Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Greetings from Seattle, where the sun came out today for the first time since I've been here. The wedding went very well, my favorite part being the group photo shoot in which all attendees were asked to don clown noses. (The groom is, among other things, a professional clown. The ceremony was officiated by another clown by the name of Rufus the Doofus, albeit not in clown costume).
While flying out here, our plane had to circle the Philadelphia airport for twenty minutes because Bush was in town, and no planes can land when he's traveling in his motorcade. It was around this time that our small canine unit, travelling in the cabin with us, became airsick. So on top of all the other damage he's done, Bush has now made my dog yak.
Ah yes, this week's cartoon. I've been kicking around the idea of doing a cartoon on the end of irony for a little while now -- it was going to be all about a coming era of post-ironic literalism, in which everyone is very earnest, as some people mistakenly speculated would be the case after September 11. But then some other ideas evolved. Perhaps I will still do the End of Irony at some point.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I'm off for Seattle tomorrow, where I will be attending a wedding; I hope to do some posting from there. You know, I've received more book orders from Washington state than any other, so I think it's about time Slowpoke began running in the Pacific Northwest (hint hint).
Excellent film alert: "Capturing the Friedmans." An object lesson on the dangers of mass hysteria. And you thought your family was dysfunctional!
Looks like my Wal-Bank cartoon was right on the money. (Thanks to reader Olivier.)
And finally, please be sure to visit the wonderful sponsors whose ads appear to the right. Chocolate and comics! You can't go wrong!
Monday, May 22, 2006
For those who can't get enuff of that astroturf stuff: My cartooning colleague Matt Bors checks in with another gaspworthy astroturf site: The Competitive Enterprise Institute's global warming page which features the awesomely funny phrase "CO2: We Call it Life."
While everyone was distacted by the immigration debate last week, another debate was simmering about pending legislation that would end "net neutrality" -- a clunky term meaning all sites on the internet are equally available to the user. Telecom companies want to prioritize delivery based on whether a site pays them fees or not. As you might imagine, this would end the democratic nature of the internet, pretty much destroying it. Whoever controls the flow of information defines reality, and that's why this internet bill is so important -- like campaign finance reform, it's a meta-issue that has bearing on all other issues. Good sources of information about this heinous measure can be found here and here.
Elite wrongdoing seldom manages to shock me these days, but I was more or less floored by the telecom industry's PR site, headed up by former Clinton press secretary-turned-pathetic-corporate shill Mike McCurry. It's called "Hands Off the Internet," and it's a stunning piece of astroturf. Posing as a people-powered grassroots site, it features a warm-and-fuzzy photo of the raised hands of a racially-diverse group, and a prominent image of an activist button saying "Say NO to Government Regulation of the Internet." (The Orwellian nature of this inversion is duly noted in the cartoon.) But the real kicker is a crappily-drawn Flash animation making fun of those of us who wish to "save the internet." While it's possible that the telecoms couldn't find a good artist who would participate in such a work of darkness, my guess is that the movie is intentionally amateurish, so as to look like ordinary people -- like Billy the high school newspaper editorial cartoonist -- are contributing to the cause. It's brilliantly insidious. Yet it is belied by this page, which shows the member organizations of "Hands Off the Internet," and which I provide as the appropriate entry-point to the site.
To be clear, "net neutrality" (or "open internet" as I prefer) has been around since the beginning of the web. It is not some new, towering pile of regulation as suggested in the animation. Also, the narrator of the movie asks, "Who should control the future of the internet? The government or the people?" That's funny; I thought that in a democracy, the government was the voice of the people. It's a classic Republican maneuver: redefining massive global conglomerates as "the people." (Whether our government is in fact a democracy, as opposed to a plutocracy, is of course another matter.)
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Yes, it's true: Department of Agriculture employees are being asked to praise Bush's Iraq policy (I didn't know there was one!) in their speeches. Read all about it in this article by Al Kamen in the Washington Post. Pretty funny stuff -- in a slightly creepy, sci-fi kind of way. One of the main talking points USDA staffers are asked to mention is that Bush has a "clear strategy for victory in Iraq"; you'll notice I employ that phrase repeatedly in the cartoon.
Not much else to say, except I fear I have maligned manure with this strip. I have fond memories of catching earthy whiffs of manure as a youngster growing up in rural Pennsylvania. Perhaps "fond" is too strong a word. But I much prefer the scent of meadow muffins to the sound of Bush's voice.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
You can hear a podcast of yesterday's radio interview here. Topics discussed: Calvin and Hobbes, the creative process, and my semi-disastrous appearance on Air America. I had a good time; my compliments to host of "Charlottesville -- Right Now" Coy Barefoot.
Monday, May 15, 2006
This ad is currently running in the NY Times online.
Practical... like using a backhoe to pick up your socks.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
OK, it looks like I will be on "Charlottesville -- Right Now" on WINA 1070 tomorrow (Mon) sometime after 4:30, probably more like 5:00.
In response to my earlier post, "Where Has All the Muzak Gone?", reader Russ in NYC emailed me a fascinating New Yorker article about the Muzak corporation, which is still very much alive and well. I didn't even realize there was a Muzak corporation; like most people, I assumed it was merely the term for elevator music.
The syrupy orchestral "elevator music" that most people associate with the company scarcely exists anymore. Muzak sells about a hundred prepackaged programs and several hundred customized ones, and only one-"Environmental"-truly fits the stereotype. It consists of "contemporary instrumental versions of popular songs," and it is no longer terribly popular anywhere, except in Japan. ("The Japanese think they love it, but they actually don't," a former Muzak executive told me. "They'll get over it soon.") All of Muzak's other programs are drawn from the company's huge digital inventory, called the Well, which contains more than 1.5 million commercially recorded songs, representing dozens of genres and subgenres-acid jazz, heavy metal, shag, neo-soul, contemporary Italian-and is growing at the rate of twenty thousand songs a month...The music you hear while shopping at the Gap or Old Navy has been carefully programmed by Muzak's "audio architects." Which, as my correspondent points out, may seem a bit Orwellian -- but, ironically enough, involves a bit more loving care and talent than goes into most commercial FM radio programming these days.
Monday, May 08, 2006
The background for this cartoon is pretty much covered by this earlier post. I'll add that I've been wanting to make fun of right-wing pundit glasses for quite some time now, and this cartoon finally gave me the opportunity. You know the style: the round, slightly horn-rimmed, ultra-preppy look sported by the likes of George Will, David Brooks, Fred Barnes, and others. It's like they're trying to be old-school bankers or something.
Onto another subject: Stephen Colbert's routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, (video available on C-SPAN's website). I cannot get over these dingdongs who say it "crossed a line." Maybe if we were living in normal times, with a normal balance of power, and normal "partisan bickering" -- maybe then it would have crossed a line. But these are not normal times. The administration has displayed a psychotic indifference to global warming, they're torturing people, and we're actually having a debate over nuking Iran. That's crossin' some lines.
I particularly liked his jab at McCain:
John McCain, what a maverick! Somebody find out what fork he used on his salad, because I guarantee you it wasn't a salad fork. This guy could have used a spoon! There's no predicting him. By the way, Senator McCain, it's so wonderful to see you coming back into the Republican fold. I have a summer house in South Carolina; look me up when you go to speak at Bob Jones University.It is SO high time that shyster lost the "maverick" label.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
As I lingered over the potato section in Giant last night, I was startled to hear the song "Ballroom Blitz" by Sweet playing over the store's in-house music system. I wasn't sure what to make of this. It felt strange to be rocking out to bubblegum glam right there in the produce section of a cavernous supermarket. And yet rock out I did. At least, until the song was interrupted by someone paging employee Brian over the intercom.
It occurred to me that Muzak has all but disappeared from the bland public spaces in which it used to be heard. I can't remember the last time I shopped to a schmaltzy canned violin. I guess marketing research found that people spend more when the music is somewhat groovable.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Charlottesvillians: I'm slated to be interviewed on Coy Barefoot's show, "Charlottesville -- Right Now" on WINA 1070 tomorrow (Fri) sometime after 4:30pm.
[UPDATE: This has been rescheduled. Stay tuned for exact date.]
Monday, May 01, 2006
Another story that didn't seem to gain much traction -- but should have -- was Wal-Mart's public hearing regarding its application to the FDIC to open a bank. The company insists it only wants to process credit card transactions in-house, and that it has no designs on the traditional consumer banking industry. Many thinking people believe this denial to be twaddle.
The prospect of concentrating this much economic clout into the hands of one colossal entity should induce an icky feeling across the land. But alas, most Americans probably don't even know about it, and wouldn't care if they did.
The lawn toad in the first panel was partly inspired by an ornamental frog statuette my mother-in-law received as a gift from someone. On a whim, I googled "lawn toad" and found this remarkably funny press release from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It seems there was a "toad lawn ball sprinkler" that got recalled in 2003 for the following reason: "A small hose inside the toad can fail, allowing water to fill the toad's cavity. The increased water pressure can cause the toad to explode, posing the risk of injury to anyone nearby."
I include an image of the toad here, pre-explosion, for your convenience.
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