Archive for December, 2010

‘Tis the Season…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, December 25, 2010

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Handguns and America…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, December 18, 2010

The Press ran a series of stories last week on handguns and how lost or stolen handguns have been used in several local violent crimes. It really was extraordinary journalism because the articles didn’t take sides — there was no “let’s hear from pro-gun and anti-gun lobbyist positions.” The articles simply illustrated the sometimes overlooked consequences of legally owned guns and left it to the readers to draw their own conclusions. I tried to do the same.

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Senator Levin Attempts a Sensible Chat…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, December 11, 2010

Carl Levin, our senior senator from Michigan, is a widely respected man of integrity. You can certainly debate his political leanings and perhaps quibble with his with voting record, but you cannot deny his devotion and professionalism. He’s a Washington insider who retains a remarkable sense of trustworthiness.

In other words, Levin is what John McCain used to be.

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Honouring the Spirit of Christmas in Grand Rapids…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, December 4, 2010

What’s your favorite version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”? A bit of a trick question because for me reading the original story in Dickens’ own words is the very best. I reread it when I got the basic idea for this week’s comic. I knew exactly what I wanted and where it was, but it is such a delight to read this book. It’s amazing, really, when you consider how well it is known and clichéd in some respects it has become. (And as an editorial cartoonist I say “thank God!” because there are so few literary references these days that are universally recognized.) But every time I read it, the story just jumps — funny, compelling, and extraordinary.

And I think you have to read the whole story to truly feel the intensity of Scrooge’s graveside transformation when he says, “…I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Because it’s one thing to say those words, and it’s quite another to intend to follow through. In Grand Rapids we are blessed with people who seemed to have, in fact, followed through. Next month the new Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital will open (there were tours last week). Something like this doesn’t happen without the spirit of Christmas in somebody’s heart.

But to answer the original question, the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol for me is the one from 1984 with George C Scott. It’s authentic, magical, and Scott is diabolically mean and joyously reformed. I also like Scrooged from 1988. The casting is inspired, particularly Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas present and Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim. The worst (again, for me) is a 1970 “animated” version I remember seeing as a kid. It’s the straightforward story set in Victorian times, but will lousy limited animation and no soul. A classic example of  the “it’s a cartoon, the kids will like it” mentality that inevitably produces a turd. And along those lines, I’ve never seen Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, but I’ve heard a song(!) from it, which was painful. How about you?

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Again, Never Read the Comments…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, November 27, 2010

Often when I’m trying to come up with an idea for a cartoon, I will read online articles on topics I think I might have an opinion about. It’s a good way to become more informed, perhaps add a little insight, and verify I’m on the right track. What I don’t do is scroll to the bottom and read the comments section. Why? Well, it is typically the express lane to Crazytown, and I get enough junk email every day extolling the virtues of, say, financial windfall from dead Nigerian royalty or breast augmentation (or both) to be reminded of Crazytown’s existence.

But, um, yeah, sometimes I do look. I’m not sure if it was boredom or morbid curiosity, but this week when I was researching the “Detroit and Flint Dangerous Cities” topic on MLive.com, I did scroll down to see just how bad it could be. Yep, pretty bad. Or at least bad enough that it became the topic I wanted to draw about. The conflict I had, though, was I had already drawn on subject of comment boards about a year and a half ago. (Click here.) I only get one editorial cartoon a week, so I hate to rehash things I’ve already done. But I was pleased to see that comic I had drawn before was, well, not particularly good. In fact, it was more than a bit ham-fisted. So that gave me clearance to try for improvement. And so to make this a proper comment board I want half of you to tell me the comic sucks, and the other half to tell them they suck. Oh… and the third comment, whatever it is, has to include the word “Nazi.”

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Cassaundra Jane

First of all, her name could be a bit confusing to those outside the family. Her name was officially Cassaundra Jane (with the “u” in purposely included to ensure it was pronounced “kah-sawn-drah” and not “kah-san-drah”). More typically it was Cassie, but more commonly it was Poo! (with the exclamation point purposely included because it seemed to fit). There were of course many related variations — Poo!Cassie, Poo!Dalolly, DaPoo! — and unrelated: When Atticus was little, he called her “Shnocky-head.” Nobody has any idea where that comes from or what it means, but it too worked. (I contend that her birth name was Stooart Loouise Pooskawitz, a Peruvian/Siamese Jew by way of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan born to a ne’er-do-well cad and a stinky lady of ill-repute on the mean streets of Flint, Michigan. The story I hope someday to turn into a questionable children’s book.)

Whatever you called her, my Cassie was a cat’s cat — smart, sneaky, strong preferences, particular, clean, elegant, opinionated, sweet, and kind of a butthole. It was okay that I called her a butthole when she acted like a butthole — she called me names much worse — but she didn’t especially care for the “butthole” song I would sing to her, although it is certainly a jaunty tune. For 20 plus years, Cassie was my workmate — I would work, she would sleep. To be fair, she did do some other things. She would also bathe loudly and go sit on my keyboard to demand my attention. In our old house, where my office in the basement with her, um, facilities, she would take a dump, which was always a good reminder for me to go stretch my legs while the room aired out. Over the years, whenever I came back to my office (whatever the reason), Cassie had this innate sense of knowing where I needed to be next. If I needed to draw, she would be curled up on my drawing chair. If I needed to be working on my computer, she would be curled up on my desk chair. Uncanny! Then I would feel absolutely horrible having to move her, which of course delighted her to no end. See? Kind of a butthole.

July 1990 my sister-in-law Ann and my mother-in-law brought Cassie to us. Jane and I had been in our first house all of two weeks and were not really looking to add anybody soon, but there she was. I fell in love. The first night we had Cassie, we put her in a room downstairs for the night. We thought she was too small to make it up and down the steps. The moment we closed the door, she started to cry and it broke my heart. So I slept on the floor with her that night. (Next night and most thereafter she was in bed with me and Jane.) Last Saturday, Cassie was failing. Jane had already spent the night with her Friday, so I slept in another room on the floor with Cassie. The beginning met the end. Sunday morning she was gone.

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