Li’l Bing-Bong and Moscow Psychics

We were paging through The Moscow News looking for our favorite comic strip Li’l Bing-Bong. The Cleveland Plain Dealer used to be one of the few papers in the U.S. still running the strip; then it was the only paper in the U.S., and when we checked this morning, Li’l Bing-Bong and her friends from the Macaroni Factory are gone.

Someone said The Moscow News might pick up the strip because it had its roots in workers’ rights. But the Moscow News did not meet our needs. We fear Li’l Bing-Bong the perpetually over-worked but always scheming “noodle shaper in chief” and her dog “Li’l Bark-Birk” have passed on into the ether or special place where cartoons go.

We used to love reading the strip and never really associated it with any political party or economic philosophy. Yes, Li’l Bing-Bong’s parents were either killed or lost when they refused to push the noodle ship into the ocean for the voyage to New Town. Yes, Li’l Bing-Bong was always worried about co-workers turning her in for her “funny thoughts-n-stuff” or her schemes designed to get her out of the monotony of 14 hour days shaping noodles from raw, extruded pasta dough from which many a third and second-degree burn was received. Sure, she wore a uniform like everyone else in the factory city of New Town. Yes, her doggie “Li’l Bark-Birk” had to intentionally hide his natural intelligence and ability so he wouldn’t get shipped off to the re-learnin’ camps in Badville.

But we just thought those were comic devices to get a bigger laugh.

We could go on and on about the great strip and its profound influence on so many bright lights in the world’s artistic milieu. Robert Frost said he wrote Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening after laughing to near convulsions after reading a particular Li’l Bing-Bong strip about the heroine’s scheme to jump the wall of the New Town camp by using a long piece of extruded noodle.

Richard Nixon is heard to ask H. R. Haldeman, “Did you read “Li’l Bing-Bong” today?”

Halderman is heard to mumble or indicate that he had not read the president’s favorite comic strip.

Nixon says laughing, “Bob, I tell you the truth . . . that [expletive deleted] kid gets into so much [expletive deleted] trouble. It’s a [expletive deleted] good thing she has her dog or she’d be turned into noodle paste and he’d become poodle paste! [Expletive deleted], that’s a funny strip!”

It is commonly know that Li’l Bing-Bong was the inspiration for both Charlie Brown and Jeffy on Family Circus. Walter Huston quotes a famous Li’l Bing-Bong line in Sierra Madre that in turn became famous. The line, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!” can be traced back to a dream Li’l Bark-Birk had one night after sneaking into the supply depot to eat entirely too much noodle-paste.

Li’l Bark-Birk is holding down a caricature of what looks to be a doggie stomach. The doggie stomach is trying to run towards an open door in a small log cabin. Li’l Bark-Birk says, “Get back in my abdomen, stomach!” and the stomach turns to face the confused pup and says, “You’re a badger, not a dog. I’m a dog stomach. I don’t need no stinky badger abdomen.” (See, “Comics Come to the Screen,” Modern Cinema, April 14, 1969 p. 33-34).

But the point of this article was not what we didn’t find in The Moscow News. It is about what we did find.

Apparently Russia TV is taking a hard line against fakirs and sorcerors.

“Having a sixth sense will no longer be enough to advertise legally – from now on only a license will allow fortune tellers, faith healers, magicians and shamans to practice.”

If you want to advertise your ability to speak to the dead, raise the dead, communicate about the dead with some of the dead’s friends, or foretell fortunes by use of the stars, tea leaves, lines on a hand, spilled beans, spilt milk, head bumps, or even magic crystal, you need a license.

“Big deal,” say those who see or say sooth for a living. Every country requires some kind of licensure for business owners. It’s just another business.

The state has given the media the job of checking out the psychic’s credentials.

The Moscow News reports “rather than threatening to pursue extra sensory experts through the courts, a law accepted by the State Duma means newspapers, magazines and TV channels will be liable for the integrity of advertisers.”

The head of the State Duma committee on such things, Yevgeny Fedorov (no relation) explains “Our citizens, by trusting the promises of magicians and witches in the adverts, are often becoming victims of ordinary fraud, so I think it is necessary to limit the flow of such information.”

Mr. Fedorov believes those who push snake oil or “natural remedies” should be under similar scrutiny.

A Central Committee Chairman told wire reporters “I think that the existence of such adverts reflects the poor condition of the society. In general, this blossoming of witchcraft is a reason for the authorities to think about why this is happening.”

A spokesperson for the psychics was rumored to have said “this was all unforeseeable” without any apparent sense of irony.

That reminds us of a Li’l Bing-Bong strip where she is trying to devise a method of inflating noodles with hydrogen gas to escape New Town. Li’l Bark-Birk draws a picture of the Hindenburg calamity on a piece of floor tile but Li’l Bing-Bong sees it upside down and slaps the tar out of the confused dog accusing it of drawing “perverted pictures!”

We agree with Nixon, that is (or was) “one [expletive deleted] comic.”

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