Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Week's Toon: Remembering Elizabeth Taylor

The two principal decisions in drawing this week’s cartoon were selecting a quotation and deciding what sort of image to use. Since I draw for LGBT publications, I had at first thought I would use something Elizabeth Taylor had said about AIDS, or that someone had said about her longstanding commitment to raising funds to help find a cure, but none that I found really fit with a eulogy cartoon. The quotation I did use, however, struck me as more interesting than anything I'd seen on the topic I'd originally had in mind.

Several other cartoonists have already drawn cartoons of her famously violet eyes alone, so I didn’t want to repeat that approach. She didn’t have a famous profile or distinctive pose, either, which nixed drawing her silhouette as a second easy shortcut.

I’m not entirely pleased with how this sketch of Elizabeth Taylor came out. Maybe the rouge on her right cheek comes over too far, or her hair should cover her eyes more, and there’s something just not right about the mouth. But then, I’ve seen a lot of cartoons that just don’t capture her, which might have something to do with the longevity and variety of her career. The star of "National Velvet" does not look like the cameo guest appearance on "All My Children."

Googling “Elizabeth Taylor,” I found a lot of the same pictures over and over. A lot of pictures of Taylor when she was very young, and a lot of pictures from the ’90's and ’00's. In the earlier photos and drawings, her mouth is small, usually in a pout, as was typical of publicity shots of actresses in that era. Her mouth appears wider in the later pictures, though, and her jaw stronger.

What I wanted to work from were pictures from her career as I became aware of it in the ’60's and ’70's – the face I remember best. I can’t be entirely certain, but I think the first film of hers that I saw was probably “The Taming of the Shrew.” And then there was the face I’ve seen most often: the gauzy woman in those TV ads for White Diamonds perfume that have been aired every Christmas season for the last 30 years.

I have a box of old Look and Life magazines in the basement, so I went through them in hopes of finding any photos of Ms. Taylor that would be appropriate to the quotation I had decided to use. I found no pictures of her at all, but I did find in the January 15, 1965 issue of Life magazine the letters from readers in response to a cover story in the December 18, 1964 issue that I –alas!— do not have.

Nearly every other letter was from people in high dudgeon that Life should dare introduce the likes of Elizabeth Taylor into their homes:
Oh, come now, Life! First we were ‘treated’ to two issues full of the tragic account of Marilyn Monroe (1962 and 1964 versions). Then came the saga of Sophia Loren (who ‘feels married’). Now you scrape the bottom with 12 nauseating pages of prattle by Elizabeth Taylor (who demurs at her private life being made public).
Life to me has always been an informative, newsworthy family magazine. Let the accounts of Taylor, Loren et al. be published by the pulp magazines, and not besmirch the pages of a fine magazine with such trivia.
--Willis D. Calkins Jr., Bellport, N.Y.

When I saw the cover, which looks like she just crawled out of bed and put on a pair of earrings, I was so angry that I felt like taking it to the back porch and tearing it up.
--Mrs. Nelson E. Shultz, York, Pa.

I have to wonder if the quotation I used in this week’s cartoon was from that December 18, 1964 issue of Life Magazine. Or in response to some of those January 15, 1965 letters.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine "Gerry" Ferraro, former congresswoman from New York and Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee in 1984 has died. In memoriam, here's a cartoon of her from my juvenalia file:

I was trying to draw Walter Mondale holding himself rigid and still -- which was a particular challenge, since just about anyone I drew in those days looks rigid and still.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How Governor Walker's Budget Impacts My Hometown

I live in a small village of less than 6,000. From the village's March newsletter:
"The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has calculated what [the village] would lose in just its Shared Revenue and General Transportation payments and what savings would be available through the recently passed Budget Adjustment Bill. The net result is that [the village] would lose $159,618 in revenue in 2012. [Emphasis sic.]

"If the proposed elimination of funding for the recycling program is included, the loss ... is $187,618 from just these three programs. Additional reduction in other state aid are anticipated but not well defined at this point.

"What does this mean for residents? The General Fund Budget is less than $4M. The proposed cuts would be approximately a 5% cut in Village revenue. Cuts of this size will affect the ability of [the village] to continue to provide the current level of services. Reductions in a workforce that now consists of only 18 full time positions is likely. All services, including police protection, snow plowing, street repairs, and park maintenance will have to be on the table."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Q Toon: GOP Line-up

Unless the Republicans end up going for Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, or Rick Santorum, this could well be my first cartoon about next year's GOP nominee for President.

Santorum, for anyone struggling to figure out who is who in the cartoon, is the one barely in the frame. When I draw smut, I try to be tasteful about it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

R.C. Bowman Cartoons about Great Britain -- 1900

More from the pages of The Minneapolis Tribune Cartoon Book for 1901: Being a Collection of Over One Hundred Cartoons by R.C. Bowman: I've already shown some other cartoons about Great Britain, mostly relating to the Boxer Rebellion in China. Here are three more.


The reference in this cartoon is to Paul Kruger, also known as Oom ("Uncle") Paul, President of the South African Republic (Transvaal) up until September of 1900. This is in the middle of the Boer War with Great Britain. For the purposes of this cartoon, it is useful to know that Kruger had a bushy "chinstrap" beard and was as associated with pipe smoking as Franklin Roosevelt would later be with smoking with a cigarette holder. The cartoon symbol for England, John Bull, was also often depicted with a pipe.

As the British advanced on Pretoria, Kruger fled the capital; in October, he went into exile, first to Mozambique and then to Europe. He spent considerable time in Marseilles and Paris, and no doubt this cartoon dates from his French sojourn. The Anglo-French rivalry, of course, extends back to the Norman Conquest.

Kruger, a founder of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa and a Flat Earther (really?!), is the guy they named the Krugerrand after. Also the "Oom Paul" style of pipe.

John Bull: "Heavy? Of course it's heavy. But think of the glory."

This cartoon mocks British surtaxes used to pay for the Boer Wars -- this was long before George W. Bush thought up the idea of pretending that war could be waged off budget. The sign on the left reads "Cost of the Boer War / Five Hundred Million Dollars." The fellow up on the right is labeled "Chamberlain," presumably British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain.

John Bull: "Ah, why don't you keep over on your own side?"

Meanwhile, the United States was making significant inroads in world commerce, threatening England's dominance. While it could still be said that the sun never set on the British Empire, the sun was certainly rising on the American one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

This Week's Sneak Peek

Tune in later this week to find out why the Donald has packed on a few pounds.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Q Toon: Maryland! My Maryland!

The cause of marriage equality in Maryland was dealt a surprise setback last week when the state House of Representatives unexpectedly failed to pass a bill that had already passed in the more conservative Senate. Lacking enough support to pass, the bill was sent back to the Judiciary Committee -- a committee that had almost killed the bill the week before.

From an editorial in the Washington Blade:
A couple of political careers likely imploded during this process, including those of Dels. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City) and Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County). Carter and Del. Tiffany Alston stunned backers of the Civil Marriage Protection Act by staying away from a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee in which a vote on the marriage bill was scheduled to take place, and announced they would not vote on the measure until Democratic leaders paid more attention to other issues they feel are equally important. Both Carter and Alston are co-sponsors of the marriage bill. Where was House Speaker Michael Busch when we needed him to keep these selfish renegades in line?

And Arora, who campaigned as a supporter of marriage equality and accepted financial contributions from LGBT people across the state and beyond, also yanked his support, triggering a flood of angry responses on his Facebook page and calls for him to refund those donations. Arora represents liberal Montgomery County. And his betrayal represents the end of his young political career.

A major factor in the debacle was the opposition from African-American delegates, pressured by clergy in their districts, who took offense at LGBT claims that marriage equality is a "civil rights issue." From the Baltimore Sun:

Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. delivered the day's longest speech, blasting same-sex marriage supporters for calling the issue one of civil rights.
"Those who want to ride on our coattails are historically incorrect," said Burns, an African-American Democrat from Baltimore County. He said gay people had not endured the struggles of blacks, had not had crosses burned on their lawns or been thrown in a police wagon.

I drew about this argument several years ago:

To comment on race relations is to step into a mine field, at least if you're a person of no color; no less if one is a cartoonist putting words into the mouths of other people. The United States has a shameful history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, segregation and pervasive discrimination against African Americans (which continues today in the stubborn refusal of many people to accept the overwhelming evidence that Barack Obama is in fact a natural born citizen and duly elected President of the United States). But I cannot accept the idea that my civil rights are not civil rights because the term "civil rights" is the exclusive property of African Americans. Are women's civil rights "historically incorrect" because crosses weren't burned on their lawns?

The U.S. Supreme Court has had to address marriage equality before. Within my lifetime (and the lifetime of President Obama and every member of the current Court), it was illegal in many states for persons of different races to marry. If Loving v. Virginia was not a civil rights case, what was it?
The Court rejected the state's argument that the statute was legitimate because it applied equally to both blacks and whites and found that racial classifications were not subject to a "rational purpose" test under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court also held that the Virginia law violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. "Under our Constitution," wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren, "the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State."

Each struggle for civil rights has something to differentiate it from other struggles -- gas chambers, rape, employment discrimination, having one's land taken away or being taken away from one's land. There are also things that we have in common. Contrary to Rev. Burns, we were indeed thrown in the backs of police wagons. Likewise, antebellum laws did not recognize slaves' marriage rights. To focus solely on the differences is as pointless as suggesting that the experiences of African-Americans in Hawai'i made them less deserving of civil rights than African-Americans in Mississippi.

Monday, March 14, 2011

This Week's Sneak Peek

There's an awful lot of black in this week's cartoon. It was probably a waste of time and ink to draw it in, rather than just FILL the space with black in Photoshop, but that's just the kind of full-service kind of cartooning we promise and deliver here at Bergetoons.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Twned this week: Fred Phelps & Clan

Personally, I don't think any caricature of the Westboro Baptist Church of Ghouls can ever possibly be mean enough.

Still, it's hard to argue that these miserable cretins do not have the rights of free speech guaranteed in the Constitution. Eventually, they will die and spend eternity serving their Lord of Hate; but until then, it is up to good-hearted people everywhere to exercise our own right of free speech to defend grieving funeral-goers from their vicious depravity.

Monday, March 7, 2011

This Week's Sneak Peek

I woke up from an odd dream this morning, which I suppose had something to do with cartoon I'd spent the previous evening drawing for Q Syndicate. I was in a group tour of the Supreme Court building being guided by none other than Chief Justice John Roberts. Instead of going in to the courtroom by the usual entrance, however, he took us in through a side room which looked like a classroom or conference room with a chalkboard and a few tables. The explanation for our detour was that one of the women in our group was pregnant.

The significance of that bit is completely beyond me.

Then Roberts left us to sit in on a press conference in the next room, and I noticed two of my cartoons on a table in that room. Then some clerk asked how to pronounce my name, but I woke up before discovering what that was about.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Q Toon: Complainer Boehner

My goodness that was a lot of lettering.

Almost overlooked among the coverage of turmoil in the Middle East and Midwest was last week's decision by the Justice Department to stop defending DOMA (the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act") in court. House Majority Leader John Boehner complained that the Obama administration was stirring up a controversial issue instead of focusing on job creation and balancing the budget.

Now that their workload has been freed from the needless distraction of filing briefs supporting marriage discrimination, I look forward to seeing how the Justice Department returns to their mission of job creation and budget balancing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A prison guard speaks out

I came up with this cartoon while I was still drawing the cartoon I posted this morning -- before coming across this "Letter to Wisconsin Republicans from a conservative prison guard." (It is where I came up with the salary figure of $40,000 -- that much came after the rest of the cartoon was already sketched out.) It's a very angry letter from "a 46 year old lifelong conservative Republican" who "will now be very involved in my community and others if possible to drive you out." The letter includes an aside to Democrats:
"To all you Democratic lawmakers, I apologize for voting nothing but Republican all these years. They are not who I thought they were!! Don't you Republicans see the protests throughout the state? Hey, I'm a taxpayer too!! Don't tell me that you're protecting the taxpayers. This is simply a way to attack some of the finest middle class workers and I for one am considering moving out of Wisconsin as I am so distraught at the lack of honest wholesome government."

Scott Walker's Modest Proposal

This cartoon speaks more of Scott Walker's management style than anything else.

I've followed Walker's career ever since his run for student body president at Marquette University. I wasn't a student there; but he got the attention of the student newspapers at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. I was drawing for the UWM Post at the time. The Marquette Tribune was also available at various eateries and movie theatres back in those days when picking up actual physical newsprint was the only way to read a newspaper.

His campaign was marked by numerous violations of the rules; and when the student newspaper withdrew its judgment (at the end of an editorial endorsing his opponent) that either candidate was qualified for the job, his campaign seized and trashed as many copies as they could of the issue declaring Walker unqualified.

"In a Tribune article dated April 25, 2002, Walker recalled the [1988 student body presidential] election, saying he regretted the approach he took to campaigning.

"'I didn’t achieve office because I focused on personalities and egos,' Walker said in the article."

Walker was trounced 80% to 20% in that election, and soon quit the University. He entered politics instead of earning a degree.

I have been astonished at the ability of this thoroughly unlikeable cretin to achieve political success out in the real world. When he was elected to the state assembly from Wauwatosa, there was the explanation that he ran as a stubborn conservative in a stubbornly conservative suburb. When he was elected Milwaukee County Executive, it could be explained by the fact that the previous Executive was caught in a scandal involving excessive pensions for county politicians and the county was outraged and in a mood for just the sort of asshole Walker is.

But Walker's victory over Mayor Barrett -- the guy who got severely injured heroically intervening in the violent assault of a woman the year before -- in the 2010 gubernatorial race was dumbfounding. In the end, Barrett was done in by relentless attack ads from the Republican Governor's Association (starting months before the primary), and the front groups for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Koch Brothers.

The coup de grĂ¢ce was the ad from the Milwaukee police and firemen's unions attacking Barrett over a new emergency responders' radio system that has experienced more than its share of kinks. It is now important to remember these unions' endorsement of Scott Walker in light of the Republican claim that Scott Walker campaigned on busting up state workers' unions.

If Walker had indeed campaigned on that stand, there is no way that the police and firemen's unions would have alienated themselves from the rest of the public service unions by publicly supporting him. They might have sat on their hands, but they wouldn't have endorsed him, and they certainly wouldn't have spent union dues attacking the Democratic alternative on TV and radio.