Archive for July, 2010
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, July 17, 2010
One of the real treats of teenage children is having them list parenting techniques that they, as it turns out, really hated. For example, my kids never liked it when I locked them in the basement closet with all the spiders as punishment for refusing to steal cigarettes for me. Who knew they were so sensitive?… Um, right.
Actually the instances they tend to bring up are more on the subtle side. One technique that apparently was universally despised was my use of the term “standard disclaimer.” My kids were all both highly creative and somewhat dubious that I was capable of having good ideas. The net result being long, tedious delays before certain events. Sometimes Jane and I had time to indulge them; and sometimes (as all parents know) you just have to make things happen. Here’s how it worked:
Me: Okay, it’s time for bed. Let’s put these toys away.
Kid: But what if we want to play with them tomorrow.
Me: Then you can get them out tomorrow.
Kid: But what if I forget about the ones I want to play with.
Me: Put them on top.
Kid: But what if somebody moves them around and my favorite one falls to the bottom and gets crushed and turns to dust and floats —
Me: Standard disclaimer.
And with that the discussion was over. “Standard disclaimer” meant “all these scenarios, all the highly improbable eventualities you are spinning right now, they matter less than what we need to focus on. So we’re not going to discuss it further. Let’s go.”
Circling back around to this week’s comic: The Press is running a series of stories about the Grand River, the longest river in Michigan. Like many Midwestern waterways it was horribly polluted by the 1970s, but is in much better shape now. What happened? Well, as I hope you guessed, the correct answer was “C.” (You can’t just pick “B” because you’re a Charlton Heston fan — SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!) I’m old enough to remember that there were people who argued against the Clean Water Act and spun their highly improbable eventualities till somebody declared “standard disclaimer,” and it became law. It wasn’t a perfect law, certainly, but it was time to fix problems and make things happen.
Ugh. You know, sometimes I get to the end of these things and I think “what point was I trying to make?” Because I’m obviously torturing two ideas in a mighty attempt to get them to connect. Let’s go with this: If parents weren’t jerks sometimes then there wouldn’t be clean water.
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, July 10, 2010
My friend Keith wrote me this nugget: “I’ll never understand the hard right. I mean, there are lots of places with weak governments and little regulation. They are called third world countries!”
Nicely done, Keith. (And by the way, no, it wasn’t Keith Olbermann.)
So since mid-May my friend Doug and his girlfriend Katey have been on a kayaking trip from Seattle to Alaska. They are doing this not only because they are adventurous, intrepid people, but also to raise funds for a righteous cause: Interplast, an organization that fixes cleft palates, releases debilitating burn constrictures (scarring), and helps uplift the developing world through education and empowerment.
So it has only taken me two months to realize, hey, this is the sort of thing that should be communicated to other people, maybe over the Internet, maybe in a blog…. Sigh. Still slow as ever on the social networking uptake. But link here to their Kayaking for a Cause website.
Unfortunately, I’m on hiatus for drawing comics for the Grand Rapids Family magazine. Not just me but other freelancers have been put on hold for the time being. No other story, really, than the current economics of the print/publishing world. If you happen to know a paying market for semi-autobiographical cartoons, I’m all ears.
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, July 3, 2010
Riptides are always a summertime story in Michigan, surrounded as we are by massive lakes and miles of shoreline. Casinos continue to be a story as somebody always seems to think it’s a good idea to add just one more.
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, June 26, 2010
When I was 8 or so, there was a family that moved into our neighborhood. They had a boy my age (I don’t remember his name), but his parents were much younger than mine. To broadly categorize his parents, I would say they were hippies. But that term brings with it some negative connotations, most of which I don’t think apply: I never witnessed them taking drugs or singing their virtues, they did not — to the best of recollection — add the word “man” to the end of every sentence, and they never publically wrestled naked in a mud puddle while listening to Hendrix. (I have a keen memory for “naked.”) Conversely, positive connotations don’t necessarily apply either: I don’t remember them being particularly open-minded, friendly, or willing to share their money.
No, they were more Sonny & Cher. Or more precisely, early 1970s Sonny & Cher: popular, hip, now, with clothing that had fringy material. They were, for the times, very cool parents. I cannot give specific evidence that this made them bad parents. They did have a “music” room that we were forbidden to enter. (It had shades, black-lights, a massive stereo, and lots and lots of velvet.) Ten points taken for that. But they also bought their kid a Mattel Vertibird and let us play with it on their kitchen counter. Ten points back for that.
Actually, my only problem with them was that they seemed so decidedly un-parental. That “coolness” thing (and maybe they were actually cool, I don’t know) just didn’t play for me. And it didn’t seem to play for their boy, either. Kids are perceptive like that — they pick up on these things. I decided then that I never wanted to be a cool parent. Nice, approachable, vaguely interesting: yes. Cutting edge of fashion, a friend first, stylish: definitely not.
This, then, was the feeling I tapped into for this week’s cartoon — the squeamishness of adults beyond a certain age trying to be and know cool. (So 10 points to me for knowing enough to look to my daughter’s iTunes library for a band to put on the young person’s shirt. And 10 points away for any sort of implication that Tegan & Sara are who I listen to in my velvet music room.)