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Report to Readers: Postponing Facebook until after I've read my comics is working really well and is now official policy. Avoiding bummers turns out to be a good thing. Who knew?
Sometimes generational humor works both ways. Anybody can get a laugh at today's Pros & Cons, but some of us get a secondary snort of "Well, now, if he'd said 'James Kirk'..."
I mean, geez, this is like some woman saying her husband is Dick Sargent. Dammit, if you're going to be delusional, at least get your fantasies right.
Which reminds me that when clean-cut, handsome, clueless Dick Gautier died the other day, several people remembered his work in "When Things Were Rotten," a Mel Brooks-produced TV comedy that lasted 13 episodes.
But then someone mentioned "Quark."
Tsk. No, that was clean-cut, handsome, clueless Richard Benjamin, it was produced by Buck Henry and it only lasted eight episodes.
Apparently, they don't teach history anymore.
Deflocked salutes the final nail in the coffin, or, I suppose, the wooden stake that signals the end.
"Sesame Street" started out so rambunctiously off-the-wall that I think it was more popular among college students than among toddlers.
It premiered my junior year in college and none of us had color TVs back then, but, then again, none of us needed color TVs back then.
I saw an article the other day about young kids and tube-time, and one suggestion was that parents and toddlers watch together. It didn't say anything about binkies and bongs.
By the time I was a young father, they had ramped things down a little (and so had I), but that was the point where they should have stopped listening to Educational and Developmental Experts, because they continued to make the show less and less interesting and more and more the sort of thing that people with more than one diploma think that kids need.
And that was also about the time they began to listen to marketers, which meant that Sesame Street simply became the Powers Rangers of PBS, selling stuffed toys and T-shirts instead of action figures to their young audience.
And then they sold out to HBO, because, well, because its the Circle of Life.
Hakuna Matata Badda Bing Badda Boom
But speaking of death, and, more specifically, Death, today's Speed Bump cracked me up. As often as Death appears as a character in comics, you'd think we'd have run out of gags.
And you'd be wrong.
What I like most about Coverly's approach is that you can't quite tell which one of these guys she's messing with, or if the answer is that she's simply that vacuous. And the answer doesn't matter -- it's the question that adds to the humor.
Maybe you have to have cheated the Reaper to laff as hard as I did, and I was sure in the mood: As it happens, yesterday I was remembering the first time I went in for chemo and they had a guy playing the piano in the lobby by the cancer center to make people feel better.
As I walked in, he was playing, "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone."
As I walked out two hours later, he was playing "Are You Lonely Tonight?"
It's not that you can't make this stuff up.
It's that you don't have to.
Juxtaposition of the Day #1
Fake News has become like the weather in that everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.
Ohman implies a dig at people who think "Young" and "Hip" are synonyms, because, while their grandparents are more apt to send emails whose subject lines include "Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd:" -- which is the secret code for "here comes some bullshit" -- the only reason hipsters don't is because they don't use email.
That doesn't mean they're smarter. It just means you can't tell how many times a piece of bullshit has been uncritically passed along on most other social media.
I would suggest that charting the credibility of posts and the age of the poster would simply tell you the percentage of each age cohort you have among your contacts.
Stupid does not discriminate by age, nor is it stymied by anyone's ease of technology.
Which segues neatly into Walters, because he's simply riffing on what intelligent people already know about the topic.
A bit futile, but, then, I'm into gallows humor, so there ya go.
Juxtaposition of the Day #2
There's humor in the greatest disasters, and apparently -- to the delight of the Internet -- The Donald is having a little trouble finding a band to play at his party. Last I heard, a Springsteen tribute band had pulled out.
A tribute band.
Jeez Louise, tribute bands play at the corner tavern on wings night. You start getting shot down by tribute bands, you need to try a little mouthwash or a better deodorant or something, pal.
By the way, that's an excellent Kellyanne Conway. Sheneman catches that odd, equine imbalance in her face without being cruel.
As with Trump's silly hair and pelican chin or Obama's sticking-out ears or Bush's elfin ones, the goal is not necessarily to mock so much as it is to figure out what makes a person recognizable and then capture it.
The Republicans and their media allies do not make this easy by flooding the market with blondes and readers need to know if you've drawn Kellyanne Conway or Ann Coulter or Ivanka Trump.
Never mind: They found a band
Let's start with a nice cup of ... frustration, courtesy of Between Friends. The empty pot was also in yesterday's strip, so it may be the start of an arc, but it's certainly a memory.
Anyone who has worked in an office -- at least before we started piling up those damned Keurig cups in our landfills -- knows the frustration of the empty pot, but I'm going to stake a claim to special status.
The empty pot was infuriating enough when I worked at newspapers that weren't too cheap to offer coffee.
But moreso when I was doing a radio talkshow, because the break room was at the opposite end of the station and for most of my time there, I was my own engineer as well as the on-air talent.
I'd scan the schedule sheet and, if I saw a 60-second commercial, I'd know when I could get to the coffeepot, pour a cup, and hurry back to the studio before we started broadcasting dead air.
Or, I could get down there and find an empty pot, dump and refill the filter basket, pour in a carafe of water, hit the switch and get back to the studio.
And then I'd wait for my next 60-second break so I could go find another empty pot.
Good thing my ratings sucked or I'd have gone all prima donna and made heads roll. As it was, I was probably more valuable to the station as a busboy than I ever was as a revenue generator.
Employment law varies not only from country to country but, here, from state to state. The basics, however, are that, if you are fired for your employer's convenience, you are entitled to some kind of compensation. If you simply up and quit, you're on your own.
And so it's in their best interests to have you quit, and sometimes they are able to help that process come about through making your miserable, which is what Alex's board is contemplating. When you push too hard, that's "constructive dismissal."
I'm pretty sure a forced transfer to another country would qualify, but I doubt that a repeatedly empty coffeepot each time the on-air guy went on break would, unless you caught the program director pouring it down the sink.
But not only does the law vary, but it's kind of wiggly in each of its manifestations and you roll the dice any time you make a claim.
What's universal is that you'll have to live on your savings and credit cards between the time you walk out the door and the time when some adjudicator agrees -- or disagrees -- that you were being harassed into quitting.
The one time I had a legitimate claim, I couldn't afford that luxury, so I stayed on until I had a new job lined up, which I suspect is the most common outcome, which is why an employer might threaten people with jobs in Frankfurt.
It's worth a roll of the dice, regardless of the odds.
Italian cartoonist Cristina Bernazzani notes a wider societal risk in the workingclass being jerked around and made to feel they don't matter.
It's part of a collection at Cartoon Movement on populism and politics,which is worth clicking over to.
This bizarre ad came up on Facebook yesterday, and I'm a little insulted by his claim that my repeatedly telling people "For god's sake vote for anybody but that fascist screwball Trump" qualifies as having "played such an important role in our movement."
Perhaps it did.
But I'm more interested in the idea that a spammy ad is the same as a personal invitation. It's like being recruited by a cult.
"Hello, always nice to see you, (Jim). You know, the mainspring of this country, wound up as tight as it is, is guaranteed for the life of the watch. And who's watching? People like you (Jim) and you (Barney)."
Over at the Nib, Joel Christian Gill isn't buying it, and has an interesting theory for why so many people -- even those who don't support the PEOTUS -- are being so passive about it. This, of course, is but a snippet: Go read the rest.
Not everyone is sitting back without comment, and it's not surprising that, for instance, in the case of the ACA repeal-and-replace movement, Jack Ohman has little patience with those who speak of "replace" without speaking of what it might look like.
Two Bulls was also active in the matter of the oil pipeline; it would be interesting to see how many of the people who worried so much about what might possibly happen in that case will now get behind the threat of what surely will in this one, and to far more people.
I was more surprised to see Gary Varvel voice his skepticism, though, upon reflection, I realized that, while Varvel is reliably conservative, he's even more reliably Christian and not just in the sense of putting on the title without accepting the morals that go with it.
It's going to be interesting, as we transition, to see who goes along passively, who actively leads the cult and who stands up to question Dear Leader.
Speaking of tough transitions:
Happy Birthday, FLOTUS. We're gonna miss you, too!
We all knew this cartoon was coming, and Ed Hall is first out of the gate.
Guys who work by inspiration rather than by deadline, and who post their own cartoons rather than turning them over to some IT person, will always have an advantage in speed and responsiveness, and it's particularly important when you're drawing a good idea but one that others will surely think of.
I'm not wasting a lot of tears on Ringling Brothers, though I used to take my kids to the circus, nor do I blame animal rights activists entirely -- or even a whole lot -- for its demise.
A lot of animals enjoy having a job and I'm sure many of the animals in the circus were content with the performance part while others were not, though the "being jerked around from one city to another" may well have been a burden for all.
But what killed the circus was television.
"Going to see the elephant" was 19th century slang for getting out of your home town and seeing something of the world, and you run across the phrase regularly in the memoirs of Civil War veterans who enlisted as much for the opportunity to experience new things as for any hi-faluting ideas about abolition or preserving the union or standing up for the right to own human beings.
The expression comes from the fact that, in those days, a good juggler or trapeze artist, or an elephant or lion trainer, was a wonder not to be missed.
Those days are over and you can see those things -- closer and from a better angle -- any night on your TV.
However, Hall is right in that the new circus will indeed continue to astonish and amaze for years to come.
Four, if we're lucky. Otherwise, eight.
The Whole World Is Watching
It must be nice to be one of those little countries that can do all sorts of asinine things and nobody notices.
We sort of gave up the privilege when we abandoned isolationism and having elected a president who embodies the old maxim "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt" is not helping our international reputation.
Maybe you have to have been around a little to get a clear view of things. Arctic Circle is syndicated in this country but drawn by Alex Hallatt, who has certainly been to see the elephant, having been born in the UK and then lived here, in New Zealand and in Australia.
Though it's not entirely necessary: John Hambrock is a good ol' American fella, and he's been having grim fun with Edison Lee and a through-the-looking-glass fantasy arc that began back here, and happens to hit a circus-y theme today.
And now, the sports:
Timing is everything in comedy, and today's F Minus hits at a propitious moment, since I just met a guy who is 7'2" at the grocery store a few days ago.
I know he's 7'2" because someone had stopped him and asked him how tall he was. I've never heard anyone stop a woman with unusually large breasts and ask her for her bra size, but there are different rules for height, though open-mouth staring seems to cover either situation.
I'm particularly aware of this because I have a son who is 6'4" and who has been asked his height several times.
Though, even if he has better manners because of it, it hasn't killed his sense of wonder. He was rehabbing a smashed ankle in San Diego and found himself working out with Bill Walton, who is only seven inches taller but tall enough that it filled him with wonder.
"Now I know why people always feel they have to comment on it," he admitted. "I could have put on one of his shoes without taking mine off!"
When he was two years old, I took him to his first basketball game, which featured a college buddy who, though 6'7" himself, chuckled about his teammate, Artis Gilmore, who was not only 7'2" but had an enormous afro and, it being 1974, wore thick-soled clogs, which likely added up to at least eight feet in total.
Not that I'd ask.
Anyway, as we waited for my friend outside the lockerroom, Gilmore came out first with one of those knit hats that were worn over afros and which, spotting my son -- who was at the time a little under three feet tall -- he playfully dropped over him.
It went down below his knees.
At which point you're likely wondering what any of this has to do with today's F Minus, but, besides inquiries about their height, there's another question tall people get asked, and to which, once he was in that range, my son came up with a pretty good reply:
"Do you play basketball?"
"No. Do you play miniature golf?"
Elsewhere in Sports
Tank McNamara is gearing up for Sports Jerk of the Year, and, like a lot in sports and elsewhere, performances that would have landed you in the record books a few decades ago won't even merit a short mention on the sports page these days.
Off the Mark offers a theory that has occurred to me.
One of his best friends is a greyhound and they do run together from time to time, though she -- how shall I say it? -- dogs it a bit in order to let him stay in the hunt.
In her honor, and his ...
Here's your moment of sporting zen
(Though that bit at the end is all flute and fiddle, it gets a head-tilt from my boy.)
A little walk down TV Memory Lane with this juxtaposition.
These are pretty funny and I like them, but the culture changes so fast these days that it's hard to make references that will really hit a wide audience.
The Flying Nun, for instance, premiered in September, 1967, just as I was heading out the door to college, which meant that I only saw it when I was home on vacations.
It was, therefore, no more relevant to me than the Eighties shows in Argyle Sweater, which I only saw when I wandered through the livingroom while my kids had the TV on.
Then again, not every cartoon has to be aimed at everyone in the world. Fine tuning is permitted.
My own frame of reference starts with Howdy Doody, which we had to go down to Butchie Nagel's house to watch until my folks bought a TV, and stretches about to Laugh-In, which I watched in high school but only when I wasn't busy having a life.
I did feel strongly about Little House, because I'd read the entire series to my boys as part of our bedtime ritual, and it's actually more of a Seventies show, since it dated from 1974 and was the hot NBC program when I was selling TV time at an NBC affiliate.
So I had to love it five days a week from 9 to 5 for what it did for our ratings, and then was free to hate it on my own time for what they'd done to the storyline.
Anyway, as said, not every cartoon has to be aimed at me and my boomer buddies.
Gen X appears to be in the driver's seat of the Nostalgia Van these days.
Enjoy it: You'll be pushed aside soon enough.
Speaking of which
The imminent departure of the Obamas is caught in this Gustavo Viselner piece, which, to pin down another TV memory, reminds me of the end of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and I expect a lot of people to be as equally nostalgic over his eight years as they are over her seven.
I hope they have cable in the re-education camps.
Bob Gorrell offers a classy farewell to a president with whom he didn't always see eye-to-eye, though it's not as big a departure as it could be: Gorrell is one of a handful of conservatives who surprise me on a fairly regular basis.
I not only appreciate the quiet mood, but get a kick out of how the familiar logo and slim, well-dressed gentleman at its center resemble the opening of a Bond movie.
Meanwhile, in the present tense
Clay Jones offers a cynical look at the election and, as tired as I am of woulda-coulda-shoulda analysis, I think it's important to keep the dubious role of the intelligence community on the front burner.
The Senate Watergate Hearings are yet another moment of TV for which I am nostalgic, but I will admit to having doubted at the time that they would come to anything.
Still, you never know when some Alexander Butterfield will step up and turn things real.
Forcing Nixon to resign was an unexpected result of those hearings, but simply finding out that his crew had sabotaged Ed Muskie's campaign was a valuable insight, even if it didn't change the outcome of the election.
Or much that has followed. It seems that what reforms were imposed have mostly been abandoned since.
Bring on the hearings. I'd like to at least know we weren't paranoid.
Signe Wilkinson made me both laff and nod in agreement with her post-election-analysis-analysis.
Maybe the fact that her home base, Philadelphia, is resolutely blue collar gives her the insight that more metro-types don't get, but she certainly gets it.
Clinton was right that half of Trump's supporters were unteachable and unreachable, but when Garrison Keiller, in a highly-shared essay, refers to Trump as "a severely learning-disabled man," that is simply how chardonnay-drinkers yell "Retard!" while holding a pinkie in the air.
That kind of supercilious snobbery explains why the other half of the basket was neither teached nor reached. Or, perhaps, why they were never taught, hence what they wrought.
Which reminds me of a passage from one of my unpublished novels in which one character dismissed another's claim of sensitivity by remarking that the only Spanish she knew was "Please dust the piano."
If the zapato fits, amigo.
Cartooning with a sense of place
Jason Togyer chimed in from the other end of the Keystone State with this caricature of a client that he did as part of an assignment, saying it was fun to have his cartooning occasionally be part of his day job.
When I was editing the Franklin Journal, a tiny twice-weekly in western Maine, I sometimes called on Jason to provide cartoons on local topics, and more than once, I would later see them around town.
Local cartoons matter, and an example came when Maine's governor, John Balducci, ordered -- not "requested," but shoved through legislation requiring -- that rural school districts be consolidated in the interest of economy.
We already had kids spending an hour or more on the bus each way, and Jason did one cartoon showing a little kid in pajamas with a teddy bear and a pillow getting on the school bus in the middle of the night.
But this one, in which the five superintendants of our regional school districts are confronted by Farmer Balducci and his shotgun, turned up colorized and framed on the desk of the fellow fourth from the left, who told me that our state senator had presented each of the five with a similar souvenir.
I later learned that he had also handed a copy to the governor who, as it turned out, was not amused by the jest.
But, hey, five out of six is an excellent average!
Yes, I agree with Soup to Nutz and am continuing my experiment of putting the blog together before I look at Facebook.
So far, so good.
Though Jeff Stahler got me a little fired up, because the topic of phony "therapy dogs" came up at the park the other day.
I'm old enough to remember when people made jokes in an online forum -- a listserv, which makes me truly ancient -- about putting on sunglasses so they could bring their dog on an airplane and how angry and offended blind people were, since they had enough trouble getting their for-real Seeing Eye dogs admitted places. And they were right.
But then a kabillion websites sprung up offering bogus therapy-dog certificates and vests.
This is the opposite of the gluten-free nonsense, which may be anti-science foolishness but does benefit the small percentage of people who really do have celiac disease.
These placebo freaks and deliberate liars are indulging in nonsense that harms the people who are not faking it.
The law says that if someone wants to bring a dog into a place of business or onto a plane on the claim that it's a therapy animal, you're not allowed to ask them about their disability but you can ask them what their dog is trained to do. And simply "being there" is not a trained skill.
But most businesses are terrified of lawsuits and so instruct their employees to let anyone through on any claim, no matter how obviously farcical.
Though I suppose the only real point I've made is that I'm very old.
Idiots with fake therapy animals are, as Stahler suggests, part of the normal landscape today.
And I am old, and so I got a bigger laff out of today's Free Range than a younger person might have, because I immediately thought of both Robin Hood and Prisoner of Zenda, the latter being the bad 1952 remake with James Mason and Stewart Granger, not the real version of the movie, shot in 1937, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Ronald Colman.
The "fencing on the circular staircase with shadows" scene featured in all those old films highlights (heh) one of my peeves about modern swashbucklers, which is that I understand castles were probably pretty dark, what with small windows and rush torches and tallow candles and all, but can we stipulate that?
I'd like to see what the hell is going on, and, if you're going to update the language, and -- in these inclusive times -- propose the ridiculous idea that a 95-pound woman could joust with a 240-pound man and stay in the saddle out of sheer bravery and strength of character, I think you can tinker with the lighting as well.
Not that the older movies get a free pass.
In the bad remake of Prisoner, I'm blaming James Mason for the clumsy speeding-up of the fencing scenes, given that Stewart Granger made Scaramouche in the same year, which not only included a legendary duel with Mel Ferrer that has disappeared from YouTube, but offered this fencing lesson, which has not.
And which did not require not-so-special-effects to make it work, though I am curious about what the hell building they were in where you could take underground fencing lessons, accidently run into the nobility and then the nobility's girlfriend and, finally, disappear into the wainscotting.
Still, the lighting and the swordplay were excellent.
And even that fun, wonderful Scaramouche was a remake of the 1924 film with one of Hollywood's best-ever swashbucklers, Ramon Navarro in the title role.
But James Mason buckling swashes?
Self-Juxtaposition and furthermore ...
Darrin Bell is a bit of a grammar usage nazi and I don't always agree with how he parses things in that department, but at least he thinks about words and their power.
Apparently, he stewed over Trump's bought-and-paid-for definition adjudicator, because he put out that first cartoon yesterday and then followed with the more narrowly cast version today.
He's certainly right about the difference between "profits" and "money," as I learned not just by covering business but also by playing in bars where the owner, with his diamond pinkie ring, his late-model Cadillac and his cottage at the beach, would explain how he actually lost money pouring beer, much less paying the band.
And don't hand me this "I'll say anything you pay me to" crap:
No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument. Instead, it would have been thought of as a value-for-value exchange; not a gift, not a title, and not an emolument.
Beyond "profit or gain," look at Definition 2, "Advantage," not simply for its meaning but for its date of first use: 1756.
The final draft of the Constitution came out in 1787 (and was ratified in '89), which means that "emolument" had meant not simply pay or profit but also "advantage" for just over 30 years, plenty of time for the authors to be familiar with that usage and not long enough in the past to have been forgotten by them.
There's your Original Intent, shyster!
To be fair, his business dealings weren't the only thing Trump discussed at his pep rally, as Mike Peters noted. Raw, raw, raw -- that's the spirit we've got here, and a prom date who goes to Commie Martyrs High is still a date, after all.
In any case, Tom Toles suggests, when it comes to filling out Trump's prom court, even his former rivals want to be his friends now, whatever it takes.
And, after all, what's a little selling-out among friends, anyway?
Now here's your moment of financial trumpery
I've got a collection of funny, enjoyable comics to share with you, and then I'm going to bring you right down.
Non Sequitur pushes one of my buttons, which is people moving into formerly-remote areas and then complaining about the wildlife, though I'm thinking more of mountain lions than bears.
Most city people who move up into the hills understand and perhaps even welcome bears in their bird feeders, but, for some odd reason, hate going out for their morning jog and being mistaken for deer by other hungry residents.
Meanwhile, there are virtually no rabbits here in the Connecticut River Valley anymore, because we've moved in on their riverine habitat and turned it civilized.
And the ones that adapt -- groundhogs and raccoons and skunks and coyotes -- are indeed treated like outsiders who don't belong.
Related Juxtaposition of the Day
As much as I'm tired of "kid staring at his hands" gags, Harry Bliss makes this one work, in part with his artwork and in part with fitting into the theme of city folks in the wild. And certainly, though unintentionally, with the way it intersects with today's Funday Morning.
I dated a woman who had worked a summer at Yellowstone, and, y'know those stories you hear of the asinine questions tourists ask? Like what time they let the bears out, or when they turn on the geysers?
She'd been asked most of them. And we didn't even have smartphones back in them thar days.
We did have campers with TVs, though.
And now we come to today's Mr. Boffo and a breaking of the Prime Directive, but, dammit, city people got to stop being so sure of things that ain't so.
They get their water from a spring.
But I'm not trapped in the 19th or even 20th century, and today's Speedbump made me think: As much as parishes depend on member pledges -- which could be and probably are done electronically these days -- they also count on spur-of-the-moment donations.
If I went to church, I'd have to first stop at the ATM to get some cash and then (sorry, Padre) stop and buy something, because you're not getting a twenty.
And if I belonged to a parish, I'd want some kind of lapel pin to indicate that I had already pledged and wasn't just a cheapskate getting his salvation for free.
Like putting a sprig of parsley on a Big Mac
I share Sally's disdain.
Netflix, no doubt, is making a profit by producing these things, but most of them feel like regular old cheesy TV shows, only with nudity and f-bombs.
I'm not against nudity and my speech is all too generously sprinkled with f-bombs, but I don't consider it art, nor does it elevate a script that could have been produced by an algorithm tied to Neilsen ratings.
Juxtaposition of What's Been Fouling the System
This Juxtaposition is about why I've had so much trouble lately featuring funny strips.
I've been starting each day by checking my email, then checking Facebook, then going through my list of comic sites.
Well, Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick, no wonder nothing has struck me as funny. Between the trolls and the whiners, Facebook has become a major, major downer.
That's not to say there's virtue in hiding under a rock. We're a nation in crisis and if you're not trying to fix it, you're a collaborator.
Still, the unrelenting negativity -- I believe the British term is "shower of shit" -- is no way to start your morning.
So today I checked my email and then dove straight into the comics and it's amazing how many of them made me at least smile if not actually laff. I had to pare them down to keep this under control.
Some thoughts about Facebook:
First, to quote my own words from 12/31, which set off this line of thought:
"Don't read the comments" has long been a rule for those bright enough to know what a "conversation" sounds like in the real world, and socially adept enough to have been included in a few.
However, while that's wise when you are reading an article in the Washington Post or Atlantic, the rule fails in a place like Facebook, where the comments are not just appended to the content but are the content
Second, several of my cartoonist Facebook friends allow trolls to trash their work on their own Facebook pages, which means that a good, or at least interesting, cartoon becomes a mire in which pigs wallow. I have graphically expressed my opinion and here it is for you.
Finally, I'm not convinced that Facebook has much value in driving traffic.
The number of "likes" I get there is not reflected in the number of hits I get here -- not that I expect a one-to-one equivalence, but days I get no likes and days I get lots of likes are pretty much the same on my counter, which makes me suspect that people are reflexively "liking" the snippet of cartoon I offer as a teaser without clicking through.
And, jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick (Reprise), if I show you one cartoon -- even if I showed the whole thing, which I don't -- and list four or five cartoonists in the description of the day's posting, I would think you'd realize there was more to see somewhere, perhaps even in that live link I've provided.
In short (yeah, too late for that), Facebook is beginning to be a daily downer.
Which I can verify because I started today's post with this at the top and, by the time I finished it, I didn't feel like talking about funny comic strips, so I moved it to the bottom and then worked to forget it so I could present the good stuff.
Here's your depressing but insight-filled moment of zen:
-- The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. I'm not sure who is the bigger a****** in this
exchange but I'd guess one of them is less intentionally so than the other.
At least that's what we thought before the election, when we were certain that simply exposing the ridiculous contradictions and outright lies would alert voters to the potential train wreck.
That worked well, didn't it?
Well, wotthehell. I'm tired of analyzing all the things the Democrats could have done and didn't.
More relevant after yesterday's alleged press conference is that Trump is successfully playing to his base, and so what matters is not how the Democrats lost but, rather, how Trump won, because he's still doing it.
The time for "wait until they get smart" is over, and finding ways to smarten them up is going to take some serious effort because they are perfectly happy believing what they want to believe.
Jones is not the only cartoonist to note that "fake news" now means "any report that doesn't please Dear Leader," but, because he doesn't look for a gag or a way to spin it, he ends up making the clearest point: Trump cut off a responsible network in favor of a known fabricator.
And no amount of fact-checking is going to dissuade the faithful, even when it's clear that Trump is not simply spinning but is saying things that are absolutely not true.
Again, he may not be actively lying.
When he says there are 96 million people who can't get jobs, for example, it's a foolish figure that includes everyone over 16 who is not employed: Students, the retired, those with medical or mental/emotional problems that keep them from working and even those who have elected to be stay-at-home parents, which I think is one of those things that is supposed to Make America Great.
But I don't think Trump looked at that number and said, "I know this is irrelevant and foolish, but I'm going to say it anyway."
I think he said it because it appeared to back up his view of our economy and therefore he believed it.
At one of the places I worked, I used to sit through department head meetings where we'd have comparisons of circulation or revenue and I would have to ask, "Is that compared to last month or compared to same period last year?" because it makes a difference, at least to people who know what they're doing.
In that case, the company went out of business, but I think, for all his bankruptcies, that Trump does understand that sort of thing.
Which leaves my prime theory, that he simply says things that feel good coming out of his mouth, even if they make no possible sense in the real world.
Steve Sack has been on a roll lately, and he nails this: Whether or not the Russian rumors pan out, Trump has such a rich and constant track record of promoting clear, obvious, blatant lies that he's hardly in a position to demand more responsibility from anyone.
For sheer brass, his childish mewling over the Russian papers, and his subsequent bullying of the press, answers the question, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
So now what?
I've seen comments from people in other countries asking why the Republicans don't simply get rid of this lunatic and put in someone mentally stable, but it's not that simple.
Granted, the Republicans did bring impeachment charges against a president who was not frank about his dalliance with a consenting adult, which is very close to impeaching him for being a dumbass, since he could easily have said, "None of your damned business" instead of trying to parse the difference between actual intercourse and other sexual contact.
However, being a dumb ass is neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor, and thank goodness, given how many people we've already got in our prisons.
The 25th Amendment allows the President to be removed for being "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," but that has more to do with, for instance, Woodrow Wilson's stroke or "What if Kennedy had survived the shooting?" than for simply being a dumbass or an inveterate liar, and, if the president objects to being designated as incapable, it requires a two-thirds majority of both houses to remove him.
Which means that, unless Trump starts ordering people to commit burglaries, we're likely going to have to deal with the guy for four years.
Though I would urge the press not to attend any more "press conferences" that include a claque of laughing and applauding Trump fans.
I mean, good lord, if he has no sense of decency, somebody should.
And on a related issue
New Hampshire Public Radio reports on the budget-based firing of Granite State fixture Mike Marland, who, from a base at the Concord Monitor, had been producing regional editorial cartoons for the past 29 years.
That's a familiar, if depressing, story, but here's an interesting twist I haven't seen before: Marland has been taken on by online news provider InDepthNH.org.
And here's what intrigues me about it: The website is holding a fundraiser specifically to pay him. There are Patreon-type efforts galore by individual cartoonists, but I've never seen the sponsoring organization make the attempt.
At the moment, the results are a bit anemic, but it's only been 24 hours. This is the sort of effort that should get support not simply from people in New Hampshire who want to see the cartoons, but from other people who want to see this sort of thing succeed so they can replicate it in their own areas.
Now here's your moment of regional zen
We'll start today with Steve Sack's portrait of our next president, in part because I like the smug, self-satisfied expression, and in part because things are such a mess that I don't really have any logical order in mind.
Therefore it seems fitting that hearings for his cabinet members began on January 10, the anniversary of the date on which Julius Caesar marched his legion across the Rubicon in his campaign to defeat the Senate and proclaim an Empire with himself at its head.
And I'll bet Caesar smiled just like that as he said, "Alea iacta est," though he probably didn't, since the famous quotation relies on Suetonius, whose History of the Twelve Caesars is wonderfully amusing but based largely on gossip.
Which makes the comparison even better, because Suetonius would be happy as a pig in today's post-factual world where the truth depends on how you feel about the subject.
Fortunately, we've moved beyond the boring 1970s, when poor Ron Zeigler was forced to stand before the White House press corps and lie about the Watergate case, which he may have honestly believed, based on the scraps fed to him by his masters, was "a third rate burglary."
But even the most loyal apparatchik would have trouble choking out "that statement is no longer operative," at least in those days.
Though, with a second nod to Suetonius, he didn't actually say that.
He simply agreed with a reporter who tried to interpret his convoluted back-off with that phrase, saying, ''The president refers to the fact that there is new material; therefore, this is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.''
But bear in mind that the Nixon White House was trying -- in however a clumsy a way, in however perverted a form -- to preserve democracy. When you are setting up an empire, that challenge conveniently disappears.
You can't give him the benefit of the doubt on this, and he's telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.
Ron Zeigler didn't roll in his grave at that; he probably sighed and went contentedly to an undisturbed eternal slumber at last, secure that Conway had replaced his legacy before her boss was even sworn in.
Over at the New Yorker, Emily Flake suggests a world in which that measure were applied to our kids, and when is the last time you heard anyone who wants to make America great again suggest that approach to child-raising?
Machs nix. I'm already hearing "You must respect the man in the office" from people who spent the last eight years making watermelon jokes and perpetuating nonsensical lies about the president's birthplace, education and personal integrity.
And looking into their hearts has not been a pleasant experience.
And so, while it's good that the New York Times has decided to call lies by the now-obsolete term "lies," the Times is already dismissed by the Trump loyalists as biased, a fate no gutless editor wants, making Kevin Siers' prophecy even more likely.
We're in for four years of "on the one hand, but on the other" journalism in which the president will be allowed to say whatever he wants, because, whether or not the Watchdog Press is looking into his heart, they will be looking into his hands to see if he's carrying a whip or a doggy cookie, and responding appropriately.
Meanwhile, the Suetonius effect is not confined to one side, as the release of a purported trove of "facts" from an unnamed, unsourced "intelligence officer" has been rejected by the majority of news outlets as dubious but is now dominating the left side of social media as if it were Holy Writ.
When even Glen Greenwald is saying, "Now, wait a minute, here ..." it seems pretty foolish to go running off convinced.
But people believe what they want to believe, no matter how poorly sourced or illogical it may be.
Which makes today's Rabbits Against Magic a perfectly credible solution to the whole Trump problem.
Let's leave the last (well-sourced) word to Ron Zeigler:
I would feel that most of the conversations that took place in those areas of the White House that did have the recording system would, in almost their entirety, be in existence, but the special prosecutor, the court, and, I think, the American people are sufficiently familiar with the recording system to know where the recording devices existed, and to know the situation in terms of the recording process, but I feel, although the process has not been undertaken yet in preparation of the material to abide by the court decision, really, what the answer to that question is.
So say we all, Ron.
From the bottoms of our hearts.
We're still cleaning up Christmas and New Years at too many strips, but I'm also seeing some arcs starting that could be worth following and strips that are worth a heads up.
In the latter case, Judge Parker is interesting because the new writer/artist combo has changed it to a two-panel, real-time feature. I'm beginning to adjust to the (literal) change of pace, but I wonder if someone with less of a commitment would be willing to follow?
I used to joke that the Phantom was basically a one-panel feature because it would have an opening panel bringing you up to date and would close with a cliff-hanger panel. The only action appeared in the middle and so the actual progression of the story was mind-bogglingly slow, which, combined with very simple plots, seemed to work for Phantom readers.
Parker has neither open nor close, which means the reader has to bring previous knowledge along and then be interested enough to come back the next day without too much prodding.
In addition, the storyline is much more complex and, while it previously had a lot of somewhat traditional soap opera threads, is now more narrowly focused on a sort of Twin Peaks weirdness that requires both a devotion to finding out what happened and a willingness to suspend disbelief and just go with it.
I'm following it and enjoying it, but, if you're not already into it, it could take a lot of going through the archives to figure out what's going on.
Even if you don't care about the characters or storyline, you might want to follow this simply to observe the narrative structure.
And speaking of strips where I'm not sure what's happening, Arlo & Janis seems on the verge of an arc that could be promising but perhaps depressing, as Gene is either discouraged with farming or running up against a marital issue or possibly both.
Here are the last two days and I have no idea where it's going, but we'll find out. One suspense factor here is that you can't always count on a traditional Happy Ending in an arc that involves Gene.
Similarly, Pajama Diaries can swing from silly to serious and Jill earlier had a confrontation with younger daughter over make-up, and now has had one with older daughter over make-out. And, while the former strip was a one-off, yesterday had elder daughter and boyfriend playing tonsil hockey in the livingroom, so this might be going somewhere.
As with Gene, the best advice is to just sit back and see where it leads.
Which, by the way, is pretty good advice for parents anyway.
By contrast, you can count on Piranha Club to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion for the reader if not the characters. In this case, as explained, the Widow Feeny is drawing down the Widows and Orphans Fund which I never thought had any money in it to begin with.
But this isn't a strip where consistency and logic play a huge role, and as long as the supply of inedible octopi and drunken frogs holds out, I'll keep coming back for more.
I'm less amused by real-life story arcs in which we have no guarantee of logic, consistency or a happy ending, and Tom Toles notes here that "blind trust" seems to have a different meaning for our president-elect than it does for the rest of the world.
In addition to Trump himself refusing to release his financial records and failing to come through with an explanation for how he will avoid conflicts of interest, we now have Mitch McConnell insisting that confirmation hearings for cabinet officials take place with a similar lack of transparency.
Indeed, the blatant dishonesty of the GOP approach is frightening.
Recently, I compared Trump to OJ Simpson, each of whom was narcissistic enough that they were not lying but honestly believed what they said.
And the comparison continues in that we are still left wondering how many of OJ's supporters truly believed he was innocent, versus the number who were quite sure that he had killed his wife but were happy to see the system foiled.
Similarly, I would assume that Trump supporters are divided -- and again I have no idea of the proportions -- between those who actually believe the nonsensical, contradictory, impossible things he says and those who recognize his lack of any anchor to reality but are happy to see the system foiled.
But the frightening thing is not that OJ sincerely believed his own story, but that he found a team of attorneys to help him perpetrate the fraud.
And now Donald Trump has Mitch McConnell and a large share of the GOP power structure to assist him.
Which, I would note, is not a case of the system being foiled, but, rather of the system triumphant, proof of the old Wizard of Id definition of the Golden Rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules."
Meanwhile, the Meryl Streep cartoons are starting to appear, with some people -- I don't know the proportions -- believing that Trump is an evil genius using Tweets to distract us from his real plans, and others convinced that he is mentally ill and unable to focus on the task ahead.
Nicole Brown Simpson was unavailable for comment.
Tom Toles with a commentary on the battle between truth and popularity.
It reminds me of "Anything But Love," a short-lived sitcom that paired Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis as employees of a weekly magazine where, Lewis's character suggested, the motto was not "Everything that fits, we print" but "Anything that's hip, we print."
Which in turn reminds me of the self-immolation of newspapers that began to refer to themselves in print as "dead tree papers" when that became a hip phrase.
Which in turn brings us to our current situation, in which, as Toles suggests, slipshod journalism has empowered the anti-truth forces with which we are burdened.
A major problem with newspapers confronting their own shortcomings is that the anti-truthers have already staked out some important ground, which is "They All Do It" and "Anything For Ratings (or Sales)," in defiance of Hanlon's Razor, which states "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
The result is that, when newspapers do question their coverage, it's seen by the tinfoil brigade as confirmation, rather than confrontation, of bias, because they have already assumed that the malice exists.
Based on my experience in the media, I don't see a lot of malice but, well, I do see a lot of confirmation of Hanlon, though it's less outright "stupidity" than lack of perspective.
I don't think any newspaper editor (at least, aside from those at supermarket tabloids, which aren't newspapers), says "This story -- though I know it's not true -- will sell a million copies and make our company a whole lot of money."
They do, however, get excited over an exciting story and worry more about keeping up with their competitors than about getting a second source and confirming before you print and assessing relative importance rather than potential impact.
That's not a conspiracy.
As I used to explain it to high school students, rather, it's like a musician who would rather play to a stadium crowd than to a small, intimate coffeehouse.
Success in that goal has to stem, at least in part, from intrinsic instincts rather than a deliberate decision: Leonard Cohen would, no doubt, have written the same songs he wrote whether he was "discovered" by audiences or not, while the writers of Top 40 piffle would not be able to turn around and compose the sorts of dark, introspective things he did.
Or, to put it another way, cream is not the only thing that floats to the top.
Speaking of which, I mentioned the other day an Ann Telnaes cartoon that sent me to Google News to confirm that the apparent nonsense depicted was factual, and John Branch has done it to me again with this stunning example of how Hanlon's Razor neglects the possibility that malice and stupidity can work together.
This account in the Houston Chronicle confirms Branch's suggestion that Patrick has deliberately set out to recreate the North Carolina disaster, facing a problem that doesn't exist with a solution that couldn't possibly work for the simple pleasure of throwing meat to a slavering mob.
And, y'know, making America great again.
In terms of malice, it's noteworthy that, in his proposal, he exempts the sports and concert venues that caused North Carolina so much economic blowback, apparently because he assumes those organizations are as openly cynical and malicious as he is.
A few months ago, I'd have laughed it off as something that could never happen, but, well, I'm not so overconfident anymore.
As noted, the problem with Hanlon's Razor is the assumption that malice and stupidity are separate things when experience teaches us that they are closely allied.
Including recent experience, as Walt Handelsman reminds us, in what is more of a chronicle than a commentary. Sometimes the most devastating attack you can make is to simply report the facts.
In this case, there's nothing alarming about Trump's inability to process facts or his willingness to say things that clearly do not stand up to a moment's scrutiny.
It's his ability to do so and reach a substantial number of like-minded people that ought to scare the hell out of all of us.
The only problem being that "all of us" seem pretty evenly divided between thoughtful people and malicious morons.
An example not of Hanlon so much as of Hegel: "We learn from history that we do not learn from history."
Here's your moment of Love It or Leave It zen