Archive for January, 2011

Focusing on Extreme Examples…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, January 22, 2011

Hey, if you guys need some fun reading material to help pick you up and get you through the winter blues season, may I suggest a book by Louis Sachar? Sachar is a brilliant author who is probably most famous for the book, “Holes.” What an awesome book — a tapestry of interweaving stories. Completely original. Sachar has also written a series of books called “Sideways Stories from Wayside School.” These are just plain fun and tap into your inner 8 year-old and the memory of just how ludicrous elementary school could be.

I was thinking about Sachar because of an interview I had once read with him. He spends an hour or two every day as “writing time.” During writing time, there are no interruptions. No phones, no emails, no texts, no visits, no nothin’. He sits in his office and is completely secluded. He writes. Or just thinks about writing. But nothing else. Otherwise, he’s an affable, approachable, communicative guy. But writing time is writing time.

I really like that notion and was thinking about it when I was trying to come up with this week’s comic (in between emails and phone calls and my own errant thoughts). We’re all so easily distracted (myself certainly included) that it seems counterproductive to allow ourselves to be so readily interrupted. And I think, at least for me, the consequence is that it’s the shinier distractions that grab my attention and my thought processes become much shallower. So it’s easier to be caught by the story of somebody abusing the welfare system and stay at the surface instead of going deeper to understand the context for why it happened.

We could all use some writing time….

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Who Needs an MLK Day?…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, January 15, 2011

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Opting out of the Whole “Sides” Thing…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, January 8, 2011

Even though I drew this cartoon last week Wednesday and it was published before the story of the Arizona tragedy broke over the weekend, I still got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Had I stepped over a line? The comedy comes from two partisans losing control in a highly exaggerated way. (Our new governor in Michigan, Rick Snyder, has gone to great lengths to emphasize the need for all Michiganders to work through our political differences.) I agree with Snyder and am optimistic, but I also have some doubts. This cartoon, I hope, is a fairly honest expression of that. Thank goodness I didn’t decide to have the man and women draw guns in panel three.

But I’m pretty sure why I would never do that, and the reason is sort of sad. Two cartoon characters drawing guns on each other just isn’t enough of an exaggeration. Which is to say, it’s much too believable for it to happen in the United States. Nothing funny down that road.

Related to this, there was a lot of discussion among editorial cartoonists this week about the quality and appropriateness of the cartoons drawn about the Arizona incident. Unique to editorial cartoonists, the first thing was to take to task those who draw the “weeping Statue of Liberty” type of cartoon. (It’s a hack move.) But then like any other online discussion, it quickly devolved into “sides” accusing “sides” of taking “sides.” (To be fair to cartoonists, it’s generally the non-cartoonists who take the discussion there.) This was my reaction and quite possibly, my manifesto:

I don’t know about you, but I get really tired of people trying to pull me into the infernal “sides” sinkhole. I mean, Palin used gun sites on a map for targeted congressional districts. There is no right or left to that — it was willfully reckless and can be addressed on that alone. There is no other “side” you are supporting by editorializing that Palin needs to act more responsibly. And it’s becoming fairly clear that the central issue with Loughner was the ineffective treatment of his mental health issues — drawing about that shouldn’t require a supposed conservative or liberal spin. Cartoons created solely to allow your grouchy friend with the cable news addiction to identify your “side” start to make a weeping Statue of Liberty look not so bad.

By the way, if you want to see what I think is the best editorial cartoon that came out of all this, check out Nick Anderson at the Houston Chronicle.

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New Year’s Stunt in Michigan…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, January 1, 2011

The SciFi Network (yeah, I’m a little chagrinned that I know this channel exists and a bit more that I know where to find it) was running a Twilight Zone marathon New Year’s Day. The family watched a few. Some were scary. Some were pretty campy. But on the whole, they were much less scary and sickening than watching Michigan/Michigan State football.

One of my favorite Twilight Zones is called “The Man in the Bottle.” It’s the one where a poor guy finds a bottle with a genie and is granted several wishes — each with unanticipated consequences. Pretty standard stuff, but the one that always gets me is when he wishes to be leader of a great nation with no chance of being voted out of office. Poof! He turns into Hitler in his Berlin bunker in the closing days of World War II. Can you imagine anything worse? Well, having to be Jennifer Granholm as Michigan governor these past eight years would be a close second….

And as long as we’re confessing, I’d like you all to know that I watched most of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” on Christmas Day. Shirley Temple, Randolph Scott. I enjoyed it, thank you very much. Don’t judge me.

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