If you're headed for Amazon, please enter the site through the widget in the right rail (or here). It costs you nothing extra but gives this blog a commission. Thanks!
If you're headed for Amazon, please enter the site through the widget in the right rail (or here). It costs you nothing extra but gives this blog a commission. Thanks!
Pearls Before Swine made me laugh because, back in the ancient days, we'd get calls in the newsroom alerting us to various days that we absolutely had to cover, usually having to do with some dread but obscure disease.
It might not have been so bad if they were having a March Against The Dread Disease, because we could send a photographer down to shoot a picture of that, though it would have been nice if they didn't wait until the day before to let us know.
But they generally wanted us to come up with the story ourselves, in-depth, and also the next day, and, it happened often enough that our editor had a canned speech pretty much ready, which was more or less based on Rat's attitude towards the whole thing.
Of course, today we don't need to deal with the MSM to get these important messages out, and so Facebook is full of Dread Disease Days, which you are expected to share and like and repost unless you are a heartless wretch who simply doesn't care.
Which lets me off the hook.
I don't think they deserve their own days, but I do find some of their stories fascinating and Andy Warner is coming out with a collection of those stories. Johanna Carlson Draper has a good look at the book.
I'm always leery of obscure inventor stories because they tend to be, well, heavily folkloric. But I'm going to trust Draper's recommendation and Warner's track record and assume that we will be getting the straight scoop on these odd little improvements to the world and the people what made them happen.
So go read what she's got to say and decide for yourself, but I find it interesting enough to take a chance.
Finally, as I noted the other day, Francesco Marciuliano has taken over writing duties on Judge Parker and it appears that there is going to be some substantial trimming going on before we get down to telling new stories.
If this is going where it seems to be going, it seems a bit harsh but sometimes you just need to yank off the Band-Aid and move forward.
And here's where the short posting becomes deceptive, because Ces has a long explanation of where Judge Parker is today and some strong hints about where he's taking it. You can also find some thoughts there about Sally Forth, which he continues to write.
It's a good look inside the process, and, while I was aware of all the who's who he goes over, hearing it from his point of view offered some hints.
And today's strip certainly doesn't make it seem that anyone will be getting off lightly.
Funny Story, if you have a twisted sense of humor: A guy was talking on NFL Network last night about the year he spent serving as "The Turk" for a team, the Turk being the fellow who delivers the bad news in the preseason, telling players they are being cut.
He said he hated the job to begin with, but managed to make it worse than it had to be: He told of one time when he came down to a meeting of offensive linemen and pulled one out, asking him to come along. You must understand that everyone knew who the Turk was and why he might ask you to come along.
In this case, however, he got partway up the stairs and realized he'd pulled out the wrong guy. He had to, first of all, resuscitate the poor kid, and then go back and get the one who was indeed being given the ticket home.
Presumably Ces won't make that mistake.
Kal accuses the Clintons of sweeping their Foundation conflicts under the carpet, and the thing is, it's less about actual corruption than about their being astonishingly tone-deaf.
Bill's offer to step away from the board if Hillary is elected would be a start, but not if they leave Chelsea in place. It doesn't matter what her function is or how the Foundation functions. No. No. No. You get everyone in the family far away from it.
Now. Not after you find out if you won.
And yet -- while acknowledging the things one does to avoid the appearance of impropriety -- this looks to be yet another "scandal" in which there is no "there" there.
There have long been delusional Clinton obsessions, from Vince Foster to the current speculations about her health, lunacies whose real harm is that they remove the limits on that side of the continuum, so that, when we encounter some of Bill's more extravagant bimbo eruptions, we don't know if they belong in the "What the hell was he thinking?" category or in the "Are you people out of your minds?" category.
The Foundation "scandals," rather, seem to be bridging the "What the hell were they thinking?" and "Don't any of you know how this works?" categories.
When Whitewater first emerged, the Web (Happy 25th Anniversary!) was yet unborn, and so the accusations flew around in a place where you couldn't just go see what the reports were talking about.
You had to rely on what was reported and what was reported was mostly that there was a scandal and not a lot of the details behind it.
So we all got up in arms and cartoonists did a million cartoons with canoes hanging off waterfalls or careening down rapid streams, but nobody really explained what was actually being alleged.
When they finally did, the response from people who understood commercial development was "So?"
The thing about Whitewater was that residential real estate and commercial real estate operate in different universes.
Residential real estate is tightly controlled because most people might, at best, buy and sell a half dozen houses in their lifetime and so you have to protect them.
By contrast, the law assumes that commercial developers know what they're doing and it's one place where the vaunted free market is pretty much let loose to do its own thing.
Here's how a typical commercial real estate deal works:
It's a very good topic for discussing why male-only country clubs are a bad idea, because that's where the deals are made: Over golf, or in the bar room, and not with "guests" but with buddies, with pals, with members.
But it's laughable to single out a particular deal and point out the places where it was "unfair" or where someone "acted unprofessionally" because there are no rules in a knife fight and even the people who know that end up getting kicked in the balls and knocked into the dust.
Trust me. I specialized in reporting on real estate for several years.
And now all this email stuff is emerging, in which, as far as I can tell, the money raisers ask that donors get special favors and the responses are either silence or some pretty damn vague bits of nothing, and I'm less patient with the reporting, because, whatever the mooncalves in the newsroom know or should know about commercial development, their editors are constantly approached by the ad department with requests to do special favors for advertisers.
Maybe the reason reporters take the stuff in these emails seriously is because they've seen their editors repeatedly cave in. I suppose the ones under 40 have no experience to the contrary.
A vast quantity of plastic people
Jen Sorensen on the topic of disposable stuff that isn't so disposable.
I'm kind of horrified/fascinated by the phenomenon of people with Keurig machines sipping their coffee and talking about the Great Pacific Plastic Patch or global warming or whatever. And, whatever demographic embraces laundry pods, I know some allegedly progressive people who use Keurigs.
My own highly ethical coffee provider, while holding the line on what is truly "fair trade" and what is corporate bushwa, has given in on the Keurig issue and sells recyclable single-serving cups, as well as re-useables. I've seen reuseable cups in stores, too, but I wonder what percentage of the single-cup market they represent?
It's an old, losing battle.
I remember, back in 1971, being horrified by the idea of plastic milk jugs rather than returnable glass bottles. That was also about the time that paper grocery sacks gave way to plastic.
There's a pushback now against plastic bags, but it's bailing water with a pitchfork.
We each have our individual limits, but, as a group, we are sliding down the collective continuum. I'm not claiming to be pure, but at least I haven't sunken to Keurig cup depths.
Looking at that third panel in Sorensen's cartoon, it occurs to me that, besides the Keurig cups, we'll also leave archaeologists a lot of plastic-wrapped garbage.
Our parents put their garbage in garbage cans either unconfined or in paper sacks, such that periodically scrubbing out the garbage cans was a chore. This also meant we didn't need paper shredders because, with garbage disposals a luxury item, whatever papers you put in the trash were going in along with an awful lot of organic waste and, by the time it got to the dump, god help anyone who wanted to fish anything out to steal your identity.
Not sure how much we can turn back the clocks on this one. As she notes in the first panel, it's asking a lot for people just to have to pour detergent into a measuring cup.
I mean, dear lord, next she'll want us to hitch up the mule and plow the fields!
I'm not a huge fan of the Olympics, which somehow went from elitist shamateur exhibit under Avery Brundage to the commercial gigantism that followed, though I'm not sure when I switched from being a fan to being vaguely interested to dreading the event.
However, Robert Airial captures a factor that has run through that process, which does have to do with the commercialism: I was one of the Coloradoans who opposed holding the 1976 Winter Games there because of the potential impact on the environment and culture of the area, but I rather liked the Lake Placid Games in 1980, which, after all, only needed to be spruced up as a site.
Plus, the Lake Placid Games were an economic boon to Northern New York, because not only did it focus attention on the tourism splendor of the community, but the various dormitories were built such that they could later fuel a prison industry in a region in which jobs are hard to come by.
There's a metaphor buried in there somewhere, but, in any case, Airial is correct that whatever came to Brazil with the Olympics isn't likely to filter down to its poor.
What I find interesting is that, when Brazil was hosting the World Cup two years ago, there was, as I noted then, substantial attention being paid to the impact on the poor.
Cartoon Movement hosted this brilliant interactive feature on the homeless.
But the topic seems to have gotten a pass two years later and it certainly isn't because the World Cup brought such riches to Brazil that they no longer have poor people.
I also would suggest that it isn't because, while FIFA is an organization of corrupt fatcats, the IOC is pristine and admirable.
I suspect it is because, two years ago, Brazil had not gone into a state of freefall in which it was investigating and impeaching and otherwise turning upon its own head of government.
Which doesn't excuse anyone from ignoring the plight of the poor, but it might explain why there was not a loud chorus of "What about us?" to get the world's attention.
Not an excuse. Just an explanation.
Other countries are still in a situation where they are crying out for someone to pay attention to the looming disaster, and I probably wouldn't have singled out this Clay Jones cartoon were it not illustrating a brilliant report on what it's like to attend a Trump rally.
Usually, cartoonists do this sort of reporting with a series of graphic vignettes; Jones does not. Perhaps he should consider that approach, but, in the meantime, this isn't the first time his essay was equal to or perhaps a bit above his cartoon.
In any case, what I find appealling about his report is that it is refreshingly un-snotty. Enough people have looked down from the Ivory Tower at the unclean, uneducated followers of Trump, and it's refreshing to read a report that, while appalled at the overall phenomenon of Trump, doesn't simply dismiss his followers as poor white trash.
And he includes several photographs which, if he wanted to delay release of the report, he could have sketched into the aforementioned graphic vignettes.
I'm okay with the choice of getting the info out there faster.
Okay, Betty, I can explain this.
Once you've scooped, you're stuck with a Bag O' Poop, and, while those of us brave enough to wear cargo shorts despite the mockery of hipsters might have a place for it, others prefer to drop it by the side of the path to pick up on the way back.
And then you get distracted and end up taking a different way back and forget about it.
There are a couple of solutions, besides the obvious one of carrying the thing with you no matter how far it is.
I used to simply tuck it into people's rollaway bins at the curb, until I learned that not all collectors tilt-and-dump those bins, so that, while the big bags of trash go into the truck, smaller things remain in the bin and I understand why people don't like that.
But I have a mental map of commercial Dumpsters on the routes we walk, and I suppose if anyone questions the additional four ounces I've added to their monthly total we can work out a payment plan. In the meantime, it seems a no-impact way to improve the community.
In any case, dog owners have been known to pick up these orphaned bags, in part to help stave off nasty local legislation, and, in part, because we hope someone picked up the ones we've spaced out.
(Related policy: Zero-Sum Scooping, which is when you can't find your dog's poop in the leaves and grass at the park, so, after you've searched long enough, you give up and pick up someone else's dog poop on the theory that at least there now is no more poop on the ground than there was when you arrived.)
Easing into the new gig
This is the first day of Francesco Marciuliano's new job as writer for Judge Parker. I'm not expecting a lot right away, since he's being dropped in mid-storyline and presumably has a limited set of options while what's going on gets resolved.
(Context: Teen band coming home from a gig and forced to take a backroad in bad weather. The blonde is the continuing character. Or, the one we most expect to continue, depending on what happens next.)
Now here aren't the Eagles:
I was going to add the obvious musical salute to the new kid in town
but then, well, here's this instead.
I wish I'd have had this Candorville yesterday to run along with the topic of media literacy, but here it is today and so let's keep the dialogue going a little longer.
Again, if your newsfeed is full of stupidity, it isn't because the world is full of stupidity.
Though it is, but it's full of all sorts of things you are not required to roll in.
What appears in your feed is, at least to a great extent, under your control. Or your own damn fault. Either is correct.
There is a quote variously attributed to Augustine and Martin Luther, that says "I cannot stop the birds from flying over my head, but I can keep them from building their nests in my hair."
There is also a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that says, "If you see no God, perhaps it is because you harbor none."
And there is this Doc and Raider strip suggesting that you can, perhaps, elevate your world view simply by lifting your focus a bit.
Your choice, of course. In fact, while Candorville suggests that people unconsciously choose the world they see, Doc and Raider more cynically suggests that the choice isn't all that unconscious.
There is something of the Cave in this, in that, as Plato posited, people would vigorously protest being dragged away from their shadow perspective out into the real world of real things, a concept echoed 2,000 years later in Fahrenheit 451, where the fireman's wife would far rather watch moronic, interactive television than boggle her mind with books.
I would add, by the way, that being confined in a hospital for a week and a half with only broadcast basic cable will persuade you that Montag's wife is no exaggeration: Daytime TV is grotesquely idiotic if you take out all the sports and movie channels, and it doesn't get a whole lot more intellectual when the sun goes down.
Which wouldn't matter if we were back in a time when the peasants were only there to harvest the wheat, build a cathedral in the town square and march obediently off to liberate the Holy Lands.
But, as Edison Lee notes this morning, we have somehow decided to let them help choose our leaders and if Honey Boo Boo were 35 years old, I'm sure she'd be right in the thick of the race, because she, too, tells it like it is, even though she's not the specific reality star who promises to fix everything without exactly explaining how.
Then again, if you've followed the various third-party candidates, you'll find that the ones who do explain how they're going to fix everything aren't substantially more credible. But you've gotta believe!
Lemont is right (particularly since he's echoing what I've been saying) that the things on your newsfeed are a reflection of your own interests and mix of friends.
But Elliott is also right that you don't have to fixate on the more ridiculous, negative things that come before you.
It's not all Facebook's fault, either: One of the reasons I dropped out of college in 1970 was that I found myself surrounded by people whose focus on life, though quite hip, was a drag in the very real sense of dragging me down.
I had done a lot of shifting of where I hung out and with whom, but, at last, I gave up the micro-corrections and put a thousand miles between me and them. It turned out to be one of the more positive moves I've ever made.
I have done a lot of curating of my Facebook surroundings in recent months and it often seems a similar matter of straining at gnats when the real solution is to spit out all the camels.
Hiding or, in some cases, unfriending bigots and people who repeatedly post hostile, counterfactual garbage without fact-checking it has certainly brightened the tone of the place.
But, while it has brought forward the postings of some very nice people who weren't so prolific and loud, it has also left me with an imbalance of Social Justice Warriors who seek -- loudly, repeatedly, self-righteously -- to ingratiate themselves with the world in the same way they always have, going back to the days of Phil Ochs:
The fire breathing Rebels arrive at the party early,
Their khaki coats are hung in the closet near the fur.
Asking handouts from the ladies, while they criticize the lords.
Boasting of the murder of the very hands that pour.
And the victims learn to giggle, for at least they are not bored.
I gave them a bit of slack earlier last week, while the dust was yet to settle and the facts were yet to emerge, but they haven't yet stopped trying to equate the momentary, stupid criticism of Gabby Douglas with the response to LochteGate (AfterDeHorseIsStolen).
As I've said before, I would not downplay the unfairness of Douglas being forced to go through the gauntlet, particularly with its racist overtones. Shame on anyone associated with it.
But I simply don't know what to do with people who think that the total destruction of a career, with the loss of millions of dollars in sponsorship, constitutes "getting off scot-free" because of being white.
Rather than fixating on a non-existent "rule" about how to stand during the national anthem, it fixated on proper display of the flag and, as I recall, ended up being more about camera angles than the actual way the flag was hung from the rafters during the medal ceremony at Albertville.
And this is what I said about it in the pages of the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh, NY, on February 22, 1992.
(My capacity for dudgeon, you will note, was high, even without prodding from Facebook)
Now here's Phil:
Let's get the Aleppo kid out of the way early, Antonio Rodriguez Garcia having swept the category with this depiction.
Melding his blank astonishment with the open-eyed naivete of le Petit Prince is brilliant because his story is less about him than about the questions he asks and the answers we offer.
Plenty of cartoonists have adapted the image of the boy, many more will, and I'm afraid it will have no more impact on the refugee crisis than did the kabillion adaptations of Alan Kurdi, the drowned three-year-old whose picture so captured the world last fall.
Still, it can be another drop on the stone, wearing away our indifference, forcing us to focus.
A fellow I knew in college asks a question on Facebook:
I just read a story about the children in Louisiana and the mental trauma they are going through with the floods. Can you imagine the children in Palestine and Yemen and Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan and the horror they live on a daily basis and have been doing so for YEARS!? Bombings day after day, never knowing if it is going to be you or your loved ones next. It's a wonder that any child even knows their own name and can keep any piece of their sanity. That's a miracle to me, that they are not totally insane. Where are the daily stories about these human beings?
I remember a story that ran back 30 years or so ago, about kids in Lebanon and Belfast and other war zones, and, in particular, about the odd, obsessive tics they would develop, like having to touch ever lamp post as they walked down the street.
Yes, it's a miracle they aren't totally insane.
But to his greater question -- "Where are the daily stories about these human beings?" -- I refer to Matt Davies:
It's a commonplace to say that, in the Olden Days, Walter Cronkite would have put Aleppo and Yemen and Louisiana at the top of his broadcast and left the Olympics to the sports department and the Kardashians to the supermarket tabloids.
But I'm not sure, even then, what place this little fellow would have had in the mix. That story about kids in war zones sticks in my memory in part because, even in those days, it was so striking, so unusual.
And yet you must not stop trying.
There were images that stuck and that mattered, perhaps the most famous being that of nine-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc running down a road in Vietnam, her clothes burnt off by napalm, her skin on fire.
The war didn't stop the next day, but it was more than just another straw on the camel's back, and it made Westerners see the war as more than an abstraction. It made them see napalm as more than a bright flash in a distant jungle.
And, through a series of events in response to the response, it brought Kim Phúc to a place where she could continue to have an impact on the world.
And Malala Yousafzai continues to have an impact after her chilling assassination captured hearts. Her autobiography is a standard on little girls' bookshelves, and there is no doubt that her story was at least a part of what has inspired Michelle Obama to make girl's education a priority that seems likely to last after she has left the White House.
However, Davies is right: We are readily distracted, and any news that came along during the Olympics slid to the bottom of the pile, at least if you rely on network news and whatever your friends post on Facebook as your means of tracking the world.
But why do you do that?
Why limit yourself to what you can see without making an effort?
Maybe you aren't seeing the coverage, but claiming it isn't there is like saying that it's impossible to eat a healthy diet because McDonald's has such a limited menu.
Who says you have to eat at McDonald's?
Smarten up: Learn about grocery stores. Learn basic media literacy.
I'm seeing complaints, for instance, that the Louisiana flooding is being ignored, but I've been reading about it and seeing the astonishing videos all along.
What's more infuriating is that all the Social Justice Warriors are furious that Ryan Lochte is getting off scot-free for his lies because of white privilege, when it's clear -- if you even glance at the media -- that he isn't.
I'd like someone to genderneutralsplain to me how being trashed throughout the media and -- as Dana Summers notes -- losing millions of dollars of sponsorships, utterly destroying in one stupid move the career you spent your life building, qualifies as "getting off."
In other news
There is other news being covered, and Kevin Kallaugher offers this hale-and-farewell to the Great Barrier Reef, which has nearly been killed by the impact of climate change.
To which I say, piss on it.
No, no, seriously. Turns out, at least in the Caribbean, overfishing is a major threat to the coral, and that the healthiest reefs there are in areas protected from commercial fishing and so have more large fish swimming around them. And pissing.
You can keep your Olympic darlings. The really fascinating news stories require a little digging.
And Mr. Boffo may not be known for political insights, but the strip gave me a laff because I've been following the Justice Department's abandonment of private prisons.
In part because, in the '70s, I had a freelance client who went from building cheapo firetrap condos to becoming a pioneer in the private prison industry.
And also because the strip made me wonder if the Department of Education will ever rethink the move to charter schools, which are philosophically and operationally pretty much the same thing as private prisons.
He blew his mind out in a Brazilian service station
Political cartoons aren't required to be funny and it's rare that they go beyond a chuckle, but Jimmy Margulies scores a genuine laugh today.
It's scary stuff if you take it seriously, but that only makes the joke funnier, because it adds to the "oh, what the hell" atmosphere.
Margulies offers one of the few takes on this that is relatively non-partisan, and Trump doesn't come out well in most of them.
I've seen suggestions on social media that they feed Trump something totally off the wall in these briefings so that, when that particular odd slant on reality begins to show up, they'll know the source of the leak.
And Chan Lowe plays upon somebody's utter lack of background with this gag, which is really unfair. Trump does know about Europe, after all.
It's where wives come from.
Too smart for the room
Somehow I sense a disconnect between this gag and the Lockhorns' target audience.
Which isn't to say I didn't find it funny, but it's a kind of a New Yorker chuckle, in which you laugh in part at the gag itself and in part to congratulate yourself for getting the reference.
Because we who are part of the cognoscenti are well aware that the Lockhorns' song is by John Cage.
Philip Glass! C'est a rire!
Speaking of playing to your audience, On The Fastrack is a good source of semi-nerdy humor: It often requires you to know how computers work, but rarely gets so deep into the geek that it leaves an average, computer-literate person behind.
Though that's only part of the annoyance factor, and I wonder if any of these geniuses ever visit their own sites to see what the experience is like.
Besides the fact that whatever they produce themselves is surrounded by scams and semi-porn from the ad generators they sign up for, that is. I've sat in the department head meetings where they cheerfully report on clicks and revenues without mentioning how appalling and vulgar the place has become.
I'm more thinking of the sites that keep fluttering around because they have one more thing they need to load, so that, as you're reading, the text suddenly pops up or down the page because a video has inserted itself somewhere, so that you have to scroll around and try to find what you were there for.
It was once the case that the media companies had fast access while their readers were on dial-up, and you could complain that the decision-makers should go home and take a look at it that way.
But I'm not sure there's all that much difference any more between how a page loads in the office and how it loads at home, or on your phone.
But, then, as I say, I've sat in the meetings and heard the praise lavished on the Emperor's New Website by fearful, clueless yesmen.
And I remember how Knight-Ridder, in its death throes, destroyed some of the most inventive, useful, popular newspaper websites, including that of the San Jose Mercury News, the heart of Silicon Valley, dragging them into a ghastly one-size-fits-all template that was, in fact, one-size-fits-none.
The current award for infuriating, non-functional, horrendous design goes to Gannett and USA Today, and when you follow a link and find yourself on one of their spasmodic, hide-the-story sites, you probably, if you are like me, strongly consider just bailing out rather than trying to read the thing you came for.
Gannett has just put in a bid to purchase tronc, which used to be the Tribune Company, which used to be a respectable media outlet.
Last one out, please turn off the lights.
Ain't none of us getting any younger
It's worth reading and it flows well, the latter being a benefit in a medium that sometimes tends to drone on and tell you more than you wanted to know.
Perhaps I'm just put off by what I call "graphic lectures," but I like it when artists and writers have pared things down so that, while they still provide a lot of good information, they aren't simply shoveling everything they know onto the page, and TLDNR is not limited to pure text.
This piece has a lot of information about an important topic, presented in a compelling way that neither sugar-coats it nor becomes hysterical over the implications.
We're living longer, and, for each of us, that's good. As a whole, it's a challenge.
And, as the piece notes, ending poverty and improving the status of women in the Third World has cut down on family size, meaning not just an older average population but a reduction in the working-age cohort.
I don't think this is a piece that will drive people to the barricades, but it's one that will get them thinking and may inform their approach to a variety of issues we'll be facing over the next decade or so, which involve decisions we're being asked to make right now.
Valuable stuff. Go have a look, because you can't trust the Powers That Be to operate with this background as a priority.
I'll start with the fun, easy one: Bliss.
I don't know Harry Bliss (though he lives right next door in Vermont), but this has the hallmarks of a comic drawn from life.
For one thing, another cartoonist has long since confessed to me that he used to sing the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" to his baby, so I'm not the only person with a history of crooning dubious lyrics to helpless infants.
But, as a new dad, I quickly realized that it was the voice, not the content, that mattered, which sounds like one of those public service announcements for foster parents: You don't have to be perfect, you just have to be there.
Allen Sherman sang, "the head coach wants no sissies, so he reads to us from something called 'Ulysses,'" but I actually did read Joyce to my firstborn, not because I thought he would understand, much less benefit from, the wanderings of an ad salesman, but because Joyce's language was so rich and rolling and rhythmic and satisfying.
Later, he enjoyed regular readings of a colorfully illustrated poem he called "Ruby Bop."
But the comical payoff came in early 1973, when he was about seven months old and caught meningitis from a young friend.
It was necessary to start treatment for the viral type while we waited for the test results (which turned out in his favor), so he spent a few days in Children's Hospital, Denver, one of the first to allow parents to stay with their kids around the clock.
I was taking a turn on nights and the poor little fellow -- an IV in his forehead, his arms swaddled to keep him from reaching for it -- was restless, so I held him and read aloud from the book I was reading anyway, and the sound of my voice comforted him and let him sleep.
And I turned the book so she could see: Dostoevsky's "The Possessed."
Fortunately, it was a lot harder to get your name put on a mandatory registry in those days.
Speaking of hospitals
Jack Ohman on Aetna's announcement that it will follow through on its extortion threat over the government's reluctance to allow an anti-competitive merger with Humana.
Aetna isn't sold on a single-payer system but they're very much in favor of a single-collector system and they want to be it.
I'm not surprised by that, but I'm shocked that the threat would be made in writing and not simply conveyed verbally over dinner or a round of golf or perhaps while looking at a prized thoroughbred horse.
Granted, if a man invites a woman to a fancy restaurant, he may have an expectation of how the evening will turn out, and perhaps she is naive or even dishonest to accept the invitation without a tacit understanding of the implications, but -- Egad! -- you don't say it out loud, directly.
The impact on national health care and on the tattered remains of anti-trust laws aside, the lack of subtlety is an insult.
You don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you ask me to do murder for money.
And comments on social media include a lot of "well, they need to make a profit" justifications, which makes you wonder what Theodore Roosevelt's trustbusting would have sounded like, if it had taken place with the railbirds able to shout out their opinions.
Speaking of whom
Railbirds, that is, not TR.
Vladimir Khakhanov, via Cartoon Movement, notes a Russian move against online anonymity, which I guess is internal, since I couldn't find any specific proposals, though China has long sought to force people to post under their real names.
But I liked the cartoon without specifics, in part because of the notion that attempting to dislodge anonymity will cause a brick to fall on your head, and, on a larger scale, because the use and abuse of anonymity has, itself, become an issue.
To start with, I wonder if there really is something called "Anonymous," or if it's like the Yippies, where, yes, there is a core group, but the concept is undefined, such that anyone who claims to be part of it is thereby part of it.
There is some safety in that, of course: When "Anonymous" threatens to hack an enemy or expose information, who are you going to come after? That's the point at which the brick falls on your head.
On the other hand, as the Black Panthers discovered, if you don't keep some control over these boastful wannabes, they can bring down a lot of heat on you.
The Guy Fawkes mask is like the Che Guevara T-shirt: An attractive logo that does not bind the bearer to understand or follow any particular set of goals or strategies.
However, memberships and affiliations aside, it's become plain that the cacaphony of online opinionating makes online conversation futile, a whisper in a hurricane.
NPR has announced that it will no longer allow comments on its own website, though its postings on Facebook and elsewhere will still be a place where a handful of people can gather to scream at and insult each other. (Here's an interesting response.)
Some other media outlets have switched to Facebook or Disqus to avoid anonymity, which, first of all, assumes that Facebook and Disqus are not full of pseudonyms and sock puppets, and, second, assumes that people won't post hateful garbage if their names are attached to it.
There is a value in allowing anonymous postings, and I'd hate to see a crack-down that ended them.
But the abusive, depressing, sociopathic swill that follows most online articles makes undemocratic, anti-press-freedom measures appealing. And that's not a good thing.
Never mind "Don't feed the trolls."
Don't feed Big Brother.
Over at Between Friends, Susan's been obsessing over having been addressed as "ma'am," yet another installment in her ongoing and seemingly permanent obsession over age and self-image. Having her vent to Maeve is perfect, because, while Maeve has a substantial package of insecurities, that certainly isn't one of them.
However, the whole "ma'am" thing apparently is pretty widespread, because I was struck by the timing when the story arc coincided with someone plunking this article on Facebook. But when I went to find it, I discovered a massive herd of articles on the topic dating back several years.
Which doesn't make it important, but it does make it prominent and there's a huge difference, because, judging from that HuffPost piece, the Maeve response is at least as common as the Susan response.
I liked this, from someone who "got her first 'ma’am' when she was just 18."
“It kind of blew my mind, but at the time I liked it. I felt very grown-up. It’s kind of a weird word but it doesn’t bother me."
That ties into my ongoing obsession with the sense that we used to want to grow up, that Wally and Eddie and Lumpy would wear ties on certain occasions and that Wally often chided Eddie about acting in ways that wouldn't work once they got out of high school and were expected to be adults.
When's the last time you saw a commercial, or a trailer for a movie, that took that attitude towards life?
I also liked this response:
“Get over it. Stop making it mean something it’s not meant to mean.”
Which, stay with me now, leads to this:
I'm not blown away by Walt Handelsman's cartoon, though it's well-done for what it is.
I have, however, been blown away by some of the video of rescues and destruction in Louisiana, particularly, of course, this sequence:
The cartoon itself is a salute to the heroism of a fleet of rescuers reminiscent of the Dunkirk evacuation, and critically relevant to his local readers.
There will be time later to ask the Army Corps of Engineers "Wasn't the post-Katrina clean-up supposed to stop this from happening?"
However, it also, along with that oft-played video and others, is a refutation of yet another waa-waa-waa from the whiney "What about me?" subculture we've managed to create.
There are -- I kid you not -- whiners declaring that the media has avoided covering the flooding in Louisiana.
Let me be clear: In 2005, there were people who complained about how Katrina was covered, blaming racism for much of the distortion. I'm not in disagreement with those complaints, though it's convoluted, since race was probably also a factor in which neighborhoods were hardest hit.
But, yes, I do think we'd have heard of people "having to raid abandoned stores for necessities" rather than "looting," had the stranded people been white.
There is, however, a major difference between "I don't like the way this is being covered" and "There is no coverage."
We seem now to have people poised over their computers, eager to pounce on any shred that they can elevate into an offense, and it sure seems like they have their conspiracy theories already formulated to apply to whatever shortcoming they can seize upon.
Another example: Perhaps you can make something out of the fact that, in the rush of medals and events in Rio, your pet sport didn't get massive, stop-the-presses coverage the moment the gold was announced.
Now, if you think it was because of a conspiracy to suppress winners from certain political or racial communities, you don't know much about the media. Still, if you can post your tear-stained accusations before the reporters catch up with the awards and post them, hey, you win!
But to claim there has been no coverage of the flooding in Louisiana is not simply whiney, childish and silly.
It is wrong. Provably, objectively incorrect.
There has been coverage. Lots of coverage. And, while the Rio Olympics have, IMHO, had more coverage than they merit, the flooding has been prominent in mainstream media.
This is not my opinion. It's a fact, and here are the ways you might have missed that fact:
In small towns, we have petty, vindictive gossips who not only talk about things that decent people would let pass unmentioned, but invent stories when they can't find real ones.
Sounds awful, but small town people have dealt with it for generations, and here's how: They know who the gossips are, and decent folk don't listen to their ugly talk, nor do they believe it when it is forced upon them.
In the city, perhaps you don't have that automatic back-story, so that, when someone pokes their head through the window of your subway car and screams about the Trilateral Commission's world-wide conspiracy to put mind-altering drugs in everyone's lunches, you don't know the person and must ask, "I wonder if he's right?"
I would think an intelligent person would look for a second source.
Maybe that's just me.
And here's a more detailed analysis
I mentioned the other day that the rise of Trumpery has not been sudden, that it is the result of a lot of garbage we've chosen to allow to fester.
Now comes Ann Telnaes with a long, elaborate analysis of what has been a long, elaborate slide to the bottom of civilization.
Go read the rest. It's not cheerful, but she's right and we need to hear it.
Maybe, like an addict, this country has to hit rock bottom before it will correct its flaws.
But let's hope we don't need cattle cars and ovens to sort this one out.
Today's posting is mostly a collection of other places you should go instead, but I'll start with this Nick Anderson cartoon which, if you've been keeping up with the news, stands alone.
And if you haven't been keeping up with the news, go here and ensmarten yourself.
And let me add here that the Daily 202 is a perfect example of why I wish newspapers would offer small, affordable subscriptions to specific features. I don't want to know what bridges are being repaired or what someone said at city council, and it's not worth it to me to have a full subscription. But I'd pop a couple of bucks for access to this, or to Michael Cavna or Ann Telnaes.
And I'm sure there are sports fans who feel the same way about one of the District's teams. It's as if McDonald's refused to sell fries unless you bought a whole meal: Why are you turning away the money?
In any case, the NYTimes article goes well beyond the faux-scandals and half-scandals being touted elsewhere.
For instance, if some reporter brought to me the emails showing that Clinton Foundation fundraisers were asking that donors get this or that access, I'd do my best Jason-Robards-as-Ben-Bradlee imitation and point out that my desk is piled with similar requests from the ad department and that the story is not whether they asked but what response they got.
Which is not to say there isn't a story, but, if there is, you haven't got it.
The tie between Trump's campaign manager and Russia's shenanigans in Ukraine, however, is the point at which we discover Ken Clawson signing checks over to the Committee to Re-Elect, and Anderson makes precisely the right point -- it's not a direct link, it's not the smoking gun, it's not the tapes in which the Head Guy admits his knowledge.
But it's a helluva story, and, as he suggests, now you just have to follow the strings to see the connections.
Historic Note: The Watergate story was, for months, shrugged off famously as "a third-rate burglary" by the Nixon team, by a lot of sophisticated above-it-all wisenheimers who said, "They all do that," and by random loyalists who insisted that the Post and Times were conspiring against the administration.
If the damn fool hadn't taped his own crime, the whole thing might have faded into the mists of on-the-one-hand-on-the-other.
This connection ought not to fade away.
He's Got You, Babe
But Joe Heller's cartoon made me laff, and I'm not so rigid as to pretend it didn't.
You don't need to read Serbian
This Serbian satire magazine, Rhinocerus, popped up in my Facebook feed and I couldn't find an English version of the magazine itself, but there's enough English on the site to make it clear that they periodically collect themed caricatures, and the current one is of famous authors.
This one is Alexandre Dumas père, whom I feature in part because he was the magazine's top choice, but also because I was thinking the other day, not of the Musketeers seen here but of "The Count of Monte Cristo," in the context of stories in which someone is wronged and seeks revenge in clever, horrifying ways, while we root for this backdoor justice.
I think I was probably put on that track by the trailer for "Ben Hur," which appears to have gone from Lew Wallace's "Tale of the Christ" to a more modern, vengeance-obsessed version.
Anyway, if you prefer Hollywood or Great Philosophers to authors, you can go here and play for awhile. And if you read Serbian, you may find all sorts of additional stuff there.
While, here in this country ...
Friend of the Blog Terri Libenson has just finished a project in which cartoonists provided pictures that she framed and posted at a local children's hospital to brighten things up. She explains it here.
Having spent some time in the (literally, at least theoretically) sterile confines of the health system, I'm particularly grateful for anything that adds interest to the experience.
And, though I actually met Terri at a gathering at the Billy Ireland earlier, I got to know her and her husband, Mike, at the Kenosha Cartooning Festival, and am grateful for the excuse to add a plug.
I have made reservations for this year's event, albeit having paid the cancellation fee in case I don't continue to rehab as quickly as I project.
And, if that doesn't shame you into shedding your excuses for not coming, let me point out that this will be the last festival until 2019.
And here's what you'll need to do once you get there:
Cartoon Movement features Portuguese cartoonist Vasco Gargalo's "Aleppo," an updating of Picasso's classic "Guernica."
I'll admit that my initial response was tepid, though I appreciated the historic parallel, in which the destruction of Guernica presaged the horrors of World War II.
But the more I pondered that parallel, the more I liked it, so that, the second time the cartoon came up in my feed, I examined it more closely.
The insertions of Putin, of al-Assad, of both American and EU influences amid the misery and death are brilliantly staged, and, while it doesn't take a lot to create an updated classic, it takes a lot to do it this well.
Here's the original. Ponder them at your leisure, bearing in mind that the original exercise in scorched-earth genocide did not remain sequestered in Spain and there's no reason to believe Aleppo will be any less a harbinger of what is yet to come to the rest of the world.
Which is why the political campaigning in the United States needs to do more than point fingers and cast blame over how we got here.
Trump's incoherent analysis of where ISIS came from reveals his utter ignorance of recent history, of the Middle East and of international relations generally, but, then again, he is waging a campaign based on bizarre, fanciful imagery, not on facts and analysis. He doesn't need to know what he is talking about so long as he knows whom he is talking to.
But when the more elevated conversation, the one apparently based on facts, focuses more on who voted for what 20 years ago rather than on finding a solution to the current crisis, it's no better, no more constructive.
To put it another way, it is as if the firefighters stood outside a burning house discussing how the fire started and whose fault it was and what codes were violated and why the alarm system failed to go off, their hoses remaining coiled on the truck and the fire hydrants remaining untapped while people scream for help from the windows.
Gargalo makes a compelling cause for putting out the fire now and then discussing how it happened and how we might prevent such tragedies in the future.
As did Picasso, hence the parallel.
"A painting is not thought out and settled in advance. While it is being done, it changes as one's thoughts change. And when it's finished, it goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it." -- Picasso
Mike Lynch is an inveterate haunter of flea markets and antique shops, and picked up this 1952 Little Golden Book, featuring Mary Poppins back when she was still the product of PL Travers and not Walt Disney.
He features several pages from the book, to illustrate his observation about the artwork:
The pictures by Gertrude Elliott were like something I had never seen in a mainstream kiddie book. They were well drawn, with a great sense of perspective and proportion and layout. But they weren't cute. No cute bunnies or rosy cheeked cherubs. And, looking at it, most of the time, I wanted to peek around the page because the characters of Mary, Michael and Jane were looking away from me, in three-quarters view.
Lynch is 12 years my junior, born a decade after this book was published, which I note because, while I agree that the artistic style would not likely pass muster in the current marketplace, it strikes me more as nostalgic than off-putting.
Which is to say, my young childhood was full of similar depictions. We were more likely to be invited to watch than to participate.
One of my most treasured books was a 1947 classic, "The Golden Egg Book," written by Margaret Wise Brown, and illustrated by Leonard Wisegard, whose semi-realistic style was not particularly inviting in the sense of reaching out to small children.
It's not as distant as the purposefully sterile Mary Poppins book, but I think if you compare the original 1947 illustrations with an edition from a quarter century later, with illustrations by Lilian Obligado, you can see the difference.
The best way I can sum it up in words is that Obligado drew more consciously and specifically for little kids.
I wouldn't call one approach more appropriate than the other, and it's hard to put a response to art into words, but let me offer this "middle ground" example: Robert McCloskey's 1941 children's book, "Make Way For Ducklings," which is stylistically very child-friendly but not in the least childish.
I wouldn't expect this illustration of the police officer helping the ducks cross the street to appear in a serious article about the event, but it might have appeared in the New Yorker as a cartoon: It is light and inviting, but not in a way that signals that it is intended solely for little kids.
Which may be why generations of parents have so loved reading the book aloud to small people: It was a book for families, not just for children.
Another quite relevant thing in defense of the seemingly cold work of Gertrude Elliott: It is appropriate to the subject matter, because, unlike the sweet, sunny playmate of Walt Disney's musical, the Mary Poppins of PL Travers' books was a sharp, distant disciplinarian, less apt to add a spoonful of sugar to your medicine than to give you a rap on the head with the spoon if you balked at taking it.
Much of the appeal of Mary Poppins was that she was kind of scary and, while you couldn't wait for the next adventure she would take you on, there was always the chance that she'd turn around and punish you for something or other.
You liked her, you were glad she was there, but she wasn't cuddly and that was okay. Life wasn't cuddly.
And I'd say Elliott's illustrations were not unlike, in tone, the originals by Mary Shepard.