Archive for October, 2009

Nightmares from Dance Recitals Past…

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Originally published in the Grand Rapids Family magazine, October 2009

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Getting Ready to Play Ball in the New Economy…

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Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, October 19, 2009

Back in the day (when we didn’t use trite expressions like “back in the day”), one of the three television stations we got would show old Abbott & Costello movies on Sunday mornings. And back then Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Burton, Michigan had like 27 masses on the weekend to choose from. I tell you this to assure you that we never skipped our holy obligations to take in an old movie — we had lots of church options but very few programming choices. I only missed mass for good reasons like when my parents had a party the night before and I drank for the sludgy coffee our of the industrial percolator left in the kitchen, which made my head spin and my body convulse until I threw up. Good times.

But there were only so many Abbott & Costello movies so the chances of seeing the one with the “Who’s on First” bit was pretty good. I remember watching with my Dad and convulsing again, this time from laughter and no throwing up. It was clever and funny and you could pick it apart line by line to see where they were talking across each other. A little while ago Atticus pulled it up on YouTube, and we had the same experience. So it was fresh in my mind when I was coming up with this week’s comic. The absurdity of the routine dovetailed nicely with all the endless talk in Michigan about the need for an educated workforce, but no real plan for getting one. Remember the fella who plays shortstop? I just hope our routine doesn’t play out to that point.

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Michigan Hits a New Low on the Ol’ Dignity Index…

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Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, October 12, 2009

Ah! Michigan in the fall. Well at least the leaf colors are nice….

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And Now Back to the Healthcare Debate…

GRBJ0728

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, October 5, 2009

Sometimes the comic I end up drawing isn’t the one I wanted to draw. I wish I could blame this on somebody — my editor, my parents, the Man. But the truth is, it’s me: there are times I simply can’t come up with a suitable idea for the topic I’m feeling particularly passionate about. I imagine it’s something like a songwriter wanting to pen a love song for his soul mate, but instead of, say, The Beatles “I Will” or Ben Folds “The Luckiest” he keeps ending up with “Macarthur Park.” (Now just try to get that train wreck of a song out of your head for the rest of the day.)

What I really wanted to draw about this week was a quote I read in a Newsweek excerpt from T.R. Reid’s new book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. It was a fascinating article (and I’m hoping a fascinating book). The basic premise is that a country ends up with the heath care system that reflects the character of the country. So for example, Canadians make no excuses for having to wait a long time for nonemergency care. That’s how they limit costs. And they don’t mind so long as the rich and poor have to wait the same period. Canadians are thrifty and egalitarian (and care mostly about just staying warm). In Germany, health insurance (private, by the way there is no “public option” in Germany but care is universal) will pay for a week at a spa to deal with stress. The British think that’s incredibly stupid and do not pay for it. (Stiff upper lip, the Brits.)

We Americans, of course, have a higgledy-piggledy system where we all think that (because we are smarter than everybody else) we can end up ahead. Everybody thinks this. But everybody can’t end up ahead. There are extreme winners and extreme losers. There are clever advantages to this and cruel efficiencies. Let’s not judge. After all, it very much reflects our American character. (And the same approach has really worked out swell for our financial system, right?!) Ahem. Anyway, the quote that I got stuck on was this:

“The United States is the only developed country where medical bankruptcies can happen.”

Think about that. The only country in the developed world where surviving cancer can and does ruin people. By quitting a job to take care of a loved one or choosing an uncovered procedure or making unlucky decisions on insurance coverage, you can beat the cancer (or not) and then get to foreclose and start over. That doesn’t seem to me to fit with our American character. At least, it shouldn’t.

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Devastating Outbreak of the NL2U Virus…

GRBJ0727

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, September 28, 2009

Is it October already? Time again here in Michigan for our annual state budget shannanigans….

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So Anyway, That’s How We Used to Dance When I Was Your Age…

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Originally published in the Grand Rapids Family magazine, September 2009

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ArtPrize…

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Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, September 21, 2009

I wish I had more time to write about ArtPrize, because I’ve really enjoyed it so far. For those of you in and around West Michigan, it would be hard for you not to know about it. For those outside, here’s a quick primer:

ArtPrize is an international art competition, being held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The exhibition will be from September 23 to October 10, 2009. ArtPrize is unusual both for the size of the top prize ($250,000, combined with other prizes cummulatively amounting to half a million dollars), as well as for the method of judging entries. There is no juror. The artists negotiate a venue with local exhibitors, and the works will be voted on by the public using modern networking technology.

And really, it’s not much more than that, which to me is the charm. Some works have exceeded expectations, some have confounded, some have thrilled, some have puzzled, some have offended, some have inspired, some have, well, you get the idea. And that’s what the cartoon was trying to convey — there has been a wide range of reactions (maybe even to the same piece of art). But the point is that people are moving through the streets of Grand Rapids and having reactions.

Hmmm… That all sounded a little too artsy, didn’t it? How about this instead: When Jane and I visited Wednesday, I saw an enormous table and chairs that has been plunked on top of a bridge, people constantly walking into other people’s camera shots (really funny when it’s not happening to you), pictures of naked painted ladies, plus we got a free beer. AND I successfully parallel parked (on the first attempt) in a free, on-street spot. There. That sounds more like a good time, right?

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