!) Mark was spellbound by what was otherwise a mundane task, when you have 4 or 5 other people helping you. In spite of Mark’s obsequious behavior, Rex again brushed him off and headed back to the motel for the night.

I’m not sure what Rivera’s point here is. Mark could have arrived on set as a straight-shooting, no-nonsense pro, giving Rex a favorable first impression as somebody he could work with and even depend on. Instead, Rivera portrayed Mark as a hick. Even this Mark Trail deserves better. If this is some kind of reverse-psychology stunt or Jedi mind-trick, it does not look promising. More promising might be today’s nature discussion.

What a surprising topic…!  Well, Mark didn’t exactly say how to get the geese off your lawn. If it were me, I’d find something they like to eat and throw it into a neighbor’s yard.

As for Mark’s smug closing comment, I’d say he is wrong. City dwellers (as if Mark would know) don’t have much of any territory, so territorial behavior doesn’t go far. Now, those who live in suburbs and rural areas definitely are territorial when it comes to their property. And they let you know.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

In case you missed the strips this past week there was some rootin’, tootin’ silliness as well as some confessions and plot developments. Mark arrived in Houston International Airport dressed up like a dude cowboy at a square dance. He was met, not by Rex Scorpius, but by Diana Daggers, who happens to be the film producer for the Rex Scorpius Streaming Show.  After a bit of snarking on Mark’s wardrobe, they drove off in her car. Then Diana revealed the real purpose of Mark’s assignment.

While the tiger roadside zoo is real, Daggers got her friend Amy Lee to give the job to Mark because she wants his help saving Rex from the clutches of a cult that is behind this roadside zoo. Apparently, Rex has confidence issues that make him vulnerable. I get the feeling that Rex is a bit more than a paycheck to Diana, but that’s just a guess. The bottom line is that this story has taken on a decidedly more serious angle, while Diana is showing a few signs of humility. Well, that’s the week. And now for something else.

HahHah! Funny title panel today: Mark Trail=Shark Trail. The things you can do with seaweed!  Rivera must think (most of) her audience is informed enough to know the annual celebration day of sharks (as mentioned in the last panel), which is July 14 (Shark Awareness Day). Not me, I had to look that up! I thought shark awareness day was any time you re-watched Jaws.

Rivera’s points are all good, though I think most also apply (aside from “finning”) to just about every other sea-born creature. I have no idea how we will be able to clean up the plastics in the ocean. I do not understand why some countries continue to dump trash into the ocean, as if it will somehow dissolve in the water. We’ll probably find cures for cancer before we figure out how to safely deal with trash.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

In case you were too busy to see this past week’s strips, the focus on pet rash was temporarily put aside, as was Mark’s preparations for the Texas Tiger Spa assignment. Instead, Rivera began fleshing out Cherry’s own storyline, which began with returning to work at the Sunny Soleil Society’s garden.

Cherry was just finishing planting native plants when Violet Cheshire turned up with Honest Ernest, who has expanded his business to include lawn care, if by “lawn care”, you mean covering it with chemicals, such as his latest concoction, “Lawn Libation.”  Catchy name.  For millennia libations of oils, water, milk, and other liquids have been poured over sacred objects or grounds as part of various rites and activities.

Anyway, it seems Cherry’s just-completed planting will once again get demolished, this time to put in an “English garden”, meaning a lawn. Well, “garden” is a common English term for a back yard. It’s the wrong word, but it’s too late to do anything about it.

Finally, Cherry acquired a bottle of Ernest’s Lawn Libation and had the prescient suspicion that this liquid might have something (or everything) to do with the pet rash running rampant in town. However, this seems to be rather obvious, don’t you think? Maybe it’s a red herring. Will we get a second week of Cherry’s story, or do we move on to Mark’s Texas tiger assignment? While we wait to see, check out the discussion, below!

Well, a straight-up nature talk on waskily wabbits! Cool. I’m guessing that the title panel is composed of “speed smoke” from the racing hare, as in Warner Brothers, the source of the most famous carrot-eating member of the family Leporidae. We get a lot of rabbits in our backyard garden (an actual garden, not a mere backyard lawn). Thus, we also get various neighborhood cats passing through. Fortunately, no lynx has shown up. Feel free to quibble on details.

The Week in Review and the Sunday Nature Chat

If you want to skip over my diatribe, ignore the purple prose and jump down to the black text. You’ve been warned!

Jules Rivera’s aesthetic, coming out of non-mainstream art styles popular with online comics and graphic novels, has been a lightning rod for controversy, scorn, and even positive support. Her stories have also received their share of snark and appreciation. Not that that is new, of course. The legacy Mark Trail has long been a popular target for its cornball and illogical stories, its sometimes-uneven old-fashioned artwork, a reliance on cut-and-pasted poses, stilted dialog, and simplistic morals. Oddly, they have also been the strength of the original strip for many who cherished its sameness. It’s one reason why reruns of old TV shows are still very popular. Just ask my dad!

I think we should try to understand Rivera’s Mark Trail through her non-mainstream roots, but it is certainly a difficult task for many of us. I imagine it is similar to what the art world and general public of late 19th century France faced when they first came into contact with Impressionist painting and its many followers. It was “the shock of the new“, as art critic Robert Hughes wrote about the birth of modern art.

I am both apologist and critic of the Mark Trail reboot. I admire Rivera’s gutsy efforts to bring the strip into a contemporary setting, as off-kilter, reactive, and nutty as you would find in any Florida-based piece of fiction. I liked her original artistic vision of the strip during its early months, before the art became more simplified and sometimes erratic.  In part, I see that due to unforeseen pressures of deadlines, but I could be completely wrong!

I am very glad to see Rivera giving Cherry greater visibility and her own adventures. In that way, she is more like the way Cherry was originally depicted when the strip first began, before she transformed into a conventional wife and mere supporting cast member. On the other hand, I am not a keen admirer of soap opera/sitcom elements that sometimes show up, especially during interludes between adventures.

That brings us to this past week, where Mark has fretted like a boy having to recite poetry in English class. Mark is plainly afraid of the offered assignment to investigate a roadside zoo in Texas. While Amy Lee tried to play up Mark’s love of adventure, it was Cherry who laid down the law and sent Mark whimpering like a hurt puppy back to take the assignment. Yet, Cherry acted like a preteen gushing over her teen idol when she learned Mark would be working with a Hollywood celebrity animal wrangler.

Is Rivera making fun of Mark and Cherry, casting them as a henpecked husband and a shallow wife? Or is Jules trying to use old TV tropes to connect with long-time readers? It is a dangerous approach, as many long-time readers clearly don’t cotton to Mark being made to look and act like an overly sensitive metrosexual who would prefer to stay home and listen to light jazz.  Anyway, while Rivera gets this party going, let’s spend a bit of time looking at today’s nature talk!

I’m fine with this approach. Far too much decorative concrete pavement appears in large cities.