The Weekly Recap and Sunday Nature Chat

Perhaps my Sunday blogs should be entitled “For Those Who Came in Late, along with the Sunday Nature Chat”, since my intention is to give a summary of the past six daily strips. Then again, I’m not sure if this recap serves any useful purpose to anybody. Are there readers who just read this summary and skip over the daily posts? Well, sometimes writhing this provides me with a way to think over the week and refine or revise my observations. And sometimes, I have nothing new and this becomes just a weekly summary. What do you think?

But getting on to the recap, we had a week of Cherry playing nice with Violet Cheshire of the Sunny Soleil Society, the HOA that ruined Cherry’s original landscape installations. These two women are now working together to restore the Society’s garden, which includes unveiling a statue memorializing a local pioneer (as in Daniel Boone-era pioneers). Who it is or why it is important has yet to be unveiled; but when Violet unveiled the statue, they discovered a beehive around the head of the statue. Panic ensued when the bees started swarming around Cherry and Violet. Violet thought they were killer bees, so she beat a hasty retreat to her headquarters, eventually followed by a less concerned Cherry. Violet confirmed her inability to handle stress and displayed a rush to judgement by demanding that the bees should be destroyed, even though Cherry just wanted to relocate them. Rivera warned us that this might reopen the rift between Chery and Violet, teasing us with troubles ahead. I reckon that Cherry’s attitude was based on pragmatism, rather than revenge, as she could see the HOA as a source for additional work. We’ll see how that pans out. So, that’s the week in review. And now, on to Sunday’s nature chat!

Well, I learned that the formal non-Latin name is “Canada Goose”, though we all use the more common adjectival “Canadian Goose”. Today’s Sunday strip is informative, even within the confines of its limited space. That discussion about headwinds and sharing headwind duty was news to me. But the fact that Canadian geese are disruptive and a nuisance is not news to most of us, I bet. Aside from the “Miracle on the Hudson” crash, a US Air Force radar plane crashed in 1995 after geese killed its engines on takeoff, killing all crew members.

So I want to know whose hand that is in front of Mark in panel 2. From its position in front of Mark’s body, it certainly cannot be his hand. Hey, maybe it’s a “V for Victory Hand-on-a-Stick” prop?

In spite of Mark’s remark about the V formation, I don’t think the geese were thinking of “victory”, any more than Beethoven thought of the Morse code when he composed his famous Fifth Symphony (the code hadn’t been invented yet). For that matter, there is no evidence Samuel Morse considered Beethoven’s symphony when he co-created his famous “Morse Code” (with help from the otherwise unknown Afred Vail) and assigned the pattern ***— to the letter V. And don’t forget, readers, that V is also the Latin character for the number 5! For all that, it appears that links to “victory”, Beethoven, and Morse Code first came together in WWII. Of course, somebody may have seen a relationship between the Morse V and Beethoven’s fifth symphony long before WWII; however, I’ve not found any documentation to show that. But what a great set of associations, eh? Uh, getting back to the strip, I see that Canadian Goose eggs make up the title panel, with a parent goose coming out to warn us away. Some snarkers might consider this a warning about the new Mark Trail, in general!

Can Cherry beat Violet’s time for the Beehive 100 Yard Sprint?

I suppose we had to have one comic strip day where everybody got to chuckle at Violet’s reaction, because now, Cherry decides caution is the proper road to salvation from the bee attack. I don’t think that Violet would lock the door of the Sunny Soleil Society’s building before Cherry could get in, would she? In her panic-driven state, anything is possible, especially when you think killer bees are going to destroy you. But it looks like neither of them thought to hide under the tarp they pulled off of the statue and wait for the bees to settle down. Well, panic is not a proper mental state for logical thinking. So, why did Cherry not think about it, given that she seems to have a more grounded handle on the situation?

And did we really need a day’s worth of panels just to show that Cherry decided it was also a good idea to get away from a bunch of angry bees? I spoke of story padding and did not think we had seen any. Until now.

Uh-oh, images of the old Romper Room children’s TV show just invaded my potted plant of a brain. That’s what I get for staying up late. I’m not sure why, but it must be the bees, because one segment of that show consisted of a segment called: Mr. Do Bee, a person dress up in a “giant bee costume” who instructed children on what they should and should not do. Instruction was given in pairs of simple imperative statements, such as:

Do bee a story pusher!
Don’t bee a story padder!
Do be do be do.

Okay, the third line kind of slipped out.

Sunday Delay

Because of prior commitments, I will not be able to post the Sunday blog until Sunday afternoon. Please enjoy your new-found free time to sleep in; attend the religious service of your inclination; mow the lawn; or finish reading that book before it has to go back to the library. You know which one I’m talking about.

Or, you can while away the time looking at this field of dots. Some people think that if you look at it hard and long enough, you will see the ancient Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in Rome. Other people think that prolonged viewing will just give you a headache. Personally, I think this could be one of the game sheets for the Tokyo Olympics “Connect the Dots” finals (won by the team from Djibouti). Well, you’ve got some time on your hands to figure it out.

But fear not, Faithful Readers: Mark Trail will soon return!

Look! It’s a bird! It’s a popsicle! No, it’s Red Valerian!

Okay, what’s going on here? If Cherry restocked the roundabout, why would she put in any kind of invasive plant when she could have replanted what she originally used? My superficial research lists this plant as invasive and banned only in South Africa, though it is not recommended in our western states, where it can grow aggressively. It seems that its benefits outweigh its detriments in the US.

Anyhow, more light-hearted banter today, serving either as time fodder to pad out the week or as a means to help establish more of Cherry and Mark’s relationship. But I think we already have a good handle on that, don’t you? I’d prefer to see Rivera spend more time fleshing out Doc Davis’s character a bit more, even Andy’s. Maybe Mark’s snake avatar could make another appearance and warn him of an impending crisis, such as teenage girls already moving past Mark Trail and his videos. The newest sensation turns out to be…Professor Bee Sharp!

There has been some snarky chat over at Comics Kingdom about possible sexual undertones in the first and third panels. Anything is possible, of course, but I think the hand positions are wrong to support this hypothesis, however suggestively the flowers are drawn.

You know, I just had an odd thought:  Had Rivera taken over the strip some 15 years ago (assuming she was old enough, so just play along, okay?), and somebody thought her take on Mark would make a good TV show, they could have gotten Bruce Campbell to play Mark. Campbell has the kind of personality and acting chops necessary for our new Mark Trail. But Bruce no longer looks like a perennial 32 year old. What a lost opportunity, unless some studio is willing to put out a senior-citizen version of Mark Trail on TV or the cinema. Kind of a “Mark Trail Returns!” type of movie. Well, it worked for Bruce Wayne!

Get a cabin!? They already live in a cabin!

Let’s not take a cynic’s view but simply take some time to enjoy two people in love with each other, enjoying an early walk among the trees, surrounded by a “Hallmark Card” heart-shaped opening, flanked by two Monarch butterflies (they do not have the tell-tale horizontal line crossing the rear wing of Viceroys. We should assume Rivera knows that). Okay, that’s enough time! Is that a double-entendre in the middle panel or just a corny pun? But why does Cherry need convincing to take a morning walk? Is she sacrificing her morning fix at Planet Pancake? Something is bound to happen pretty soon…!

But looky-there! We have yet another case of the ambiguous text balloon, this time in panel 3, where Mark is apparently sighing over himself. Clearly this was supposed to be Cherry’s response. I think I just talked about these misdirected balloons yesterday, didn’t I? Is this really a flub that got by Rivera and the syndicate editors, or is Rivera still indulging in satirizing the older strips of her predecessors? A little bit goes a long way, Jules!

I do hope that Rivera does not continue the old Mark Trail tradition of ending story lines without filling in useful details. For example: Did Cherry (who was fretting over her company’s bankruptcy) pay for the new roundabout installation? And what went into it? Did the Sunny Soleil Society officially get off her back and allow her to replant the native palmettos they hauled away?

But it’s nice to see Rivera’s return to a higher standard in her art. She is quite good. I took a look back and was amazed at how her style has already evolved since she took over last October (I believe it was then). Here is one of her early strips from late October:

It shows a definitely lighter touch in the drawing, shading, and color (assuming Rivera has control over the coloring of the dailies, that is).  The overlapping tree lines create a simple but effective sense of space in the small-sized panels Rivera has to work with. The middle panel here is a subtle example of Rivera’s early interest in more unusual points of view and compositions, something that has not always been a strong feature in her more recent work. Again, I’m guessing time constraints and deadlines are forcing shortcuts, which is too bad. But that’s how it’s always been for cartoonists, even back in the early decades. But I’d sure like to see more.

Just wait till I set up my acoustic coupler!

In action films it seems that the villain is always destined to waste time describing his/her/their true motives for taking over the world, the country, or the local pizzeria; meanwhile giving the captured hero time to break loose, destroy the villain, and try to save the movie. So it’s not enough for Aparna to steal (back) the laptop (which she doesn’t own) with the program (that she was paid to write for Cricket Bro). She has to take time to wipe Cricket Bro’s face with her own justification. This waste of time should give Bro’s cohorts plenty of time to figure things out and come to the rescue. Odd isn’t it: Who are the “bad guys” here? In spite of Cricket Bro taking away Aparna’s righteous indignation in panel 2 by revealing that his so-called insult was just his way of firing people, Aparna didn’t take the hint. She just continues with her vengeance panel 3.

Getting a bit nerdy here for a minute: What the hell is Aparna doing using the antiquated, unsecured File Transfer Protocol to upload her program to “the Internet”? For one thing, what server is she trying to send to? The transfer can’t simply go to “the Internet”; that’s not how FTP works. If it was going up to any server, it would normally be the Cricket Bro’s server. I suppose we can assume the entire building is a wired hotspot. So when did she have time to log on? Wouldn’t her account have been disabled when she was fired?!

Regarding FTP, there are several modern alternatives she should be using, but we need not get into those. After all, this is not a computer science blog. Suffice to say, it is a curious trope Rivera uses; and one that most readers will likely not even recognize. As this is a family comic strip for general readers, Rivera could have simply used a more recognizable abbreviation, such as XFER to keep nerds like me quiet. But then again, we know that Rivera likes to send up her readers.

Back to the story:  I suspect that there will be a full-court showdown by Saturday between the two groups, before jumping back to Cherry and her brother’s swine. That should make for an interesting week to come!

Finishing on a visual note, we are back (I believe) to a well-constructed set of panels, very nicely drawn and composed. Notice how Cricket Bro’s face is darkened in panel 3. Is this symbolic of his “dark nature” or simply a means of making a contrast to the background? Instead of using old-fashioned Ben Day dots or even simple hatching, Rivera uses a pattern of mixed line types, which adds more texture, though it makes no attempt to suggest facial contours. In this particular case, it would probably come across as too busy.

Tuesday: The Brogurt hits the fan?

Time and space compression is at work once again as we see Cricket Bro and Mark magically transport into the alleged “complex” web of hallways where the Laptop Duo is attempting to make a getaway. Never mind that the company’s so-called Security (the person known as “Dare”?) has apparently disappeared. In any event, Mark adds to his expected growing list of possible criminal charges of accessory to theft and fraud by assaulting Cricket Bro, who suddenly speaks like a 1940s film noir character.

So where are Killer Bee, Diana, and Dare in all of this action? Did none of them think to come running when the alarms went off, or are they off to their appointed “battle stations”, ready to intervene if needed?

Today’s strip is a great improvement in artistic quality, with regard to style, staging, and overall effect. The off-kilter point-of-view in panel 1 underscores the urgency and anxiety of the current crisis. Cricket Bro in panel 2 is well-delineated in a three-quarter, foreshortened pose. Though Mark’s corralling of Cricket Bro in panel 3 gives the impression that the Herp Hacienda team now have a free pass to escape, it may be an illusion. Or delusion.

After all, Mark has to also escape. And there are still three formidable forces for Mark to deal with, excluding Cricket Bro. What will they do now?

Oh, about that software:  Why would Cricket Bro leave it on a docked laptop, if it was so important? In any realistic situation, the software would have already been uploaded to a server or other secure storage devices and the laptop drive wiped clean. In fact, it would have been proper that all of the laptops were connected to a server while being used.

Now, should we assume Jules is just not cognizant of such things? Hard to believe in this day and age. So, is there another angle here? Is the software issue merely a blind? A ruse? If so, for whom?

An Adult Finally Enters the Room

Boy, are these people dumb. I mean, d-u-m-b. They have no plan and no plan for a plan, yet they deliberately try to sideline the only person around <ahem!> who has a chance to help them. Just why they are so concerned about keeping Mark in the dark is still a mystery to me. Surely, they cannot think he is Cricket Bro’s ally!? Even Reptile Dude should know that. Yet, they act as if they’ve been caught planning a surprise party for Mark.

Still, I’m still slightly bothered by the fact that everybody is wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants in Palm Springs, California. Based on the evidence of this past Monday’s strip about the sun setting shortly after 7:30, I used my inner Sherlock Holmes to deduce this story is happening in May. Should be pretty warm by then. Nit-picking again? Of course, clothes in comic strips are as much a part of the character’s identification as the face, like Dagwood’s single-button business shirt or Charlie Brown’s zig-zag polo shirt. Anyway, Mark could at least roll up his sleeves…!

Monday Extras!!

Thanks again, George K. Atkins, Contributor in Chief… With a bit of time on my hands, I visited Jules’ site and found some extras!

Mark, You one bad-ass dude…
Not to Mention Cherry Davis Trail…


Here’s the main cast…
With a growing list of supporting actors!
Yikes! What’s this one rated?!

Next I found a Sunday feature that I don’t think was/ has been published? How did I miss this one? Was it ever published?

But wait, there’s more!! including this lovely reaction to all the hate being heaped upon Jules for “Ruining Mark Trail…”

Or, not to neglect the fact the Jules is checking in on The Daily Trail… Hats off to (CIC) George K. Atkins for pulling a reference out of his, ahem… impressive trove of experiences… only to make a very solid impression with Mark’s new “Daddy…”

OMG I got compared to Carl Hiaasen I can die now everyone

Carl Hiaasen was the only author I read in high school I actually liked. I appreciated that he understood how totally slanted and sideways the world really is.

Originally tweeted by Jules Rivera (@julesrivera) on April 15, 2021.