Monday, November 30, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

I liked this rough notebook sketch better than the result that came about when I tried to redraw it in this week's cartoon, so it gets to be this week's sneak peek.

I did want to mention, after Saturday's essay, that my parents did supply our house with a number of reference materials published after 1956. A 16-volume History of the United States published during the Kennedy administration includes only two sentences about American intervention in Indochina, but a lot of well-reproduced pictures from 1492 to 1962. (And one childish scrawl from somebody who felt the need to let me know I was a fag.)

For a while, my dad kept a subscription in my name for a series of soft-cover science books with gummed pictures that you were supposed to put in the appropriate space in each book; with every fourth book, there was a box for them so that they'd look like a series of hard-cover books on the bookshelf.

Then there was the lone volume of another encyclopedia in the mid-1970's -- my parents sent in for the introductory-priced Volume 1, but sent a No Thanks note for the rest. I remember a photo of an impressively-endowed aborigine from Angola or Australia in it, and that if I was free to choose a topic for a report in junior high, I tried to think of something from Aardvark to Australopithecus whenever possible.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ready, Set, Shop!

In honor of whatever this weekend stretching from Black Friday to Cyber Monday is called, Small Businessback Saturday brings you a four-page ad from the November 29, 1916 edition of The Outlook, for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. (These images are, of course, embiggenatable if you would like to peruse the small print.)

For those of you too young to know what an Encyclopaedia Britannica was, this was back in the dark and benighted days before Al Gore invented the internet. There was no Googling, and no Wikipedia at your fingertips. If you wanted to know about the Holy Roman Empire, the human circulatory system, Magellan's voyages, or the life cycle of the kangaroo, your first stop was to read up about them in the 30-volume encyclopedia set taking up an entire shelf somewhere in your house. Salesmen actually went door-to-door selling these things; they'd be sent to you one volume at a time, like a magazine description.

When you (or your great-granparents) had the full set, the subscription stopped, so you didn't get updated editions as time went on. My parents were convinced to buy a full set of the Encyclopedia Americana when they decided to start a family; so in the late '60's and early '70's when I was writing reports for school, the encyclopedia in my home was published when nearly all of Africa was owned by European colonial powers, the only thing sent up into space was a Sputnik, and the country American soldiers had been dying in for as long as I could remember didn't exist yet.

Key to selling encyclopedias was the Hard Sell. They were a considerable investment (you will not find anywhere in this four-page ad how much the volumes cost after the $1.00 introductory volume).

What I'd like to point out here is the sales pitch that this Christmas would be your last chance to take advantage of "the miracle of India paper." India paper, made from flax, was thinner than regular book paper while still about as durable and opaque. The volumes of the encyclopedia, therefore, could be thinner and less heavy than they would be with pages made from wood pulp. The full set of this encyclopedia was 35 lbs., versus 85 lbs. (16 kg vs. 40 kg.) for the wood pulp version.

There was, however, a Great War underway, and for some reason, all our flax came from Europe.
"War has devastated the flax field of Europe. Only a few thousand sets of The Britannica printed on India paper remain unsold. ... You can realize that the present supply can not last long.

"You should act at once whether you buy for Christmas or not."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Q Toon: Quiet Cate

You'll have to pardon me for not drawing turkeys and pilgrims today. This week's cartoon concerns a curious statement by actress Cate Blanchett, which probably requires some explanation:
Discussing Carol, her new film based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt, which chronicles a love affair between two women in 1950s New York City, Blanchett told the press at Cannes that Carol’s “sexuality is a private affair,” adding with perceptible disdain: “What happens these days is if you are homosexual, you have to talk about it constantly; it has to be the only thing; you have to put it before your work, before any other aspect of your personality.” Perhaps Blanchett was decrying conservative culture’s obsessive focus on sexual identity over other meaningful aspects of personhood. Or perhaps not. In the Variety article, her words similarly smacked of scorn: “[Carol’s] sexuality isn't politicized. I think there are a lot of people that exist ... who don’t feel the need to shout it from the rafters.” 

I wouldn't suggest any particularly deep reading into this week's Q Syndicate cartoon, aside from the trivial fact that the name of my fictional late-night TV host is based on the Spanish and French words for "chat."

When I drew this cartoon, I had no idea that one Justin Bieber would be a no-show on Colbert's show, so that's neither here nor there, too.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, and don't overdose on football or L Triptophan!

Monday, November 23, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

Nope, no pilgrims, Nazi analogies, good Samaritans, S.S. St. Louis, roomless inns, or all those other editorial cartoon images that were already internet memes before the pixels were dry.

In order to come up with something else, this week's cartoon is about a story that hardly made any news at all.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Whose First Amendment First?

While I was away on vacation this month, there was a clash of competing First Amendment rights at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Because I was not closely following the news, I hadn't seen much about the racial tensions at UM-C that precipitated events; but I did see accounts of how the student athletes, by threatening to forfeit UM-C football games, forced the resignation of the university president and the chancellor.

But the protesters weren't done protesting -- although it turned out that they really objected to having their protest reported on:
First, a video surfaced of faculty, staff and students berating journalists and physically trying to remove a photographer from a public area on campus where protesters with the group Concerned Student 1950 set up a campsite.
Video showed the director of Greek Life, Janna Basler, screaming at a photographer to leave the area and later showed her and others physically forcing the journalist to back away from the campsite, even as the photographer noted his First Amendment right to be there. The same video showed an assistant professor of mass communications, Melissa Click, calling for "muscle" to help her eject the student journalist filming them and appeared to show her grabbing at his camera.
I'm too far removed to comment intelligently on the Mizzou protests, but I was reminded of a racially charged protest from my own college days 35 years ago.

The Political Activities Committee was the student group that arranged for public speakers to come to St. Olaf College to address students and answer questions in the chapel. Speakers during my years at St. Olaf included Nixon counsel John Dean, recent presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, South African journalist Donald Woods, the American Indian Movement's Vernon Bellecourt, and NAACP Executive Director Dr. Benjamin Hooks. Then, in the November of my senior year, they invited the recently overthrown Prime Minister of Rhodesia (since Zimbabwe), Ian Smith.

On the evening of Ian Smith's speech, protesters, some from largely Republican St. Olaf, and many from the much more liberal Carleton College across the river, armed with bullhorns and picket signs, took over the aisles of the chapel. Yelling accusations of murder against Smith and his racist regime for nearly an hour, they completely prevented the former head of state from speaking. [A classmate reminds me that the chant was "Ian Smith, you can't hide! We charge you with genocide!"]
That's my hand holding up the clipboard I'd brought to sketch on, there behind the fellow standing from East High. I was holding it up as a silent counter-protest, but others took up the idea and started adding to the raucous din by chanting "EE-NUFF! EE-NUFF!"

By that point, however, the original protesters had already succeeded in chasing Mr. Smith from the chapel to a small room in another building where the president of the Political Activities Committee had a one-on-one interview with the international pariah. Video of the interview was available to watch then next morning, and it was neatly summarized in the student newspaper.

But the rest of us who had questions we wanted to ask the disgraced former Prime Minister never got to ask them. So free speech won out that night, and free speech also lost.

Which is the way of things in an all-or-nothing environment. Whether it's so-called political correctness on campus, the politics of personal destruction, or a campaign season in which a candidate can propose having the U.S. government shut down places of worship and shadow everyone of that religious faith, and he can still be considered a front-runner, that's where we are today.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Q Toon: A-Gonna Trouble the Water

New Mormon Church (that of Latter Day Saints, if you prefer) policies denying the rite of baptism to the children of same-sex parents were leaked to Facebook last week by LDS ex-communicant blogger John Dehlin.
Under the new church policy, people in "same-gender" marriage have been added to the list of those acts that are considered apostasy and would be subject to disciplinary action. ...
As for children, a separate section of the handbook says that natural or adopted kids of same-sex parents, whether married or just living together, may not receive a naming blessing.
The policy also bars children from being baptized, confirmed, ordained to the church's all-male priesthood or recommended for missionary service without the permission of the faith's highest leaders — the governing First Presidency.
Baptism under the new policy is withheld until the child is an adult, "specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage, ... and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage."

Way to support families, LDS hierarchy!

The LDS later clarified the policy, explaining that children of gay and lesbian parents can still receive "blessings." So there's no need for an awkward silence after the kid sneezes.

In other Utahn news, their Governor, Gary Herbert, stands apart from his fellow Republican governors (plus Jeanne Shaheen D-NH) in his refusal to bar Syrian refugees from his state. I rarely have a chance to say nice things about any Republican any more; yet I don't think there is anything I could say or draw better than the Salt Lake Tribune's excellent cartoonist Pat Bagley has.

Do check out his cartoon; it's a refreshing change from the torrent of Mayflower and No-Room-At-The-Inn clich├ęs so many cartoonists (and meme raths outgrabing the internet) have produced this week.

Monday, November 16, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

This guy has everything bookmarked and ready for Thursday. I'm back from vacation and rarin' to go.

Since I was away, I have not had the opportunity to draw any reaction to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. I did hear about it on the news (although both my resort and the Puerto Vallarta airport appear to have made a deliberate decision to have no newspapers for sale -- or news magazines, for that matter).

So I leave you with this photograph from my visit to Paris in 2010. The Eiffel Tower I'm sure you will recognize, but you will have to look closely at the structures in the foreground.

Etched on the glass and carved into the columns is the word "Peace," over and over again, in over 100 different languages.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Shaving the Dutchess!!!

This week's transgenderfied foray into Stretchback Saturday goes all the way back to 1827. When I saw this cartoon during my visit to the Billy Ireland Cartooning Library and Museum in September, I thought the "Dutchess" in this Robert Cruikshank/Peter Wilkins cartoon looked familiar, so I took a photograph in order to check into the cartoon when I got home.

Well, I didn't find out a damned thing about it. I couldn't find anybody in my cartoon books who looked at all similar to the Dutchess, or anybody else.

What I can tell you is that "A Sketch at St. Albans, or Shaving the New Maid Dutchess!!" was in something called the Hale Scrapbook, compiled by some Boston aficionado of political, social, and theatrical cartoons, with the occasional newspaper article tossed in for good measure. The late editorial cartoonist and historian Draper Hill donated the scrapbook to the museum in 2001. Hill had purchased the scrapbook at a Massachusetts auction 1965. The auctioneer stated that the scrapbook was connected to Hale family of Hale and Dorr in Boston.

The museum identifies the characters in the cartoon as Thomas Coutts (1735-1822); St. Albans, Harriot Mellon, Duchess of St. Albans (1777?-1837); and William Aubrey De Vere (unknown, apparently).

So Cruikshank wasn't drawing a guy in drag; he was putting a mustache on a woman.

Since the script of the dialogue cartoons is difficult for modern eyes to read, here's a transcript:
Clock: "Coo! Coo! Coo! Coo!"
Bust: "When I bought that melon, I never intended anyone to test it but myself."
Crowned guy: "My dear Dutchess, your chin wants mowing badly, and you should be properly lathered first, but I fear I have not strength to do it."
Dutchess: "My dear young Shaver,, here's £50,000 for you, but you must dress my beard once a day at least. Do whatever I desire you, and never dare to contradict me."
Masked guy: "I brought the match about, and I've got a good sum for selling the boy. Oh! Boy! What a lucky beau of a clerk am I! A! Men!"
The scrapbook represents years and years of clippings and is quite large -- almost three feet square and a couple inches thick. The contents have been painstakingly restored to the point where they look almost new. If you're interested, the museum has posted the whole thing on line here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Q Toon: We Have a Problem

Houston voted overwhelmingly to overturn the city's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), dubbed the "Bathroom Act" by its opponents. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick campaigned against HERO with ads showing a scary-looking man opening a rest room stall door and frightening a little girl inside the stall.

The results of last Tuesday's offyear elections were not all bad news for LGBT citizens. Salt Lake City, Utah, of all places, elected a lesbian mayor, Jackie Biskupski, over incumbent Ralph Becker (pending the results of counting absentee ballots), as well as a second gay city council member.

To all our veterans out there, from wars past and present, and especially to those still fighting wars within, my deepest gratitude for your service. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Scatterback Saturday

This is going to be a very random edition of Scatterback Saturday. Former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) passed away last weekend, so I'll start with this caricature of him from his short-lived 2007 presidential campaign.

Originally a Tennessee lawyer, Thompson first made his mark on the national stage as the 30-year-old staff lawyer for Republicans on the Senate committee investigating the Watergate break-in. He was the one who asked Alexander Butterfield whether the Nixon White House had a secret taping system. The answer led ultimately to Nixon's resignation, while the question led to Thompson's career in movies and television.

Thompson played up his folksy, laid-back persona in his acting career as well has his political one -- so well that people thought he had given up his presidential campaign months before he actually got around to announcing his withdrawal. He went on to pitch reverse mortgages to senior citizens in television commercials.
On a totally unrelated subject, the Notebook of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists arrived in the mail last week with its coverage of our convention in Columbus. I found myself in a half dozen or so photos, including this one of several of us walking down Gay Street.

As the convention wound up, I was kicking myself for not having said hello to the Detroit Free Press's Mike Thompson, whom I succeeded as editorial cartoonist at the UW-Milwaukee Post. And here I see that on the very first day of the convention, he was immediately behind and to the right of me as a bunch of us walked from the hotel to the Columbia College of Art and Design.

Which is not to say that I didn't get into a lot of valuable conversations with my fellow ink slingers, including that six-block long conversation with Nebraskan Paul Fell (on my right) during that Day One walk.

I also took some sage advice from Jeff Danziger, whom I wanted to tell how much I admired the sense of place he imbues in his cartoons. You really get a feel for the British pubs, Florida swamps, or seedy red-light districts he draws, and I mentioned having referred to his cartoons for tips on adding detail to a tavern cartoon. "There's no substitute for going to see the real thing," he told me.

My travel budget might cover a visit to a nearby red-light district, but any tour of London pubs is going to have to wait.

(My thanks to Scott Burns for making so many of his photos available!)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Miss Characterization!

In the interest of dialogue, here's a note I received today about this week's cartoon from a reader named Ron in Lincoln, Nebraska:
Tomorrow, I'm going to pull up your cartoon on my laptop to start a discussion in my political science class on media bias. Discuss why today the media's approval rating is below even Congress. I'm not even a Republican and I find your cartoon a willful miss characterization, propaganda and simply astroturfing. It's going to be interesting to see how the students look at your bias creditability. Also, if your cartoon would have been just about Trump, it will be interesting to hear the students' reaction and opinions. My take, the reason the main stream media is going to be so vicious this year is because both you and I know that our candidate Hillary Clinton is extremely weak, and the polar opposite of her smooth husband. Because of Twitter, Facebook, and Internet news sources, I personally question if people are swayed by this type of mudslinging anymore. Today's college students are perceptive enough and understand that you can't put all the Republicans in one pot anymore. At least in my class they recognize the huge political and philosophical differences between Trump vs Carson, Paul vs Christie, Clinton vs Sanders, etc. Democrats better wake up to the digital era because voters, especially college age, are far more sophisticated and informed than they were just four years ago. Or, come November next year we're going to have another Kentucky where the Democrats ran an aggressive negative mudslinging campaign.   
Well, I'm hurt and offended. I've never astroturfed in my life! On the other hand, thank you for inducting me into the main stream media.

I wish you a lively discussion in class, Ron. I suspect that few, if any, of your students are old enough to remember what the Republican Party was like before it was taken over by Tea Partisans, Truthers, Birthers, and Libertarianarchists, but if you have any students from a blue state who have been as dismayed by what the Republican Party has become in the 2010s as I have, I hope they feel as free to speak up as your fellow Nebraskans.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Q Toon: The Debate System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether

I apologize that this week's cartoon touches only tangentially on LGBT issues, but I couldn't possibly ignore the hot mess of last week's CNBC "debate" among ten of the baker's dozen Republican candidates for president. In case you missed it, Ted Cruz responded to a serious question about his signature issue, raising the federal debt ceiling, by attacking the hapless moderators for asking frivolous questions.

As a result, Cruz was declared the winner of the debate between the candidates and the press.

And now, flush with their victory over those raving socialists at CNBC, the Republican candidates are demanding to have only card-carrying Republican partisans ask them questions. As Cruz told Las Vegas AM radio host Heidi Harris:
"I think it's crazy that we have Republican primary debates moderated by people who would never in a million years vote in a Republican primary. It's not helpful, and it is an example of the media's leftwing agenda."
Let's leave out for a moment that most mainstream journalists consider it a violation of journalistic ethics to endorse a candidate publicly by telling everyone how they vote. To be perfectly honest, it doesn't matter if the Republican debates are moderated by Sean Hannity or John Fugelsang: there are too many candidates up on the stage for any debate format to work. I get more insight into these candidates when one of them shows up on Late Night with Stephen Colbert.

The CNBC format, furthermore, only confirms my long-standing observation that having multiple moderators is a huge mistake. The combination of so many candidates and so many moderators makes it that much easier for a candidate to get away with flat-out lying or completely ignoring a question from White House reporter Brock Brockman, because the next moderator isn't going to follow up on Brock Brockman's question, and when it gets around to Brock Brockman's turn to ask another question, he's going to address it to one of the other candidates.

It now appears that the candidates themselves cannot agree on debate conditions, so perhaps we'll see one debate for candidates who want brown M&Ms, the air conditioning set at 67°, and equal time for everybody for three hours; and another debate for candidates who prefer red M&Ms, the A/C set to 70°, and time allotted proportionately to poll numbers for 90 minutes.

And maybe we'll have the moderators walk off the set after 20 minutes of whiny, unfactual non-responses and leave the candidates to fill the remaining air time on their own.

Monday, November 2, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

Everybody's getting into the act in this week's installment of Bergetoons.

Gosh, I hope this election doesn't go into extra innings.