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Lot of stuff to pass on that doesn't require a lot of elaboration.
For instance, Arlo has always tapped my inner Old Guy and today is no exception, though I don't spend much time on my tablet and have only one or two apps I use. And, yes, they can be a real pain unless you have fingers smaller than a pencil tip and don't mind having to tap a dozen times to get any response. But maybe that's just me.
What I find particularly annoying is that now that we've all updated our web pages to allow for phones and tablets and suchlike, they leap about on the page so that, if you try to read an article, the paragraph you were reading suddenly flies up the page or drops down the page.
Or maybe that's my fault, too.
For trying to use a "real computer" in an unreal world.
Don't fret, Arlo. If the improvements of Win 10 are any indication of intent, they'll stop making real computers soon anyway.
And if he can't remember, ask him the name of his first pet.
Or the city where he was born, but I don't use that one. I was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. I now live in Lebanon, New Hampshire. It just doesn't seem like a very secure secret question.
I'm sure people in Springfield will understand.
Two arcs to watch:
Both of these story arcs have been going for a couple of days, so you'll want to back them up to catch up. Marla is hiring holiday help, or trying to, while the initial panel explains what Tina's dealing with.
Are these actually things?
Which is to say that, like some other really toxic stuff, it only shows up on my news feed because of people passing it on and saying "Isn't this terrible?"
Yes, it is. But the question it raises is this: Have I over-curated my sources so that I'm not seeing a threat emerge? Or are people who disagree with this crap providing it with more exposure than the people who like it?
I'm kind of a non-combatant, since I didn't know who the hell Pepe the Frog was before he was co-opted, but Michael Cavna has a good rundown on the whole thing.
I'm trying to figure out if this is a phony scandal or I'm just old and out of touch.
Either one works.
Meanwhile, Tank McNamara takes on the new rules about unsportsmanlike conduct in the NFL, which include both taunting and celebratory gestures that suggest violence.
A throat-slash gesture has long drawn a flag, but now you can't pretend to shoot an arrow, either, which is pretty funny in a league that defends your right to call your team "The Redskins."
Anyway, the question it raises for me is not about that but about cheerleaders, because given the number of replays and analytical views available, the TV networks no longer bother showing the cheerleaders as filler between plays and, if you are there in person, you can hardly even see them way down there on the sidelines.
In college, the cheerleaders are placed in front of the student section, which makes sense. But in an NFL stadium, there's no particular place for them to cavort nor any reason for them to do so.
And, contrary to the concerns of the Dad in today's strip, they aren't anywhere near as sexy-for-the-times as the Dallas cheerleaders were when he was a lad, even if you could see them.
Anyway, with the price of tickets and parking and concessions, if I go to an NFL game, I don't need nearly-invisible, certainly-inaudible distant cheerleaders to tell me to cheer. I'm gonna yell and anybody I brought with me had damn well better yell, too.
So, my Old Fart Question: Are cheerleaders really a thing anymore? Do they have any function?
As near as I can tell, they're mostly for selling calendars to sports fans who don't have girls of their own to look at.
In the words of America's greatest analyst: "Sad."
I don't know where Rex Morgan takes place, but it must be about halfway down the nation, North to South. Further south, this wouldn't be an issue.
But where I grew up, snow on Halloween was such a likely occurance that we assumed a costume had to be big enough to fit over a snow suit.
However, Fowl Language provides me with my Old Fart credentials for the season because, when I was a kid, they didn't have "fun sized" candy bars.
I don't even have fun-sized candy bars to pass out this year. Now they're called "minis" and they're smaller than those little Hershey Miniatures that we used to get, which I liked.
Anyway, I bought a bag of 205 mini candy bars and I'll likely end up eating a bunch of them, since my apartment is at the back of the driveway and people assume it's just the landlord's back door.
This is the one day of the year that works to my disadvantage. I don't have four visits a year from solicitors, and even the UPS guy tends to deliver my packages to the landlord's doorstep, not mine.
But I like trick-or-treaters and, for instance, last year, one trick-or-treater stopped at the landlord's front door and then walked right on past mine, despite the fact that I was actually visible on the step with my bowl of candy.
This would not have been so bad had it not been caught by NBC Nightly News, thus providing a rich vein of humor for my adult children who pronounced me "Berned."
Benjamin Schwartz, from the New Yorker. Clearly a generational thing, because I disliked that movie, to which I brought my delighted children.
But I love the cartoon.
We had a little discussion of national symbols the other day, the overuse of Justice and the Statue of Liberty, plus Nast's use of Columbia. Now comes Kal Kallaugher with an unnamed American woman whom I really like and readily accept despite having no idea who she is.
Maybe Kal doesn't either. You don't have to dredge up a particular person or statue or icon if you have a clear vision of your intent, nor will any established symbol save you if your vision is vague.
I don't know who she is, but it's pretty clear why she's here.
Mind you, women didn't get access to that ballot box until well into the national experiment, but it's wrong to think they weren't honored as national symbols, and particularly wrong to assume they weren't paying attention to the process.
The series on women's suffrage that Chris Baldwin and I did a few years ago is currently running in the kids' section I edit at the Denver Post and the chapter that runs today is about the flood of women who joined with the suffrage movement in the wake of the Civil War.
Specifically, that would include the Women's Christian Temperance Union and Frances Willard, which brought in a well-organized army of women distributed throughout the country, but, as noted in that chapter, the suffragists were also joined by social reformers like Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton and Jane Addams, by labor leaders like Kate Mullaney and Leonora Barry and by random women like Josephine Shaw Lowell and Nellie Bly who just weren't going to take it any more.
I don't know how you symbolize all those voices, or if you need to differentiate their feminist voices from the general call to protect and honor the democratic system, but I like what Kal has drawn.
Everybody has a share
The justification was that people's media habits are changing, which used to mean that a company was either going to change or decline. We've seen burger joints add salads, for instance, as have pizza places, though, granted, perhaps a bit begrudgingly.
But apparently today it means we need to create a corporate garantua so that nobody at the top of the heap loses any money and I'm sure there will be bonuses all around for the brave heroes who cobble this thing together.
I remember the break-up of Ma Bell, and I remember it as a glorious day because it means I have to explain to my grandchildren how, back in the Olden Days, you had to pay a lot to talk to someone who lived far away, and, the longer you spoke, the more it cost you.
But now wherever they move to, I'll be able to tell them stories of the Olden Days, at my own pace, pretty much for free.
It would be sweet to see that kind of change come to Internet access and maybe even cable TV, wouldn't it?
I'm not holding my breath for that, but I don't think this corporate over-reach has a lot of chance of going through.
When you have a big-money, fat-cat deal so transparently bad that Donald Trump opposes it, you might as well cut your losses and find an honest way to compete in the marketplace.
Though, after all, everyone benefits from these deals, right? Right!
Kicking the little dog
While we're on the business beat, spare a moment for poor little Snoopy, recently downsized by Met Life, as Clay Jones noted.
Okay, that's long enough. I'm inclined to agree with Sean Kleefeld, who wrote:
It's actually more surprising to me that they've kept Snoopy around as long as they have than that they're changing. Even among traditionally slow-moving corporations like insurance companies, keeping a consistent brand identity for over three decades is pretty incredible. And if their intent is to project a more future-oriented company, it makes sense to leave Snoopy behind. After all, Charles Schulz has been gone for 16 years now and, while there are technically still new comics and movies being produced, I think most people still associate the characters with either a comic strip that has been in reruns for a decade and a half and/or the holiday TV specials from the 1960s. Hardly an image of progressiveness.
I've been thinking that the Geico gekko is wearing a little thin, and impressed with how Progressive is keeping Flo fresh by simply using the commedienne in different guises, but the two of them combined don't add up to Snoopy's 31 years at Met Life where he's done little more than walk through the frame.
From the cartooning side of things, Snoopy's somewhat passive presence has been a good thing: Jeanne Schulz does good things with the money the Peanuts franchise generates, and she has been, so far, a much better guardian of the legacy than the people over at Dr. Seuss Central, who will sue anyone who dares purloin an image without paying, but, when said payment is received, will green-light all sorts of ghastly misinterpretations of the great man's work.
Anyway, like Kleefeld, I'm more surprised Snoopy had the gig this long than I am shocked that he was finally told to hit the bricks.
Hope he put some of that long green into his 401k.
In honor of the day, almost
Wrong play: The quote is from Julius Caesar, and so I assume the timing is happenstance.
But it is a reminder, anyway, so here's your moment of semi-classical zen:
(Though when they got back to England, the Chancellor of the Exchequer
announced that there had been an error and all veterans of Agincourt
would be required to pay back their recruitment bonuses.)
At Cartoon Movement, Tjeerd Royaards notes the demolition of the refugee center/encampment at Calais, which is starting as I write this and is expected to continue through the next three days.
I haven't been following the situation closely, but news accounts indicate that it is not quite as blunt and sweeping as his cartoon but neither is it as organized and efficient as the organizers would like. The saving grace, such as it is, is that they know this, which doesn't mean they'll stop the process but it does seem to be moderating things.
As with our own Central American refugee crisis a few years ago, it's not as simple as, in the cartoon, bulldozing them off the cliff or, as in the foolish suggestions of uninformed blowhards, busing them to the other side of the closest border, especially when they are 11 years old and alone.
Here's an analysis from the BBC which is a year old but likely not that far out of date in its main points, the most striking of which -- for an American audience -- is that those fleeing Syria are only #3 on the chart.
With all the coverage of various animals on skateboards and the doings of Kardashians, we seem somehow to have missed finding out about some troubled regions of the world, but it's not news to those who live either in those regions or in the regions that can be reached from there by boat, train, truck or other conveyence.
It's important, as caring people in an interconnected world, to try to understand what has been called the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, and in those above links, you'll find topics like unaccompanied minors and people attempting to rejoin their families, as well as some indicators that these are not uneducated Stone Age dirt farmers, or, at least, the majority are not.
It's also important for Americans to recognize what it means to have "refugees pouring over our borders," because we are facing nothing even remotely resembling what Europe is dealing with.
The process for getting from Syria or any of those troubled overseas nations to the United States is so convoluted, complex and drawn out that the notion of subjecting those refugees to an intensified system of "extreme vetting" is both laughable and disgusting, since promoting it shows both an appalling lack of knowledge about how things are already done and reveals a hidden agenda so unhidden that it might as well come with lasers, sirens and a disco ball.
Juxtaposition of the Day
There appears to be a market for the stuff, and I'd wish it were only for nostalgia, but, then, I've seen the alco-pop swill in the liquor stores, and it's no longer confined to the low-voltage "hard lemonade" category.
And here I thought Southern Comfort was a flavor.
You know, like Bali Hai, but not as elite.
Fear and loathing in study hall
Mr. Fitz has been exploring the role of fear in our school system, and it's worth going back to the start of the arc, because, as always, this working teacher has a lot to say, even if nobody is listening.
It's critical to the quality of his argument that he include teachers, and not just students, among those motivated and dominated by fear. The vertical power system in schools is uniform in that intimidation and domination are the chief tools, not only to force compliance from students but from faculty as well.
There are several places to take this idea and, on the faculty level, it was a major reason I stopped pursuing a mid-career change to teaching: As I was taking masters' coursework, I heard discouragement from too many first and second year teachers pursuing their permanent certification, things like "I would never be allowed to do that," and horror tales about the bullying and domination of administrators, curriculum committees or just of senior faculty.
You read handwringing articles about how many young teachers leave the profession within the first three years, but you need to drill down to find the analyses that include words like "hazing," or that talk about saddling the newcomers with impossible students the established faculty don't want to have to deal with.
That's not entirely the result of laziness or lack of motivation: I spoke with a retired department head who said he had no problem taking on those tough underachieving classes and even considered it an obligation at his level, except that, since that level of professional attitude would not show up on his evaluations and their test results would, it was career suicide.
You have to think of your obligation to your family, he said, and cited it as a reason he had retired sooner than he had planned to.
I also heard from a group of very disheartened teachers who had been part of a "shared decisionmaking team" in recruiting a new principal. They had interviewed three finalists and their recommendation was that either of two applicants would be good choices, but that the third was a very bad, unacceptable candidate and ... well, you can guess how that one came out.
This is why I cite a vertical structure: Everybody in the system is being bullied by the people on the next rung up.
Poke around a bit at the Mr. Fitz site: He knows his stuff.
Meanwhile, dealing only with the teacher/student component, here's something I wrote in 2000 that, for all the blather over educational reform, has not, sad to report, gone out of style:
In today's Reality Check, Dave Whamond reminds us of why people go to the self-scan.
I'm not heartless, but I like to come into a store, get what I want, and get out again. And a little conversation with the checker is pleasant, if it's a conversation and not a recitation of corporately required solicitations.
She's got to ask me about loyalty cards and try to solicit me to sign up and I appreciate that, so I don't mind helping her keep her job, though I'm not going to sign up. But I honestly avoid some stores because checking out there is like going through an interview.
It seems you can't get "dry goods" without going through the hassle, and those stores usually don't have self-scans. Grocery stores are a little more hit-and-miss, with seasonal solicitations for various charities, but not the laundry list of questions you get at the department and clothing stores.
One of the grocery stores has a little pretend-grocery box you can pick up near the checkouts and "buy" that is a donation to the local food shelf, the others will sometimes have a slip which you can tear off and add to your order like a coupon, and the Co-op has an extraordinarily successful "round up" option that appears on the swipe screen, by which you round up your total to the next dollar and the change is donated to the food bank, homeless shelter and local charities.
And, of course, there's the traditional bin near the exit of a lot of stores where you can drop in a jar of peanut butter or whatever you might have purchased to donate.
Those are all choices you can make without being put on the spot.
I don't mind donating.
I hate being put on the spot.
Juxtaposition of the Day
I liked both of these, though, of course, Donald doesn't know Putin, never met Putin, never even mentioned Putin and doesn't have anything to do with Putin.
They're both touching on a very dangerous situation, except that it's becoming less and less threatening as Trump's campaign craters. Apparently, Putin looked into his eyes, saw a man he could work with and didn't realize the guy would screw it all up.
Anyway, Nick's made me laugh and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to look at poor Melania again without thinking of Putin in drag.
The joke, of course, being that Putin is not the Official Drag Queen of the Trump Campaign.
(which, in turn, wouldn't be half as funny offered as humor by a less repressive political party)
And this isn't at all funny
Nate Beeler comments on the problem of heroin addiction. I salute him for advancing the topic, which I hope is on minds around the country, but I would suggest less bleak imaging next time it comes up.
The opiod crisis is being treated as serious business here in New Hampshire, and is the topic of Kelly Ayotte's most effective commercial:
Being either a cautious voter or a cynical SOB and, in fact, both, I looked to see if she were one of 98 Senators to sponsor the legislation but she really was a lead on this one.
As I've said before, if the GOP had mounted a serious candidate for President, she'd have been one helluva VP candidate. I'm still voting against her because of several other issues, but the positive here is the portrayal of opiod addiction as something that happens to "normal people" and not just in back alleys, and the rejection of an "it can't happen here" attitude, even in rural whitebread New England.
I had some opiods during my summer of surgery, and it reminded me of a time back in 1968 when somebody got hold of some opium tar, which we smoked, and my response, even in the middle of it, was "I must never, ever touch this again," because OMG it was nice.
And I didn't, until it was given to me in the hospital and I had the same response as nearly a half-century ago. I thought it was awfully pleasant stuff. I haven't had the urge to do recreational drugs in several decades, but I discovered I still like opium way too much.
Doctors are becoming more aware of the issue, and they sent me home with some pills so weak I wondered if they were placebos, and, while they didn't help any more than the Tylenol, I'm kind of glad they weren't more impactful.
So I have great sympathy for people who don't -- can't -- walk away from it, whether they encountered it medically or recreationally. Cartoonists should consider keeping the topic in the drawer where they go when no immediate issue dictates their next piece.
But normalize the crisis, because it's sadly normal.
Which reminds me
Netflix doesn't promote it much, but you can stream "The Panic in Needle Park" there and not only is it a good flick, but it's a chance to see Al Pacino back when he worked for a living, before he slipped into the frozen Al Pacino personna he now drags out for all his films.
The movie was released in 1971 but is still depressingly relevant.
Pantalone: What are we to make of this fellow? Is he knave or fool?
Doctore: I really don't know. Probably a little of both.
Brighella: I should say he was just a zany (lunatic). He comes from Bergamo; I can't think he is a knave.
Smeraldina: He's not such a fool, neither.
It is a crucial question now in understanding Donald J. Trump: Does he actually believe the obvious, nonsensical lies that come out of his mouth, or is he simply counting on us to?
Mike Smith doesn't answer that question, but he raises it well, suggesting that the man who so actively promoted the birther fraud is being followed by a significant corps of nincompoops who believe such ridiculous twaddle, people whom we would call "gullible" if "gullible" were an actual word in the dictionary.
Spin has, of course, always been part of politics, and not just in democracies: Nearly every government remains in power by re-packaging facts in palatable forms or, as necessary, by outright falsehoods.
And as Goldoni created laughter around such manipulative duplicity, so did the Russian people:
The Soviet leadership suddenly realizes that, for the first time, they have a general secretary who is significantly younger than the American president, and so Gorbachev challenges Reagan to a foot race. But to their surprise, the old American is remarkably fit and breaks the tape well ahead of his Russian counterpart.
The next day, Isvestia reports the results: "Gorbachev wins second in race; American president finishes next to last."
It's not so funny, however, when the subject is the heroic resistance and rescue of Jessica Lynch, or the weapons of mass destruction that caused her to be in Iraq in the first place, distortions and lies that cost lives and have permanently altered the course of international politics.
And now we have an election in which a major party is basing its hopes, as John Cole illustrates, on rumors and smears that have more impact when you declare them to exist than when their actual revelations emerge.
(There's even a meta element in play: Last night I saw a totally, utterly insane, birther-level, Elvis-lives proposal that was supposedly part of a Wikileaks document and it occurred to me that anything can now be sourced to Wikileaks because how would we know?)
This is nothing new and, again, the Truffaldino question is in play: The paranoid lunacy of the Vince Foster "murder" was an obvious and deliberate fraud, while Whitewater was more a matter of packaging the facts of a relatively typical commercial development project in a way that people outside the industry would misinterpret.
In both cases, though, it's hard to determine who was passing the faux scandals along out of sincere, misguided gullibility and who was promoting them through deliberate dishonesty.
Pat Bagley offers this analysis of his local congressman's efforts to win re-election, and watching Chaffetz harrangue and harrass Hillary Clinton in a series of partisan, taxpayer-funded Congressional witch hunts has made it hard to believe his pursuit of non-existent crimes was an innocent misunderstanding of the facts.
Bagley suggests that the man is more knave than fool, given the difficulty in believing that someone actually so factually challenged would be able to find his way to his congressional office each morning.
And Clay Bennett is similarly skeptical about the Republican fight against voter fraud, an effort that has succeeded mostly in creating "evidence" on a par with Isvestia's reporting of the race results in that old Russian joke.
Again, the analysis provided by Goldoni's characters applies: We're left wondering if these people are knaves, fools or lunatics, while the future of the nation hangs in the balance.
Part of the fun of "Servants" is in watching how readily fooled the pompous Pantalone and Doctore are by Truffaldino, and laughing at their consternation, such that it doesn't really matter if he is doing it on purpose or they are simply trapped within an absurd situation.
In our case, the answer is that it really doesn't matter what Truffaldonald says to fool us versus what he actually believes, because the results are exactly the same and our goal needs to be not so much to figure him out as to find a way to avoid becoming trapped ourselves.
Trump's best gag at the Al Smith dinner the other night was a wife-deprecating joke about the speech his wife stole and delivered at the Republican National Convention.
A gag that he stole from this July 19 R.J. Matson cartoon.
So, is Truffaldonald a knave who blatantly, deliberately plagiarises other people's work, or simply an incompetent fool who, even after being burned, continues to employ speechwriters who don't understand the concept?
Let's put him in the White House and find out!
Scenes from a 2017 Cabinet Meeting:
Gonna start and stop the political chitchat with this Jack Ohman piece, not so much because I like the overall concept and use of "suspense" -- which I do -- but because I particularly like the fact that he didn't drag out the poor Statue of Liberty, who has been getting a real workout lately, or Justice, who is Liberty's understudy and equally overused.
I said so on his Facebook page and he responded that maybe it's Columbia. I miss Columbia, the warrior goddess who represented this country before Lady Liberty was assembled in NY Harbor.
I also miss editorial cartoonists who come up with inventive symbols and I certainly miss ones who know the history of their medium. I don't object to cartoonists who come up with interesting arguments with which I disagree, but I hate ones who don't do their homework and end up illustrating debunked partisan mythology.
Ohman just collected his Pulitzer the other night and while I have a low opinion of journalism awards in general, I'll applaud that one.
Okay, one more political-ish piece from Wiley Miller. This isn't Pulitzer-level stuff but it made me laff and I give props for that, too.
In fact, as I was putting it on the page, it made me laff again.
Meanwhile, in the non-political world, Pajama Diaries reminds me of why it's a good thing I have a dog. I wouldn't want to go back to working in an office, but working at home does tend to isolate and the fact that I was only here about six months before the newspaper I came to edit folded means I don't have a lot of three-dimensional friends, except from the park where we walk our dogs.
The dog is my coffeebreak, at least in good weather, because that moment when you get up and go get some coffee to clear your head is when I get up and grab his leash for the same reason. The coffee isn't the thing, nor is the walk around the block: It's the change, the break in the action.
But the coffee break provides human interaction, which those walks don't. Only the longer rambles at the park fill that void.
Juxtaposition of the Day
Here's a pair that challenge the Grumpy Old Fart stereotype that comes up way too often on the comics page.
I don't think objecting to loud, intrusive bass speakers is a generational thing, though perhaps predicting a generation of deaf morons is. But there are a lot of people in the "driving around with your music on" generation who don't trick out their cars this way and so it's not old/young.
And it's not ice tea. It's apple cider. Read the sign.
The album matter is something else, and even relevant to this blog, since some mighty fine artists have done album covers and, even when we went from vinyl to CDs, we knew something was being lost. I guess that's generational in the sense that, if you were born too late, you missed out on a communal experience, but there you have it.
And I'll make up for any generational flaws by pointing you to this conversation at Comics Beat.
Sexualizing 15-year-old girls bothers me and I don't think that makes me an old fart. In fact, the middle-schoolers I work with are bothered by too much romance in their literature and I think that's just fine.
Life is short, but there's nothing wrong with letting it develop at its own pace.
Gotta run. Another of those early morning appointments. Agnes reminds me that, in addition to my dog-owning friends, I get to have lots of conversations with nurses. However, we're cutting down on that and, while I'll miss them, I think I'll get by.
First, an observation: If "Law & Order" had been on TV in 1944, instead of beginning each episode with a bit of Lennie Briscoe's mordant wit, they'd each start with someone staring once and then fainting.
The best humor on the comics page is unintentional, and Mandrake has the right mix of absurdity and straight-out storytelling. Any sillier and it wouldn't be readable, any more serious and Lee Falk would have to beef up his plots. Good bubble gum for the brain.
And I was going to ask if people really faint that immediately, rather than a bit later as the shock sets in, but Falk didn't tell us how long it takes to stare once. Maybe she stood there for 10 minutes.
Or maybe the maid was coming from a wine-tasting, though not likely the one in today's Tina's Groove, unless she's a time-traveler.
I don't know if they even had these things in 1944, and I guess people would have to pin letters to their lapels to indicate their ration status and how much they were entitled to. "The Germans wore gray; you drank a bright rosé."
I've been to a for-real, up-town wine-tasting, despite my status as an all-but-starving writer, because my then-wife worked for a travel magazine and we went to all sorts of events for people who mattered more than we did.
I still can't grasp all the talk of undercurrents of raspberry or chocolate or whatever, but I learned to sniff the cork and swirl the glass and contemplate the sheeting and the legs and all that.
And I learned that people only really do all that if they're thinking of buying a case or two of the stuff, not at the table in a restaurant, unless they are, as Tina suggests, pretentious twits.
We had a kid on scholarship at a private elementary school and one of the fundraisers was wine-tastings more along the line of the above event, though, while there were some well-heeled parents in the crowd, there weren't a lot of $125 a bottle wines on the tables, given that the school was keeping overhead down.
They placed plastic garbage cans full of water between each table, and I discovered that it was so you could dip-and-rinse your glass between samples to get a fresh impression, and, boy, I'm glad I asked.
I thought you were supposed to bend over and swirl your head in it, for the same reason.
Juxtaposition of the Day, sort of
Today's Duplex fits nicely with a Mike Lynch posting from earlier this week, one of his odd flea market finds, and this would be an actual Juxtaposition of the Day except that we've started having hard frosts in New England and so Mike is less active in his garden and more active on his blog, so he has newer entries.
It raises the issue of "Does anyone fix TVs today?" because I remember back in 1957 when that booklet on fixing your own TV came out, when of course we fixed the TV if it stopped working, though given how far out in the country we were, it was sometimes a little hard to tell when something was wrong with the set versus vagaries of reception.
There were times we got nothing except the station from 60 miles away, which functioned as the test to see if we needed to call Sue Trombley's dad, who had a repair shop but was just as likely to come to the house.
Like Mike, I admire the draftsmanship of Frank Irwin's illustrations for this book, though the idea of repairing your own set gives me the collywobbles, since those things, at least the old cathode-ray type, do that thing of storing up electricity so that, even unplugged, they can knock you into next Tuesday if you touch the wrong part.
In any case, I was wondering if we even bother repairing TVs anymore or just swap the whole thing out, but then it occurred to me that some people pay around two grand for a TV, so I looked up "TV repair" for our area, and, boyjayzuz, they still exist, though most of them seem to be attached to major chains.
I suspect the issue is that I rarely buy a TV that costs as much as a service call.
Juxtaposition of the Coming Apocalypse
Almost like an animation, isn't it?
I stayed up for the Third Debate and I doubt it moved the needle much. Maybe there were some people who weren't sure if he was for real and it might have confirmed things for them, but I think that's probably a number on the scale of the real -- not the Trumped-up -- figures for voter fraud.
(Of course he believes the voter fraud stories. He believes Obama was born in Kenya.)
What it might have changed is the level of importance of voting for however many people aren't sure they're going to bother. Again, I can't imagine that's a large number and ditto with people who were still planning to vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson.
If it took last night's defiant rejection of the nation (as covered in both Clay Jones's cartoon and his accompanying commentary) to get people off the fence, I've got to say they are the slowest low-information voters imaginable.
By the way, with all the fact-checking, one thing that slipped by was Clinton's claim that we've never had a losing candidate refuse to accept the vote.
While technically true, we did have that one time when they accepted the vote but then touched off a war in which 625,000 Americans died, which would be the equivalent of seven million today.
Back then, James Buchanan failed to secure the military bases and equipment in advance of the secessions, which left the traitors well-armed.
A lot of them tote guns today, but they're not nearly so prepared for an actual war.
But they've still got the flags.
I'm going to stop flogging the current arc in Sally Forth, because either you're into it or you're not, but today's helps set a point I want to make, particularly about syndicated comic strips.
Recently, in a posting about Puck, I noted that, while some comics in that weekly insert as well as some other magazines were thinly-if-at-all disguised advertisements, my young self was aware of it but not offended by it.
It occurs to me that comic strips themselves are a product: If you look back to the opening days of the 20th century, newspapers often had random strips more as filler than feature, and one development in the medium was setting specific strips to appear regularly in anchored spots.
It further occurs to me that, if you decide that a particular strip will be in a particular place each day, you are also deciding that the strip will be consistent in its appeal.
There are two ways of doing that: One is for the cartoonist to have a style and approach so strong that specific topics are secondary. I'm thinking, in modern terms, of artists like Wiley Miller, Dan Piraro and others. Not only is their art distinctive, but so is their general approach to things, so that, whatever the topic of the day, it's clearly their work.
Another is to set up expectations for the piece itself, which is to say, established characters and settings and gags, and the artistic trap there is that "established" very readily morphs into not just "predictable" but "cliched," so that you have certain strips that are on autopilot to an extent that, when one artist dies, you simply get someone else to pick up the pen and keep doing it.
There are a lot of strips and panels that fall in between those, but my point is that, at its worst, a comic may be no more than a comforting repetition, a product with no greater creativity than a TV commercial.
So when a strip like Sally Forth takes it upon itself to head off in a new direction, it's worth noting. Not, as I've said before, that this has to end in divorce, but the fact that it could, and the fact that a strip that once relied on cheerful marital cliches has refused to stay in its box, makes it stand out.
And it's important to note that, while the obvious retort to this, from the current workers on the legacy and zombie strips, would be that they're just following orders, writer Ces Marciuliano and artist Jim Keefe are both "hired hands" brought in to do an established strip.
Perhaps King Features is feeling the pinch and acknowledging that same-old-same-old isn't paying the rent as readily as it once did. But I'll bet they're not alone. More cartoonists should push against format and see where their strips could go.
Or they could just go back to designing candy bar wrappers. A paycheck is a paycheck, after all.
Meanwhile, Pros and Cons demonstrates that social commentary does not have to just be about sagging pants and constant checking of cell phones and (god help us) jokes about cell phones bursting into flames.
I'm kind of ashamed of myself for laughing at this one. I sat on a jury for the trial of a guy charged with assault with a deadly weapon and, after several days of listening to testimony, it took us all of 15 minutes to agree that he was defending himself.
Later, I talked to his public defender, who lamented the number of poor, badly educated defendants who are bludgeoned into copping a lesser plea by the threat of losing a trial to a greater one, and so wind up serving 10 years instead of life for something they didn't do in the first place.
So, yeah, a happy ending for the system. Sheesh.
Which leads to this New Yorker gag and ties us into current politics. We've got a lot of people at or near the top of the ladder who just don't get it, and not a few who almost militantly just don't get it, cocooning themselves in an ignorant, uncurious solitude that rivals anything in the most remote hollers.
To dismiss people as "Bubbas" and "trailer trash" is as ignorant and bigoted as -- at the other end of the spectrum -- tying them to Judaism or assuming they are gay or that being gay requires a certain set of attitudes and behaviors.
I grew up surrounded by blue collar people and they are not the characters seen in "Deliverance" and joyfully mocked by urban wiseguys.
It's not that there aren't some really stupid, bigoted, thoughtless morons in the group, but, then, look at the stereotypes they throw at city-dwelling liberals and tell me you can't find examples that fit.
The New Yorker humor is based on the idea that you can. And maybe the liberal response to the Blue Collar Comedy Tour would be a Woody Allen film festival.
However, it falls into that thing, like use of the N-word, where it's okay if I say it, but you'd better not.
Rudy Park is usually more a matter of social, than political, commentary, but the two cross often and I like today's strip, because I'm growing very weary of people who think it makes them seem discerning to be undecided, and who think it makes them intelligent or fair-minded to declare each candidate equally flawed.
Darrin Bell captures it. As with the above "Pros and Cons," the punchline is true but not particularly funny, and I'm kinda sorry I laft.
But I did.
Laughed at Frazz, too.
Laughed and then shuddered. Then laughed again.
And I want to read the essays, then store them for the future.
In an interesting but coincidental bit of timing, Leela Corman's "Life is an Ambush: My Two Birth Stories" came out on the Nib just as the latest edition of "The Best American Comics" is hitting the shelves.
In an even more interesting bit of timing, I got hung up at the eye doctor's for three hours this morning and have spent the rest of the day playing catch-up with my paying work, leaving me precious little time to unfold all the Wise Thoughts I was going to share.
Happily, however, when I went back to find out what I said two years ago about "Best American Comics," I discovered that I'd expressed nearly every one of those Wise Thoughts.
Which removes a lot of the time pressure, but let me freshen things a bit, because Corman's piece is an excellent example of how autobiographical art should work.
Last time around, I observed that the comics under review in the annual volume are neither comic strips nor superhero, and wondered if that style of "cartooning risks going so 'insider' that it becomes like poetry -- a once popular art form now of interest chiefly among its own navel-gazing practitioners."
Looking at the 2016 edition of the annual book, I start with the editor, Roz Chast, whose work I adore, and then I see that the highlighted contributors are all well-known within that non-strip/non-superhero corner of the trade.
So I don't think there's any question but that these people are very good at what they do, and certainly, if you want to get a sense of the state of the art, you should probably buy a copy of the book.
However, here's a third piece of timing:
The park where a large group of us take our dogs is just up the road from White River Junction, home of the Center for Cartoon Studies, and someone asked me the other day, as our dogs were frolicking, if I had much to do with CCS.
I said I didn't, that they don't teach the type of cartooning I tend to comment on and that they keep their cards close to the vest anyway: Some excellent cartoonists show up to lecture, but those lectures are closed and public presentations are extremely rare.
But as the conversation continued, I said that one issue that comes up there is that, while talent levels vary as they do in any MFA style program, the students are young and that, on the one hand, in this type of cartooning the style is to tell your story, but, on the other, most of them don't yet have a story to tell.
Which is not a knock, just an observation, and an observation well-covered in that previous blog entry, since I worked for years on a novel that didn't matter because I didn't have a story to tell.
As noted there, I had asked a critic to unload on me, because I was tired of lukewarm rejections, and he did. I would strongly suggest you go back and read the longer version, but he said
Everybody went to college ... it's not news, it's not drama, and no one wants to read pages and pages about a fellow meeting his new roommate, registering for classes, worrying about how to meet girls. That stuff is commonplace -- which is very different from being universal. It is simply crushingly, embarrassingly boring.
(Admittedly Joyce concocted Ulysses from the most banal, quotidian events in the life of Bloom and Stephen, but that commonplace material had an exotic richness for non-Irish readers, and was supported by surpassingly elegant prose, plus many ingenious tricks with point of view, plus other felicities.)
There is much more to ponder there, including that, in a novel, someone walking down the street is usually carrying on an internal monologue, while, in too many comics, it's just a series of pictures of a guy walking down a street.
If the internal monologue is interesting, I don't care that the novel doesn't include explosions. But if all a guy does is walk down the street -- novel or comic -- I want my money back.
Now, one answer to this is that there was a time when young artists and writers put in their time in grinding work that paid the rent but provided little artistic satisfaction, but they all had easels in their bedrooms and novel manuscripts in their desk drawers and that the time came when they burst upon the scene in a case of an "overnight success that took 20 years."
And I will say that I learned a lot about writing for ad agencies and in newsrooms, and I imagine artists learn a lot making advertisements and designing magazine pages and so forth.
But another answer is that some people are able to tell stories and some are not, and you know this: One person can talk about their trip to the shoe store and have everyone falling on the floor with laughter, while another could describe rappelling down a volcanic cone and people would be looking at their watches.
Part of it is technique, but a large part is perspective, by which I mean knowing what your story means and why you are telling it before you begin.
If you didn't click on Leela Corman's link at the top, do it now and read her piece.
There are many ways she could have screwed this up, but the first is to have written it too soon. She had both halves of her story in hand, but there is a much larger element of waiting not necessarily for that second event, which may never happen, but until you know what it means, however that clarity comes.
Another obvious trap would be to use that second event to cancel the first, or to make it okay, or to pretend it took away the pain, and that would be false on nearly every level, personal and artistic.
And God bless her for not telling us what it all meant, except as she did.
Brilliant work, done right.
Autobiography seems easy but, as with most things that seem easy, it is extraordinarily hard to do well, and it starts with one question: Who gives a shit?
You either need to come up with a really good answer, or, like Harvey Pekar and James Joyce, you have to find a way to make people give a shit.
If you want to take this further than two minutes and 33 seconds,
you have to find out, and tell us, about his life,
his dreams and why he turned on the gas.