Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 in Review, part 1

Proving that Christians do not have a corner on the market for loopy televangelists, a Turkish cleric claims that masturbation will result in "pregnant hands" in the afterlife:
Istanbul-based televangelist Mücahid Cihad Han [right], who is active on Twitter and has his own channel on YouTube, made the remarks on May 24 while answering questions from viewers on the 2000 TV channel.
Han initially looked puzzled when a viewer said he “kept masturbating, although he was married, and even during the Umrah”, a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken by Muslims at any time of the year, unlike the Haj which is performed in the last month of the Islamic calendar.
The televangelist claimed Islam strictly prohibited masturbation as it was a “haram” (forbidden) act, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“Moreover, one hadith states that those who have sexual intercourse with their hands will find their hands pregnant in the afterlife, complaining against them to God over (their) rights,” he said, referring to what he claimed was a saying of Prophet Mohammed.
So that's where the phrase "pregnant paws" comes from!

Monday, December 28, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek


That's right: this week, we're offering a sneak peek into the brave new year with renowned parapsychic analyst to the stars Madame Yankeskova.

She predicts that you won't want to miss this.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

On the Second Day of Christmas...

It's SaintStephenback Saturday, the second day of Christmas, which is swell if you're a big fan of turtledoves. If you're looking for a topic for next week's editorial cartoon, ummm, not so much.

The week after Christmas is usually a pretty slow news period, which wasn't a problem for me during those many years when I aspired to be the world's oldest college cartoonist. The college newspapers all take a long Christmas vacation. Out here in the Real World, the show must go on, even if none of the newsmakers are making news and their spokespersons are resting their voices.

In 1993, we had a certain eccentric rich presidential candidate (formerly and futurely) whose concerns about American jobs getting sucked south of the border provided sufficient fodder for this post-Christmas cartoon.

We now know that if your job didn't end up in Mexico -- or Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Guatemala or the Dominican Republic -- there is now an app for doing whatever it was that you used to get paid for, and even the reindeer are losing their jobs to Amazon drones.

Most post-Christmas cartoons don't have a Christmas theme, though. TV commercials will have been jamming Christmas down everyone's throats since the end of back-to-school specials, so everyone is sick and tired of Christmas. Even churchgoers who had complained "Why can't we sing familar Christmas carols?" all through the season of Advent have lost interest in "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Once in Royal David's City" by the First Sunday of Christmas.

Which is why you never hear anyone talk about "keeping Christmas in our hearts 365 days a year" after December 25.

There are exceptions to the usual news drought after Christmas. Every four years, new cabinet members are named in December, often once Congress has gone home for the holiday. Up through 2012, with LGBT service in the military still a hot-button issue, the views of the nominee for Secretary of Defense were usually worth a cartoon or two.
Or the nominee for Attorney General.

And from that same year, having the 2000 election go into extra innings was a godsend for editorial cartoonists.

If politicians aren't being helpful, Mother Nature doesn't give a hoot about holidays on the calendar. Most years, you can count on a certain contingent of editorial cartoonists drawing someone up to his chest in snow wondering whatever happened to that global warming crap them dang egg-headed climatologists keep warning about. You haven't seen many of those cartoons this year.

On December 26, 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra sent a devastating tsunami around the entire Indian Ocean. Somewhere between 228,000 and 280,000 people were killed, and millions were left homeless. from Indonesia to South Africa.
Some religious people took it as an opportunity to lend aid and comfort to the afflicted. Others did not.

But you can't count on the weather, and it's ghoulish to count on disaster befalling someone before your deadline. If all else fails, there is still one last holiday on the December calendar. A cartoonist can try summing up the entire year.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

More Fun than a Barrel of 'Em

Ann Telnaes is getting some flak for an animated cartoon she posted on the Washington Post this week -- the still at left pretty much sums it up- -- before the Post unposted both the cartoon and her explanation of it.

She drew it in response to a campaign video from Ted Cruz (R-1953) in which Cruz reads supposed children's stories to his wife and two daughters. As Cruz reads The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails, his 7-year-old pipes up, "I know that what I'll do, she said, I'll use my own server, and noone will be the wiser!"

Shakespeare it ain't. It isn't even remotely Dr. Seuss. It comes close, however, to being emetic.

Clay Bennett sums up the cartoonists' response to the furore, drawing Cruz saying, "Leave my daughters out of this!" while dragging them into the spotlight.

That being said, there really is no up side to lampooning any politician's school-age daughters. Anyone who has ever had a daughter -- or a younger sister, for that matter -- is going to sympathize with the aggrieved politician, no matter how he or she has used his offspring in what commercial, billboard, tweet, or vine.

Teapublicans have occasionally held up Sasha and Malia Obama for scorn (Elizabeth Lauten comes to mind), and they have been rightfully criticized for it. I declined to pile on then teenaged Jenna Bush after her OWI citations, although I had no such qualms about lampooning the daughters of Dick Cheney. They were both adults at the time, and I think that's a good place to draw the line.

So, yeah, I don't think I'd have drawn Ted Cruz's daughters as performing monkeys. But I'm not going to say that Telnaes was out of line.

After all, I compared a guy unfavorably to a skunk this week.

P.S.: The AAEC responds.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Q Toon: Atlas Shkrugged

I'm posting this week's cartoon a little earlier than usual because of a full schedule at home on Christmas Eve. And again, it's not a Christmasy topic, although I'm kicking myself that I already used both A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life as the basis for a cartoon just a few weeks ago:

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Dec 23, 2015
Martin Shkreli came to national attention as the 32-year-old Shkrooge who bought the patent on Daraprim, a drug needed by HIV/AIDS patients, and promptly raised the price of the medication by 5,000% -- from $13 per pill to $750. For each individual pill. His response to the instant and near-universal condemnation of his inhumane money-grubbing was to wish that he had raised the price even higher.

Last week, Shkreli was arrested for securities fraud:
“Shkreli essentially ran his companies like a Ponzi scheme, where he used each subsequent company to pay off the defrauded investors in the prior company,” U.S. Attorney Robert Capers told the press in a statement after Shkreli’s arrest.
Prosecutors deny Shkreli's whine that the charges are related to his Daraprim price gouging. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if the price gouging were not directly related to his need to pay off some of those previously defrauded investors.

Martin Shkreli embodies everything that is wrong with our present economic system, which places little or no value on actually producing things of  any actual useful purpose day to day. Oh, sure, you can become a billionaire by inventing the next flashy new app consumers can use to shout "Look at me!" on the internet.

But why bother with any of that when the real money is in hiding other people's money under a shell and moving it around a lot?

Monday, December 21, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek


I wish you happy holidays, including, but not limited to, a merry Christmas.

I can't promise a particularly Christmasy cartoon this week, however.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Trump-Putin 2016

Have you seen the Trump-Putin bumper stickers on the internet lately? There's been a great deal of discussion this week of the strange bromance between Russian Czar Vladimir Putin and American despot Donald Trump.
After Putin praised Trump on Thursday as "bright and talented" and "the absolute leader of the presidential race," the billionaire trumpeted Putin's praise as a "great honor" and even shrugged off widespread allegations that the Russian president has ordered the killing of journalists and political dissidents.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Stormtrooperback Saturday

Readers who followed the link from the Bergetoons Facebook page the other day might have noticed that the graphic on the FB post wasn't actually from this week's cartoon. Actually, it was a portion of this:

Back in my college days and well into my 20s, I was a Dungeons & Dragons player, and even attended a couple of GenCons back when they were hosted at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. I wrote a running narrative of one of the campaigns I played in, and this was an illustration for the cover of Volume IV.

Our dungeon master (the person who devises the setting for the other players to role play in) wanted to switch us over from a medieval game to a futuristic one, to which end he placed one suit of storm trooper armor in a dungeon. My fighter character tried it on, found that it was much lighter yet more effective than the chain mail he was wearing before, and happily took it as his own.

It had the drawback of being radioactive, but my character wasn't smart enough to make the connection between the suit and his hair falling out.
In more traditional garb
I also remember a Star Wars-themed game I played in at one of those GenCons in which all us players were Sky-Walk-R clones trapped in a filming of Episode IV -- the only episode to have come out at that point.  The slightest deviation from the plot could prove fatal to a character; and when time came for the game to be over, the surviving Sky-Walk-R clones were still trapped in the trash compactor of the Death Star as we players were struggling to remember how that particular problem was overcome in the movie.

It is quite possible that we had neglected to instruct R2D2 to tap into the Death Star's main computer.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Q Toon: These Are Not the Dudes You're Looking For

Around this point in the month of December, I'll often turn to the movies for cartooning inspiration. Sure, Christmas is ten days off and all the cartoonists are drawing Santas and reindeer and frantic holiday shoppers; but some of my editors have a looming deadline for their January issue and are hoping for something else.

December can be a slow news period politically (not so much this year, but then, the presidential candidates don't happen to be obsessing about teh gays at the moment). So, for the second week in a row, Bergetoons goes to the movies -- albeit one more current than last week.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Dec 17, 2015
Whenever there's a big blockbuster out, someone somewhere is on the lookout to find whether there are any LGBT characters in it. If so, how are they portrayed? If there aren't any, why not? Should we be offended? Or do we have a grand marshal for next year's pride parade?

Everyone is being pretty tight-lipped about the current episode, so I have no idea whether, say, Captain Phasma will turn out to B L or T. The Star Wars universe apparently does have some gays and lesbians in the literature, if not necessarily the films.

But consider the odds. Among those thousands of storm troopers, it only makes sense that some of them bat for my team.


Monday, December 14, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek


There are few things quite as tedious as having to draw the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Why Are You Wearing These Clothes?

Since this week's Q Syndicate cartoon fell somewhat wide of the mark LGBT-wise, here's a cartoon from ten Decembers ago for Sleighback Saturday that should mollify everyone who caught my "wonderful people out there in the dark" reference.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Q Toon: Christmas Spirit

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Dec 10, 2015

To be perfectly frank, the news this week has been so scary and depressing that I was glad it was time to crank out a cartoon on a holiday theme. I just needed to lighten things up.

And since I overslept Monday morning, when I usually scan my ink drawing and do all the computer-generated adjustments, it was a good thing that I had the option of not going through the usual practice of creating the grayscale version of the cartoon and then starting over to create the color versions. (Coloring the cartoon and then converting it to grayscale often creates an unsatisfactory result: for example, vivid color areas turning dark.)

I apologize to my editors who were expecting something more LGBT-centric; I did try sketching out some gayer angles to the general idea here, but none of them appealed to me. I guess I'm settling for something for the old theatre queens this week -- those wonderful people out there in the dark.

Monday, December 7, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

It's that time of year again.

Happy Hannukah, you old black and white movie house! Happy Hannukah, Emporium! Happy Hannukah, you wonderful old Building and Loan!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Cattle Call Cartooning

I was uncharacteristically terse in discussing this week's Q Syndicate cartoon on Thursday, so let's try expanding on the topic for our Seatback Saturday feature today.

There could have been double the five presidential candidates that were featured in that cartoon, since we are in the phase of the campaign when there is still a wide field (and Citizens United delays the moment when candidates run out of cash well beyond what it used to be). Having a lot of candidates is both a challenge and a benefit to the cartoonist, because one has to quickly develop recognizable caricatures for several politicians at once. On the other hand, it increases the chances that one of them will say something reckless, or offensive, or bizarre; but one can't draw all one's cartoons about Donald Trump.

I've dredged up some cartoons chock full of presidential hopefuls from the last four elections of the 20th Century. Few of these people ever became president, of course, but not all of these people are gone and forgotten.

Let's start in 1988, the first election in a generation in which there was no incumbent president running at any point. There was a crowded field on both sides of the ballot, allowing for this very bipartisan cartoon:

Usually, it's only the party out of power that enters an election season with a clown car full of candidates. As the 1992 caucuses and primaries began, a different candidate won each of the first five contests, it was starting to look like there might not be any front runner at all.
It took a while before Bill Clinton emerged as the definitive front-runner he had been expected to be. Larry Agran, by the way, did not in fact win anywhere, and it's small wonder that you have no idea who he is.

1996 was the Republicans' turn to be the Out party. I'd just like to point out that, the prominent mention of gays notwithstanding, I drew the above cartoon for a straight newspaper, not the LGBT press. It's common to charge that someone is "out of the mainstream" of political discourse by drawing him or her piloting a boat in the desert; I decided to take a different tack on the cliché.

And as the 2000 election approached, I tried yet another nautical approach.
You'll note the absence of GOP presidential candidates John McCain and George W. Bush from the deck of the S.S. Far Starboard. Running as a moderate, McCain met with representatives of the Log Cabin Republicans and won their support, while "compassionate conservative" Bush assiduously avoided public discussion of LGBT issues as much as possible... until after the election.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Q Toon: Smother of Exiles

The Republicans are standing by the golden door again, making damned sure it stays shut...

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Dec 3, 2015
I couldn't possibly fit all the candidates still in the presidential race into this cartoon, so I offer my  thoughts and prayers to any of them who feel slighted and left out.