Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tribute to David Levine

As a tribute to David Levine, here's "Unhealed Scar," a cartoon I drew 'way back in September, 1981 after his famous caricature of President Lyndon Baines Johnson:

Sherlock Homo

No animals were harmed in the drawing of this cartoon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Since the publications I draw for come out weekly, biweekly, or monthly, this week's Q Syndicate cartoon looks past Christmas and into the new year.

The good news is that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Lieberman) hasn't succeeded in killing Health Care Reform just yet; perhaps it would have been more appropriate to have drawn him kneecapping Health Care Reform. But we cartoonists are an impish lot, and will seize any opportunity to draw buttcrack.

Incidentally, drawing Lieberman angry was mighty challenging. His Droopy Dawg demeanor just doesn't suit anger.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Ugandan "Death to Gays" Bill

American evangelists have been working hard with their counterparts in the central African nation of Uganda to create the sort of theocracy that pesky liberals in the United States won't let them establish here. Ugandan officials, faced with an AIDS crisis that, percentage-wise, dwarfs America's, are only too happy to scapegoat homosexuals.

Hence a proposed law that calls for life in prison for anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual activity, and capital punishment for those who are HIV-positive. Anyone who fails to report gays and lesbians to the authorities would also face imprisonment.

At first, Americans who have pushed their influence in Uganda, such as Pastor Rick Warren, Senator Chuck Grassley, "Ex-Gay Therapy" quacks, and others in the Governmental-Evangelical complex, were silent on the bill, or sloughed it off as Uganda's internal business. Under pressure, however, more of Uganda's friends are deciding that they can't reconcile "Love the sinner, hate the sin" with "Arbeit Macht Frei." Find more on this topic at Qweerty, the Rachel Maddow show, and other sites.

One word about this cartoon: As with any topic involving non-Caucasians, I had to be sensitive to perceptions of racism in drawing this cartoon -- in this case, especially because the Big Evil Bad Guy in the cartoon had to be black. It wouldn't have made any sense to make him white. In another time, most cartoons would have depicted him as a black-as-coal jungle savage, wielding shrunken heads instead of an axe.

My choice to dress him as a medieval European executioner was in part to avoid such a racist depiction, but also to convey the sense that he was acting in an official capacity, which wouldn't come across if he were a savage out of a 1940's movie or Charles Addams cartoon.

It also made sense to me for the "Joe Public" character at lower right also to be African. I also decided to make her a woman, which was a 50-50 consideration. My first efforts had her wearing a woolen headdress based on one worn by a woman in the very same issue of Time magazine with the pictures of Rick Warren I used for reference; but it was impossible to tell from the resulting sketches that I wasn't drawing her with wild hair. Thus the wrap she is wearing in the final product, modeled after one on a different woman from a different country in a different issue of Time. I beg your indulgence if it should happen that neither headdress is typical of Ugandan women.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This week's Racine Post cartoon

After an excessively long hiatus, I've finally contributed a local-issue cartoon to the Racine Post. The issue concerns the sweeteners Racine has offered to entice a small business, American Tire and Recycling, to open a plant in town.

From the Post article:
The city would pay American Tire $39,600 to cover the company's rent at 2301 S. Memorial Drive for 18 months. In exchange, the company is committed to creating 88 jobs over 18 months, with city residents getting first shot at the jobs.

City Development Director Brian O'Connell said the jobs incentive grant was 'unique' for Racine. ...

The company is committed to immediately hiring 33 low-skill workers and 20 truck drivers for the Racine site. It intends to ramp up to two shifts with a total of 88 workers over the next year and a half.

While the low-skill jobs may not pay great, O'Connell said, they're needed in Racine. The city has a large unskilled workforce that could use jobs that don't require degrees or advanced training. ...

The meeting started with O'Connell taking some heat from the committee for providing a written review of the agreement on Monday, the same day as the meeting.

'Is there any way this committee can be better informed?' Alderman Q.A. Shakoor II asked O'Connell.

O'Connell said he didn't have an excuse. 'It's the simple press of business,' O'Connell responded to Shakoor. 'I don't have a better reason.'

Originally, the caption had Mayor Dickert having promised that the city council would clear snow off AT&R's roof; then I decided that changing it to the neighbors would be more effective ... even though I'm fully aware that the 2300 block of South Memorial Drive is not really a residential area.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This week's Q Syndicate cartoon

After the New York state senate failed to pass marriage equality, I was faced with the problem of having to draw yet another cartoon on the topic...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This week's Q Syndicate cartoon

This week, we take time out from the national obsession with Afghanistan, financial collapse, Tiger Woods and the Salahis to address a truly important issue: did you see American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert on the American Music Awards?

And if you didn't see it live, why are the powers that be at Dick Clark productions, CBS, etc., determined to make sure that you don't see it now?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This Week's Q Syndicate cartoon

Window Media LLC / Unite Media suddenly shuttered its LGBT newspapers last week, including the 40-year-old Washington Blade, our newspaper of record in the nation's capital.

The good news is that the staff of the affected publications have busted their buns to put out new product under new flags.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Wisdom of Sarah Palin

"If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?"

--Going Rogue, page 133

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This week's Q Syndicate cartoon

The archdiocese of Washington D.C. is threatening to shut down its social service agencies if the city council passes a marriage equality ordinance. Homeless shelters, food banks, and other services to the poor would be halted so that the church can fullfil its true mission: battling homosexuals.

At the risk of rushing the Christmas season, here's my take on the issue.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day

"[H]istory is filled with heroes. You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many generations who have served, all of us -- every single American -- must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who've come before.

We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes."

--from President Obama's remarks yesterday at Fort Hood.

This week's Q Syndicate cartoon

The anti-marriage movement overturned marriage equality in the state of Maine by repeating the ridiculous charge that allowing same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of marriage would result in having to teach schoolchildren how gay people get it on. The pro-marriage side's efforts showing real-life families and how they are affected by marriage rights and the lack thereof couldn't win out against the frightening thought of some hypothetical kindergarten class learning what some hypothetical classmate's two daddies do in the bedroom by watching a hypothetical Colt video.

Meanwhile, here in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court has declined to hear a Wisconsin Family Action lawsuit to overturn Domestic Partnership benefits in our state. Given the bought and paid for majority of conservative justices on the court, it seems unlikely that a majority of the court disagrees with the WFA position that domestic partnership benefits are a violation of the constitutional amendment approved by 1.2 million Wisconsin voters in 2006 which prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex marriages or any other "substantially similar" legal arrangement.

More likely, some of the conservatives didn't want to set a precedent by allowing WFA to skip over the lower courts by taking their case directly to the Supreme Court. That's simply my guess, since the court did not issue any statement with their decision; but that fits in with my suspicion that a majority reached the conclusion not to hear the case for entirely different reasons from each other.

The court has heard arguments in a separate case charging that the 2006 referendum on the constitutional amendment improperly put two separate questions before the voters in the same ballot issue: namely, whether the state would recognize same-sex marriages on the one hand, and whether the state would recognize "substantially similar" legal arrangements. Theoretically, a voter who was against same-sex marriage but in favor of allowing a "substantially similar" alternate arrangement would be forced to vote against his/her convictions with either a yes or a no vote. A decision in the case is still pending, but it's hard to imagine Gableman, Ziegler, Prosser and Crooks finding a conservative-sponsored constitutional amendment unconstitutional.

It's also hard to imagine that should our domestic partnership be nullified by the Supreme Court, Chris and I would be able to get our filing fees back.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This week's Q Cartoon

I had to draw this week's cartoon well before the marriage equality vote in Maine was known, so thanks to Dave Brousseau for alerting me to the Larry Johnson story. For anyone who hasn't followed this story, running back Johnson used an antigay insult (rhymes with maggot) at a press conference and in a Twitter tweet. It got him suspended for a game, whereupon his agent claimed that Johnson had no idea that anyone would actually be offended by the word.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Er, last week's Q Syndicate cartoon

Somehow, I neglected to post the usual cartoon on this site last week.

It could have had something to do with having spent hours trying to download and install MacAfee on the home computer. The computer never did succeed at installing it, even though I did go through Add/Remove Programs to remove everything that sounded like it might possibly conflict with MacAfee. I've been through this before with my laptop; I couldn't renew Norton Antivirus while it also contained Webroot Antispyware, in spite of both programs having been on the laptop when I bought it. I also followed MacAfee's suggestion of completely wiping out the computer's browsing history, resulting in long download times and a number of sites that seem to get hung up on routine tasks, but not resulting in any ability to install MacAfee.

Once we gave up and downloaded the CA Internet Security Suite (which I hadn't realized was an option included for no additional charge in our Time Warner Roadrunner internet service), the MacAfee symbol appeared in the "tray" reporting that CA was our active antivirus program. Now I have to find someone at MacAfee's telephone bank who will refund my money and tell me how to find and remove their program. According to the e-mail confirming my purchase, I can get a refund within 30 days, but there's no phone number or link associated with that particular paragraph.

So anyway, here's last week's cartoon. What was it about, again?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This week's Q Syndicate cartoon/s

Voters in the states of Maine and Washington will go to the polls on November 3 to approve or rescind legislation passed by their representatives and signed by their governors. In Maine, the ballot question seeks to overturn marital equality; in Washington, religious conservatives want to overturn domestic partnership benefits.

I couldn't jigger this week's cartoon to account for both situations, but the magic of photoshop makes it possible to do two nearly identical cartoons without having to draw two actual cartoons.

So here's the Washington state version of the cartoon:

To my mind, the religious conservatives in Washington give evidence that their fight has nothing whatsoever to do with "preserving the sanctity of marriage," since same-sex couples in that state still have no right to marry. The issue for them is now, and always has been, punishing homosexuals for not being heterosexuals.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back from vacation

I've been vacationing in Italy the past couple of weeks, but now I'm back. Here's this week's Q Syndicate cartoon:

For those who don't pay attention to right-wing media: Sean Hannity, the Washington Moon Star, Rush Limbaugh, and the usual Christianist lobbies have begun a smear campaign against "Safe Schools Czar" Kevin Jennings based on his career as an activist for LGBT issues in education. In particular, they are attempting to link Jennings to pedophilia through the tenuous argument that Jennings once praised gay rights pioneer Harry Hay, and Hay once expressed some support for including NAMBLA in the gay rights struggle.

Other smears include a discredited claim that Jennings once counseled a 15-year-old boy to continue a sexual relationship with an adult man, and criticism that Massachusetts safe sex materials included advice on fisting among various other sexual practices.

Here, Media Matters takes on right-wing smears of Kevin Jennings.

One other side note: Jennings's actual title is not "Czar" but "Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools." The position was created by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001; Jennings is the third person to hold the post, after Eric G. Andell and Deborah A. Price. He took office in July.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Week's Q Cartoon

The school bus video behind this cartoon is one of those flash-in-the-pan stories, so the cartoon might be a little tardy. Rush Limbaugh, for one, seized on the incident to make some bizarre argument about how liberals or President Obama or Van Jones or ACORN or whatever have made it okay for black kids to beat up white kids on the way to school. (A detail that I saw only on CBS's Early Show was that it was a black student who broke up the fight.)

It's good to see that right wingers have finally come around on the topic of bullying. When gay or gay-perceived students and their parents have called for anything to be done, right wingers have sided with the bullies.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This week's Racine Post cartoon

Jeffrey Thomas passed away on September 16 in Footville, Wisconsin at age 69. The retired orthopedist ran for Congress seven times in Wisconsin's first congressional district, winning the Democratic primaries in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. He never got more than 37% of the vote in the general election.

To be fair, he never got any support from the Democratic party, either. I'm not privy whether it was because the party never thought he had a chance of winning, or whether it was a question of his stands on any issue; I understood him to be against abortion rights, and he didn't come from a union background. But it's hard to ignore the fact that the legislature carved a solidly Republican district out of our formerly swing district in 2002 as part of a bipartisan agreement to protect all of Wisconsin's incumbent congressional representatives.

At any rate, I've been to some Racine Democratic Party events in election years and there was never the slightest evidence that there was any congressional race on the ballot at all. Not one yard sign. Not one bumper sticker. Not one sign-up sheet. The Democrats have usually rented office space downtown. Jeff Thomas's campaign office (the year that I found it) was in a corner grocery store in a rundown neighborhood a mile away.

Somehow, for some reason, Dr. Thomas never gave up. There were five candidates on the ballot for the Democratic nomination in 2008, a couple of whom attracted brief attention by and the Daily Kos. But Thomas won the nomination again. A few hand-painted yard signs were the only indication thereafter that he was still in the running. Republican incumbent Paul Ryan, with no shortage whatsoever of campaign funds and no competition in advertising or media attention, won the November election without breaking a sweat.

Rest In Peace, Jeffrey Thomas.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Or, How To Speak Southern?

Outing blogger Mike Rogers has reported allegations that South Carolina's Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer is a closeted gay man. The rumors could doom the career of the 40-year-old bachelor, but may be just the thing to save Governor Mark Sanford from impeachment.

On the other hand, South Carolina legislators may prefer that Sanford be succeeded by someone they can imagine themselves trouncing in the next election.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The last time I drew S.C. Governor Mark Sanford...

The last time I drew South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford...

... most of the country had never heard of him.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Old link I just stumbled upon

I had no idea at the time, but a 2008 cartoon of mine caught the attention of Dan Froomkin, late of the Washington Post, at the very end of this article. As I recall, I was not the only person to make the semantic observation about "timetables" vs. "time horizons" for troop withdrawals from Iraq.

This is the cartoon:

Paul Berge
Racine Post
Jul 24, 2008

This Week's Q Cartoon

The private security firm contracted to provide security guards to the American Embassy in Afghanistan has been replaced after allegations surfaced of wild parties and sexual harassment supported by photos of alcohol-fueled clothing-optional antics on the embassy compound. This week's cartoon offers them one last chance to make lemonade from their lemonhead employees.

I'm no prude, and I certainly appreciate that trying to maintain the security of an American outpost in a war zone is pretty stressful, but they really need to require embassy personnel at all levels to read The Ugly American before they arrive overseas to represent our country. Everyday Americans do not look kindly on behavior by foreign nationals at embassies on our soil that mocks American laws, norms and parking regulations. Al Qaeda's entire raison d'ĂȘtre springs from Americans merely setting foot on Saudi Arabian sand; the bacchanalia of these guards can only confirm Muslims' most hostile prejudices against Americans.

Come on, guys. Keep this kind of stuff at home where it belongs.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

If you want a new buggy whip, you have to buy a new buggy

Pen and ink cartooning is a dying art -- and for proof of that, all you need to do is to try to buy supplies.

I used to be able to go into a number of artist supply stores in my little town where I could buy india ink and pen nibs. The nibs would be loose in little bins, usually near the checkout counter. I could select exactly the kind of nib I wanted and buy as many as I wanted for 35 cents apiece. The nib I use most is the 107 hawk quill (pictured), which gives me a reasonably steady line. I'll occasionally use other nibs for extra fine lines or extra heavy lines; but for faces, hands and lettering, I want something that isn't going to flare out unexpectedly.

We're down to two "crafters'" stores in town now, and the only way to buy nibs is in packages. For $9.99, I can buy a 107 hawk quill nib, along with a 102 crow quill nib and two plastic nib holders. Nibs wear down as a matter of course, but I don't have to replace my nib holders anywhere near as often. I'm also amassing a sizeable collection of unused crow quill nibs. There are similarly priced variety packages of six nibs and a single holder, but nowhere can I buy just the nibs -- let alone just the nibs I want.

I started out using Higgins india ink, but they must have changed their formula over the years. At first, their black ink was just fine for my purpose, but I had to switch to their "Black Magic" ink so that unerased vestiges of the pencilling on my cartoons wouldn't show. Eventually, I found that the "Black Magic" was turning gray as it dried -- as if the black tint was actually soaking into the interior of my bristol board somehow, rather than remaining on the surface. I tried several other disappointing brands for a while before finding Winsor & Newton's excellent product.

One of the crafters' stores in town hasn't sold Winsor & Newton ink in years, and the other has difficulty keeping it on the shelves -- if they haven't actually discontinued it. I bought Speedball's "Super Black India Ink" yesterday because I couldn't squeeze any more ink out of my last jar of Winsor & Newton. It does appear to be another good ink -- albeit more expensive than the Winsor & Newton, which is more expensive than Higgins.

I suppose I'll have to start ordering supplies on the internet. I just wanted to put this out there on the internether for the benefit of anyone else trying to decide what kind of india ink to buy when their favorite brand isn't available.

Friday, September 4, 2009

This week's Racine Post cartoon

When Mercury Marine told its union employees at its Fond du Lac, Wisconsin plant, that it would move their jobs to a non-union factory in Stillwater, Oklahoma, unless the union voted to allow M.M. to break the current contract, the union voted against the proposed pay freeze and benefit cuts. They must have thought that there was still room for negotiation, but M.M. management decidedly said NO.

The union scrambled to hold another vote on Merc's unchanged demands, but Merc announced they would refuse to recognize the vote. Meanwhile, Fond du Lac city leaders scrambled to offer Mercury Marine tax breaks and their firstborn sons to remain in town.

Mercury has deigned to allow a third vote, taking place today -- so now, of course, the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce is upset that Mercury Marine is breaking their promises to the good people of Stillwater. Mercury Marine breaking promises! Imagine that.

But Stillwater civic leaders know how this game is played. They are prepared to offer Mercury Marine a permanent tax holiday, plus conjugal rights to citizens' wives and daughters.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This week's Q Syndicate cartoon

Just because you have a right to do something doesn't make it a good idea to go ahead and do it...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This Week's Q Syndicate Cartoon

My apologies if this is too much of an inside joke only Lutherans can understand...

...There is a Lutheran saying that wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus' name, coffee will be among them.

The 2009 Churchwide Assembly (CWA) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met in Minneapolis, Minnesota (MPLSMN) in August. Pursuant to a directive from previous CWAs, voters approved a social statement on human sexuality that expressly refuses to condemn monogamy for gays and lesbians. The 676 to 338 vote was exactly the two-thirds margin required for the adoption of the social statement. There is a great deal in the lengthy statement that deals with heterosexuals, but the portions on homosexuality got all the attention.

The CWA also approved, in a simple majority vote (by nevertheless a commanding majority) a change in church policy that would allow gay and lesbian pastors in committed same-sex relationships to remain in their jobs. The church cannot require a congregation either to call or to continue the call of a gay or lesbian pastor, but congregations are now free to issue a call to an openly gay or lesbian ordained pastor. (Infidelity and bigamy are still big no-nos.)

Some congregations have threatened to leave the ELCA over the adoption of these resolutions. The ELCA is the largest of the Lutheran denominations in the United States, the other major ones being the more conservative Missouri Synod and the ultra-conservative Wisconsin Synod. (It can be confusing to outsiders and insiders alike that the regional districts of the ELCA are also called Synods; the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods are national denominations named for the state where they are headquartered. The Missouri and Wisconsin Synods don't even allow women to be pastors, so don't expect them to have anything nice to say about gays any time before the rapture.)

We'll see how this shakes down among the rank and file. I work as a secretary at one ELCA church and as organist for another, and know people on both sides of the issue at both congregations. When the church where I grew up called its first female pastor in 1977, there was an awful lot of rancor; but of the 15 ELCA churches in town, only one has never issued a pastoral call to a woman.

On the other hand, most of the 15 ELCA congregations in town still use the version of the Lord's Prayer and 23rd Psalm with all the thees and thys and thous.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Week's Totally Gay Cartoon

In Maine, the legislature passed, and the governor signed, a marriage equality bill. Christian Civic League Maine Family Council leader Michael S. Heath wrote an op-ed piece offering the observation that a spell of cold, damp weather and a potato blight just might be a sign of God being peeved with the state legislature and Governor Baldacci.

I just thought it curious that the right wing of this country firmly doubts that a century of CO2 and methane emissions by billions of people couldn't possibly affect global climate, but same-sex marriage can.

Incidentally, the cold snap in Maine has since broken.

But a tornado hit Minneapolis just as the ELCA Churchwide Assembly there was about to vote to adopt (by the exact 2/3 margin required!) a statement on human sexuality that pointedly refuses to condemn homosexuals. Hmmm.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This Week's Racine Post Cartoon

Paul Berge
Aug 18, 2009
Governor Jim Doyle announces he will not run for a third term in 2010, setting up the first gubernatorial election without an incumbent since the Earl-Kohler race of 1982. In his announcement, he makes subtle jabs at 3.5-term governor Tommy Thompson --
"This is the norm in this country. The President and most governors are limited to two terms by law. Most others have followed tradition. It has largely been Wisconsin’s practice over its history. I am already the longest serving Democratic governor and by the end of my term will be the second-longest serving governor in Wisconsin history. And I think this national norm serves good purpose. It keeps the political world from becoming stagnant. It allows new leaders to develop. It gives the voters more choices. It allows us to draw new insights and inspiration from the wellsprings of renewal in each generation."
...and at a certain quarterback...
"I personally would like to have put this decision off for another three or four months to see if I feel differently then. I know I will regret the decision many times over the coming year. But I am not going to go Brett Favre on you. I am announcing my decision now to allow other candidates to step forward and get going."
Doyle's successor will have to deal with the loss during the current recession of several of the state's major employers and the resulting hole in the state budget.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Promises, Promises

From the August 16 Christian Science Monitor: "When Should Presidents Break Their Promises?" by Egil "Bud" Krogh (yes, the Nixon lackey) and Melanie d'Evelyn:

In his remarks to gay activists at the White House earlier this summer, President Obama said: "I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps."

He may have meant to emphasize that results matter. Fair enough. But at face value, it sounds like we should disregard his "words" and "promises" he can't or won't keep and only look at the results of those promises he decides are important. That's disconcerting.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This Week's Racine Post cartoon

To understand this story, you may need to know that the two principal commercial streets in downtown Racine, Wisconsin, are Main Street (north-south) and 6th Street (east-west). The 1970s and 1980s saw a collapse of the downtown area as commercial businesses fled to the fringes of town. A concerted effort to revitalize Main Street has been underway for the past decade, while the effort to revitalize 6th Street is only a couple years old.

From the original story in Racine Post:

A proposed convenience store on Sixth Street can't get any traction with city officials because the owners want to sell packages of wine and beer.

The Public Safety and Licensing Committee voted 3-0 Monday night to deny a license for a proposed store at 420 Sixth St. The vote practically dooms the store, which was opposed by several Sixth Street business owners.

James and Caroline Chun had proposed opening a convenience store that would sell basic groceries and household items along with prepackaged beer and wine. ...

Fritz Cape, the owner of 302 and 304 Sixth St., said there was already a large concentration of liquor licenses on the street.

"It's not in keeping with the vision of a revitalized Sixth Street," said Cape, whose wife, former Alderwoman Cherri Cape, also spoke against the proposal. Cherri is also the owner of Moxie Child at 304 Sixth St. ...

Blogger and Downtown business owner Dennis Navratil argued the city doesn't have problems with businesses that sell packaged alcohol, and pointed out businesses like Uncorkt and the former Braun's and Historic Century Market never have had a problem.

Navratil also pointed out Downtown has at least 20 vacant buildings, which would seem the indicate the need to attract new businesses. If Downtown bars are creating problems, he said, take away their licenses, don't punish a convenience store that's never opened.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This Week's Q Cartoon

No PDAs, please, we're skittish:

There have been a number of reports this summer of gay couples getting harassed for kissing in public. The couples have been evicted from fast food restaurants and bars, and have even been threatened with arrest. (One police officer told a couple that there was a law against same-sex kissing. We may need to coin the term "frivolous prosecution.")

Friday, August 7, 2009

Da Do Ron Ron

One of the most difficult questions I ever have to answer is "How long does it take you to do a cartoon?"

A cartoon such as last week's syndicated one, showing from a fair height two buses and an ambulance stranded in a vast wilderness alongside a lonely road, took fairly little time to draw. It was just a matter of getting the vehicles drawn in the same perspective as each other and adding a few faces that were too small to allow for any actual detail. I probably spent more time on the lettering of the balloon than on the rest of the drawing. Maybe an hour for the whole thing.

But that doesn't count the hard part of the cartoon: coming up with the idea in the first place.

I had decided early on that I wanted to do a cartoon about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's line item budget veto slashing the state Office of AIDS budget. The obvious idea for the topic would have been to depict him as the Terminator. That idea has been done before -- hundreds of times in one fashion or another since he first declared his candidacy for the office -- so I quickly rejected it. But what else to do?

I thought long and hard about it. During some of that time, any bystander might have mistakenly concluded that I wasn't doing anything. Or that I was mindlessly surfing the internet. Or napping.

Sitting around appearing to do nothing, surfing the internet, or napping for hours on end does not do much toward maintaining domestic tranquility at home, so I tried thinking up the cartoon idea while doing other things that needed to get done, such as housecleaning and mowing the lawn. Somehow, actually accomplishing something seems always to be thoroughly detrimental to germinating a cartoon idea.

I noticed about halfway through mowing the lawn that I had spent 20 minutes or so thinking of nothing but the lyrics to a nonsense song from the musical Hair. It's a pleasant enough tune, but there was no way it was going to be helpful in coming up with a cartoon about slashing funds to budget California's Office of AIDS.

That's when it hit me how much easier song writing must be than political cartooning.

A song writer can get away with writing "Glippety glub gloopy nibby nabby noopy La la la lo lo Sabba sibby sabba nooby abba nabba le le lo lo tooby ooby walla nooby abba naba" and still have a hit on his hands forty years later. "Oh wah diddy, diddy dum diddy doo" remains in the top 100 hits of all time. All the Police wanted to say to you was "De do do do, de da da da," and fans ate it up.

If I tried to get away with that sort of thing, 90% of my readers would respond, "I don't get it." (The other 10% would assume I was ripping off Zippy the Pinhead.) Editors would drop my feature faster than a flaming porcupine.

Considering how the job prospects for editorial cartooning get worse and worse with every passing day, how much harder do you suppose it really is to be a song writer? How much time does it take to write one stupid song, anyway?

All the doo dah day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paul Ryan's Health Care Plan

Peter Selkowe at The Racine Post recently asked if I'd be interested in submitting cartoons about local politics on occasion. This first cartoon spins a local angle on a national topic: Health Care Reform.

Our congressman, Republican Paul Ryan, has actually gained some national stature by being the lone Republican to do more than bark "No!" on the issue. He actually put forth a health care reform proposal, although it failed to garner the support even of his own party.

One component of his proposal is a health insurance tax credit -- $2,300 for a single filer, $5,700 for a family. As anyone who pays for their own health insurance knows, that tax credit falls far short of what a decent health insurance policy costs these days.

Far short.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This Week's Cartoon

I really, really, really did NOT want to draw a cartoon depicting California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator for slashing the budget of the state Office of AIDS this week. It was mighty difficult to get that cliche out of my head, though. Here's what I eventually came up with instead...

Psst.... there will be a second cartoon this week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This Week's Cartoon

Hmm... Is a pun in any way an appropriate eulogy, especially for an accomplished, serious author?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

There is nothing new under the sun

I ran across a Herblock cartoon dating from the Kennedy administration in a civics textbook the other day. Captioned "Uh--Perhaps we should have a consultation," it shows twin incarnations of his stock character from that period representing the American Medical Society, protesting in front of the White House, recoiling in surprise from each other as they meet at a corner of the fence.

The AMA protester on the right is holding a placard reading: "The J.F.K. health plan is a fooler because it doesn't even go far enough to pay doctor bills!"

The AMA protester on the left has a placard reading: "The J.F.K. health plan goes so far it would socialize medicine!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This Week's Cartoon

This week's cartoon does not address any specific criminal case. In the process of deciding which news story to draw about every week, I always find at least one story about a gay-bashing somewhere. Sometimes, hate crime charges are added to the obvious murder or aggravated assault charges against the accused; but in other cases, the prosecution exhibits a baffling reticence to bring any serious charges at all.

Take for example, the case of Robert Hannah, who has pled guilty to a charge of misdemeanor assault for (ahem, allegedly) fatally assaulting Tony Hunter at Be Bar in Washington D.C. Hannah claims that he punched Hunter because Hunter made sexual advances to him. Hunter died ten days later as a result of the assault.

If heterosexual men were subject to straight panic attacks from uninterested women they made sexual advances toward, you can bet the women would not be charged with misdemeanor assault.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This Week's Cartoon

When the American Foundation for Equal Rights announced that it would challenge the anti-marriage amendment to California's state constitution approved by the voters in November, mainstream LGBT rights organizations said it was too soon to go to the courts. They had been defeated in the state supreme court before the election, and again in the election itself. Since the AFER suit is proceeding anyway, those mainstream organizations have offered their assistance, but those offers are getting a chilly response.

It's hard to know whose side to be on in this kerfuffle. A quixotic attempt to refight a lost battle might do more harm than good, but what point is counseling patience while real families are being hurt? I'm reminded of a classic Feiffer cartoon: six panels show basically the same cartoon updated from 1865 to 1965, supposedly drawn by cartoonists counseling patience on Blacks' civil rights -- activists pushing for real change are represented in the cartoons-within-the-cartoon as a radical individual doing damage to his own cause.

The point of the Feiffer cartoon, of course, is that no progress comes of patience. So lead, follow, or get out of the way; just don't bleed on the car, please.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Night at the Movies

(This is an old essay from my Geocities site, resurrected for the hell of it.)

I hear that one of the reasons "Brokeback Mountain" didn't win Best Picture in 2006 is that the actual winner, "Crash," is about Los Angeles, which all the actors and writers and directors who live out there and vote for Best Picture can relate to, and none of the characters in "Brokeback Mountain" ever come close to setting foot in a big city.

I can sort of understand that. Now, I don't live in wide open country, and I don't live in a big city either. I grew up in a small town of under 100,000 people, and now live in an even smaller village of about 5,000 (about 10 minutes away from the small town). The small town, Racine, was once portrayed in the Goldie Hawn - Mel Gibson flick "Bird on a Wire" as having a Chinatown in it; I can assure you that it doesn't. But the people who make films live in cities that do have Chinatowns in them, and perhaps they can't relate to a city without one.

So anyway, as a gay man, I'm supposed to have liked "Brokeback Mountain" for the gay content alone. I'm supposed to like "Will & Grace" for the same reason, even though I have a really hard time relating to its characters. I understand the dynamic between Will and Grace, and perhaps once upon a time between Will and Jack; but most of the time, I can't figure out why these characters hang around each other at all. And yet, in spite of the shallow one-dimensional characters and the substitution of attitude and name-dropping for wit, "Will & Grace" managed to win an Emmy.

Was Hollywood's snub of "Brokeback Mountain" a way of making up for the overhyping of "Will & Grace"? Were the voters telling us "You're here, you're queer, get over it"? Well, maybe. Or maybe the Academy would have prefered a movie in which Jack Twist went to Hollywood, got all famous and went to fabulous parties and did cocaine and completely left Ennis Del Mar pining sadly away back in Bumfuck, WY until some tearful reunion scene as Jack, dying of AIDS, returns to his roots to die. Or better yet, Ennis shows up at Jack's palatial estate, because that would be in L.A.

Well, I'm sure "Crash" is a very fine movie. I wanted to see it when it was in the theatres, but it wasn't here in East Boondocks, WI very long, and my partner wasn't interested in seeing it at all. None of the best picture nominees were on local screens for more than a week (I don't think "TransAmerica" played here at all). The only Oscar nominees for 2006 we saw have been "Brokeback Mountain," "King Kong" (technical awards), and "Capote."

And, being from East Boondocks, I can't say I really care all that much about what film gets the Academy Award For Best Picture. A couple of years ago, we saw both "Saving Private Ryan" and "Shakespeare In Love," and do you remember which film won Best Picture?

Heath Ledger eventually got his Oscar, posthumously, for his role as the Joker in the Batman flick, "The Dark Knight." We watched that film recently on TV... it's not exactly a nuanced performance. But then, an actor gets more acclaim for playing Richard III than for playing Henry VI. In a way, Ledger's award was just like those Lifetime Achievement Awards the Academy gives to tremendously talented actors who never got a statuette for their best work.

~ ~ ~

P.S.: You know what else I liked about "Bird on a Wire"? Gibson and Hawn get to Racine on the Detroit-Racine ferry.

The Detroit-Racine ferry?! Come on, Mr. Hollywood Room Full of Monkeys at Typewriters! Was I-94 supposed to be closed? Detroit and Racine are not even on the same lake! Why the hell would there be a ferry going all the way from a big city on the southwest shore of Lake Huron, clear around the lower Michigan peninsula to a little city on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan?


For an additional movie reference to Racine, there is also "Autumn Leaves," starring Joan Crawford, Cliff Robertson, Lorne Green and Vera Miles. 50ish Crawford marries 30ish Robertson, who has told her that he's originally from Racine, but tells the wedding authorities in Tijuana, Mexico, that he was born in Chicago.

I've found that whenever I'm abroad and somebody asks me where in the U.S. I'm from, I might as well say I'm from near Chicago. My reasons aren't as sordid as Cliff Robertson's; foreigners (and, I suppose, Hollywood film makers, too) just aren't likely to know where Wisconsin is.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

This Week's Cartoon

On the 40th anniversary of the bar raid at the Stonewall Inn, Fort Worth Police investigated the week-old Rainbow Lounge and reportedly found that patrons were drinking in the establishment. In the course of the police making arrests for disorderly conduct, one patron had to be hospitalized for a serious head injury.

Since then, the chief of Fort Worth Police Department, also pretty new to the job, has been in full damage control and apology mode, so at least that counts for some progress since 1969.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sneak peek for the week

This week's cartoon will be about the raid by Fort Worth police of a gay bar, "Rainbow," on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raid and subsequent riots.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When I Met Al Franken

Now that Minnesota's senatorial election has at long last been settled, the truth can finally be told.

I met Al Franken in 1980, when we were both supporting a Republican candidate for President. I was a junior at St. Olaf College, a Lutheran liberal arts college across Northfield, Minnesota from Carleton College. Minnesota's presidential caucuses that year would be held on the same day as the New Hampshire primary; then as now, New Hampshire got the overwhelming majority of the media and candidates' attention. After all, local party members around Minnesota were only electing delegates to the next round of state caucuses.

Like many college students that winter, I supported John Anderson for president. Canvassing for the Republican party, I found very few Republicans who supported the eventual nominee, Ronald Reagan; in fact, some Republicans told me they were horrified at the prospect of his nomination. College students, particularly St. Olaf students, overwhelmed the Northfield caucus on election day, producing a lopsided supermajority for Anderson. (George H.W. Bush came in second, Reagan a distant third.) By the time the state caucus was held, Republicans who didn't live in college towns turned the state delegation solidly for Reagan, but that's getting way afield of this story.

Back to preparing for the caucuses. While Anderson, Bush, Reagan, John Connally, Howard Baker and Phil Crane were busily campaigning in New Hampshire, they sent surrogates to Minnesota. Anderson's surrogate to college campuses was Al Franken, a Minnesota-bred writer on Saturday Night Live. He appeared on the show in a deconstruction of comedy team conventions, playing Costello/Lewis/Tom to the Abbott/Martin/Dick of Tom Davis. The bit would open with an animated caricature of the Franken and Davis duo.

The guys running the St. Olaf campaign for John Anderson approached me in advance of a visit to the campus by Al Franken to ask me to draw a poster advertising the event. The obvious idea to me was to draw a take-off of the Franken & Davis cartoon, substituting John Anderson's head on the lankier Tom Davis body. My problem was that when Saturday Night Live was broadcast that weekend, there was no Franken & Davis bit on the show. And with no internet, Hulu, or even video casette to refer to, I had to draw the cartoon completely (except for the easily found pictures of Anderson) from memory.

My fellow students thought my cartoon was just swell anyway, and got the idea that when Franken came to campus, I should present the poster to him. They arranged for the presentation to take place at lunch in the school cafeteria. What any of us thought Mr. Franken would want with the black marker drawing on 3.5' by 2' blue poster board is anybody's guess. What happened was this.

Franken took a look at the poster and made a comment that it was almost, but not quite right. With a magic marker, he then drew an e-NORRRRRRR-mous phallus protruding from his crotch, right across John Anderson and into the advertising copy.

I'm pretty sure he didn't keep the poster. I know I didn't. Maybe somebody in the Students for Anderson group held onto it for a semester or so. We certainly didn't bring it to the caucus.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This week's cartoon

With apologies to Billy Mays, David Carradine, and whatever celebrity should happen to pass away this afternoon:

One of the poorly kept secrets of editorial cartooning is that eulogy cartoons are some of the most popular things we draw, but most cartoonists despise them. In our heart of hearts, of course, we cartoonists all hope to draw the cartoon that outlasts us, like Bill Mauldin's famous cartoon of the Lincoln Memorial weeping after the assassination of John Kennedy.

But since Bill Mauldin already used that idea, cartoons of (fill in the blank) crying all seem derivative. Countless cartoonists drew the Statue of Liberty crying on 9/11. Off the top of my head, I remember seeing cartoons of Alice Kramden crying when Jackie Gleason died, the Virginia Tech mascot crying after the shootings on that campus, the NBC peacock crying after Johnny Carson died, and who could forget the weeping guitars when George Harrison passed away?

The other cliche is the cartoon showing the deceased person's arrival at the pearly gates, where St. Peter says something moderately clever. I've drawn one or two of those myself. Alternatively, cartoonists take the liberty of welcoming a disliked deceased person to hell, where, if he or she isn't greeted by the devil himself, he/she is in the company of Hitler or Stalin. (I can't think of any actual Welcome To Hell cartoon about a woman, but I'm sure Mike Lester has one all ready for Hillary Clinton someday.)

Of my own eulogy cartoons, my favorite was for Quentin Crisp. I didn't think he'd have appreciated being in a eulogy cartoon, so that's what I drew.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This Week's Cartoon

Given the Obama administration's reluctance to take action on LGBT issues of any significance, I probably should have submitted this cartoon to Q Syndicate as a reserve for release when I go on vacation this fall, but I seriously needed to draw a cartoon about any topic other than marriage rights.

With any luck there will be a gay angle to some other story in the news this week. The Mark Sanford walk in the wilderness, perhaps?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

1998 Pride cartoon

Since I didn't draw a Gay Pride cartoon this year, here's one from 1998.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The "Fierce Advocate" in 2008

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
May 20, 2008
I drew the above cartoon in May of 2008, as the presidential candidates responded to the California Supreme Court's Marriages decision recognizing a constitutional right to marriage equality in that state. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seemed taken off guard by the decision, issuing awkward statements that acknowledged the decision without much if any sense of congratulation to LGBT voters. 

The Clinton campaign, however, did recover its footing enough to send daughter Chelsea to LGBT events to campaign for our votes. I certainly never got the impression at any point in the campaign that Obama was a "fierce advocate" for LGBT rights, even though he claimed to be. He was pressed on LGBT issues at a number of fora and debates, and always seemed to come up with parsed, legalistic answers on marriage rights — supporting "civil unions" rather than "marriages" for us (as did every Democratic candidate other than Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel). 

That didn't prevent me from voting for Obama, either in the Wisconsin primary or the general election. Much as I would have liked to imagine that he would be stronger on LGBT issues than his campaign persona ought to have led anyone to believe, I supported him on other issues and thought he would be more electable in November than Hillary Clinton. 

This is not to say that the administration's brief on DOMA this month is anything other than greatly disappointing. The May, 2008 cartoon, and the one out this week (below) were both drawn more in sorrow than in anger; but the ratio is closer to 50-50 this week.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

DOJ hearts DOMA

The Obama Justice Department last week filed a brief supporting the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, using arguments that were guaranteed to incense the LGBT community. Administration lackeys have since claimed that the DOJ was obligated to file the brief — which is debateable — but this brief went out of its way to include some execrable arguments.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jun 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Anthony Woods for Congress

The Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Ellen Tauscher in Congress includes an encouraging candidate, Anthony Woods, an Iraq veteran discharged because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. This CNN video skips over Ms. Brown's questions, which is a little odd:

Here is a link to his web page.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Suck it up, boy!

At senate hearings on the Uniting American Families Act bill, Alabama Republican Jefferson Sessions was reported responding to the tears of a 12-year-old, one of whose mothers faces deportation to her native Philippines, by muttering "Enough with the histrionics!"

Different-sex couples, of course, do not run the risk of one parent being deported when his or her visa runs out; they can get married. Same-sex couples, even those living in states which recognize same-sex marriage, do not.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Drawing about obscure stories

This week's cartoon (check back Wednesday for it) is about a pretty obscure news story, reported by James Kirchik on The New Republic's blog pages.

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committe held the first-ever hearing on the Uniting American Families Act, which would equalize the status of foreign-born same-sex partners of American citizens. Heterosexual Americans can earn citizenship for their foreign partners by marrying them. Gays, obviously, cannot do that, effectively making a gay American and his or her foreign spouse legal strangers.

Testifying was Shirley Tan, a Fillipino woman who has been with her American partner for 23 years. Together, they are raising twelve-year-old twin boys. She originally left the Phillipines after suffering a violent attack from a man who murdered her mother and sister (one of the reasons why Tan does not want to return to her native country, aside from the fact that her partner and children live in the U.S., is that the man who brutalized her has since been released from prison.) Tan was originally scheduled to be deported on April 3rd, but won a reprieve after Senator Diane Feinstein introduced a private bill allowing her to stay in the country temporarily.

...[O]ne of Tan's children started crying within seconds of the start of her testimony. At the sight of this, Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy stopped the hearing and asked Tan if her son might want to sit in another room, where presumably a Senate staffer would console him for the duration of what was clearly an emotionally fraught experience. For most people, the sight of a 12-year-old boy in tears at the prospect of his mother being deported halfway around the world would invoke some sympathy. Unmoved, however, was Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, ranking minority member of the Committee and the only Republican to bother to attend the hearing. At the sight of the weeping boy, according to a Senate staffer who was at the hearing, Sessions leaned towards one of his aides and sighed, "Enough with the histrionics." Sessions's press secretary did not return a call seeking comment.

One can explain these stories on a blog (quoting entire paragraphs, for that matter), but that doesn't work in a cartoon -- unless, like Tom Tomorrow, you have no qualms about having smaller print in your cartoon than the legal disclaimers in the medical and insurance advertisements. It's impossible to be pithy; I'd like to have Sessions saying just "Enough with the histrionics" in it, but I need someone in the cartoon to explain why boys are crying, what Sessions has to do with them, what's going on, even who's who. So much for brevity, the soul of wit!

I'm therefore not very satisfied with this week's oeuvre. I'm also hoping that I can come up with a cartoon very soon that is NOT about marriage equality.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Boiling Point Blog: Toon: The HETEROmance Wedding Package

Boiling Point Blog: Toon: The HETEROmance Wedding Package

Mikhaela Reid drew a wonderful cartoon after seeing news coverage of a wedding held at an anti-marriage rights protest in Washington D.C.

One can only hope that the couple raises four lovely LGBT children who grow up to be in equally mortifying wedding photos of their own.

It's Pride Month!

This is a cover drawing i did for In Step magazine in 1997 -- back when Milwaukee had two competing LGBT news publications. Since then, In Step, Wisconsin Light, and, last December, the four-year-old Queer Life News have all folded.

On the other hand, since I first started attending them, Milwaukee Pride Fest has moved to the Summerfest grounds as its first summer festival. (It was moved to August one year to make way for Harley Davidson's centennial celebration, but I don't think many people minded the move; after the cold weather of the previous years, fest goers appreciated being able to leave their parkas at home.)