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!
We'll start with what is not only the best 'toon of the day, but surely the least intended to set me off, this Cartoon Movement piece by Moroccan cartoonist Jalal Hajir on Brexit and the now-approved Scottish referendum.
The cartoon brilliantly recalls the rivalry between Celts and sassenachs by putting Theresa May in chain mail with British heraldry, and using Mel Gibson's unforgettable portrayal of William Wallace to represent Scottish nationalism.
Mel Gibson's unforgettable, ridiculous, ahistoric, overwrought cheesy portrayal of William Wallace, who never would have painted his face that late in history nor worn a kilt that early in history and whose lady love in the movie was barely born at the time and whose appearance raised the important question of how he could be clean shaven and have hair so teased and tangled?
I mean, even if they hadn't invented combs, they obviously had razors.
Which is far from Hajir's point, but he reminded me that I wrote something I can no longer find, back when the 1995 Oscars happened, in which I described Gibson's big hair and grimy face as making him look like a Texas Cowboys cheerleader given an exploding cigar.
I went on to point out that, while its history was completely cattywumpus, the movie was authentic by Hollywood standards because everyone was covered with mud.
And that this rule even applies in Westerns, which take place in what is largely desert country where, historically, having enough rain to create mud would have been a marvel, but where, in good Westerns -- the ones that win awards -- everyone is up to their ankles in perpetual slop.
And I suggested that the reason "Braveheart" beat out "Babe" for Best Picture was that they washed the pig.
It was an epic rant. Nothing at all to do with Brexit or this cartoon.
But rants are not scored by relevance.
So here's the cover of the New Yorker, which Michael Cavna discusses with NYer art editor Francoise Mouly in his column, and which is animated for tablets and such, and which sparks yet another irrelevant musing which, as it happens, also concerns a movie set in the Middle Ages with very little historical accuracy.
Artist Malika Favre explains that the cover depicts her final impressions before undergoing anesthesia at five or six years old.
My own experience going under differs, but what this does evoke is waking up in the hospital this summer, not just post-surgically but repeatedly over several days as I was still somewhat doped up.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock is a teaching hospital, so that I would regularly be gently wakened to find myself surrounded by medical students on rounds, faces, as in Favre's cover, of young women, these in long white lab coats, whose voices would come to me through an opiod-induced haze of slight echoes.
And much as I respected them and liked them and was in no condition to think bad thoughts, it did occur to me that I had perhaps been transported to Castle Anthrax.
Which isn't terribly noble, but I blame the drugs and would add -- upon sober reflection -- that, if you think medicine is dominated by old white men, you must be wonderfully healthy, because I spent most of the past summer in and out of the hospital and now return weekly for regular non-interesting medical care, and I see damn few white men of any age except for other patients.
And, by the way, the men who did the most to save my life were immigrants.
Aided by a fair number of Muslims.
And a phalanx of bright young women in white lab coats.
So, Mr. President: I know which part of my thinking is pure fantasy.
Wake up, pal.
And then there are the damned leggings, as seen in this Clay Jones cartoon and as yakked about all over the Intertubes.
This is such a steaming pile of bad reporting and stupid thinking and nonsensical piling on that Snopes and Fact Checker and an army of eager deconstruction workers couldn't straighten it out.
It doesn't help that the original report came from a busybody who tweeted her outrage without bothering to find out what was going on, and that it was then picked up by clickbait vendors who dashed off their own faux-journalistic versions of what they thought they heard somewhere.
Which is that three or one or two ten-year-olds or 'tweens or teenagers were kicked off a plane and we hate United those sexist bastards.
Though apparently the two teens actually involved were flying on the company's tab and understood the policy and complied and life would have gone on uninterrupted if the acronym MYOB were not so outdated.
Meanwhile, what I really want to know is how many of the people attacking United for having a company dress code are the same people who complain about the people sitting next to them on the plane not meeting their own impeccable standards?
I agree with Jones that the increasing compaction of passengers is a bigger issue, but then that leads to the observation that the seats today only recline about two inches, which is barely enough to take the weight off your spine but certainly doesn't stop compulsive whiners from bawling about it.
I suspect the loudest of them fly first class where the seats still recline measureably.
They are wise enough not to mention that, since who would sympathize with them then?
Or, put another way, they keep their asses covered, despite how leggings enthusiasts feel about doing that.
Wait -- what?
Did today's Luann just slip one past the editorial goalie?
I don't mean that Pru is a lesbian; we've known that for months.
I mean that last exchange.
I'd add a "That's what she said," except I think that is what she said.
Now here's your moment of blue leggings:
CSotD welcomes opposing viewpoints from responsible spokespersons whose eyes are up here:
Today's Speed Bump acknowledges what we've all observed recently, although I'm not finding much greater need to avoid bringing up politics than in the past.
Granted, I purged my social media of trolls and the heartless during the run up to the election, in keeping with my well-established "Archie Bunker Rule," which originally said that nobody who would not be welcome through the door is welcome through the TV but has been amended to include computer screens.
Yes, we all have that uncle whom we dearly love but in front of whom we do not raise certain topics.
But you're not him and we can disagree, but, if you can't behave, you're gone.
Besides, it's never been polite to pipe up in public places around people whose politics you do not know, and, if you want to carve out an exception for "bearing witness" remember that, if it proves fruitless, you may have to shake the dust of that place from your sandals.
So don't incautiously "bear witness" any place that you need to be very often.
On the other hand, I'm finding it less and less parlous to discuss politics as more and more people leap out of the non-deplorable half of the Trump basket.
It's more a case of whether it has become tiresome.
Abbie Hoffman used to laugh at politicos who, in the Sixties, would greet any joke or any conversation about personal interests with "Where's your social consciousness?" because we do have lives, or, at least, those of us with lives have lives.
However, that was back when you could, at least to some extent, temporarily put aside concern about Vietnam and pollution, at least long enough to roll a joint and perhaps a partner.
That is, we were already knee deep in Vietnam and already couldn't see from one side of the Monongahela Valley to the other. The issues weren't going anywhere.
But we certainly didn't put them aside indefinitely, and, today, not only are the changes more sweepingly existential, but, so far, we've only experienced a few actual plagues.
There's time to avoid the others, if we don't sit back and just assume that Pharaoh will eventually give in.
Jen Sorensen offers a handy conversational guide.
I don't know that they'll make the exchanges any more productive, but they'd make them quite a bit more amusing, and that isn't a totally vain goal.
One of the gentler ways of handling a bar room blowhard is to deflate him, and if the quiet pushbacks of Sam and Norm won't keep Cliffie in check, you bring in Carla to rough him up a little.
We could use more of that constructive, insistent mockery -- either kind or tough -- and refusing to deny democracy and the sovereignty of the people is a pretty good starting point.
Youth is not wasted
Wisdom is not a bad goal in life, and, if growing old is not an unalloyed pleasure, growing wise is not to be despised.
As Frazz notes, you'll collect a bruise or two along the road anyway, even though, as Mr. Fitz's young friend suggests, growing wiser is not as much fun as getting your learner's permit.
Still, Yeats acknowledged the end of folly as a consolation:
Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into the truth.
By contrast, even as a young man, Solomon was wise enough to know what to ask for:
In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.
And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants.
Though, as Anne and God notes, there are fewer public inducements to wish for charitable wisdom than for personal riches.
Now here's your moment of constructive fury:
Poor Carmen, the conservative half of the Prickly City duo, has been undergoing a dark night of the soul since even before the elections, in the course of which Scott Stantis brought in a sympathetic Bernie Sanders character and Carmen wound up working for Gary Johnson.
Last week, she and Winslow, the liberal coyote, compared the current tribalism of our political scene to "Lord of the Flies," and today she begins an attempt to lower the heat without lowering her standards.
Over in Rudy Park, the talk-show hosting curmudgeon Sadie is less sympathetic to the idea of reconciliation, and her sharp response uses the "Meals on Wheels" controversey as much to rag on people who voted against their own interests as to address the actual topic of the budget.
I'm more aligned with Carmen and Winslow in that it's time to put away the pointy sticks and sit down to figure our way, if not off this desert island, at least to a way of co-existing until rescue arrives.
I have a friend who, as an avowed anti-socialist, insists that "Lord of the Flies" is a treatise on the evils of socialism.
I, having spent several summers at an eight-week boys' camp, insist that it is a reflection on human nature.
If Golding was writing a political parable, he sure clothed it in realism, to the extent that my willingness to compromise is this: He may have been speaking in metaphors, but it's just as valid to read the book as a more literal critique of why we ought not to let adolescent boys -- or those who behave like them -- run things.
And that is a compromise: I refuse to read "Animal Farm" as both a commentary on Stalinism and a description of how farm animals behave without supervision.
To which I would add this: For all the talk about how much our current situation reminds people of "1984," there are reasons to prefer "Lord of the Flies," starting with the fact that Orwell was not a great stylist and, whether or not you feel Golding deserved his Nobel, he certainly cobbled words together better and his book is a better read.
But, on perhaps a less snobbish level, "1984" shows only the end result, which, thank God, we have not reached and may never.
"Lord of the Flies" depicts the slide into barbarism, and, if we haven't killed poor Piggy yet, you can readily find our current spot on the continuum somewhere in the text and project things forward from there.
Basically, Orwell makes for better slogans, but Golding tells a more complete and chilling story.
A large part of the horror of "Lord of the Flies" is that Ralph has a solid moral sense but is eventually overwhelmed by the macho posturings of the bully, Jack, and -- ironically -- his gang of choirboys.
But had Jack's crewe, instead, been the school's rough-and-tumble rugby team, Golding would have tipped his hand too early and ruined the novel. If it were only the obvious bullies who so readily descend to such depths, they wouldn't be nearly as much a threat.
One thing that "Lord of the Flies," "Animal Farm" and "1984" have in common, along with "To Kill a Mockingbird" and other books often assigned as class reading for young people or for town-wide reading projects, is that you cannot possibly misinterpret them.
No reasonable reader could think that Jack is the hero of "Lord of the Flies" or that Winston Smith, indeed, is a reprobate who needs to be reined in for the good of society or that Tom Robinson should have been hanged without a fair trial.
Their value as art, however, is not in posing some abstract-but-universal moral truth but in the ability of the author to craft a story such that the intent is unmistakeable.
That's not necessarily a talent we would always praise.
The same could be said of "The Turner Diaries," and I promise you there are people who feel that that book, and the film "Birth of a Nation" are absolutely correct in their messages, thanks to the craft of their creators.
And, as David Fitzsimmons points out, we are currently led by a man who cannot distinguish truth from fact, fact from nonsense, reporting from propaganda, or journalism from clickbait, and bases his judgment of information on whether it flatters and confirms his worldview.
A worldview gained, one might note, at an all-boys' residential school. And now he's the one holding the conch.
It's not a worldview you can simply reason away.
You cannot simply hand a fan of "The Turner Diaries" a copy of "To Kill A Mockingbird" and expect them to have some grand epiphany, anymore than Ralph could lure the choirboys away from Jack by offering his own plans for self-governance.
Nor, I would add, could a fan of "To Kill A Mockingbird" sit through a screening of "Birth of a Nation" without revulsion.
Which does argue in favor of Carmen's plan to withdraw from the divisiveness, except that it's pretty plain she won't be able to.
As Stantis himself wrote on his blog:
I get many emails and comments telling me that I need to back off from criticizing President Trump and give him a chance. What exactly does that mean? That I should just not comment at all if I disagree with what the president is doing? If so, for how long? A few months? A year? His entire term? That is ridiculous. You can’t sit back and ignore what is wrong in the name of ‘giving him a chance’.
While others parse politics, Rick Stromoski goes instead for morality in today's Soup to Nutz, and hits the bull's eye.
It seems naive to banter over how people praise or reject contemporary literature when they are so willing to praise, ignore and misinterpret the classic book they nearly all claim to be the centerpiece of their morality.
This is brilliant work. It's an excellent predator/prey metaphor and he did a truly great job of melding Putin's face with that of the self-satisfied lion.
Really, really nice work.
And then the son of a bitch agreed to go to the NATO meeting after all.
More frustrating, in my mind, is this multi-panel analytical piece by Ann Telnaes (go here to read the rest), a strong commentary on our health care system and not simply on the Republican's now-failed plan to undermine it.
Eagan's cartoon is about a specific situation that no longer obtains, so it had a short shelf life, but it can also be argued that the cartoon was among the straws that broke the camel's back, and, if Eagan can't claim all the credit for that reversal, he's certainly part of the reaction that caused it.
However, the alleged GOP health care "reform" was only the hook for Telnaes' commentary, and she's among a quiet chorus saying "Let's fix what we have."
Not only does that not change with the demise of RINOcare, but it still matters, perhaps even more now: The Republican plan to "watch Obamacare explode" isn't likely a plan to just "watch" but rather to continue to sabotage it, as they have in those states where it doesn't work because of failure to extend Medicaid or simply to rein in predators.
It's as if, in the 1900s, states had passed laws against opening gas stations so that they could declare the motorcar a failure.
Well, we'll see.
Reform of health care needs to continue, but progressives may be reluctant to push against an already embattled caucus and, besides, with RINOcare off the table, who cares anymore?
Staying relevant is hard.
Juxtaposition of the concussions:
The datelines look as if Alcaraz got there first, but they showed up online all but simultaneously -- his apparently late on the 24th, Anderson's apparently in the early hours of the 26th.
So, as ballplayers will know, Lalo only got there "first" in the sense of getting Nick's forehead right in the chops instead of vice-versa.
Alas, there's no system in cartooning by which you can yell "Got it!" and warn your teammates away.
At least it was a cool idea. It would be a shame to lose teeth over something lame.
Kal makes it look so damn easy. Trump-the-Magician is only so-so, but the expression on that rabbit's face turns a B- into an A+.
There didn't even have to be a rabbit, or we might have seen a bunnytail just disappearing into the wings. The empty hat would have been sufficient.
But you only get a B- for being sufficient.
Note the anatomical differences: In Horsey's cartoon, a huge, fierce mammoth makes an African elephant -- big and be-tusked as he is -- quake, while, in Varvel's, the clueless analysts also confront an African elephant, which could be scored a "miss" since the legend is Asian, but Asian elephants are far more tractable than their African cousins, so, again, the fiercer elephant is the better choice.
But de Adder goes not just for an Asian elephant -- the small ears and different forehead identify it as such -- but retains its baby hair, making it both absurdly clueless and also anatomically correct for the species upon which a howdah would be mounted. Or, in this case, under which.
Showing GOP leadership on the wrong side of a proud, fierce elephant would greatly undercut the message, just as the other two cartoons would have been blunted by a less than deadly animal.
You shouldn't lose sleep over such things, but neither should you ignore them.
Elsewhere in the same universe
Edison Lee weighs in with a non-political political commentary. As noted here before, many strip cartoonists are finding it hard to ignore what's going on, or to just make mild "alternative facts" gags.
This particular strip has never shied away from mixing politics in with its usual social commentary and, in fact, when it launched in 2016 2006,I felt it was a little ham-handed on politics. Since then, the strip has found its legs and, while I'm sure they'll get letters, the commentary is well blended with the strip's established characters and tone.
As for politics on the Funny Pages, you can't stay relevant forever by just stealing pies from windowsills and knocking off top hats with snowballs.
Juxtaposition of Technological Change
Frazz muses on the invasive nature of evolving technology and I laughed, but I also took the warning. We ponder the ethics of cloning humans, but there are other things we're capable of that seemed to go unquestioned.
Except by Frazz, and who cares what a janitor thinks? Or a little kid? Right?
But one benefit of new technology is that there's very little reason for crappy pictures of your kids. With good cameras in every phone and the advantage of being able to review and delete and try again, the only excuse for having really crappy pictures of your kids is that once a year they'll take one at school and bludgeon you into buying 100 copies of it.
Those photos of over-groomed, over-posed kids in front of fake backgrounds are as outdated as the old daguerreotypes where everyone had to sit perfectly still for way too long.
You have to wonder how much of the moment either of them ever really manage to capture.
Memories beyond the old photographs:
Matt Wuerker imagines a dialogue between Paul Ryan and John Boehner, the joke being that Boehner kind of stuck Ryan with the job when it was only somewhat thankless, though they both ended up being made fools of by their own party.
It is a kinder, gentler take on the pair than in October, 2015, when he commented on the actual handover, which was somewhat along the lines of the person on "Let's Make A Deal" choosing what was behind the curtain instead of holding on to the washer/dryer.
Oh well. Have a glass of merlot, Paulie.
I wasn't sitting on the edge of my seat watching intently. I had wrapped up my weekly deadlines early and decided to work on my taxes yesterday while the pundits nattered on, so I'd know when the vote itself was coming.
But I was paying some attention, because what had once seemed like it would be the first major blow to the gates delivered by the Trump juggernaut was starting to look like the first major test of who was on board with this revolution and who wasn't.
And then it started to look like the first major defeat for the rebels.
And then it wasn't even that. They really did take their ball and go home rather than stick around to find out how badly they would lose, and it was such a moment of bathos that it didn't even feel worthy of schadenfreude, much less celebration.
Well, I celebrated: This was the first self-employed year I've had enough cash to pay my income taxes without going into my IRA, so that was something.
It's also the first time I've ever said, "Thank god I was doing taxes or this wouldn't have been any fun at all."
Mostly, I thought of Horace: "The mountains are in labor; the result is a ridiculous mouse."
Juxtaposition of the Day
Plante and Kal chose nearly-matching metaphors to pick up on the absurd denials that followed, with the most interesting part being that this is the first time Trump has down-played a margin rather than exaggerating it.
And they would have brought it to the floor, but Nancy Pelosi was busing in phony congressmen to vote against it.
Trump decried the lack of bipartisanship and whined noted that no Democrats were backing the measure, and it was true, though trivia buffs may observe that, by some fantastic coincidence, that's the exact same total as the number of Republicans who backed the ACA back in 2010.
And, Trump and Ryan both explained, they were only a few votes shy of victory, which, by another fantastic coincidence, is precisely as close as Jon Lovitz ever actually got to being married to Morgan Fairchild.
Or even Freeman.
Maybe we need a third cartoon, in which the referee is giving the fighters their pre-fight instructions at the center of the ring as a towel comes sailing in from one corner.
That excuse will probably play well to Trump's hardcore base, but seems unlikely to cut the mustard even with a staunch conservative like Gary Varvel, who suggests that perhaps there was a lack of coordinated vision within the party.
This is a telling indictment. We've been hearing for weeks from the other side of the aisle that the GOP spent seven years complaining about "Obamacare" and voting to repeal it and promising to replace it and then, given the power to actually do so, had no alternative in mind and no real plan at all.
But to have the accusation rising from their own party faithful does not bode well.
And it's a particularly bad sign because their recovery from this defeat should hinge on passing their tax reform act, except that the details of that measure, pundits say, were predicated on the financial advantages gained in the proposed health care reform.
They are either going to have to retreat and rethink their next move, or charge forward with yet another piece of ill-considered, unworkable, grand-standing legislation.
I think that, by now, we know which is more likely.
Meanwhile, back at the Kremlin
A domestic triumph might have distracted people from the ongoing foreign policy issue and whether or not our relations with Russia are, in fact, "foreign policy" or just another private, personal arrangement by the Big League Wheeler-Dealer.
David Horsey suggests that we not lose focus on what the GOP is desperately hoping we won't notice at all, while Clay Jones, in both cartoon and column, suggests we get on with it before all the witnesses have accidentally fallen out of windows or been the victims of random unsolved shootings.
The Confederates had a plan to bring an army up out of Texas, seize the Colorado gold fields and then head west and take California, which would give them both capital to trade with and a selection of seaports unfettered by the Union blockade.
However, having taken Santa Fe, they ran into a small Union force backed up by a few hundred Colorado militia at Glorieta Pass, and, while they were fighting to an inconclusive victory on the battlefield, one band of the Colorado volunteers circled around behind them and destroyed their supply train.
Bad things happen when you fail to make sure your rear end is covered.
So despite having nominally won the battle, the Rebs were forced to retreat to Texas and never mounted another serious offensive in the West.
Ponder that lesson over a second glass of merlot.
Or a 10th glass of beer.
Beer goes particularly well with foolish, fatal screwups and vain regret.
(Okay, maybe just a little schadenfreude.)
Soup to Nutz offers a grim but funny -- yes, that's possible -- commentary on the search for humane meat.
I do believe in humane treatment of animals, even those destined for the table. What life they have, however short, should not be brutal, at least beyond the facts of life, their fact of life being "You are food."
And that is the fact, for them: "Circle of Life" and all that.
Perhaps I've said this here already, because it's been on my mind recently, but when I was a kid, there was a very common coming-of-age story in children's fiction and on television: The 4H kid who raises a calf, wins a blue ribbon and then has to deal with the reality that the calf is headed for market, and what that means.
There are tears, and there's plenty of sympathy from adults who remember their own coming-of-age, but it's one of those things a farm kid needed to go through.
Adapting to reality doesn't mean becoming insensitive: Even tough little pioneer girls Laura and Mary Ingalls ran inside and covered their ears when Pa slaughtered the hog.
But "Charlotte's Web" took the opposite tack, and maybe that was a bridge between those old countrified days and modern Sesame Street times: E.B.White, for all his affection for country life, was a transplant from the city, in a century in which the flow was inexorably headed the other direction.
In the old stories, one lesson was that you don't name your food.
You can name the milk cow and you can name the horses or oxen, whichever you have, but you don't name the chickens and, having once made the mistake of naming your 4H project, you learn to refer, thenceforth, to the calf as "the calf."
But the lesson of naming your pig "Wilbur" was not to suck it up and learn about life but to ... well, I don't know.
White never wrote a sequel, but my guess is that Fern, having never really adapted to farm life, got herself a scholarship to Bryn Mawr and wound up as an editorial assistant somewhere where meat comes in little foam trays covered with Saran Wrap.
I was editing a story this week about the new tiger exhibit at the Denver Zoo, and my 11-year-old reporter wrote that the tigers are happy because they have twice as much space as in their old quarters.
I changed it to "seem more relaxed" because, beyond whether or not he was qualified to psychoanalyze a tiger, I remembered what the director of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo told me years ago, when they had just built a new space for their Siberian tigers.
He noted that Siberian tigers in particular have an enormous range in the wild and that, while it was good to get them on grass and not concrete and to give them a pond and a log to play on, the fact is, if they had what they really wanted, none of the tourists would ever see them, and that this was true of all the animals in the zoo.
That's not a slam on zoos, which not only educate and inspire the public, but do a great deal these days to preserve endangered species.
After all, the fact that we still have bison in the wild is due in large part to a herd that had lived in the Bronx Zoo until it was set free on the plains more than a century ago.
And the Denver Zoo is an active participant in a program in Mongolia centered on a wildlife preserve there.
But the bottom line is that making animals "happy" is quite a different matter, a very complicated, anthropomorphic pursuit about which only pure vegans have standing to comment.
(By "pure vegans" I mean not those who simply do not eat animal products but those who also only wear clothing made from animals who died hundreds of millions of years ago, in the Plasticine Period.)
Specific to chickens and pork and beef and such, I think we did better when our food was raised on local farms and ranches, before it became centralized in factories, both in terms of how the animals lived before they no longer did, and in terms of how healthful and tasty they may have been when they arrived at the table.
But, again, you have to figure out when you think that line was crossed. It seems that letting cattle run wild across the Texas plains was wonderfully humane, but at some point, if we were going to have cities, we had to round them up, shove them into boxcars and transport them to Chicago to be put into feedlots and then turned into beef to feed those cities.
The operative phrase being "if we were going to have cities."
We've built up the population of our cities to the point where turning them all loose would simply fill the countryside with city folks who had been raised in cramped, inhumane little apartments where they had to be kept from pecking each other to death and who have, over generations, had all their natural instincts bred out of them.
They'd probably just wander aimlessly around in LL Bean clothes, writing essays about the philosophical wonders of country life for NPR and buying chickens to which they would give names, rendering them inedible.
Not that they'd be making very many new mistakes. Fact is, they're a tradition that goes way back.
Warming up with the whole "saddest words" thing over at Candorville.
Lemont is moving to Canada to be with his girlfriend in Vancouver, whose name, as far as we know so far, is simply "Vancouver." They met on-line and he's been up there to visit her.
I'd love to be a romantic, but, boy oh boy, I'm with C-Dog on this one.
Go spend two weeks before you make the big move.
Better yet, take a road trip together. I once took a road trip with a gorgeous, wonderful woman I thought made the sun rise.
By Day Four, we despised each other. Permanently. Until then, I had no idea how small a car could be.
By contrast, a few months later, I took another road trip with a terrific woman and, on the third day, she asked me to drop her off at an airport so she could fly home. When I got back to town, we continued to date, we broke up very reluctantly, I still wonder how things might have turned out if we'd stayed together.
Besides that we wouldn't have taken a lot of road trips, or none that last more than two days. Apparently, getting out on the third day is the charm.
Come to think of it, her subsequent life involved a lot of road trips and I'm talking to places like Nepal and Africa.
Maybe it was me.
Anyway, I'm not unsympathetic to Lemont, because, I, too, had a perfect girlfriend from Vancouver.
At least, I think she was from Vancouver. She was going to Simon Fraser, anyway.
We only knew each other for about two days, and then I left on a road trip alone and hadn't gone very far before I realized I probably should have learned more about her, like her last name, except I thought she'd still be there when I got back.
I'll admit "I thought she'd still be there" is pretty high on the list of things only a young man would say, but, had I gotten back sooner than six weeks later and had she not been living in a bus, it all might have worked out.
Well, what the hell. You can't screw things up with a lover you can't even find, so I'm ahead of Lemont on that count.
(But if your name is Glinda and you went to Simon Fraser back when it was shiny and new, drop me an email.)
At the other end of time
This morning's Retail hits on the day after my bank sent me a new debit card with a chip, which is a new, much more secure way of tying things up forever at the checkout.
That's probably not true. I suspect that there is little difference between the time it takes to swipe and enter your PIN and then wait for the thing to say "Approved" and the time it takes to stick your chip card in the reader and wait for the thing to tell you you can pull it out again, but it seems longer.
On the other hand, nothing -- not even people counting out exact change from their coin purses -- takes as long as the person who waits for a final total before even writing the name of the store on the check, then fills out the whole thing because why would you let the cash register fill it out, and then updates their balance.
Well, except for the person who doesn't even take out the checkbook until all the groceries have been checked through.
One of the consolations of growing old is that your annoyance is not ageism.
It's a matter of having been around to recognize that, indeed, "there's no fool like an old fool."
I was thinking that Norm Feuti was wise to make his check-writing guy middle-aged and not "old" but then Dave Blazek and Leigh Rubin took us into the animal kingdom with this pair.
My response to these cartoons is to laugh, but my response to the overall topic is that I don't get it.
I started graying in my latter teens. Not enough to see at a distance, but enough at the temples to have girls pull back from a slow dance and exclaim "You've got gray hair!"
Never lost a minute's sleep over it, or going bald, which happened considerably later, and I have often been puzzled by the guys whose fragile, vain response seems based on making the situation far worse.
I worked with a newscaster who was known behind his back as "Monsantohead," though he had the excuse of having to go on air.
Which would have been an even better excuse if we'd been in television and not radio.
His toup, however, was as seamless as Sean Connery's, compared to the plastic raccoon worn by one of my publishers.
Fortunately, we never had to worry about him overhearing us joke about it, because his aftershave invariably walked into the room 20 minutes before he did.
The other day, I referenced Julius Erving here and, in looking for links, found out what he looks like now.
I'd be thrilled to rock the gray like Dr. J.
An I-told-you-so update:
Yesterday, I said Steve Sack has been on fire lately and apparently I'm not the only one who noticed.
Later that day, we learned that the Overseas Press Club has given him the Thomas Nast Award, which is considered a very cool editorial cartooning honor.
Here's Michael Cavna's write-up, which includes quotes from Sack and runner-up Adam Zyglis.
Zyglis also appears here with some frequency and I might have snagged his current assessment of the Russian connection anyway.
Now here's your moment of zen
I don't know how many words Eskimos, or Inuits for that matter, have for snow. In New England, we get by with a generous handful -- powder, slush, corn snow, etc. -- plus quite a few variations, not all of them printable.
Then again, a woman told me yesterday that she and her daughter had planned to spend a day skiing, but it turned out to be six degrees F and the surface was ice and so they stayed inside and watched Netflix, which is not always an option open to people living north of the 60th parallel, hence the need for more precision.
Ditto for those who live amongst the trumperies, which is pretty much all of us.
No problems with cold weather for Steve Sack, because he's been on fire lately, and I only regret that he didn't run this cartoon a day earlier, because I would have juxtaposed it with Ann Telnaes's piece that also made creative, as opposed to predictable and tiresome, use of the Twitter logo.
I don't blame Sack, of course, because he was constrained by the timing of Comey's testimony. Comey and others had earlier indicated a lack of evidence for Trump's paranoid fantasies, but he hadn't said it in detail, under oath.
And, as Mike Thompson suggests, sometimes the timing of these revelations matters to the interested parties.
I'm not buying the idea that Trump's delusional tweets are part of some master plan. I tend to agree with Tom Toles, who says in his latest blog posting that the guy is simply unbalanced, and with Tom Tomorrow's suggestion above that we're simply chasing our own tails in trying to find logic in it all.
While we do need to figure out how we got here, in order to make sure it doesn't happen again, I think the main effort going forward is how to go forward.
The scariest "tiger by the tail" element here is that, when Lincoln was elected, the people who went batshit and turned against the country were conveniently located in one large region and, even then, it cost 625,000 lives to sort things out.
It wasn't all geography: When I was doing research for a children's story involving Confederate POWs in the north, I learned that, if they could get out, they could get home. There were plenty of sympathetic doors they could knock on, even up north.
But the fact remains that we were able to operate on the ancient model of large groups of men in uniforms lining up and shooting at each other.
That isn't how war works anymore and hasn't been since -- what? Algeria?
Bear in mind that, while Dear Leader's approval rating is rapidly declining, his core group of supporters have a deplorable inability to process facts, and that they share his paranoid world view, possess a large supply of firearms and are geographically scattered.
It won't be as easy this time as whisking Spiro away and then producing logical, legal evidence that dictates removing Tricky Dick and putting good old Jerry Ford in place to calm everything back down.
And if you think climate change is an inexorable crisis we need to plan for, you should calculate the timeline on this one, too, because Nixon was only the flood, and this is starting to feel like the fire.
The Times They Are A-Changin'
Wanda isn't the only person writing a children's book these days, as cartoonists hedge their bets by going over into the area of graphic novels.
There was a flood of bad children's books by non-writers -- chiefly Hollywood types -- a few years ago, most in sing-song verse having to do with baby animals wandering around asking adult animals for directions. A few were not absolutely horrible, which earned them great praise.
At the moment, children's literature is awash in fart and vomit jokes for the 10-and-under crowd, and equally dominated in the middle-school sector by socially significant novels about racially diverse, sexually divergent refugees with terminal diseases and learning disabilities.
I'm only being slightly sarcastic. As someone who assigns children's book reviews, I look at this stuff coming in and wonder, geez, if this is what they're publishing, what on earth are they rejecting?
(And, thanks to self-publishing, I get to find out!)
But on a serious level for cartoonists, one thing I'm seeing is that writing a solid, successful syndicated cartoon does not always translate into writing good graphic novels.
It's just not the same skill set, and, while it's a smart place to look for your next gig, you have to approach it as a new job and not an extension of what you're already good at.
Meanwhile, in More News Guaranteed to Bring You Right Down, Mike Lynch reports that -- apparently as part of Bob Mankoff's retirement -- the New Yorker will no longer host those legendary sessions where cartoonists gather to show their latest gags.
His thoughts on the old practice are worth a visit, but it's a shame. I don't know how much it will change the face of gag cartooning, but it's like realizing that you're too late to attend a Grateful Dead Concert or Mardi Gras and get the same vibe you'd have gotten if you'd been there before it was cool.
Only I guess now it's not even gonna happen in an uncool sense.
And Tom Richmond confirms the rumors: Mad Magazine is headed for the West Coast, where nobody speaks Yiddish. I'll bet Arthur the Avocado dies in the back of the U-Haul before they get to the Mississippi.
Thanks for dropping by. Glad I could provide some laffs.
Here: Take a deep breath
(Yesterday, I heard a chemo patient in her 60s say "Just gotta keep on keepin'
on," and I thought, "I remember when only people in their 20s said that."
Then realized it was about 40 years ago.)
Today, we'll spin that another direction, starting with the new Existential Comics in which Socrates is forced to undergo a Socratic examination, of which the above panel is an excerpt.
And Socrates is wrong: It's very funny, and I say that as someone who studied Socrates at some length in college but had no idea who David Lewis and Edmund Gettier were. And I still don't, because I didn't follow the explanatory links on the page and, yes, this is a cartoon that comes with footnotes.
Which sounds like a joke itself but isn't.
However, all you need to get a laff out of this one is a familiarity with the Apology, which every college freshman is exposed to, plus a sneaking suspicion that the dialogues featuring Socrates are a little too pat, which, if it didn't set in sometime after college, will certainly occur to you if you read this.
What I particularly like about it is that, while it's argumentative and ivory-towerish, the fact that it's in cartoon format makes it palatable.
The first article I had published beyond campus stuff was a faux-Socratic dialogue about contemporary issues which, as a newly minted bachelor of arts, I thought was insightful and clever. However, Straight Creek Journal, the underground paper that ran it, somehow lost the last two pages so that the article came to an abrupt halt without the clever conclusion that wrapped it all up.
I was furious, but I kept that issue of the paper and it wasn't many years after that I tried to read the article and couldn't even get through it myself. It would have been much better as a 17-panel cartoon.
Which isn't saying "good," just "much better."
I once earned a B for a paper on Aristotle's De Anima which, encapsulated in four words, boiled down to "Who gives a shit?" and, when I say that, I actually ended the paper with, in classical Athenian Greek supplied by an amused professor who happened to be rector in my hall, "Aristotle is full of bad waste."
Which you can get away with, at least to a B if not A level, if you back up your proposition.
And if your professor has a sense of humor.
I didn't fare so well with a paper in which I argued that, if "Ulysses" is a novel, then the Statue of Liberty is a building. The professor was too worshipfully blind a Joyce fan to allow for playfulness, no matter how well argued.
In any case, I still think "Who gives a shit?" is a good question to pose to metaphysicians, because the answer is "We do!" which, in turn, is the basis for much of the humor at Existential Comics.
Another place to pick up a dose of much-needed cynicism is xkcd, which currently takes on the growth of emojis from a simple way to signal intent in otherwise dry text to ... whatever the hell they have become.
See my previous commentary on how computerization of Monopoly embedded the most annoying aspects of playing with obnoxious nitwits, but, basically, "clever emoji" is an oxymoron.
Period. End of sentence. No emoji required.
But, in the wake of yesterday's testimony by intelligence officials, Ann Telnaes repurposes and redraws the birds, showcasing their increasingly futile efforts to prop the man up, thus making an actual point beyond "Golly gee, that Trump feller sure likes to tweet, don't he?"
Making an actual point, lest we forget, being the original purpose of political cartooning.
Indeed, thank god the world is in such good shape at the moment that we can take time off to show Chuck Berry duck-walking through the Pearly Gates, the justification for such being that editors eagerly pick up obituary cartoons and that cartoonists have to make a living, after all.
She replied that she didn't think so, but that she felt strongly enough about it that she really didn't care.
Which is, BTW, the sort of attitude that allowed Chuck Berry to be Chuck Berry and not simply Johnny Rivers.
And which unrepentence reminds me of archy's Lesson of the Moth, in which the moth explains
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
to which archy's response is so wistful and pathetically true to life that you really need to go read it for yourself.
(And I'm sorry Chuck is gone, but we used to get obits at the paper that said, "So-and-so, 90, died unexpectedly ..." which really made me question their expectations.)
Juxtaposition of the Movie Critics
At his blog, Michael Cavna praises "Beauty and the Beast," and notes Disney's plans to turn more animated classics into live-action films with enough enthusiasm that his article is headlined
After ‘Beauty and the Beast’s’ record-breaking debut, Disney can bank on more live-action adaptation success
Leaving aside the issue of whether re-purposed animations under Tim Burton's voluminous layers of CGI count as "live action," I was amused by Cavna's contrast with the 11-year-old who reviewed the film for us, and who strongly recommended it, but added, at the end,
By one report, this is one of 22 Disney classics remade or planned to be remade in live action. I sort of like that new approach, but this is a little annoying also. When will Disney make a new live action movie?
Here's to boatrockers:
Okay, here's what I've been needing: Brewster Rockit serves up a Monday morning comic that is impossible to overthink. Pure silliness is a very good thing and thank god I'm off to a start with no serious thoughts whatsoever.
Let's keep it that way.
Juxtaposition of the Sound Effects
See? It's not that hard to avoid serious thought. Every day does not have to be an authoritative analysis of our position relative to the depth of the Big Muddy.
Though you'll notice I arranged them so it went from 5 repetitions to 4 to 3. Or maybe you wouldn't have noticed that.
Which means that only Bottomliners was trivial. Poptropica was quadrivial, and I don't know the term for what Zoe has done in Baby Blues but I certainly agree with Wanda that it requires immediate attention.
None of this amounts to serious thought. I'm sticking to my diet.
Here's another silly one -- the Piranha Club -- which relies on a number of running gags, including the cheapskate sort of humor that sets up this opportunity for the reader to supply the next line.
And not only will Enos save a bundle, but how often do you get to study under a Cabinet Secretary?
Wait, wait ... okay ... let's just back away from the political humor.
For instance, I'm not touching today's Non Sequitur because I don't want to get into even that silly a level of satirical commentary.
Plus I can't quite get the phrasing and timing right for a wisecrack about how the demise of Ringling Brothers has to do with the damage it was doing to elephants, but I can't get over the notion that there's a good joke about the GOP in there somewhere, perhaps linked to the drunken, vicious clowns in Dumbo and ...
Not gonna do it. Skip ahead.
Here we go, and thank god the people in today's Rhymes with Orange are living in yurts and not tepees, because, if they were tepees, it would trigger some serious reflections on Oglalla culture.
I recently read a biography of Crazy Horse that examined his life from within his own societal setting, which is quite a departure from the usual, and one of the things that repeatedly came up was that the more prominent and wealthy people within an Oglalla community were not only obligated in a vague moral sense to help the poor but that it was actually required by some fairly unbreakable conventions.
What this meant was not simply that, when you got a new cover for your tepee, you donated the old one to an elderly widow or a poor family, which of course you would do anyway, but that, upon a marriage or the birth of a child or promotion to a role of prominence, you made significant donations to the poor and not just of old stuff you didn't need anymore.
We're talking ponies and large quantities of food and other useful, necessary, valuable items.
"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" was deeply embedded in their culture long before any Black Robes wandered by the camp, such that, when the village moved, those with less were assisted by their more fortunate neighbors and so therefore the question that is raised here ...
Never mind. They weren't even tepees. They were yurts.
And I'm sure Mongolian society has it all covered, too, but it was only a joke.
Let's just skip to the next cartoon.
And, no, not Bizarro, because they just found a skull in a cave in Portugal that raises questions about the ancestry of Neanderthals and there's been enough about them recently anyway that the simple story that Lucy came out of Africa and eventually became a modern human has morphed into this totally complex thing about Neanderthals and homo erectus and homo sapiens such that I wish I could wipe out the things I thought I knew about it, become a kid again and take biology all over, perhaps in about 25 years when they've got some of this sorted out.
And when it's once more legal to teach biology in public schools.
So, no. Bizarro is right out.
I'll simply point out that we capitalize Neanderthal because they're named for the Neandertal region of Germany.
If you weren't already wondering about that, now you don't have to.
Bug Martini serves one up that I don't have to overthink and, in fact, am inclined to underthink, because I've recently covered the whole issue of cultural references and the demographics at which they are aimed, so there's no need to go back to that.
The song came out when I was 20 and at about the time my freak flag was about as far up the pole as it was going to go, but I've since tried soft-pedalling it and found that being a freak has very little to do with haircuts and that trying to hide it is totally futile.
And then I read Peter Coyote, who was a much bigger freak than I ever dreamt of being, and I decided none of it really mattered and that, of all the things I shouldn't overthink, that was first on the list.
Because you needn't embrace it or reject it. The people who were not freaks would smell you out anyway, and so would the people who were freaks.
The first doesn't matter; the second is a good thing.
So group hug and I'll see you tomorrow.
Now scratch that earlier earworm: