Archive for April, 2010
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, April 24, 2010
I typically don’t go for the “labeling” approach of editorial cartooning. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it wasn’t uncommon for a newspaper editorial cartoon to have 20 or more callouts with arrows and signs and whatnot. And this worked because readers generally spent some time going over the cartoon and cartoonists didn’t necessarily expect everybody to get each jab and joke, so they tended to include something for everybody. Over the past 100 years cartoons have trended toward simpler, single-idea pieces and labeling has become kind of passé.
But I had this wonderful vision of a wiener dog chasing its own tail. And because it’s a wiener dog, the chase is an exercise in futility — it is physically impossible to catch its tail. It seemed the perfect allegory for Michigan’s chasing a sustainable budget with a revenue structure created back in our manufacturing economy era. It’s not going to happen, so it’s time to make some decisions. It will be difficult — some people will have to pay higher taxes!!!!!!!!!!!! — but it’s the sensible thing to do.
This allegory actually carries further with my life. When I was two or three, my uncle gave our family a dog: Charlie Brown. And (Mom and Dad, correct me if I’m wrong) if he wasn’t exactly a dachshund he was dachshund-ish. Charlie Brown loved my Mom. I loved my Mom. Charlie Brown did not love me. I did not love Charlie Brown. Fighting ensued. I can remember Charlie Brown latching onto my arm and the feeling of me punching Charlie Brown in the face. Clearly things were not working, nor were they going to get better. So my parents had to make a difficult decision. Understand that my Mom — aka, St. Francis — did not want to get rid of Charlie Brown. It might have been timely successes with potty training that tipped the scales to my favor, and I got to stay. (I have no doubt that Mom and Dad had their second thoughts when several years later the bills for my orthodonture work started rolling in.)
Having a graduating senior has finally forced my hand to figure out how to bring our video archives into this new Internets thingy. Literally force, because my hand prefers creating new over working with old. But here’s a special little nugget I dug out of my college archives.
This is a music video I did for my Advanced Video class at Michigan Tech. The song is “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash. It seemed pretty appropriate for the job interviews I was suffering through at the time. The quality of the video is, of course, awful. But that’s what you get when you transfer the Betamax master to a VHS tape, let it sit for 25 years, transfer it to a DVD, rip the DVD, edit in QuickTime, and then upload. But I think the story holds up. The video shoot was a riot. The editing was horrific (dodgy analog equipment). And the experience is still paying dividends — this is where I learned to storyboard as well as to improvise when the storyboard became incompatible with reality.
Dom, Meg, Jeff — what do you think about getting together to do a silver anniversary edition?
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, April 17, 2010
For this week’s cartoon, I’m proud of myself for showing a little restraint. But I don’t know if it made for a better cartoon. See, the more I draw, the less interest I have in participating in (and therefore promoting) the idea of sides. You know, that every issue has a left and right side, or liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, Socialist/Fascist, and so on. Beyond the fact that most issues are more nuanced than having clearly definable sides, this sides business quickly devolves to stereotyping and name calling. When you chose your side, your focus becomes defining the other side as clueless, demonic, ill-mannered, stinky, etc., and not so much with the articulating and advancing your point.
But this presents a bit of a dilemma for an editorial cartoonist. Stereotyping and name calling happen to be basic tools of the craft. They are shortcuts that the readers recognize without labels or other additional context. So when I was thinking though this week’s topic (Michigan’s soon to be implemented ban on smoking in restaurants and public gathering places), I naturally wanted to use shortcuts. I wanted to draw older white dudes in trucker hats hanging at the VFW complainin’ about the galdurn govermunt takin’ away their God-given right to freely enjoy their tobacco addiction.
That would have made the cartoon easier to digest at a glance. But it also would have come across as a left-wing attack on the right-wing, which had nothing to do with the point I was trying to make. And that is point was: we all seem to tolerate government up to moment it doesn’t allow us to do what we want to do. Then logic (government can’t be both evil genius and complete idiot) gets thrown out the window. (I do, however, reserve the right to stereotype and name call at any point in the future. If that’s what I want to do….)
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, April 10, 2010
When my family moved from South Carolina to Michigan when I was nine, there were lots of things I didn’t understand. First, everybody’s Dad worked a shift at a plant. My Dad sold chemicals to those plants, so I knew what they were, but I didn’t get the concept of a “shift” and what “first, second, third, split, double, etc.” meant. My first summer, I didn’t understand where everybody went on the weekends. My neighborhood would seriously empty out. I was told, “They went UpNorth.” That didn’t help — where the heck was UpNorth? “It’s where people have their cabins.” Oh. I still didn’t understand, but at a certain point — if you want to have any chance of not being a pariah — it’s best to say “oh” when something is explained in a way that strongly implies that it is common knowledge. I came to accept that cabins were some sort of vacationy things.
I was starting to get my bearings but then come fall, just before Thanksgiving, there was another mass migration up north to cabins, but this time it was just Dads and they all had (!) guns. What sort of shift was this? Deer hunting shift, apparently. Oh. Again, I didn’t get it right away. That was until my friend Joe’s mom picked me up to take me to a 5th grade basketball game. Mrs. Peltier had car pool that night, and the only vehicle they had big enough to take us five or six Holy Redeemer boys to the game was their Suburban. It was enormous. Big enough to carry all of us boys plus a dead, bloody deer in the way back. I know this because on that particular day, there was one back there. Mrs. Peltier apologized for not having time to pull it out — Mr. Peltier had just returned from hunting. None of the other boys seemed bothered by this. It was just a Michigan thing.
So, yeah, there are some special things about Michigan, and one of them happens to be the popularity of tromping around the rural landscape with guns, which — and I’m being perfectly sincere — is great. I don’t hunt. I think there are two reasons for this. One, my family didn’t vacation UpNorth or have a cabin. Second (and I think this is the bigger reason), I don’t like to be cold. And having to sit perfectly still for hours in a deer blind on bitter November mornings — not enticing. But I get hunting. I get why there is a Michigan culture that supports hunting and related lifestyle. Unfortunately, I also understand why there are a very small percentage of zealots who take the guns and rugged independence and separate society to an extreme, and that’s why we end up with groups like the Michigan Militia from the 1990s and now the Hutaree of today. They shouldn’t define Michigan, but radicals always seem to get a disproportionate share of the attention. I don’t understand why that has to be, but, ya know, you have to move on.
Some things I get right away (Ernie Harwell), and some things I never will (Bob Seger).
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, March 20, 2010
If I were clever and organized, I would link you to previous posts I’ve made regarding term limits. Alas. I am neither. So suffice to say, I resent any law that is designed to reinforce the notion that I am neither clever nor organized.
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, March 13, 2010
This is an important issue, and Michigan needs help. Perhaps if somebody in a higher office in Washington DC — somebody, say, who was the leader of one of the branches. Executive, for instance. What if that person was from a Great Lakes state? I dunno, Minnesota, Wisconsin, maybe Illinois. And what if this person… hey, wait minute…..