Thursday, April 30, 2015

Q Toon: I Now Pronouns You

I'm probably offending some readers who think I'm being transphobic, and disappointing others who expect me to rip into Bruce Jenner for being a Republican, but here -- with full recognition that there are more important things going on in the news -- is this week's cartoon.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate 
 Apr 30, 2015

The point of this week's cartoon is to note what it takes for language to adapt to changing societal needs.

Language changes all the time, and never so rapidly as now. Cyberspace netizens friend bloggers in real time. Nobody would have understood a word of that sentence when today's college freshmen were in diapers. "Text" as a verb. "Occupy" as a noun. Language is changing so fast, Words to Retire is outpacing  New Words in the OED.

And, of course, Facebook has 54 terms (and counting) to pigeon-hole your sexual persuasion and gender identity for the company's algorithm section. That's a boon, no doubt, to the creators of crossword puzzles and word finds, but it does remind me of the 1960's and '70s when there was a constant shift in what the acceptable terminology was to refer to western hemisphere residents of anthropologically recent African heritage.

I had an experience with the practical application of language just yesterday. When Chris and I got married last year, my parents welcomed him into the family with open arms. Wine-making is a generations-long family tradition for Chris, which my Dad has also enjoyed as a hobby for many years; Dad was telling me yesterday that he had mentioned my "partner" in a discussion at his wine-making club.

"I suppose I should have said 'spouse,'" Dad interjected.

"I call him my husband," I offered.

Dad seemed taken aback by that, as if he hadn't considered that word as a possibility before.

"Spouse" is indeed making a comeback as a gender-neutral word for same-sex married couples -- even Cam and Mitchell were declared "spouses for life" -- and it would have been nice if our marriage license identified us as "Spouse 1" and "Spouse 2." But my husband is not gender-neutral, and I'm quite happy about that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Saigon, 40 Years On

This was the headline of the local paper forty years ago tomorrow:
(I may be jumping the gun a little, but no moreso than the folks at the Journal Times, who included the May 3 Sunday comics, Parade and advertising supplements in today's home deliveries.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

R.C. Bowman on W.J. Bryan

Welcome to Stretchback Saturday, and another installment of the cartoons of Roland C. Bowman for the Minneapolis Tribune in 1900. As always, the cartoons are embiggenable when enclicked.
Since we're gearing up for 2016 these days, here's a look back at the 1900 presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan. Bryan, then 40 years old, won the Populist presidential nomination unanimously; and after the early withdrawal of Admiral George Dewey from the race, Bryan faced no real opposition for the Democratic nomination, either.
Chairman Jones: "This nigh horse isn't fast enough to trot in this team. Guess I'll have to trade him."

In my first batch of Bowman cartoons on this blog, I had included two cartoons featuring former Duluth, Minnesota Congressman Charles Towne from Bowman's "Meanderings of Willie and Little Steve" series. (To recap: Towne was elected to Congress as a Republican in 1894, lost reelection as an Independent in 1896 and 1898, and was appointed Senator as a Democrat for eight weeks in 1900-01; then he moved to New York and served one term in Congress as a Democrat.)

In the cartoon above Towne is the "nigh horse" about to be traded away by national Democratic Chairman James Jones. Towne was the Populist Party's overwhelming choice for its Vice Presidential nomination in 1900, but when the Democrats nominated former Vice President Adlai Stevenson instead, Towne declined the Populist nomination.

Poor, poor donkey

Bryan's advocacy of Free Silver was the overarching theme in his 1896 campaign; but by 1900, the discovery of gold in the Yukon and South Africa had completely changed the economic equation. "16 to 1" refers to the exchange rate of silver to gold proposed by the Free Silver advocates, opposed by Republicans and "Gold Democrats" such as former President Grover Cleveland.

The Democrats' 1900 convention in Kansas City reiterated much of the platform adopted at its 1896 convention in Chicago when it had first nominated Bryan for the presidency. The earlier convention had been the site of Bryan's famous "Cross of Gold" speech.

Stefan Lorant posits that Bryan knew all along that his 1900 campaign was doomed to fail; but his enthusiastic campaigning never wavered as personally toured the country, delivering stirring and passionate speeches to enthusiastic crowds from the back of trains. This was in stark contrast to traditional presidential campaigns, and especially to incumbent President William McKinley, who stayed at home and let others campaign for him.

While Bryan was undoubtedly the more dynamic figure, McKinley benefited greatly from the robust national recovery during his first term from the Panic of 1893, as well as from the U.S. victory over Spain in the "splendid little war" of 1898.
The Ghost: "Tell me, William, what Demo-Pop was it who helped ratify me."
Bryan: "Why! O goodness!! The--the--tut-tut ba-ba-ba--it--was--me."
The Ghost: "Then you are SOME to blame, aren't you?"
Bryan: "Ya-ya-ya ye-ye-YES."

The Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War turned Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines over to the United States. Bryan and the Democrats opposed the creation of an American Empire, and Senate ratification of the treaty in 1899 was in doubt. Republicans appeared to be a vote short when, in the last minutes before the final vote, Bryan persuaded a group of Democrats to vote for ratification -- allegedly so that he would have fodder for his anti-imperialist campaign the next year.

There are plenty more Bryan cartoons in this book -- check back here again soon for the rest of the campaign.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Q Toon: Trouble at Prom

At this time of year, I have often drawn a cartoon about high school prom. There is usually some story making the news about a school system forbidding same-sex dating or transgender outfits at prom, but that is kind of boring, cartoon-wise. I mean, how many ways can you draw cartoons about hidebound wet blanket school administrators denying Romeo and Julio from getting footloose on the dance floor?

Accordingly, several of my more recent cartoons have been set at schools where same-sex dating and girls in tuxes are no more remarkable than pink hair and tattoos. Which is to say: stop gawking, gramps. After all, polls show that there is greater acceptance of issues such as marriage equality among seniors in high schools than seniors in retirement homes.

Yet I realize that all is not all sweetness and enlightenment, even in the dance halls of academe.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Apr 23, 2015
I have probably given away my age simply by including my AOL address in this week's cartoon (the Q Syndicate email service has been down for a couple of weeks for reasons to which I am not privy). I got the AOL address at the behest of an editor decades ago who wanted to be able to Instant Message us contributors. I already have more email addresses than I care to check on a daily basis, and I've never bothered to swap this one out for a hipper Hotmail or Gmail account.

Nor do I text.

Recently, I was trying to think of some advice to give my nephew, who plans to return to school after a few years of Army training. It occurred to me that before he was born, his mother and I took college computer courses with an eye to furthering our chosen careers. We took these courses ten years apart; she learned how to punch Hollerith cards, and my computer graphics instructor spent what I thought even then to be an inordinate amount of time teaching us dBaseIII.

Both skill sets were obsolete within a matter of months.

So what's my advice? Yeah, sure, take those computer and technical courses with an eye for getting a job after graduation. But don't overlook those liberal arts courses, and save time in your courseload for stuff you're interested in purely because you're interested in it. Unless you become the next Steve Case, Mark Zuckerberg, or Evan Spiegel, you're going to have to change careers several times in your life as the job market shifts beneath your feet; and being able to carry on an intelligent conversation will serve you better than any single skill that employers might happen to be looking for this week.

And remember: nobody likes a jerk. On either side of the punch bowl.

Monday, April 20, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

I read a letter to the editor highly critical of a cartoon I drew at the end of last year calling it confounding, stale and -- with thanks for providing the letter writer with a new vocabulary word -- execrable.

Now, "execrable" is a word I might very well have used in this blog, but I don't believe I've ever used it in a cartoon, so he must have found it elsewhere in the magazine.

As far as the cartoon in their February issue being stale, that's an occupational hazard for monthly publications, and the editors must have wanted the then two-month-old cartoon because it related to a feature article in the same issue. Which also would have been more a propos for the January issue if it hadn't gone to bed early so that everybody at the magazine could have Christmas and New Year's off.

I can only apologize that it was never my intent to confounding anyone, and I sincerely regret any persons who happened to be confounded.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

From the Archives: You Can't Win The Mall

Whaddaya know -- it;s Stretchback Saturday again! And instead of featuring some dead and buried cartoonist this week, I'm dusting off a few of my own from my Milwaukee Business Journal days.
My Business Journal cartoons were all (but one) drawn to accompany the paper's lead editorial, so very few of them make any sense whatsoever apart from the editorial. This set of cartoons all accompanied editorials about Milwaukee's shopping malls as they experienced market forces common around the country. The caption for the cartoon above pretty much sums up the point of that week's editorial, to wit: having some empty storefronts in a given mall isn't a cause for panic.

Jim Borgman has noted how much fun it is to come up with fanciful names for the stores in shopping malls, something I've enjoyed, too. When suburban shopping malls popped up all over the place in the 1970's and '80's and drove downtown shops out of business, they burst at the seams with all sorts of bizarre specialty stores.
But that was before the internet came along. The above cartoon, if I remember correctly, illustrated an editorial that lamented that Milwaukee's Grand Avenue Mall, which opened downtown in 1982 with great fanfare as a destination shopping center, no longer had any eateries.

It no longer had these little specialty shoppes, either, actually. You had to pass by several empty stores between the two anchor stores and the occasional resale shop, CD store, and scrunchie outlet.

Things were even worse at Northridge Mall on Milwaukee's North Side; the Time to Panic had come and gone:
Northwest of Milwaukee in Scott Walker's suburban hometown, Wauwatosa, Mayfair Mall was the scene of considerable vandalism in 2002 after its theatre showed a movie that appealed to Black youth; this was followed by rather predictable calls for the theatre not to show movies that attracted such undesirable demographics out from the unfashionably urban, melanin-rich districts of the dreaded Inner City.

Avoiding racist stereotypes on the one hand and offending a local business on the other in the cartoon to accompany that editorial was a challenge, but I came up with something I enjoyed drawing.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Q Toon: The Brainwasher Brigade

As promised, today's cartoon marks the return of someone I haven't drawn in a long time. The current President of the United States hasn't shown up in one of my cartoons since way back in March of 2013 (and then, in a crowd -- see at right).

That I would go nearly two full years without cartooning President Obama only seems weird until one realizes that I draw mostly about people whom I am criticizing, and I tend to agree with Mr. Obama more often than not.

The occasion for this week's cartoon is the White House's response to an on-line petition to ban "conversion therapy," especially when it is imposed upon gay, lesbian and transgender youth by pressure from their parents, guardians, or clergy.
When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts. The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.
As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Apr 16, 2015
Credit for the White House response actually belongs to Valerie Jarrett, by the way. But I've gone this long without drawing any cartoons about Valerie Jarrett, and I'll probably make it through the rest of the Obama administration assuming that anything she puts on the White House blog has the full blessing of her boss.

The humor of the cartoon works better this way, anyway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trending 150 Years Ago Today

In case you missed it yesterday, here's what was trending across the nation 150 years ago today:
Now let's see if I understand Garry Trudeau's theory of satire correctly...

If a cartoonist for one of these papers drew a "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play" cartoon, that would be punching up against the Powers That Be, and that would be okay. But a cartoon showing John Wilkes Booth making his grand entrance at the Gates of Hell would be punching down at a defeated Victim of History, and you shouldn't do that.
Heck, just settle for Our American Cousin shedding a single tear, then.

Monday, April 13, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

This week's cartoon will feature the return of someone I haven't drawn in quite some time.

Tune in later this week to find out whether I'm punching up or down.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Oliphant on Ford

For Slouchback Saturday today, let's continue the discussion of the process of figuring out how to draw someone for the first time.

There are a lot of sources out there to take you step by step through starting with an oval or a rectangle or a figure 8, dividing the space up, adding ears and hair and voilĂ ! You can caricature passers-by at the fair! So I won't go in that direction.

Instead, here is an example from one of the masters in capturing a difficult face: Pat Oliphant's caricatures of Gerald Ford.

These are actually tracings I did as a kid in ballpoint pen and ink (even the imitation ben-day in a number of them -- well, for those I used a ruler rather than tracing the actual ben-day lines). I drew pages of Oliphant's LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan; I started with Nixon because of the drastic differences that evolved in Oliphant's caricatures of the 37th President. And of Oliphant's signature over Nixon's career.

When Nixon tapped Ford for the Vice Presidency after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, editorial cartoonists braced themselves for a challenge. Nixon and Agnew had faces that easily lent themselves to caricature (as did LBJ and Hubert Humphrey); many cartoonists were drawing Nixons that were barely humanoid yet instantly recognizable. Ford's face was by contrast, plain and unremarkable.

You can see that Oliphant quickly settled on the chin as the feature of Ford's face to emphasize. After about a year, he exaggerates the entire lower half of the face. Contrast the large one on the top row, drawn as Ford took office as President, with the third one on the middle row. In both, Ford's mien is thoughtful, but the effect is quite different. One trait that is nearly always present in Oliphant's drawings, moreso than in those of any other cartoonist, is that Ford's eyes are shut.

If you're interested in comparing other cartoonists' approaches to Gerald Ford (plus one of Oliphant's not included above), Vancouver cartoonist J.J.McCullough has posted 14 examples here. Which he probably didn't trace with ballpoint pen. See also Oliphant's Presidents: 25 Years of  Caricature.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Q Toon: Proportional Response

Usually, I try not to draw about the same topic two weeks in a row, but some stories just stick to the news like gum to a shoe.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) made news a couple weeks ago when he penned a letter to Iran lecturing them that the U.S. Senate would have to ratify whatever treaty the Obama administration and the European Union worked out with them, broadly hinting that of course, it won't. He was on CNN's Situation Room to discuss his strategy to blitzkrieg Iran into submission when host Wolf Blitzer asked him about the so-called "religious liberty" bill that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had sent back to the state legislature after the furor over Indiana's RLPA.

Apparently eager to steer the conversation back to his Iran talking points, Cotton pooh-poohed LGBT concerns about religious liberties legislation:
“I also think it’s important that we have a sense of perspective about our priorities. In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay. ...”
Q Syndicate✒Apr 9, 2015

Of course, gays' and lesbians' lives and liberties are threatened in many other countries besides Iran -- in some cases at the urging of American activists who purport to be Christians.

I should note here that Cotton did in fact acknowledge that Christians don't have it easy in Iran, either, continuing,
“They’re currently imprisoning an American preacher for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in Iran. We should focus on the most important priorities our country faces right now, and I would say that a nuclear armed Iran, given the threat that it poses to the region and to our interests in the region and American citizens, is the most important thing that we’d be focused on.”
Cotton was not, however, suggesting that the plight of that American preacher (or, indeed, of the 150 Christian students slaughtered at Garissa University College in Kenya -- or the 14 killed in the Lahore, Pakistan, church bombing; or the 21 Copts beheaded in Libya;  or in Nigeria; or in Syria... ) was comparable to the gross human rights tragedy of having to play piano for a gay wedding.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

When Sculpture Goes Wrong

The other day, I mentioned the challenge a cartoonist faces when trying to draw someone for the first time. To illustrate the point, I included some preliminary pencil sketches of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as well as the finished product.

Now, there are times when even a pencil rough that I'm pleased with fails to translate to ink, even when I'm basically tracing over one to make the other. So I can sympathize with sculptor Dave Poulin, whose bronze statue of Lucille Ball went horribly wrong:
The 400-pound bronze sculpture, which was privately commissioned and publicly displayed in Ball's hometown of Celoron, NY in 2009, upset many locals and even inspired a Facebook group dedicated to its removal ("We Love Lucy! Get Rid of This Statue."). ...
Despite Poulin's offer to fix it for free, [Mayor John] Schrecengost has said he doesn't want Poulin to retouch the statue; he wants a new artist to repair it.

Perhaps they can get Cecilia Hernandez to touch it up.
Meanwhile, next time Mr. Poulin is commissioned to sculpt, he would be well advised to lay off the Vitameatavegamin.

Monday, April 6, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

On the other hand, you can't eat your cake if you don't have it.

Since you must have your cake in order to eat it, the statement is false. QED.

Have some cake.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Postwar World: An Eye for the Girls

With my promise to change the subject in my series of cartoons from A Bird's-Eye View of the Postwar World comes an opportunity to print the front cover of the paperback, above. The cartoon by Barney Tobey illustrates the focus of this next series.

These cartoonists predicted that the aftermath of World War II would feature a lot of leering and ogling of shapely females, and not just from helicopters. Fritz Wilkinson, right, warned women of virtue and modesty that even a privacy screen would not protect them from their television screens.

It's hard to argue that these cartoonists were wrong in their predictions. A lot of men spent the prime of their lives cooped up with other men slogging across Europe and the Pacific; they didn't all get to be stranded on a tiny island with Leslie Caron and a dozen schoolgirls.

Even if these men did find opportunity for female companionship, they were far from home for the first time in their lives, where word of whatever behavior they engaged in was unlikely to make it back to their neighbors, schoolmarms, Sunday School teachers, parents or sweethearts.

(And of course, some found that they were quite happy in the company of other men, shipped back to San Francisco and New York after the war, and stayed there; but there is nothing of that anywhere in this little comic book.)

I take it that this male libido thing was a brand new discovery, at least to Mr. Wilkinson, whose cartoon at left doesn't seem at first blush to have anything to do with newfangled inventions. At least, I assume that not every female before 1945 looked and dressed like Ma Joad.

The Interest Department might have been a new thing at the bank. If so, it didn't last long enough for there to be one at any of the banks I've ever been to. I am old enough to remember when it was rare for checking accounts to earn interest, however; perhaps banks discovered that they could save money on salaries by merging the Interest Department and the Checking Department.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Q Toon: Honi Soit Qui Mikey Pence

I usually use these blog entries to explain my cartoons; but since the news about Indiana's "Religious Liberty Protection Act" has blown up all over the news, I'm going to assume that most readers are well acquainted with it.

When drawing a first cartoon about someone, particularly someone with as bland a face as Indiana Governor Mike Pence, I usually sketch a few trial runs first, and perhaps look up whether any local cartoonist has drawn cartoons about the person. In this case, Indianapolis is home to an excellent caricaturist, Gary Varvel.

Varvel's Pence has puffy cheeks and, other than the nose, round features. It's an easily recognizable caricature, but as you can see from my pencil sketches, I went in a different direction entirely. In the end, I think I made his face too long and thin, although I still like the quick sketch on the left.

One of the newspapers that prints my cartoons often reduces its height to fit in available space; that might actually improve this week's caricature.
Time will tell whether I have any opportunities to refine my Pence. The Governor is rumored to have presidential ambitions, but has stumbled all over himself defending his RLPA, whining that the media are misinterpreting it, and trying to hide behind Bill Clinton's having signed a federal RLPA (back when it was an issue of whether Native Americans could be fired for smoking peyote as part of a religious ritual.)
Q Syndicate✎ Apr 2, 2015

Having seen the tectonic shiftstorm slamming Pence, other Republicans are scrambling. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson was expected to sign his legislature's RPLA this week, but as NPR's Mara Liasson so tactfully put it, "He sent it back to the legislature to see if there is some way — and many legal scholars doubt that there is — to pass a law that allows private businesses like florists and wedding cake makers and photographers to refuse to do business with gay couples but somehow not discriminate against them."