Friday, April 28, 2006
Was looking through the March issue of the New Yorker in a waiting room recently when I came across an article about a techie guy who left his job in the big city to move to New Mexico and open a "School of Fire."
Sklar and his girlfriend moved from Brooklyn to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. They plan to open the Escuela del Fuego (School of Fire), where they will “teach students to program fire,” Sklar says. He makes interactive fire-art installations. Electronics are involved. There isn’t a lot of money in it. While Sklar lines up students, he is building two “fire trampolines” for a fair in San Mateo, California. When people jump on the trampolines, propane-gas flames will rise fifteen feet away.Kinda makes being a cartoonist seem practical. Though I suspect even fire programming may pay better.
Monday, April 24, 2006
The "National Uniformity for Food Act" discussed in this cartoon actually passed the House a few weeks ago; yet I only read about it recently. Perhaps I wasn't following the news closely enough at the time -- but I think it's a safe bet to say this story was largely ignored by the press. And that upsets me. To me, the most pressing political issues we face are those that affect human life on a grand scale. The much-discussed reshuffling of members of the Bush administration is of virtually zero import. And while the war in Iraq is obviously important, affecting the lives of millions and resulting in the deaths of probably hundreds of thousands, I don't think it merits a billion times the coverage we devote to the poisoning of the food we eat, water we drink, and air we breathe. Perhaps we should stop referring to these matters as "environmental issues" and categorize them as "mass industrial homicide." An example sentence: "Where does your candidate stand on mass industrial homicide?"
I know I am sure to offend some people I like by saying this, but I can't stand it when lefties jokingly refer to themselves as "tree huggers." You may think you're being tongue-in-cheek, but you're reproducing an asinine right-wing frame about what environmentalism means. It is not about hugging the fucking trees.
But I digress. So Big Food has been pushing for the end of state regulation of food labeling in favor of a uniform federal standard. Sounds reasonable in the abstract, right? The problem is, the FDA sucks. States have long led the way in informing the public about the dangers of things like drinking during pregnancy. Read about the whole debate in this Consumers Union writeup here.
The third panel of the cartoon, about airbrushing bananas, is an indirect reference to the House banning states from labeling meat that has been treated with carbon monoxide to keep it artificially fresh-looking. The treatment causes beef to retain its blood-red color even after it has spoiled.
The bill still must clear the Senate, where it may face stiffer resistance, though I wouldn't necessarily bet on it.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Picked out a new pair of eyeglasses today, replacing my circa-1996 pair which seemed fashionably small when I got them, but look goofily large in today's micro-eyewear climate. The size of glasses has been steadily shrinking since the glory days of enormous, saucer-sized lenses which petered out sometime in the mid-to-late'80s (Sally Jesse Raphael being the last large-glasses icon I can think of). My new pair is sufficiently sleek -- that is, until people start wearing spectacles the size of peas.
At the same time, a subtrend of ironically-huge glasses is on the rise. Witness the Kate Spade "Whitney":
I tried'em on for kicks. They weren't me. (Though I did wind up with another pair of Kate Spades.)
Monday, April 17, 2006
Not too long ago, I decided iPod gags had become clichéd and swore to myself that I would no longer include them in the strip. Then the J&R Music and Computer World iPod Accessory catalog arrived in the mail. It is truly an amazing cultural artifact. I knew about Apple's iPod socks, but was unaware of the Hasbro I-DOG, which dances to your MP3s.
There's also the iKitty, a rubber, cat-shaped protector; Apple's $99 Italian leather cases offering "luxurious protection for your iPod"; and the XtremeMac iBling, which appears to be some kind of kit one uses to affix hundreds of colored crystals to a snap-on iPod shield. Retails for only $40! If I were a Sudanese refugee who spent my days eating dirt and fleeing decapitators, I would take great comfort in knowing that the Americans were spending hours on end gluing shiny stones to their portable music players.
An entertaining site I found while researching this week's strip: The Cavalcade of Bad Nativities
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Just finished up a long day of doing taxes. This particular Easter Sunday paled in comparison to last year's, when I was in New York doing a slideshow presentation at the KGB Bar with fellow cartoonists Tom Hart and Tim Kreider. Today's highlight consisted of locating my W-2 form.
It's strange to think that a percentage of my modest income from cartoons criticizing the Bush administration will be used to fund the Bush administration. I'll just try to imagine my tax dollars are going to a friendly park ranger in Montana, as opposed to buying cluster bombs.
All this number-crunching put me in the mood for angular, robotic music. Highly recommended for your next tax-prep soundtrack: Kraftwerk's joyously bleepy "Pocket Calculator" ("I'm the operarator with my pocket calculator"). Also, the Rogers Sisters' "Calculator" may provide some solace:
I don't want to have to do my taxes againOff of the album Purely Evil.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
I'm tired of getting spam from online pharmacies with the subject "Our store is your cureall." I keep thinking the subject is "Our store is your cereal." The correct spelling is "cure-all," you clods. (I don't think this is an intentional misspelling designed to pass spam filters.)
Monday, April 10, 2006
I'm writing this inside the Mudhouse, one of several Charlottesville coffee shops I frequent when trying to get some work done, usually in vain. Someone just walked in with, like, a giant bongo. Earlier I was working in a nearby park, and damned if someone on the next block didn't start up a leaf blower, a heinous device longtime readers know I despise. I could not actually see what this person was attempting to blow away, but I cannot imagine at the height of spring it was anything more than a few flowerbud petals. I attract leaf blowers like mosquitoes. A couple months ago, on a mild midwinter day, I was sitting outside on the UVA grounds when not one, but two, men with shrieking leaf blowers appeared out of nowhere to blow microscopic dead leaf particles out of the grass. I'm sure those of you reading this from the confines of a sickly gray Herman Miller cubicle feel little sympathy for me, so I'll stop now.
Onto this week's strip, yes. Mr. Slowpoke suggested a while ago that I do a cartoon on how most people don't want poison in their food, yet many scoff at organic edibles. I will be the first to admit that there's plenty of BS marketing out there -- no one really needs organic, hemp-infused butt moisturizer -- and organic food can be expensive. But people are quick to reject a label they don't identify with, even if this means contradicting their own rational beliefs. This is how politics works in the age of right-wing media domination: invoke a powerful stereotype, preferably in the form of a carefully-crafted sound bite, and people forget to think.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
As I was inking this week's strip, I listened to the Best of Oingo Boingo. It occurred to me that Oingo Boingo has not figured very prominently in the tired-but-not-over-yet '80s revival. I guess Oingo Boingo was a little too idiosyncratic and ornate to be considered deeply cool, though Danny Elfman did get the last laugh by composing the Simpsons theme song. A clear precursor to the Simpsons theme can clearly be heard in O.B.'s "Nasty Habits," which seems to be about wanking.
In a similar vein, we haven't heard much nostalgia for the band Big Pig either, whose album "Bonk" used to be heavily promoted in those Columbia record club ads. To be honest, I have no idea what Big Pig even sounds like.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Maybe that's a bit of a hyperbole, but as media critic for the Washington Post and host of CNN's Reliable Source, Howard Kurtz may well have more influence than the Hannitys and O'Reillys of the world. This video clip of him belittling a reporter in Iraq will give you a clue why I chose to cancel my Washington Post subscription a while back. (via Workingforchange)
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
A couple books coming out this year feature my cartoons. One is the Field Guide to the U.S. Economy: A Compact and Irreverent Guide to Economic Life in America, Revised and Updated Edition, due out in August. I think this will be fun.
Another book with some Slowpoke action, out now, is Proud to Be Liberal, an anthology edited by Robert Lasner and Elizabeth Clementson, which also includes works by Eric Alterman, Will Durst, Neal Pollack, David Rees, Tom Tomorrow, and many others.
While I completely support the point of the book -- that we recognize liberalism has a noble history and that things for damn sure aren't going to change until our leaders stop being ashamed of not being Republicans -- practically-speaking, I'm not so sure the L-word itself can be reclaimed. I know we whatchamacallits are into takin' the language back, but easier said than done, you know? I tend to use the word "progressive" myself. Anyone beg to differ, drop me a line.
Also, an old college friend of mine, Ben Sisario, has a new book out about the Pixies, a band we both love. It's called The Pixies' Doolittle (33 1/3). I'm fairly certain his career as a music writer for the NY Times and other publications has all been part of a carefully-mapped master plan to get to drive around Oregon with Frank Black, as he has done for this book.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Ah, nothing like the smell of a new server in the morning. Today marks the start of a partnership between the SlowpokeBlog and Portico Publications, owners of the fine alternative newsweeklies C-VILLE, Columbia Free Times, and Augusta Metro Spirit. Over the next few months, I'll be helping them test the waters of the sphere o' blogdom. I figure if we can lure a billion visitors a day to this site, we can all retire on the blogad revenue. Or at least afford to buy organic grapefruit at Whole Foods (they've been very expensive this season).
If you're coming from one of the Portico papers' websites, welcome. I tend to write about my cartoons and politics here, though I may start throwing in some random thoughts a la George Carlin's Braindroppings. Hope you enjoy.
I also plan to work on a new site design in the coming months. Slowpoke regulars and newcomers alike, feel free to voice your suggestions for what you'd like to see.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Is it just me, or does following the news while having a conscience suck more than ever right now? I've reached a point where I am so sick of the Bushies, and so disgusted with the Democrats, that I can hardly stand to draw cartoons about them. So I drew a cartoon about not being able to stand them.
I was going to have Mr. Perkins announce a rather lewd ailment in the last panel involving his furry bees (as Robyn Hitchcock might put it), but thought better of it.
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