If you're headed for Amazon, please enter the site through the widget in the right rail (or here). It costs you nothing extra but gives this blog a commission. Thanks!
If you're headed for Amazon, please enter the site through the widget in the right rail (or here). It costs you nothing extra but gives this blog a commission. Thanks!
I was listening to a Friday news roundup on public radio yesterday and, when they got to the Jeff Sessions segment, one of them called it "the best item of the week" and they all started laughing.
Here we have a man born at the dawn of the Civil Rights Era in Selma, Alabama, which would become, in his teen years, famous for its resistance to that movement, and named for both the president of the Confederate States of America and one of its leading generals.
Accordingly, and building on his vague, foolish reference to a Pacific Island, Bagley places him, with his ahistoric Lost Cause banner, on just such a vague, isolated island with a similarly loyal WWII Japanese soldier.
Such holdouts, who either refused to surrender or genuinely did not know the war had ended, were discovered for decades after the war. (I'm speaking of the Japanese soldier. Holdouts from the Civil War are still plentiful.)
Then he adds the joke: That an isolated holdout from WWII would be better informed than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.
It's particularly funny since rightwing trolls have picked up on the message Dear Leader uses to justify breaking his campaign promise to release his tax returns: "You lost. Get over it."
As has been noted by others, the judge in Hawaii who ruled against Trump's thinly disguised Muslim ban is not the only one to do so.
But he's the one from the least white, hence the least authentically Amurrikin, state in America. (And we don't even let #2 vote!)
It could well be that Sessions only meant to pick the place furthest from Washington, DC, but, having blundered into a toxic misunderstanding, an intelligent, well-intentioned man would have walked it back.
It's hard to argue with Bagley's inference that the man is marooned in another era.
While we're back there ...
Speaking to his point, I would add that not everyone who opposed Lincoln and defended slavery lived in the Deep South. I wrote a historical fiction serial set around the Elmira POW camp and, in researching it, found that anyone who escaped had little trouble finding meals and shelter while working their way back to the Confederacy.
As bogus as the whole "War Between the States" self-justifying view of history from Lost Cause partisans may be, the idea that the North stood foursquare against slavery is also off-kilter, and, while a strong majority did, it wasn't just the embryonic unionists of New York City who opposed abolition and the concommitant unleashing of cheap labor.
And we sure haven't become a whole lot more noble in the intervening years.
All of which is interesting, none of which is my point at the moment.
I couldn't read all the captions, even after blowing it up, so I looked for a larger, more hi-res version and the only one I found was no more hi-res and only slightly larger, but I realized that the problem was not so much the size but the lack of contrast.
So I performed a sacreligious act: I dragged it into Photoshop, turned it into grayscale and then corrected the b/w levels.
This brings up something that, as a surfer of old comix on the web, has been bothering me: Why do people post yellowed newsprint scans of old newspaper comic pages?
Surely Pulitzer and Hearst were printing on white newsprint, and the people who saw these cartoons when they first appeared were seeing them with backgrounds as crisply white as contemporaneous papermaking technology permitted. Wouldn't that be more historically authentic?
Which is related to the debate that came up when it was proposed to clean a few hundred years of smoke, dust and oxidation, plus a whole lot of attempted restorations, from Da Vinci's Last Supper: Do we display it as he first presented it, or as it is today?
But here's the difference: The Last Supper being restored was the fresco itself, not a photograph of it, and, whether souvenir sellers have made a dozen or a billion copies of the painting, the debate centered on the original artwork.
Running a postcard of the Last Supper through one of those cheesy Instagram filters to turn everyone violet is an abomination, but attempting to correct your photo to look more like the original is ethically fine.
Ditto with comics, with this exception: If you are attempting to sell your original 1925 comics page as ephemera, then re-touching your scan of it is clearly deceptive and dishonest.
The same rule applies in real estate.
For a house with a telephone pole in the front yard, the Photoshop ethics are simple: If you are selling that particular house, you can't clone out the pole.
But if it is your model home and you are simply showing what that floorplan looks like, take it out.
Similarly, are you showing the comic artwork itself or what the readers got?
Not to be mistaken for what you would see if you visited the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, complete with a little White-Out and some barely-visible-here blue non-repro pencil which is more visible there and particularly valuable for an artist who wants to see the specific brush/pen strokes and for whom that White-Out is instructive.
If you want to view original artwork, go there, perhaps May 1, though I can't guarantee this particular strip will be on display then.
But it's always worth the drive, on accounta
One of the reasons Darrin Bell pops up here so often is that we think a lot alike and another is that he draws two strips and an editorial cartoon, so the odds of him hitting me squarely on any given day are pretty good.
But today's Candorville was a marvel of synchronicity, because just two days ago, I remembered something I had thought of a couple of decades ago, after we were out of Vietnam and the topic of interference was, for the moment, somewhat academic.
There had been an article about lack of clean drinking water in some Third World place and it occurred to me that it wouldn't cost us an arm and a leg to drop a team of workers in there and drill a well.
I've had friends, and even a niece, in the Peace Corps, and that's a great thing, but this would be less of a commitment to any particular community than that. Just give them a well, shake everyone's hands and ride off into the sunset.
I suppose if they then asked to have a Peace Corps volunteer come set up a school, or have someone else come set up a health clinic, that could happen, too, but it wouldn't be the mission of the well diggers.
Lemont suggests that Big Business would find a reason to object, and he's not entirely wrong. My grandfather used to suggest that we build all the guns and tanks and bombs and then go dump them into the ocean, so that we could have the economic benefits of war without the carnage.
Still, digging wells all around the world would at least provide us with jobs making well drilling equipment and pumps and piping. And we could build ships and helicopters and things to get the equipment and the installers from here to wherever.
Imagine some tin-pot dictator getting the news that los Yanquis had snuck in and left a group of villagers with clean drinking water, installing the Mother Of All Shadoofs in the town square.
Though, if we were going to do that, we should have started back when we were introducing the Marshall Act, in the wake of WWII, which was my father's, not my grandfather's, war, and the one in which our troops were led by the man who, as president, made that widely quoted remark about how military spending robs us of the ability to do better things.
As this explanation of, and expansion upon, Ike's quote makes clear, the moment was 1953 at the death of Stalin, and perhaps it was the last moment in which the United States could have made such a shift of priorities.
But instead of installing wells, we installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It did not have the same public relations impact.
By the time my son went off to war, we'd soiled our reputation around the globe to a level that left him gobsmacked. No stranger to international travel but a newcomer to the Gulf region, he said with a tone of wonder, "They hate us. They hate us!"
His time in the Gulf, and his remark, came after Kuwait but several years even before the attack on the USS Cole, which David Horsey memorably, and with some of that same sense of regretful wonder, captured in this cartoon.
Next Generational Synchronicity
And xkcd also hits on something I've been pondering, because I recently put together a front page for my kid-written publication that featured two reviews, one of an IMAX movie about engineering careers and one about a Disney on Ice show full of skating princesses, both of which were called "Dream Big."
It felt like the inevitable climax of kids being told in every interview to "follow their dreams," to the point where I was trying to decide if I should drop an editorial edict against the phrase or, perhaps, send out a note to interview subjects when these things were being set up, begging them not to use the expression.
As Randall Munroe notes, it's "survivorship bias" and it's easy to stand there on the stage at the Academy Awards and talk about the importance of following your dreams, but the homeless shelters are full of people with dreams and I don't think I've ever met a down-and-outer who didn't have a story about a dream that never came true.
My plan is to instruct my young writers that, if someone tells them to "follow their dreams," their follow-up question should be, "And what did you have to do in order to make your dream come true?"
The movie "Dream Big" seems pretty cool and I gathered from my 11-year-old reviewer's commentary that it does suggest that the dream comes first but plenty of work follows.
Check out this trailer:
As for Disney's skating princesses, I almost feel unable to comment on their dreams, because I'm not even sure why they are a thing.
That is, there is an internal process going on over on the XX side that those of us on the XY side simply aren't in on, that we cannot grok and should probably shut up about.
It involves Disney princesses and "Sex in the City" and just the right shoes but also forgotten NASA workers and not telling little girls how pretty they are but, then again, yes, you should as long as you also tell them they can be anything they want to be as long as they are fearless and follow their dreams.
I don't get it. I mean that quite sincerely.
I'm gonna just go home and watch TV, where fearless is as fearless does.
Chan Lowe boils it down.
There are a lot of cartoonists currently mocking Kim's haircut and portraying him as a nutcase, but Lowe is at least hinting at the real issue in all this:
Here's the thing: Unless you are knowledgeable about Korean culture, you don't likely have any sense of how Kim's take on the world fits the norm, or, to put it another way, he may be harsh but he may not be crazy.
If you're trying to provoke a war, then hurling insults is a constructive plan because demonizing your intended opponent is a good first step.
If that's not your goal, you might consider how tone-deaf our take on the Middle East has already been and where that has gotten us.
Start with bluster, because both Ahmadinijad in Iran, and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, blustered mightily, and people who understood the culture brushed it off as the sort of hot air expected of dynamic leaders in that part of the world.
But it gave the chickenhawks plenty of ammunition.
Specifically, Hussein's blustering calls for a "mother of all battles" provided the Cheney Administration an excuse for what may well be the most catastrophically stupid foreign policy move in American history.
Now the chickenhawks are back at it, deliberately glossing over the ongoing conflicts within the Iranian government in order to demonize that country so we can go back and give war in the Middle East another chance.
And I wonder if we're doing the same thing with Kim, only in a place where there is no oil to be won and where, as Lowe suggests, the only possible "victory" is that of one blustering nincompoop over another.
Matt Davies suggests that our nincompoop is wandering around without his crew, and this much separates the two: Whatever Kim's limitations as a world figure and a human being, he at least has a well-established family background of running the country and has surrounded himself with people who know what the hell they're doing.
Though, again, one must understand the culture before dismissing a political figure as a screwball, because there are still a lot of people in this country who fall in line with Trump's view of reality. Trump may be pigheaded and woefully ignorant, but he is probably not crazy.
If the majority of people believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth, it is not insane to believe that.
Then again, even if everyone on the planet firmly believed in a geocentric universe, the stars would not re-align accordingly.
The President of the United States and the leaders of Congress have a particular responsibility to know what's going on, even if they intend to spin and lie about it.
The chickenhawks who are trying to stir up confrontation with Iran must surely know that (A) Iranians are not all hard-headed mullahs; there is and has for decades been real conflict between hardliners and modernists in that country, and (B) the treaty to keep them from developing nuclear weapons is not "our" treaty with Iran but was negotiated and signed by a consortium of nations, most of whom seem to think it's working out.
When these saber-rattlers say otherwise, they are either lying or they are ignorant to a level that should disqualify them from office.
The information is out there, for anyone who wants to influence public opinion with actual facts rather than easy stereotypes and partisan rumors.
But I don't know what Trump actually knows or doesn't know about North Korea or Syria or Turkey or Iran or anything at all.
I do expect that most people who spent four years at military school would reflexively snap to at the sound of the national anthem, and that any who don't should probably not try to equate those years as an equivalent of actual military experience.
Mike Luckovich has Melania accuse him of being heartless, and the gag seems too close to the bull's eye for comfort.
A small, odd moment, yes, but her having to nudge him is bad enough: I'm not surprised that an immigrant would have a particularly high level of patriotism, having chosen this country rather than having been born here, but she's not the one boasting of making America great again.
In fact, the more I see of Melania, the more I like her, even if she does put up with a husband who leaves her standing on the curb and walks up the steps without her.
And, whatever challenges little Baron faces in life -- and whatever it's costing taxpayers, yes -- I have a suspicion as to which parent declared that the poor kid was not going to be yanked out of a school that was working for him simply to cater to his father's grandiose ambitions.
And which parent, when the kid wasn't doing well in school, would have simply shipped him off to a military academy.
As the twig is bent.
Howsoever, I'm not running the Trump family, much less the Trump administration.
What I do is to comment on cartoons and so let me suggest this to political cartoonists:
Either do your homework, or confine your commentary to saggy jeans and people who endlessly stare at their cellphones.
If you're going to help talk us into a war, with North Korea or Iran or the Russians, do it because you want to see that happen, not because you're too lazy to find out what's going on.
You're paid to be a journalist, so be a journalist: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
And whenever a politician, even one you admire, makes a statement, get a second, reliable source before you break out your pens.
If you keep telling people that the Sun goes around the Earth, it will not change the fact that the Earth goes around the Sun.
But you might help persuade us to bring the Sun down to the Earth.
If so, I hope it's what you truly wanted.
This is one of those Lord-Where-Do-I-Start days, and Ann Telnaes has won the toss for this salute to our impossibly-not-okay presidency.
Her cartoon is not so much a case of being "too smart for the room" as of being "too well-informed for the room," because she had to append Cliff Notes:
Ivanka Trump’s company received provisional approval from the Chinese government for three trademarks the same day President Xi Jinping and his wife dined at Mar-a-Lago in Florida with President Trump. During the visit, Ivanka’s daughter sang a traditional Chinese song for the couple.
That second link is inconsequential except for verifying that, indeed, little Arabella performed for the visitors, but the first describes an embarrassing and unacceptable dog's breakfast of conflicts, based on the nonsensical notion that prominent government officials can keep their business interests at arm's length simply by not showing up at the office, except when they want to.
From that first article:
“Ivanka will not weigh in on business strategy, marketing issues or the commercial terms of agreements,” her attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said in a statement. “She has retained authority to direct the trustees to terminate agreements that she determines create a conflict of interest or the appearance of one.”
In other words, she's still up-to-date on the decisionmaking, however much she may play the role of Sgt Schulz.
A blind trust is quite different. In a blind trust, the benefactor of the trust loses track of what's in it, which is to say, the president might be dealing with lumber trade but would have no idea whether there were still shares of Weyerhauser in the portfolio or if they had been sold and replaced with shares of Hasbro.
We haven't faced this sort of conflict before, in large part because we haven't had adult children as factors. Jack Ford and the Reagan kids had some visibility during their fathers' tenures, but it was fame-by-association. They certainly didn't have positions in the administration, nor did their spouses, if any of them were married, which I'm not even going to look up, since the point is we all know Ivanka's got a spouse.
There was also Billy Beer, but I don't recall the Carters inviting him to come on by to entertain heads of state.
This ghastly situation -- not just Ivanka's part, but the whole tangled web of potential emoluments -- is, no matter how rich the drapings, far, far more tacky than anything good ol' Billy could come up with.
Although, having glimpsed some of the decor at the "Winter White House," it looks like the Loomis, Fargo & Company heist, except these crooks went on a shopping spree at Bed, Bath and Bordello before they began robbing the bank.
Juxtaposition of the Day
I'm totally burned out on "Fake News" and "Alternative Facts" as punchlines, in part because overuse of them, to borrow a term from Jen Sorensen's quote posted here day-before-yesterday, "normalizes" something that should outrage us, and also because they have been beaten into the ground and are simply tired and increasingly stupid.
As both Dan Piraro and Keiran Meehan demonstrate with aplomb, it's not like the Trumposphere isn't replete with punchlines that contain some underlying political punch and that have not yet grown tired and increasingly stupid.
And Ed Stein points out that, as soon as the campaign cliches begin to grow stale, Dear Leader serves up a heaping helping of stupidity to keep cartoonists fat and happy.
The accusation, traditionally, was that protesters were being funded and directed by Moscow, but that's obviously a little problematic at the moment.
Thus it becomes necessary to fall back on an sort of indefinite "them," perhaps somehow connected to Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi or Vince Foster or Elvis, who hire busloads of people none of whom ever come forward and discuss their work as paid demonstrators.
Which, as Ed points out, makes it hard on those of us who can't figure out where to get our fair share of the proceeds.
And while we're on the topic of dubious payoffs, the line "follow the money" only occurs in the screenplay, not the actual nonfiction account, of "All the President's Men," but it's a pretty good rule for tracking down bad guys and Francis applies it here to our current economic system.
The real pope appears more pragmatic than we thought at first, but, then, I only follow this one, and, as he points out, the flaw with capitalism is that it contains no intrinsic ethical boundaries, which wouldn't matter if people were inherently good, but then popes and dali lamas and other gurus would be unemployed.
They wouldn't even be able to get jobs as liberal demonstrators, because what would anyone be paid to demonstrate against?
There needs to be a sensible spot on the continuum between the Peter-Pan anarchy of social media and the locked-down world of Recep Erdoğan, because we don't need tyranny but we do need rules, and those who continue to advocate for a world without boundaries seem increasingly naive.
We've always had crime and bad people, and the Unabomber didn't post his manifesto on line, but that doesn't negate the potential for aberrations to turn into fads.
This particular murder is too complicated to serve as an example, because it veers off into how mentally ill people obtain guns, and it feels like one example where, indeed, if he hadn't had a gun, he'd have used something else.
Or someone else would have.
It's not like everyone else in the unregulated online world is a paragon of virtue.
What more do you need?
And, when we get there, how do we fix it?
But let's not end things on a pessimistic note ...
Not sure if this is the start of an arc or a one-off, but Pajama Diaries has had an ongoing story that pops up now and then about Ben, who is autistic, and Terri Libenson has been handling it with a nice combination of sympathy, homework and humor.
It's a tough balancing act, because, while you can't just play it for laffs, neither can you shut things down for a Very Special Episode in which everything is suddenly serious. Not only is that an artistic violation of your contract with readers, but turning your strip into a pity party doesn't help anybody.
Life goes on, or, at least, we hope it does, and people in the midst of a tough situation need to have that situation acknowledged, but they also need normalcy and that includes some humor, as long as it's on-target and respectful, which is where that third element, homework, comes in.
You'd better know what you're laughing about.
To start with, the joke can never be at Ben's expense. At the same time, his needs can create humorous situations, if you understand them well enough to know where the gags come in.
In this particular example, the joke is all on Nanci's side: Jill is sympathetic but there's a level at which she doesn't get it and so Nanci serves up a plateful of how all-encompassing life with Ben is.
The humor is in Jill's sudden backdown, and her realization that Nanci isn't just indulging Ben's moods but living in a constant world of survival strategies.
And the actual gag is in Nanci's empty-but-ghastly threat, which is not something she would really do, but is a lovely comeback of "let's see how you like living my life for five freaking minutes."
I laughed, but I also thought of how life would be if you had to know where every M-C-D-O-N-A-L-D-S in the area was and how to avoid driving past any of them, and I also hoped that Nanci has some respite care so she can not be on guard against triggers for an hour or two.
Here's another tightrope for a cartoonist to walk: The Nancis of this world need their friends to acknowledge their situation, but they don't need to be hailed as heroes, because they're just people living with the hand they've been dealt.
When I finish today's posting, I'll be heading over to the hospital for my weekly infusion of magnesium, which is about the last vestige of my brush with cancer. I'm not allowed to say I'm "cured" until five years have passed, but I'm out of the woods and none of my doctors seem concerned about anything.
Meanwhile, the damage chemo did to my kidneys is permanent, but it's also stable.
What this means, oddly enough, is that I have been placed in yet another situation where my detached journalistic personality comes forward, because I spend four hours a week in the company of people whose fate is all over the place, virtually none of them as free-and-clear as I am.
The infusion suite, where I sit with a tube in my veins for those four hours, features nooks with two comfy recliners each, and you never ask your partner what they are there for or how they are doing, but it's inevitable that you will overhear things or that they will volunteer something.
I've never heard anyone complain, nor have I seen anyone try to be heroic.
It's simply a place where you play the hand you've been dealt. I suppose it may be a place where you can relax and do that, and that life may be different when you're surrounded by people who aren't in the same boat.
But, for instance, a few weeks ago, the guy next to me had just been told he had seven to nine weeks left, and we talked about old time television, tried to remember the names of minor characters and chuckled over some of our favorites.
I hope Ben is able to chill for a bit so that Nanci and Jill can have that kind of frivolous conversation, too.
Agnes must have been hanging around White River Junction, because, wit all doo respeck, it's not hard to tell the enrollees at the Center for Cartoon Studies, or, at least, while some of the aspiring cartoonists may fly below the radar, others are pretty clearly in the group.
As long as they don't get drunk and start cutting each other's ears off, I'm cool with it.
And if you want to see some artists for yourself, you've got a couple of chances coming up:
On Thursday, Ed Koren and Jeff Danziger will be at the Brattleboro Museum Art Center in Brattleboro, Vermont, which is about halfway between here and Northampton, Mass.
Then leap into your car, drive across the country and arrive in LA by Sunday to see David Horsey, Berke Breathed and Tom Tomorrow at the Los Angeles Times' Festival of Books.
Or, if you're not up for a road trip, stay home and listen to Terri Libenson interviewed at Tall Tale Radio.
Nothing funny here
The referendum in Turkey resulted in a narrow victory for Erdogan's bid to become more powerful and less accountable, though, as Italian cartoonist Giancarlo Uber suggests at Cartoon Movement, not everyone who wanted to cast a "no" vote had the opportunity.
Erdogan has been locking up all sorts of people lately, and artists and journalists -- including cartoonist Musa Kart -- are high on the list of voices to be silenced since the attempted coup last July.
His victory in the referendum gives him even more power to suppress agitators.
Not that the victory is untainted: In the closing hours, the requirements for casting a legal ballot were relaxed by the government, apparently snatching victory from the jaws of democracy.
Start with some housekeeping: The other day I updated a blog posting late in the day, after I finally tracked down a Harvey Kurtzman/Will Elder Mad Magazine parody of "Archie."
Here's the entire feature, which Mark Jackson pointed out in the comments was originally in Mad #27, the April, 1956 issue and which I found in "Mad For Keeps" from 1958:
Now let's leap forward to the present day, because Comics Beat has posted an interview with Jen Sorensen which is worth reading.
As an editor, I cringe a little at the fact that the interview appears to have sat on the shelf for a time: While the headline mentions Sorensen's finalist placement in the Pulitzers and the extracts from her cartoons that illustrate it are up-to-date, the Pulitzer isn't discussed in the interview itself and, at one point, the interviewer says (of Trump), "It’s unfair to judge the next four years by the first week."
But it's well worth reading, not only because Sorensen continues to rise in prominence -- she's also up for a Reuben -- but because in the interview she traces her own history of comics-making which provides an insider perspective on a critical span between the days of an active print medium and the current rebirth or at least resuscitation of the form.
That's not out of date, nor is this observation, which echoes my opinion that Trump is so easy a target that editorial cartoonists need to put more, not less, effort into depicting him:
There are ludicrous characters and you can make fun of Trump and these ridiculous nominees, but at the same time I don’t want to normalize him. I find myself not even wanting to draw him. I mean, I do and I will, but I don’t want to treat him like any other President. I’ve been struggling with that. How to be humorous at a time when things are just very serious.
She's right, and I'm seeing too many altie cartoonists who simply draw "I Hate Trump" cartoons that amount to preaching to the choir.
It's not a bad thing to keep the choir motivated, but it takes a much more thoughtful touch to draw cartoons that might nudge someone off the fence.
State of the Art Form
However, I'm finding some flailing there, which is neither surprising nor new: There has always been more bad stuff than good stuff in any medium, and so, as nonfiction cartoons gain ascendancy, there are bound to be more of them which aren't very good.
Where my patience is running thin is with memoirs that don't contain a lot of insight and nonfiction reportage where it seems more time was spent on the art than on the research.
I'm still bitter about a graphic biography I bought for $17.99 which told me -- through flat, minimalist art -- nothing I couldn't have found from the subject's Wikipedia entry.
I'm also not crazy about memoirs about ordinary people to whom nothing happens. It's as if "That Seventies Show" were written by Jean-Paul Sartre.
I don't demand that every memoir be "Maus" and every reporting piece be Joe Sacco-level journalism, but those formats are becoming extremely popular and so, as said, there's bound to be a lot of disappointing work out there.
In "If It Looks Like A Duck," Barry Deutsch remembers a gig as a costumed character at a grocery store and what it revealed about people's assumptions.
It's a textbook example of how a simple memoir of an ordinary life can be illuminating.
I'm sure he's had all sorts of experience besides his days as a duck, but with this snapshot, Deutsch picks a particular moment that illuminates something that matters.
The moment itself, the gig as a duck, is inconsequential. But you don't need death or explosions for a moment to matter, and, in fact, those great overwhelming things can obscure the meaning.
In both "Maus" and in Sacco's work, the power is in showing a microcosmic, individual response to overwhelming action.
It's easy to say "And the whole world blew up," but putting the reader in one particular pair of shoes, together with the realization of how many pairs of shoes were involved, is art. Even Sacco's giant portrait of the Battle of the Somme is pictures of individuals.
That's also the power of "Red Badge of Courage" or "War and Peace."
To put it in musical format, one criticism of "Eve of Destruction" at the time was that listing everything wrong in the world is numbing and pointless.
Compare that to Janis Ian's contemporaneous "Society's Child" in which a young white girl tells her black boyfriend that she can't deal with the external pressures anymore.
It's one piece of one issue, and it doesn't take place on the Edmund Pettus Bridge but in a little girl's home and school. But it's the right piece, delivered in the right tone, and it doesn't propose, or require, an answer.
More than anything else -- and what distinguishes it from the poor-pitiful-me memoirs -- is that she knows that her mother, her teachers, her classmates are wrong, she knows the right thing to do and she also knows that she hasn't got the guts to do what's right.
It's not self-loathing, but it's also not self-justifying.
Deutsch isn't operating on that level -- Ian's piece, after all, is a landmark and a classic -- but he similarly lays out all the unfair, inappropriate externals without a lot of moralizing or a lot of self-pity.
Good stuff. I wish I were seeing more like it.
And maybe sometimes once in a great long while something like this:
Adam Zyglis points out the vast number of positions and promises that Donald Trump has abandoned since he took office.
He's right and it's a good way to put them all in one place, and, in another context, it might be damaging.
John Kerry's presidential campaign was deeply wounded by both relatively benign and deliberately misinterpreted accusations of inconsistency, the largest being an out-of-context quote in which he said he was in favor of a piece of legislation until it was amended to the point he could no longer support it.
At which point, the term "flip flop" was applied, as John Branch more accurately applies it to Trump.
And I like this cartoon, but both it and Zyglis's piece raise the two critical questions in all reporting:
Which sounds dismissive, but is not.
I think anyone reading about the Kardashians or about Mama June's new body knows that there's no "So what?" to it, but there is a "Who cares?" because it aroused their curiosity, and they're okay with simply taking in information that isn't critical but is of interest.
For that matter, "So what?" about the symphony?
Bizet is dead, but we've got his music on records so that, if you want to hear it, you don't have to get dressed up and pay for tickets and deal with parking and sit in a crowded room and hear it played probably not as well as George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra did it on that remastered CD that's sitting back in your comfy livingroom.
Yeah, I know: The live symphony is uplifting.
Mama June's new body might inspire someone to get in shape, and that's pretty uplifting, too.
So somebody does care and the issue of "So what?" is both subjective and relative.
Face it: Mama June's sexy bod is all over my newsfeeds while there's apparently not enough interest in orchestras to make them show up there at all.
And I don't feel better about myself for once more reflecting that, back in the Middle Ages, when gormless, mud-spattered masses watched vulgar, witless puppet shows in the public square, they were simply peasants who grew the wheat and died in the wars and had no voice in the government.
If you believe in universal suffrage, you have to accept that the direction of your nation will be determined in part by people who find Mama June and the Kardashians fascinating.
Rather than Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones, which, we all know, are the pinochle of interlectural attainment.
Which raises the question of where you would set the voting cutoff?
To me, Mama June's yammering is like someone chewing tin foil, while the pretentions of Downton Abbey is only nails on a chalkboard, not nearly as excruciating but still nothing I seek.
And I like football, which you may think makes me a moron.
One big happy democracy.
I've heard pundits say that Trump supporters didn't care about his particular stances in the first place, but just wanted him to come in and stir things up, and he's sure done that.
Meanwhile, whether Mexico pays for the wall or we pay for the wall or there never is a wall doesn't matter.
Especially since he's being enough of an asshole that a lot of illegal aliens are re-thinking coming here, which has something of the same effect.
And maybe lobbing a few missiles into Syria and dropping a bomb on Afghanistan will intimidate other governments, and let America become King of the Mountain or Great Again or whatever.
As for "flipflopping," Bob Gorrell suggests that even conservatives are seeing a shift from looney to more moderately rightwing, and there's plenty of "So what?" and "Who cares?" to ponder in this cartoon.
Your "flipflop" is someone else's "getting it straight," and one of the things I've been hearing on NPR and CNN is people from previous administrations talking about the difference between what you thought you could do before you took office and what you realized on Day One.
It appears that Trump is learning, and David Horsey is dead-on with this depiction, and with the concommitant question of why other nations have leaders who know how stuff works and we elected someone who clearly doesn't.
But if you're going to ask "Why did so many people vote for a preening ignoramus?" you should also ask, "Why didn't people flock to the polls to keep him out of the Oval Office?"
Well, one group trusted his absurd, unworkable promises and the other group trusted the polls and didn't care enough to hedge their bets and apparently didn't care -- or even know -- about the other items on their local ballots.
Thus people in a democracy get the government they deserve.
I hate when people tell me their dreams, but Edison Lee got an extra laff this morning because last night I dreamt that I came back from vacation at a newspaper to find the place in something of a stir, and that the publisher wanted to see me.
She told me that she had ordered the name of the paper changed to "The Varsity Rag," which she felt combined self-deprecating whimsy with the concept of going for the youth market. She showed me the new staff lineup, and I saw that she had fired all the smart folks and promoted the airheads, but realized that I wasn't being asked for input, simply being brought up to speed.
I felt -- but did not say -- that we were trashing 150 years of market-building, as well as abandoning our critical role of telling people what they needed to know in favor of giving them only what they wanted to hear.
I didn't expect to wake up and have it laid out so precisely and well in the funny pages.
Mrs. Crandall gets to save 50 cents on pudding pops.
It's April 15, which means little on weekends and less on Patriots Day, but taxes and Easter are sharing the comics pages today and you still can't do better on the subject of taxes than this Shoe from 1979.
An opinion that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I'm a writer of opinions.
And speaking of personal prejudices, the fact that I was raised Catholic often informs my appreciation of Heart of the City, and I remember Good Friday services as being deeply penitent and very, very long.
I wasn't necessarily able to distinguish "penitent" from "morbid," but I was sure able to understand "very, very long," though, as a tiny youngster required to kneel up straight in the pew for three hours, I did not realize how much worse it was to be an adolescent altar boy walking the Stations with the priest.
Those frequent photos of young GIs and palace guards fainting in military formations? Altar boys did that, too, only nobody ever took pictures of it.
Anybody who had whipped out a camera in church on Good Friday would have been flashed straight to Hell before you could say "Have mercy on us."
The emphasis on Christ's sacrifice pervaded Catholic culture beyond Holy Week, and Pat Oliphant captured the penitent/morbid Catholic thingie back in 2004, when Mel Gibson brought his arch-conservative RC viewpoint to the big screen in The Passion of the Christ, which was criticized in a relatively positive review as "the New Testament rendered as a snuff film."
Pervasive, yes: As that critic writes,
(T)his is a hero's narrative and here, as in the director's other films, heroism amounts to little more than a willingness to absorb violence, embrace it even.
Heart is lucky: Mrs. Angelini and Mel Gibson and I grew up in the world of Sister Dolorosa, and were carefully taught that faith requires suffering and if you don't have some, boy jayzuz, I'll give yez plenty.
I'm not sure there was intended to be a direct theological connection between having to kneel through three hours of Good Friday guilt and chocolate bunnies on Easter Sunday, but, as Heart notes, at least there was a happy ending.
Though, when it comes to that, not only was Advent a lot more fun than Lent, but the payoff was also way better.
And if my young experience weren't confusing enough, I had two great-aunts who were teaching nuns and were extraordinarily bright and kind and remembered warmly by their students. By contrast, my long-dead first grade teacher was still a legend of sadism in the teacher's lounge at St. Mary's a half-century later, not that anybody had bothered to intervene at the time.
Holidays/Holy Days, as Dean suggests, can be pretty weird.
Meanwhile, back in the friendly skies ...
I think the United thing has pretty much played out, but I like Drew Sheneman's take.
People are saying, "I'll never fly United again!" but there just aren't that many choices these days, thanks to the mergers and monopolistic Wall Streetism that has become normal.
Perhaps it's because I mostly fly on business, but I find myself choosing flights by when they leave and whether the layovers make the connections possible and when they arrive and then I factor in ticket price, and only rarely -- perhaps never -- do I pay any attention to what's painted on the side of the plane.
The days of prefering Frontier over Continental or Eastern over TWA are long gone, and, as Sheneman suggests, they can pretty much do whatever they want.
We're about one more merger away from this:
However, Bill Day managed to get one final good topical gag out of it:
Don't worry: It's not like stupid things won't keep happening.
Speaking of flying
Once again, a comic speaks to me personally: Today's Medium Large explains why I will never, ever move again.
I've got a three-room apartment, utilities included and a good landlady, for $675 a month. My retirement plan, we being of roughly the same age, is to die before she does. I live in perpetual fear that she and her husband will decide to sell out and head for Arizona or Florida, but they're both natives, so it's thankfully not too likely.
Of course, given his supersonic flying ability, Clark could commute the Daily Planet gig from Ma and Pa Kent's farm, but then Lois would wonder where he lived and why he never brings her over to his apartment to test his X-ray vision on her garments.
And speaking of the difficulty of maintaining a secret identity, while I suppose maybe the leading paper in Metropolis pays well as journalism goes, most young reporters have to have roommates, and that rich sonofabitch Bruce Wayne doesn't worry about money, so who you gonna partner up with?
"If you see all my clothes hanging on the doorknob, don't open it."
Let him climb the rigging like his pappy used to do:
I always assumed that Popeye's calves were as overdeveloped as his forearms, but this vintage Thimble Theater from November 3, 1930, shows that -- duh -- sailors wear bell-bottom trousers.
Which I knew, but hadn't applied to this particular sailor.
Castor Oyl had better lock up his daughter.
And also this:
A final example of comics that hit personally: I just got through yet one more massive quarrel with the printer and am still trying to deal with the random joys of Windows 10, so today's Carpe Diem got not only a laff but earned you all a second video treat:
(There. And I hope that makes up for my having posted this yesterday.)
Amid a host of responses to The Grand Presidential Pivot, Jimmy Margulies focuses on the question I'm asking: Where is the love you said was mine, all mine, 'til the end of time?
Talk about buyer's remorse! Poor Vovochka must surely be awakening to that "you knew I was a snake when you picked me up" realization.
Maybe he sees it as just a bad investment, but it's not like the heat is going to come off Trump at this end, and so, whatever the actual loss of investment may be, Putin's also very likely to be put through the humiliation of having the futility of his manipulations revealed publicly.
I don't think former KGB types are used to that.
Betty makes life interesting today for parents who read the comics aloud to their kids.
I like plausible deniability and, in this case, the most plausible denial is this: If the kid says he doesn't get it, you say you don't get it, either.
And that you snorted because your sinuses are acting up from the springtime pollen, just like the fellow in the Pat Byrnes/New Yorker cartoon.
Juxtaposition of the Day
As I've said before, the best part of dropping puns into single-panel cartoons is that you don't have to add any response.
Despite requiring a certain level of cultural literacy -- good luck explaining these to your kid -- these are still both really dumb and that's okay because dumb jokes are funny if you don't overplay them.
Having a character in a three-panel strip explain that he wants a tattoo that says "Born Toulouse" and having the tattoo artist say "Coming right up, Monsieur Lautrec" would turn dumb into stupid.
Particularly since, once you are forced to acknowledge that the gag takes place in France, you also have to acknowledge that the pun only works in English.
And I'll shut up now because analyzing why it works also kills it. But it works.
And the second one also works for me today because it brings up Bogey and provides a reasonable lead-in to another Hollywood-connected rant, though closer to his role in "Key Largo" than "Casablanca" and fergodsake don't click on that link.
I hope it's not too big a violation of the Prime Directive for me to be snarky about a comic from a half century ago that was not done by the original creator, because today's (Nov 29, 1957) Rip Kirby makes me think we need to start a non-profit to protect bad girls with hearts of gold, who always seem to take a bullet for the good guy at the end.
The positive spin on today's strip would be to simply wish aloud that Comics Kingdom would restart the Vintage run from the beginning in 1946, when Alex Raymond was at the helm, and not just dribble out its entropy after his death a decade later.
And it would also be positive to note that, even in its decline, it was a damn sight better than a lot of other strips, then and now.
I could also hope that, tomorrow, we'll learn that Sirene is only wounded and that she and James will ride off into the sunset, but somehow those shopworn angels always manage to catch the bullet somewhere fatal.
Okay, okay, disclosure: Destry Rides Again is one of my favorite movies and I even named a dog "Destry," but I still wish he'd had a chance to marry Frenchy instead of that limp, virtuous dishrag Janice Tyndall. I know that the little girl at the end is supposed to reassure us that there will always be a Frenchy, but it's cold comfort when you've settled for life with a good girl.
In his place, I'd have rather taken Kent's bullet.
Destry: Don't let me interfere with your dinner, ma'am.
Frenchy: It's breakfast.
That's my kind of girl: Someone totally unapologetic, with the guts to invent her own past by defiantly adopting a name that her accent betrays as an outrageous falsehood.
They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"
-- Jack Kerouac, but you knew that
(She had three songs in "Destry." This is not the most famous, but it's my favorite.)
"Donald Trump has become a favorite of cartoonists, thanks to his flapping hair and his flapping mouth. That's not necessarily a good thing, because it's easy to be lazy when the target is so inviting." -- Me, July 20, 2015
I start with a quote and a screenshot of that 2015 posting to disarm anyone who feels I'm a Trumpophile and that what follows is fanboy praise, and, while that particular piece is worth reading, I'd also invite you to type "Trump" into the search box in the right rail and hunt for any times I've praised him.
Here's the thing: I'm becoming concerned that Trump Derangement Syndrome is suffocating good progressive commentary, just as Obama Derangement Syndrome kept many conservatives from intelligently monitoring events throughout that administration.
For instance, if I'm a prophet, it is of the Cassandra variety, because, nearly two years after that blog posting and despite my having repeated the explanation often, there are still people who think Trump taking "four" student deferments is a sure sign of a draft dodger.
Rocky Bleier also took "four" II-S deferments, then was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, following which he got a letter from his draft board requesting his presence at a physical.
Steelers management offered to lawyer up and intervene, but Rock said that wouldn't be right and went off to Vietnam where they blowed him up real good.
Some draft dodger he turned out to be.
Student deferments were not "draft dodging." Read some damn history or talk to someone over 60.
And now TDS sufferers are upset because Trump told the Russians before he launched those Tomahawks, which is not only in accord with a treaty but makes sense anyway, given that blowing up a relatively empty airfield qualifies as a punitive strike while blowing up Russian personnel would qualify as total madness.
And, by the way, other presidents have launched punitive strikes without launching wars.
Is it possible to attack Trump responsibly?
Is it hard?
Well, damn, it sure shouldn't be. The guy is a disaster.
And Jen Sorensen, who was a 2017 Pulitzer finalist and is up for an NCS award, does a terrific job in her latest piece. Not only does she make a solid point about the harm his domestic policies do, but the final panel is perfectly phrased and illustrated.
It's as much a response to Trump's response to war crimes as it is a condemnation of his overall hypocrisy, inconsistency and lack of humane awareness.
Which is to say, you can lay down heavy criticism of the man without falling victim to TDS and losing focus.
That's particularly important now that things appear to be shifting.
I have been surprised over the past 24 or 48 hours by what is coming out of the White House.
It remains incoherent, and Sean Spicer's idiotic, unforgiveable Hitler analogy is a pretty clear symptom of the disarray, as Pulitzer-Prize-Winning Jim Morin points out.
I particularly like that he doesn't actually reference the Hitler thing: Just about everything that comes out of Spicer's mouth is a national embarrassment.
Not that throwing him out and putting Kellyanne Conway in the slot would improve things, but if you wondered how Trump managed to bankrupt so many companies, his idea of a PR professional is surely a clue.
Judging not simply by the punitive strike but by Trump's temperate remarks at his press conference yesterday with the head of NATO, including his apparent admission of having backed off his high horse in talks with Xi Jinping, it's pretty obvious that Trump is suddenly listening to people he had previously ignored and ignoring people to whom he had previously listened.
This CNN column (mute your speakers before clicking) runs it down well, including this semi-disclaimer:
Of course, one day of policy adjustments does not necessarily mean that Trump's unique political persona and methodology are suddenly going to change. After all, the President has spent most of his first 100 days in office torching conventional political practice, trading in untruths and exaggerations, and pouring oil on political controversies on Twitter -- including accusations that his campaign had links to the Kremlin at a time when Moscow was being accused of interfering in the US election.
Still, unless you are a victim of Trump Derangement Syndrome, you have to admit he doesn't seem as batshit crazy as he did two weeks ago, and, if the difference is that he listens to Jared Kushner, well, you don't have to love nepotism to appreciate somebody -- anybody -- throwing a bucket of water over the damn fool.
If nothing else, the last time we had a nitwit in the Oval Office, the people he listened to bullshat us into Iraq. Maybe this nitwit will listen to less toxic manipulators.
Though, by the way, the popular theory that he launched the strike as part of a clever strategy is way too generous. I don't think there is a coherent, much less "clever," strategy coming out of his administration or that he has the pragmatism and common sense to make a deliberate move in order to appear presidential.
In fact, I like Lee Judge's take on the punitive strike:
That's not Trump Derangement Syndrome. That's dark but reasonable analysis.
In a Facebook comment before I gave up on reasoning with TDS victims there, I likened the (treaty-mandated) heads-up to Russia to approaching a biker in a bar and saying "Look, I've got no quarrel with you, but your friend here is being an a******."
Sometimes, the biker sticks up for his buddy, but other times he turns to him and tells him to STFU.
He's also apt to say to you, "Do what you gotta" and admire your gall for being so outfront.
And so crazy.
Sometimes crazy is a cool hand.