Archive for May, 2010

Michigan Braces for Its Own Toxic Slick to Wash Ashore…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, May 22, 2010

Yeah, I had a few misgivings about this week’s comic. I mean, it’s true enough that Michigan’s governor’s race is ramping up to nasty here in Michigan. With a logjam of well-known and well-funded candidates, the Republicans in particular must differentiate themselves to voters. And the easiest way to do that is to slag your opponent. So the mudslinging, from passive-aggressive to overt, has begun. Of course it will be curious when, after the party candidate is decided, these same people will dismiss or deny all the harsh words. “What? I called him a thieving moral degenerate? Oh, ha ha! I don’t think I said exactly that! And besides, his election opponent is a witless, mouth-breathing buffoon.” That’s how it works, you know. Re: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

No, my slight queasiness comes from potentially making light of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. I mean, Michigan is nothing if not water-based, and I can’t imagine the absolute devastation a minor oil spill would cause to our beaches and wetlands, let alone something on the scale of this one. My intent was not to belittle, but to simply employ a cartooning trick of using a more widely understood issue to give context to a less well-known issue. So I’m asking to be granted absolution, although I’m not really sure from whom. I guess if you think I’m a jerk, can you let this one slide? Thanks!

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Pride Burst…

I don’t normally dive too deeply into the personal experience side of this social networking thing, but yesterday was exceptional:

First, our son Atticus has been running track for the first time. His event is the 800 meter run (half mile, which is twice around the track). It’s been a cold, wet, and exceptionally blustery spring. So between running in less than ideal conditions and a couple of cancelled meets, his chance of running the 800 in under 3 minutes came down to the conference finals yesterday. He got a steady start, ran a smart first lap, lengthened his stride on the backstretch of the second lap, and kicked hard to the finish. And… he got himself a personal best 2:59 run. It was awesome.

Jane and I went from the track meet to Natalina’s soccer game. She’s playing for the Grandville JV, and their only loss this year was to Rockford on Monday. There was a rematch yesterday. Natalina plays an aggressive, physical, but clean style of soccer. On Monday, she had frustrated a Rockford player #9 by repeatedly winning the ball, so eventually #9 grabbed her by the neck and threw her down. #9 got a yellow card. At the rematch, Natalina again was winning the battles. Near the end of the first half, Natalina stole the ball from #9, knocking her down (cleanly) in the process. As #9 fell she tried to grab Natalina’s legs. Failing that, she kicked out both legs and tripped her. Again, #9 got a yellow card. (Should have been red, frankly, it was that blatantly obvious she intended to hurt.) Natalina never lost her temper, never whined, and continued to play hard. Absolute poise. It was awesome.

We left the soccer game early to get to the academic award ceremony for the Class of 2010. Elisira was participating as one of the top students in her class. That in and of itself was amazing to experience. But then it came time for the individual departments to give their awards. When Mr. Kennedy got up to present the English Department award, we had high hopes, but out of a class of 500, there’s a lot of competition — everybody takes English classes. Kennedy delivered a beautiful speech. (English teachers have excellent writing skills — go figure.) He built it up slowly and stayed gender neutral, but about halfway through it became obvious who the winner was. Jane and I were sitting behind the last row of students and we could hear them starting the share the answer: “Ellie! Ellie! Ellie!” And when Kennedy finally said her name, I just about burst. It was awesome.

I smelled so bad at the end of the evening with nervous, anxious, excited sweat I really should have been hosed off before Jane let me in the house. That was pretty disgusting. But otherwise it was a beautiful day.

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Public Education Needs to Be Fixed!…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, May 15, 2010

In Michigan it seems our lack of education is causing a lack of education….

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Thank You, Ernie Harwell…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, May 8, 2010

When I was nine years-old we moved to Michigan from South Carolina. In South Carolina, folks followed football and stock car racing. Baseball was played, but it wasn’t followed. The Atlanta Braves were the nearest major league team, but I don’t recall ever hearing about them. We arrived in Michigan in April. Our next door neighbors were the Kidles, a husband and wife in their late 80s. Their house was one of the only styles in our subdivision that had a front porch designed for occupying. (Unlike our two-story colonial that had a small cement block designed only for barely avoiding impact when the screen door was opened.)

When the warm summer evenings arrived, the Kidles would set up a transistor radio on the porch and listen to the Tiger game. Eventually I started to drift over there, and I’d listen, too. Sometimes we’d talk, and sometimes they would tell stories, but mostly we’d sit quietly and enjoy the game. It’s funny how there was such a rhythm to it. You could be mid-sentence and instinctively know Ernie Harwell or Paul Carey was going to say something important — you’d pause, listen to the action, maybe whoop up a Willie Horton homer or Micky Lolich strikeout — then continue without missing a beat. The Tiger broadcast was an integral part of a summer evening.

But you know what? To celebrate Ernie Harwell is not to look to the past — it’s to look to the future. Of the many incredible things I read or heard about Ernie Harwell over the past couple weeks, none was greater than the short article Michael Rosenberg, from the Detroit Free Press, wrote in Sport Illustrated this week. It pointed out that, for the most part, Ernie disliked nostalgia. For him it was all about learning and embracing the new. This is beyond impressive for a person born in the Deep South in the early 1900s. And it explains a lot about why he was so universally loved by generations of Tiger fans. I’m already celebrating Ernie by nearly jumping out of my skin looking forward for this summer!

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USA National Doodle Day, Thursday, May 13th…

Hey gang, it’s almost National Doodle Day time again! Doodle Day is a fundraising event to benefit NF, Inc., an organization dedicated to providing support to individuals and families affected by neurofibromatosis (NF). Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that affects one in every 2,500 births. NF is more common than Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy and Huntington’s Disease combined. Funds raised from the Doodle Day auction will go to support education, advocacy, coalitions, and research for treatments and a cure. For more specifics and links, check out: http://www.doodledayusa.org

I went somewhat political this year. Blatant partisanship seems to open wallets, so I decided to give it a go. If this doesn’t work, I’m going to go with FEAR next year! I swear to God I will! Don’t make me do it!!!

Ahem… Auctioning begins on eBay starting Thursday, May 13th. Lots of cool stuff in the gallery: http://www.doodledayusa.org/gallery/v/2010/

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Ernie Harwell, Erik Prince, and a Quote from “Harvey”…

This post actually has to do with the cartoon that will be in tomorrow’s Grand Rapids Press, but I couldn’t hold off.

The day before my deadline I was noodling through what to say about Erik Prince, the founder of the controversial security contracting firm, Blackwater. Prince was born and raised in Holland, Michigan and was invited back to give a speech at luncheon that traditionally kicks off Holland’s Tulip Time festivities. It is not extraordinary to honor a famous and successful native son in such a way, especially when his parents were largely responsible for rebuilding downtown Holland after the mall was built in the 1990s and the big stores moved out. However, it was fairly extraordinary to invite a fellow whose company has made massive profits off our two ongoing wars while killing innocent people in the process. And to have him kickoff your town’s marquee event, which typically gets no more edgy than the possibility of one of the Oak Ridge Boys’ colostomy bags accidentally falling onto a stage. Further, up till the day of the speech, Tulip Time organizers had agreed to Prince’s request to exclude all media from the public event, eventually allowing the press but no recording devices. Yes, Prince is very clever, but not very, well, nice.

Then Tuesday night Ernie Harwell passed away and my attention shifted to him. (Buy a paper tomorrow — it’s a pretty good cartoon.)

This morning I was again thinking about Prince and Harwell, and one of my favorite movie quotes popped to mind. It’s from the Jimmy Stewart movie, “Harvey,” and it seems to sum it up well:

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.

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Jennifer & Johnia — Based on Two True Governor Stories…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, May 1, 2010

This is obviously (I hope obviously) a play on the movie Julie & Julia. The back story is that Democrat Governor Granholm is trying to appoint political allies to boards of several public universities, even though their terms would begin after Granholm is term-limited out of a job in November. Republican Senate Majority Leader (and current gubernatorial candidate) Mike Bishop was shocked SHOCKED! to uncover such nefarious maneuverings and is vowing to right the wrong. Of course Granholm is only doing exactly what her predecessor, Republican John Engler, did at the end of his last term. (Something to remember the next time your favorite Democrats attempt to impress you with their “moral superiority.”)

And yes, yes, yes, I know — the movie is, like, a year old and the Oscars were months ago. Not exactly on the cutting edge of topicality. But, dangit, the names fit so well, and I so miss gettng to draw Engler!

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