Archive for November, 2010

“Bodies Revealed” Exhibit…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, November 20, 2010

The Grand Rapids Public Museum (a.k.a. the Van Andel Museum) is hosting an exhibit called “Bodies Revealed,” and it just opened this past weekend. If you don’t want to click the link, here’s the basic scoop:

In this phenomenal exhibition about the amazing and complex machine we call the human body, more than a dozen full body human specimens and hundreds of organs are respectfully displayed to tell the story of the miraculous systems at work within each of us.  With a reverent, academic approach, this display allows people of all ages to more closely observe the skeletal, muscular, nervous, digestive, respiratory, reproductive and circulatory systems, and to absorb information normally reserved only for medical professionals. 

It’s an exciting idea, but of course there are real possibilities for attendees to be “shocked, nauseated, or even offended.” Much the same way I feel about politicians reaping the benefits of their world-class (and government-run) health care while telling me that my family doesn’t deserve the same.


Stupid Money Tricks…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, November 13, 2010

When somebody would ask Charles Schultz about his comic strip Peanuts and the significance of his work, he would generally revert to his Midwestern roots and be self-effacing in talking about his “silly drawings.” But if a critic ever dismissed his work as “silly drawings,” Schultz was keenly defensive and not at all kind in his counter-attacks. Unfortunately, I don’t know stuff like this about Schultz firsthand. One of my regrets is that I never took the time to go meet Schultz. In 1989 Jane and I went to San Francisco as part of a business trip for her company. It was very cool and got to hang out with her sister, Feather. What I didn’t do was drive an hour north to Santa Rosa and meet Schultz. At the time, I was aware he lived in Santa Rosa and was easily found — he had lunch every day at the café that was part of the ice arena he had built. The staff kept him shielded but he would likely talk with you if you came asking cartooning advice. As Charlie Brown might say, “Rats!”

But I bring this up because Michigan seems to have a similar relationship with its automobile industry. That is, when asked we tend to take the self-effacing Midwestern approach to describing it. “Yeah, it was great, and we let it get screwed up, but we’re working hard at making something good. It won’t be the same, and that’s okay. The world has changed, and we have to change with it.” But when outsiders (southern senators, west coast hipsters, or — worst of all — Wall Street financial “experts”) make their disparaging remarks, well, I myself start channeling another hero I regretfully never met, Kurt Vonnegut, in wanting to tell them all to go take a flying f— at a rolling donut.

I decided to go a more positive route with this week’s comic, but the venom is still there. It seems pretty clear to me (and I think the latest cars and trucks from Detroit proves this out) that we can and should create and manufacture world-class products in the United States. If only we as a country would redirect some of our energy away from stupid money tricks and into building useful things.    

What really brought this into focus was a conversation with my brother who has spent his entire working life in the automotive industry designing, facilitating, and creating tangible products that consumers want to buy. In other words, my brother is an economic engine. If you wanted to create a strong, growing economy, you would start by ordering a case of Michael Auchters. So I’m talking on the phone with him last week and he’s telling me he is trying to refinance his house — a reasonable and sensible thing to do, especially with rates so low. And Mike has a reasonable and sensible idea of how he wants to do it, but all his bank will do is pitch him teasers — save on monthly payments!!! (Fine print: double-mortgages, balloons, deferred payments, potential disaster) My brother is smart enough not to fall into the trap. I’m hoping the rest of the country is, too. We have enough regrets about how we handled stupid money tricks before.


Dear Michigan Republicans…

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

A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.
— Agent K from “Men in Black

Republicans swept to power here in Michigan last week. Both the House and Senate will have large GOP majorities, the Attorney General, Secretary of State (our version of the DMV), two Supreme Court justices, our local US House reps — all Republican. And after 8 years, even our governor. That’s him in front holding the letter, Rick Snyder. (Or is he? As I was drawing him it dawned on me that there’s a very real possibility we Michiganders just elected Detective Frank Drebin from the “Naked Gun” movies.)

Now as an individual, I realize that these folks will be new to their jobs and it would be a challenge for them to come up to speed under the most ideal of circumstances. But of course now they will have to do it in historically trying times with severely limited resources. And yet, as a Michigan voter, I want to see some damn results. If any of them need a reality smack in the face, they need go no further than today’s reaction to the ideas floated by a bipartisan committee to reduce the federal deficit. It’s a basic, sensible recipe — reduce spending and increase revenue, which makes sense, right? Apparently, already we hate it. Of course, it doesn’t help when the Associated Press starts its story with “In a politically incendiary plan…”

Good luck new office holders everywhere! Don’t screw up…


Naybe He Got Runned over by a Tractor…

First, you should know that my daughter Natalina is advancing the fine Auchter tradition with Grandville High School theater and will be appearing as Andromeda in the Greek tragedy, “The Women of Troy.”  Performances are next week, Thursday, Friday, Saturday (November 18-20), each at 7:00PM at the high school. Click here for more details. Word on the street is that it’s gonna be impressive.

When you do come, you will be treated to a printed version of the above drawing in the program. Here’s the back story: In 1999 we moved to our current home, which happens to have a backyard that borders the Grandville cemetery. None of our children found this scary or even peculiar. In fact, we would often go for family walks — the headstones had an almost endless variety of words, letter, numbers, and these would generate all sorts of questions and educational opportunities.

One day four year-old Natalina was particularly interested in some of the symbols. “What are they for?” she wondered. Jane and I explained that these images generally meant something significant about the person — like a military veteran might have a flag to let people know he died in the service of his country. Natalina thought about this the way Natalina thinks about things — she says nothing as her beautiful eyes dart and swim. After a while we came upon a man who had images of farm equipment engraved on his headstone. Natalina asked what we thought they meant. We said, “Well, maybe the man was a farmer or he found joy in working the earth to grow things.” Natalina considered this for a moment and then offered helpfully, “Or naybe he got runned over by a tractor.” 

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Campaign Rhetoric Runs Hottest in the Days Before an Election…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, October 30, 2010

Boy, how ‘bout that election, huh? Are you kiddin’ me? Politicians with their attack ads and whatnot. AmIright? Ha! Who’s with me? I tell ya!…

Yeah, it just seems like bad standup schtick to talk about an election after an election. Worse, to talk about a pre-election editorial cartoon after the election. …but it’s all I got, so let’s review the highlights and then you can get back to Facebook: was an awesome resource for the election season. Their “Truth-O-Meter” rated political ads their depth of trueness — best being “True” and then desending to “Mostly True”, “Half True,” “False,” and for the worst, “Pants on Fire.” One of my pants-on-fire experiences came from a robo-call I got last weekend. The somber deep male voice advised me that candidate for US Congress, Justin Amash, had voted to give our seaports to terrorist. That a bill he supported would sell our seaports to a company from the United Arab Emirates (UAB) and that two of the 9/11 terrorist were from there so…. Of course, Amash could never have voted on such a bill — he was a state representative. And Michigan doesn’t have seaports that the legislation was talking about. And I don’t believe two of the terrorist were from the UAB, but even if they were I’m pretty sure that doesn’t make everybody else from the UAB a terrorist. So many lies packed into 30 seconds.

The Bob & Tom Show was running hilarious ads for fake candidate “Doug LaDouche.” Click for a collection of some of the things he said. My favorite: “I’m for eliminating all taxes. The government should use its own money, not ours.”

This is one of my favorite comedy bits. Greg Warren talks about his parents fighting each other with political ads: