Archive for February, 2007

It Sucks To Be Michigan…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 12, 2007

No need to go into detail on this one. The Michigan state government is wrangling with yet another budget crisis: Projected revenue will fall short in the coming fiscal year, so it’s either cut services or raise taxes (or both). Something has got to give because the state simply cannot run a deficit. The federal government, however…


We’re Still at War? Huh. I Couldn’t Tell…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 5, 2007

This comic came out the Monday after we here in West Michigan (and our town of Grandville in particular) were absolutely cur-rushed by an honest-to-God blizzard. Two feet of snow, blowing and drifting, negative temperatures, double-digit negative wind chills. It was nasty, sure. But despite my grousing about the time it took to remove all that snow from off and around the house and the fact that my feet (despite three plus pairs of socks) were perpetually cold, it really wasn’t that bad. In the end, I decided when I wanted to be inside and warm and away from the nastiness.

Our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan on the other hand — not so blessed. They are not only having to deal with levels of discomfort way, way beyond my drippy nose, but there are also the issues of being away from home, away from family, with an unclear mission, with mixed support, and — oh, yeah — all sorts of people constantly trying to kill them (with appalling success).

Which got me to thinking, what have we, the folks who aren’t in or around the military, done so far to sacrifice for these wars? (Yes, yes — beyond the deficit billions of our children’s tax money that has been spent.) Not much, really. And to be clear, by “sacrifice for the war,” I mean, “sacrifice to avoid war” and not “sacrifice so we can make more war.”

Specifically I’m thinking we need a serious, long-term, energy policy that slows and eventually stops the flow of money to countries and radicals that are funding wars against us. I’m talking about an effort beyond the scale of the one that put a man on the moon. What do we have to do to stop importing foreign oil? Gas taxes? Epic conservation efforts? Rethinking nuclear power? Serious public transportation? More funding for engineering schools? Hey, even if it means wearing four pairs of socks, wouldn’t it be worth the sacrifice?

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Pfriggin’ Pfizer Pfirings…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 29, 2007

Recently Pfizer, the world’s largest drug maker, did what companies of all flavors do: they announced a reorganization, consolidation, budgetary adjustment, fiscal refinement, monetary re-alignment. In other words, the sacked a whole bunch of people. And among the sackies were 2000 or so workers at a research and development center in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is home to the main University of Michigan campus and as a college town has not had to deal so much with the massive layoffs that other Michigan towns have been experiencing for, oh, the past 25 years.

The news wasn’t shocking. Pfizer has been struggling of late; it will soon lose exclusive patents on some of its biggest money-makers and new products in their pipeline have been failing miserably. Still, when you’re Michigan and you’re doing your level best to transform into a state with professional, high-paying high-tech jobs, losing a significant hunk of scientific research paychecks is, as our Governor Granholm described it, “a punch in the gut.”

So the point of the comic was pretty much just to commiserate with that. Losing your job sucks, and unfortunately it’s a common experience in the modern work world — if not firsthand then at least having felt the whoosh of the swinging ax as it passed you by. You have to move on, of course. And not by trying to pass a law will fix everything because (and I don’t think I’m overusing the adverb here) that never, never, ever, never, ever works. No, I think it’s a dynamic mix of industry, government, and individuals facing the reality and working together on solutions. First step though is to acknowledge that it is, in fact, painful.

Unless, of course, there were a pill you could take. It’s a huge market. Perhaps Pfizer should look into that….


What Happened to the Bookstore?…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 22, 2007

A year ago, an independent bookstore opened in downtown Grand Rapids, River Bank Books. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago it closed. It was a bummer on several levels. First, you hate to see any bookstore close. Second, you’d like to see stores that aren’t part of mega-chains succeed. Third, things like bookstores make downtowns just that much nicer, and (whether it’s true or not) tend to be perceived as a bellwether of a city’s health.

I did, in fact, patronize the store. I didn’t go there as a destination, but it was nice to pop in while I was down there. I even bought some stuff, though obviously not enough.

So when I found out the news, I wanted to draw a comic about it because, you know, I wanted to call attention to the cause, and maybe help other downtown retailers and just sort of rally, um, support for the….

Okay. Honestly? I did, in fact, have some sympathies here, but my primary motivation for this week’s comic was my right thumbnail. A couple of days before deadline, I got my thumbnail bent back playing basketball. The nail luckily snapped back in place, but it was bruised halfway down and sore as hell. I couldn’t hold a pen without extending the thumb out, which was no good for detailed drawing. So I came up with this comic because it required limited drawing board work; I did most of it on the computer.

The thumb is all better now. So no smarty comments on next week’s comic about not being able to tell by the quality of the drawing….


Shopping Roulette…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Family magazine, January 2007