Archive for August, 2010

School Consolidation: There Was a Sudden and Awkward Pause…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, August 21, 2010

One time, back in my teenage years, I was riding in a car around Flint with friends. I don’t remember exactly what we were doing. Typically a car full of us meant we were heading someplace to play baseball or football. Or if it was evening, we were looking for an empty but lighted parking lot to throw a Frisbee. (I think it was being the proper mix of generally good kids and generally without money that kept us out of trouble.)

In any case, we were heading west on I-69 and we wanted to get to Bristol Road. I said, “That’s impossible. Both I-69 and Bristol Road go east/west. We’ll have to turn around and go back to I-75.” My friend Dominic said, “No, there’s actually an exit off I-69 for Bristol Road.” I said something back to Dominic, likely questioning both his intelligence and his parental heritage. But Dominic insisted, “I’ve seen it. We use it when we go to the mall.” Again I made disparaging remarks. It made no sense to me. Two parallel lines cannot intersect. It was simple geometry. I bet money. Dominic accepted and — lo and behold — minutes later we came upon the Bristol Road exit. (I-69 does not, in fact, travel perfectly east/west in the Flint area.) I was dumbfounded — reality had totally trumped my ideology. (Dominic let me weasel out of the bet — because he was a good kid and also because he knew I didn’t actually have any money.)

It was a good lesson that I still remember today: It’s fine to carry a general philosophy of how things work, but it’s not a good idea to let ideology blind you to reality. So it goes with public education in Michigan. Last week the Grand Rapids Press ran an extended series on the relative merits of school consolidation. The realities of the situation (dwindling tax dollars but an urgent need for better educated graduates) are smacking around traditionally held views to the point where liberal and conservative ideologies seem to be crossing. To me, that’s a positive sign. It’s time for Michigan to accept that fact that there’s a Bristol Road exit off I-69 and go from there.


Danny & Annie from StoryCorps

I see a lot of animation that I like and some that I love. But every rare once in a while I see something so devastatingly brilliant that I want to help it go viral:

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

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Look out! Those College Costs Are Gonna Soak Us…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, August 14, 2010

One of my favorite water balloon fight techniques (and I believe one of the most effective) is to first lob a balloon at the soakees. (It’s important to throw it high enough so the impact is certain to have the balloon burst.) As the soakees look upward to track the flight, the soaker burns another balloon low and hard, so the soakees either get popped by the low balloon or dodge the low balloon at the risk of the high one bursting on their noggins. Summer fun.

I am not so thrilled, however, with this technique being used on me. And as our family has been following the slow, arching, oncoming costs of sending our first child to college, it seems that our health insurance company has been aiming low — yet another annual increase of 11% come September. Summer not so much fun.


Marxist Mexican Muslims Are Touching My Blueberries!…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, August 7, 2010

Sometimes I feel like I come across as a know-it-all in my cartoons (this blog, too). For the record, I am keenly aware of the vastness of what I don’t know. I am also aware that what may seem to be self-assurance is often simplification for the sake of a better comic. So I want to make clear that what I say in a cartoon is not necessarily what I feel to be the final word. I’d rather provoke than preach.

This week for example I chose to comment on the recent primary elections here in Michigan and how the immigration control became something of a hot topic. The one strong feeling I had was the oddity of it being a hot topic — Michigan isn’t exactly attracting large numbers of immigrants these days, legal or illegal. A lot of seasonal workers come to Michigan to pick fruit, particularly in West Michigan, but we’re not talking enormous numbers. Still, I appreciate that there are rules about how people can enter this country and the frustration with those who obviously are not following the rules.

But that sort of nuanced consideration went out the door when I read a quote from my state representative, Dave Agema of Grandville. Agema is sponsoring legislation to tighten immigration controls and put an interesting spin on the issue:

Agema said his proposed legislation doesn’t target Hispanics but all illegal immigrants. It would require state contractors to use an online verification system to prove their employees’ names match their Social Security numbers, thus blocking illegal workers. “We have the largest concentration of Muslims in the state in the Dearborn area,” Agema said. “I know we have (sleeper) cells there. That is what I really want to get at.”

That sort of locked up my gears. I want to believe Agema’s intentions are good, but… What? Really? How did…? I mean, is this…? Wait, what was that again? Eventually all I could come up with was to slightly exaggerate what Agema said. (See first panel.)

I felt like the cartoon needed more than that, and so here’s another thing you should know: Sometimes my thinking isn’t thinking at all — sometimes it’s merely an absurd but amusing (to me, anyway) thought that happens to get loose. Say, like replacing illegal farm workers with athletic children.

Next week: Less self-analysis

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Democrats — Waiting to Hear the Last Bit…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, July 31, 2010

I understand perfectly the benefits of flossing my teeth. It’s simple, straightforward, and the advantages are clear. It really doesn’t take much time and saves money in the long run. I encourage my children to floss and admonish them for being lazy if they don’t. Still. At the end of the day (both literally and in the cliché sense), I have no enthusiasm for flossing. So I make weasely rationalizations with myself and typically don’t follow through on doing it. Hmmm… Maybe this sudden realization that I’m behaving like a Democrat will motivate me to do the right thing and start flossing regularly. (Or I could do the Republican thing, stop all oral care regulation, and let the free market decide whether my teeth rot.) Perhaps it’s time to seek third-party dentistry….

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