Archive for March, 2010

“Michigan”: Native American Word for “Lousy Roads”…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, March 6, 2010

So the reason this is here — the reason I’m drawing a weekly editorial cartoon for our local daily newspaper, the Grand Rapids Press — is both admirable and maybe a little bit startling: They are trying something different. The Press is trying to play up its strength of covering local/state issues by providing readers with a local/state editorial cartoon in its Saturday editions. As a reader (and especially as the cartoonist), I admire that. It’s startling because, over the past decade as newspaper readership has accelerated into decline, most newspapers have made a point of not trying something different, hoping against hope for better times.

But I’m getting the sense that times are starting to change. The realities of modern media have set in, and some newspapers are looking to build on the advantages that they do have. I’m not ready to break into early Bob Dylan song, but there is definitely a more positive vibe. So I would like for you to do me two favors:

First, if you don’t already have one, get a subscription to the Grand Rapids Press. (Or if that’s too much of a leap, pick up a Saturday newspaper.) I think you’ll be pleased with the overall quality and how pleasant it can be to read something without a creepy dancing lady wanting you to check out her mortgage rates.

Second, read this column written by the editor, Paul Keep. He seems to have a pretty clear vision of where he thinks the paper needs to go. Even if you don’t care at all about the paper, when was the last time you experienced somebody articulating a clear vision?

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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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Buy the Saturday Grand Rapids Press…

Good cartooning news! Starting tomorrow, I will be doing a weekly editorial for the Grand Rapids Press. The folks down at the Press are trying to give the editorial page of their Saturday edition a decidedly local/state issues angle, so they wanted a local/state editorial cartoon. (Hey! That’s me! I can do that!)

I dunno how this will all play out in the online world, so here’s what you need to do: tomorrow, go buy a newspaper. (And this will work out best if you buy a Grand Rapids Press newspaper.) Read it. Enjoy it. Subscribe to it. In fact, while you are out and about, pick up a Grand Rapids Family magazine — they’re free. Then come Monday, that’s right, back to the newstand for your Grand Rapids Business Journal.  Then start a new publication with the name “Grand Rapids” in it and decide it needs cartoons!!! (Okay, getting a little carried away now….)

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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!!!


Grandville Symphony Orchestra

We hear enough bad things about failing schools and wasted public funds — how about a success story? I submit to you the orchestra program at Grandville Public Schools. Check out these YouTube links that my friend Jim Wildgen posted:

These are high school kids from a middle class school system. The three selections are from a recent concert, which was actually only a tune-up ahead of their annual competition. You don’t have to be a classical music fan to appreciate how extraordinary it is for a group this size to work together so well. It’s amazing to me. (Full disclosure: That alabaster cellist in the first chair is my daughter Elisira.)

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