Archive for Grand Rapids Biz Journal

Conventional Wisdom in the Auto Industry…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, March 15, 2010

This turns out to be the last editorial cartoon that I’ll be doing for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, at least for the foreseeable future. Having started to draw for the Grand Rapids Press, the Business Journal did not want to continue. So the count stands at 751 cartoons over 14 years. I certainly enjoyed it — they were fun to work with, they gave me lots of leeway, and I got to draw comics. That’s a good run.

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On Reason and Jerkiness…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, March 8, 2010

I was listening to a news story on the radio — it was some sort of protest or march about something that inflames folks these days. So I’m guessing it was either health care or American Idol. At one point the reporter led in with a “and then things started to get a little edgy” and then two men arguing. One screamed, “Do you have Medicare?! Do you have Medicare?!” And another screamed, “Everything the government does is bankrupt! Everything!” Now, because writing is linear, it appears that the two men may have taken turns and perhaps even listened to each other, carefully considering the other’s opinion before offering a well-constructed counterpoint. Right. It was actually one big tangled mess of crashing sound waves.

I was feeling very judgmental and empathizing with the reporter who was trying to add some context to the story. But then this week’s comic popped into my head with the three players:

  • The hopelessly self-assured jerk
  • The voice of consideration and reason
  • The cartoonist, who likes to think of himself as a voice of consideration and reason, but given the opportunity might just as likely be a jerk

The jerkiness comes mostly from my amusement in drawing a Hitler mustache on the guy in the fourth panel. Are you all familiar with Godwin’s Law? It states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” I think it goes for wordy cartoons, too.


Southern Senators and Automakers…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, March 1, 2010

You guys ever see the movie “Cool Hand Luke”? You haven’t? If I were in charge of our education system, I would make viewing “Cool Hand Luke” a graduation requirement. Why? Because that movie is just full of metaphors and analogies that an editorial cartoonist could use — I could steal a quote or draw a scene, and everybody would instantly recognize it. I’ve lamented before about the lack of universal cultural touchpoints and how it makes my life more difficult, so I won’t go on, but I will ask this: What three movies would you make graduation requirements? The first that come to mind for me are:

 And now I want to add “The Big Bus.” Not because it has any sort of social truths that would be helpful for cartooning (or any redeeming value, really). But if I were in charge of the whole educational system, I would quickly become drunk on power and make people watch stuff nobody knows about but I think is hilarious. Sorry.

Anyway, in Cool Hand Luke, the fellow in charge of the prison camp is a character known as “Captain.” He dresses in a clean, white shirt and is seemingly very cordial and gentile with his southern drawl and measured tone. He’s in control. That is, until things don’t go his way. Then he becomes something of a bloviating jerk. Go back to a year ago when various bloviating jerks, er, southern senators took Michigan automakers to task — much of it well-deserved, by the way, but still tough to take when your local economy depended on fixing the mess, not just simply casting blame. Now back to today, when these same southern senators are conspicuously quiet when an automaker with major installations in their states makes some pretty big blunders. What we got here is failure to communicate. 

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A Sure Sign the Recession Has Run Its Course…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 22, 2010

’nuff said. Seriously! That’s enough!!!


The Endangered Species of Thoughtful Politicians…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 15, 2010

As I alluded to last week, my local congressional representative Vern Ehlers recently announced he has no intention of running again this fall. Good for Vern. He’s a physicist by training, and I’m sure he will get much more enjoyment pursuing his scientific interests (Honey, I’m going to build a cyclotron in the basement!) than dealing with a dysfunctional congress. Ehlers is a decent guy — a Republican and fiscal conservative with an open mind, particularly for environmental issues. Or, as the cartoon refers to him, an endangered species.

So it will be interesting to see who wins the Republican nomination, which is essentially the de facto winner for our district. Already there are true bloods lining up to out zealot each other with “I hate government, government hates us” this and “taxes ruin everything always every time” that. Bad for us. Perhaps if Ehlers has something left in his tank for serving his country, he will work toward devising a ray gun that can be used on politicians who follow their party’s line too closely — the beam would stimulate the disused reason and thoughtful consideration parts of the brain back to activity. How about it, Vern? Please?


Oh, I Agree! There’s Just One Little Thing…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 8, 2010

This actually ties in nicely with the recent announcements of some sane/sensible congress folks (Representative Vern Ehlers of Michigan, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana) to not seek re-election. Yes, yes, the government, the system, the elected officials, the MAN all have a big hand in the dysfunction. But if you are an incumbent with some grasp of reality, would you want to bother trying to convince voters likes this little old lady to do the right thing? Me neither.

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Texting (and iPading) While Driving…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 1, 2010

Ha! I was starting to write a horribly convoluted story about technology and vehcile safety and long, gray nostril hairs, but I just realized: I’ve got too many things to do and have too many thoughts distracting me. To continue would likely result in the blog entry equivalent of a car wreck. And that would be ironicish. (See? I’m making up words!) I’m going to go try paying attention to just one thing at a time now….

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Slashing Our Way to Prosperity in Michigan…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 25, 2010

Ah, yes. Nine years into our Michigan recession, lawmakers in Lansing are ready to lead us in a bold new direction! *Sigh*

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Constitution Overhaul, Health Care Reform, and Hieronymus Bosch…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 18, 2010

My earliest cartoons revolved around two characters: an angel and a devil. (Someday I’ll get all scanny and post some of these for you.) I suppose it was not extraordinary that as a young Catholic boy I would muse beyond our mortal world and consider how these heaven and hell things might function. It is a little disturbing that I tended to focus more on the hell….

One comic that pops to mind:

  • Panel 1: A man is tied to a post and a devil is snapping his bare back with a whip. The man is laughing uproariously, and the devil is angry.
  • Panel 2: Devil: “What are you so happy about? You sold your soul, and you’re being tortured?” Man: “Yes, but in I sold my soul for eternal bliss!”
  • Panel 3: Man throwing his head back and laughing. Devil: “%@#$* loopholes…”

 A more current thought is this: What if there is no actual “Hell” as a destination point but rather an infinitely long line you must wait in throughout eternity with peppy, muzak versions of your favorite songs playing in the background?

Or, for something more old school — with fiery brimstone and gnashing of teeth — I considered in this week’s comic an eternity of the health care reform debate. Ooo, nasty! And frankly, nobody depicts old school hell like the 15th/16th century Dutch painter, Hieronymus Bosch (the darkness! the eyes! the creepy birds!). Now, why in the, um, hell would I have the imagery of a pre-Renaissance painter floating around in my head, at the ready to use in an editorial cartoon? I dunno. That early (and apparently continuing) fascination with these topics and, more likely, something my parents did wrong. Yeah, let’s go with that one. 🙂

Whatever the reason, the comic germinated when former Grand Rapids mayor John Logie publically suggested that Michigan should consider revamping its constitution (which hasn’t had a good whisking since the early 1960s). I happen to think it would be a good idea. With Michigan at its (hopefully) lowest point, it’d be an excellent time to get ourselves aligned for moving forward. Or it could be a torturous political painfest. Heaven or hell. Fascinating…

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Something NOT to Say During a Job Interview…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 11, 2010

So after the attempted bombing of the Christmas day Northwest flight to Detroit, Pete Hoekstra — a US congressperson from West Michigan — had an error in judgment. And I’m going to call it an error in judgment because, given the circumstances, I think — I hope — that that was all it was.

Circumstance #1: Pete Hoekstra is the ranking member (leader of the minority party) of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which means he is privy to all sorts of information on international terrorism and what is going on behind the scenes. That makes him something of a go-to guy when it comes to these issues. For intelligence matters, Pete Hoekstra is somebody. For other matters, Pete Hoekstra is a congressy something or other from one of those states nobody cares about. So “terrorism-related” is right in Hoekstra’s wheelhouse, and when it happens, he’s gonna be swinging.

Circumstance #2: Pete Hoekstra is running as a Republican candidate for Michigan this year. There are lots of Republican candidates, and they all profess their strong dissatisfaction with the current governor (a Democrat) and president who either have already ruined everything or are in the process of. It’s a good strategy. Really good. (Think of how well “I’m not George W. Bush” worked in 2008.) So it’s difficult to tell the candidates apart. Hoekstra is in big need of an issue to differentiate himself.

Interesting Side Note: Why is Pete Hoekstra running for Governor when he could have easily gotten himself re-elected to the US House in a prestigious committee position? I don’t know. Guilt I think. In 1992 Hoekstra got himself elected largely on the populist promise of self-imposed term limits. A fellow Republican, Guy Vander Jagt, had held that particular West Michigan seat for 26 years and fully intended to hold it for life. Hoekstra said that if he won, he would serve for no more than six terms. But when 2004 rolled around, he ran. It was fine with me. I think term limits for congress folks are stupid, short-sighted, and liable to either be ignored or broken if at all possible. So I hold no animosity toward Hoekstra for that.

Error in Judgment: Hoekstra (or more likely, his people) saw the Christmas underpants bomber as a golden opportunity — an issue very clearly his own that would set him apart (and raise money!). Soon after the event, the Hoekstra campaign sent out a fundraising letter saying, essentially, “if you hate terrorists like I do and are afraid of the Obama administration allowing them to fly to your house willy-nilly, then you should elect me governor (no, wait!, first send money, then elect me governor) because I know whole bunches of stuff about these things that you wouldn’t understand and they hate you, so, um, yeah, I should be governor. Don’t forget about the money thing.”

Kind of hard to follow the logic, huh? Ahh, I’ll let this one pass. But no money for you, Mr. Hoekstra.


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