Sunday, September 30, 2018

Lost Opportunity

For the Kavanaugh cartoon I drew a couple weeks ago, I struggled to find a distracting person to put in the background of the third frame, having drawn Kavanaugh's White Power Symbol Girl behind him in panel one and Plaid Shirt Guy in panel two. I eventually settled on some schmo who waves gigantic prints of his own face at University of Alabama basketball games, but I wasn't really pleased with the obscure non sequitur.

If only I had known to put Alyssa Milano there. Damn.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Remembering Alpha Communications

It has been a harrowing week, so Scrunchieback Saturday is going to hide out in the basement and leaf through old papers with no political, sociological, or sexual significance whatsoever.

Not long ago, I stumbled across a folder of stuff from a job I had in the mid-1980s. Alpha Communications was a little start-up that didn't last long at all. We had a goal of handling radio dispatch, desktop publishing, and film production. We operated in tandem with a security firm, enabling us to meet the first of those goals; but the other two were always just beyond our grasp.
For a time, we operated out of a drab little building on Sheridan Road a mile south of Racine. The copier on which we produced this mock newsletter didn't print photographs particularly well, so I was asked to make a pen and ink sketch of the building instead.

Our copier did have two-color capability, as an either-or function; the default was black-and-white, but one could define an section of the print area as being red-and-white (or blue-and-white, or brown-and-white, although we never splurged on having the other color toners on hand).

The above first and only edition of The Alpha Communicator was my project. I drew the word "Alpha" in the flag by hand since we had no Greek-style fonts available; the rest of the flag and the headlines and cutlines were Letraset transfers. The body of the articles, unfortunately, was made on a dot matrix printer and was just not attractive at all.
This collage of Racine and Kenosha landmarks with the flags of the then separate Milwaukee Sentinel and Journal was drawn and printed ledger size — too large for my present-day scanner — and I haven't been able to stitch this graphic together as seamlessly as I would like. It took up pages 2 and 5 of the six-page newsletter; articles by the president and vice president of the company about, respectively, in-house corporate newsletters and the Spanish Civil War took up most of the rest of the Alpha Communicator.

The Alpha Communicator was just one of many one-off projects I was given as the Creative Director, or whatever my title was. But it was one of a half dozen or so times I was tasked with drawing buildings to accompany service proposals. I'll save those drawings for some other day.

As for the Sentinel and Journal flags, I have no recollection why they had to be part of the collage rather than, say, the Racine Journal Times and Kenosha News. Nothing in the rest of the drawing has anything to do with Milwaukee, and I can't recall pursuit of any service arrangement with the Journal-Sentinel Company.
My cover for the 1987 annual report of the company was another one-off; I don't believe we ever produced a second annual report, either. Other than the C-Thru Graphics sheet, everything else is hand-drawn and was meant to showcase the creative end of the business.

An issue of the local Sierra Club chapter newsletter is included in the drawing, but I don't have any copies of it that we produced. Perhaps my parents do, since they have been active in chapter leadership for a long time, and still handle mailing of their newsletter.

I wouldn't be surprised if Alpha's production of their newsletter was another one-time deal. For one thing, the accent color for that newsletter has always been green, and Alpha never had any green toner. I know we weren't still involved with it when the company hit the skids.
I drew this map for one of the company brochures. It's a very optimistic depiction of Alpha's service area. We did have a radio antenna capable of reaching from Milwaukee to Cook Counties, and I vaguely recall that the security company had an account somewhere in Oak Creek.

The only Illinois client I remember was a company that provided corporate computer systems. Owned by a friend of our vice president, they contracted with us to produce an instructional video for the companies that bought their computer systems. An English professor from Northwestern University was supposed to narrate the video on how to set up and network the computers, which was brand new stuff for many firms in those days. I had some input on the project, but it was our vice president's baby.

To my horror, our veep produced an introductory montage that was half an hour long. It pirated footage of the Chicago skyline and the "L" from various Hollywood films, plus about every second of video of a sunrise over Lake Michigan two of our employees had gotten up very early to film. It chopped up and spliced together copyrighted recordings of classical and ambient music and movie sound tracks as if three people were fighting for control of a car radio.

When the computer networking company canceled the project, I was told that that it was because the instructions the English professor gave would have caused their clients' computers to crash. I never believed that for a second. Whether our veep's friend was being kind, or our veep was trying to save face, I'll never know.
In the end, Alpha Communications was quietly merged into the security company, which was, after all, the field from which most of leadership had come before founding the company. I was asked to come up with a bear mascot for one of the advertising brochures. He needed to be cartoon-y, but not cute, strong, but not threatening, so this is what I came up with.

The company was in dire financial straits when I left, which was after an extended period of temporary lay-offs, no creative work whatsoever, and the knowledge that the shares of stock making up a good fraction of my salary were never going to be worth a cent. They were bankrupt and out of business within a year, and I've completely lost touch with everyone involved.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Q Toon: The Importance of Bert and Ernie

This keeps coming up again and again, but I couldn't leave alone the latest report that a former writer for Sesame Street says he based Bert and Ernie scripts on his and his life partner's relationship.

So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple. I wrote sketches…Arnie’s OCD would create friction with how chaotic I was. And that’s the Bert & Ernie dynamic. ... How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not?
The folks at Children's Television Workshop have protested that Bert and Ernie have no sexual orientation, because they're puppets. They just happen to have framed portraits of themselves in every room of their apartment.

It's not like they're Teletubbies, after all.

As I was hashing out this cartoon idea, the first decision came down to whether I would make reference to the 1968 Walter Matthau-Jack Lemmon movie version of the Neil Simon play, or the Jack Klugman-Tony Randall television show that ran from 1970 to 1975.

Only the next morning, after I had sent the cartoon off to my syndicate editors did I remember that there was a 2015-17 TV remake starring Matthew Perry (Friends) and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!).  And until I went to look up Lennon's name a moment ago, I had completely forgotten that there was a 1982 TV version starring Ron Glass (WKRP in Cincinnati) and Desmond Morris (Sanford & Son), and even a 1998 Odd Couple II with Matthau and Lemmon.

None of those other versions used the voice-over explanation of the premise given in the opening credits of the '70s TV show, so I suppose the scene parodied in the cartoon is lost on a whole lot of readers.

As Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a rubber duckie.

The character of Felix Unger emits something of a gay vibe in most of Odd Couple's iterations, even though Neil Simon didn't conceive of him that way, and in spite of all the TV episodes in which Felix tries to date women even though he still pines for his ex-wife. A few years ago, we went to see a Milwaukee production of the play starring a local out gay celebrity, and I was a little surprised to see him in the Oscar Madison role. (But yes, some of us gays can be slobs, too, you know.)

Meanwhile, what's this thing going on between Rocky and Bulwinkle?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Steil v. Bryce

Introducing the Republican candidate for Paul Ryan's seat in Congress, Bryan Steil (rhymes with guile).
Steil wasn't particularly well known outside of Republican insider circles before declaring his candidacy in the spring. A member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, the 37-year-old Janesville native is a former legislative aide to Congressman Ryan and more recently general counsel to a company that makes polythene film for packaging.

He seems to be an affable, establishment Republican, and his own TV ads have pushed the usual GOP message of cutting taxes and deregulating business, while claiming his current job as experience creating jobs.

His opponent is union leader Randy Bryce, who wowed the Netroots Nation last year when it was assumed that Ryan would run again this year. Bryce's candidacy was a long shot then: the incumbent was and is Speaker of the House, and since 2000, the statehouse has carved the First Congressional District into a majority Republican stronghold. Even before that, when an incumbent has been on the ballot, the incumbent has won all but one race between 1972 and now.

So with Ryan out of the race, 2018 should have been the Democrats' best shot, such as it is, at reclaiming the 1st CD.

I don't know what kind of vetting Netroots Nation does, but they seem to have missed the fact that Bryce's checkered past includes an arrest record, mostly for intoxication- and vandalism-related offenses. That didn't escape the attention of primary rival Cathy Myers, who warned that Republicans would use Bryce's criminal record against him. It does seem to have escaped the attention of Candidate Bryce, who showed up at a protests against Immigration & Customs Enforcement at offices of Congressman Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson, where he and several others were arrested in front of the cameras.

Well, surprise, surprise. A PAC associated with Ryan, Congressional Leadership Fund, has begun airing two television ads featuring all that convenient footage of Mr. Bryce being arrested and packed into a paddy wagon.

The spokesman in one of the commercials is Bryce's brother James, a Milwaukee police officer, who endorses Steil and calls Randy a cop-hating criminal who promises an illegal immigrant in every garage. Their mother has told the Journal Sentinel that she wants the ad pulled, to which James has responded that Randy is taking advantage of an old woman. Mama shot back that she knows what she said and she meant every word.

The Bryce clan Thanksgiving dinner could be pretty tense this year; but then, I imagine it's pretty tense there every year.

The Bryce campaign has responded to the CLF ads with one in which Randy Bryce says he's repented of the mistakes he made "in the past" (a phrase he uses rather awkwardly three times). He stands in front of the camera to tell viewers that he has "owned up to" bad things he's done in the past and it's "a shame" that anyone would hold what someone's done in the past against him in the present.

He wasn't about to sit on the Senate panel questioning Mr. Kavanaugh anyway.

I assume, furthermore, that the Democrats haven't found any misbehavior in Mr. Steil's record in the past at UW that they were planning to use against him.

Monday, September 24, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek


If you don't mind, some of us could use a momentary break from the really serious stuff this week.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Thwart the Court

It may yet be early to foresee how the current Kavanaugh confirmation hearings will turn out. Nevertheless, Seriatimback Saturday takes a look at Supreme Court nominees who came up just a little bit short. In my own lifetime, anyway.

I wasn't drawing political cartoons in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson tapped Associate Justice Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice upon the retirement of Earl Warren. Johnson had faced no significant opposition when he named Fortas to the Supreme Court in 1965, but by the time he announced his decision to elevate Fortas to Chief Justice, Johnson was politically weakened by Vietnam War weariness and had already announced that he would not run for reelection.
"Hear Ye, Hear Ye!" by Karl Hubenthal in Los Angeles Herald-Examiner,  July, 1968
A coalition of conservative Republicans and southern Democrats filibustered the Fortas nomination, initially claiming the grounds that Johnson was a lame duck who shouldn't be deciding the direction of the Supreme Court for years to follow. More to the point was Fortas's close friendship with LBJ — he'd be accurately described as a crony of the President — and his and the Warren Court's liberal record.
"Senate Judiciary Committee Members..." by Pat Oliphant in Denver Post, July, 1968
Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) attacked Fortas for his having voted with the Court's majority rulings in favor of free speech rights in pornography cases. In closed session of the Senate, Thurmond played a number of the porn films which had been at issue in those cases, even entering them into the official Senate record. Thurmond's tactic was widely ridiculed, but proved effective in blocking Fortas's nomination (and along with it, LBJ's nomination of Texas Congressman Homer Thornberry to take the seat Fortas would have vacated. Perhaps Clyde Peterson, Herc Ficklen, or some other Texan drew a cartoon or two about Thornberry's nomination, but I haven't seen one).

Richard Nixon got to name Warren Burger as Chief Justice in Fortas's stead, and every Chief Justice since has been a Republican nominee. Fortas would soon be compelled to resign from the Court over his financial association with a Wall Street financier in trouble for securities violations, opening another seat for Nixon to fill.

As a critical element of his "Southern Strategy," Richard Nixon came into office having promised Strom Thurmond that he would name a conservative southerner to the Supreme Court. To fulfill his promise he nominated Clement Haynsworth Jr., a South Carolina judge who had a record of foot-dragging on racial integration and of opposition to labor unions.

Support and opposition to the Haynsworth nomination were both bipartisan. Southern Democrats including Judiciary Committee Chairman Eastwood supported him, while liberal Republicans were troubled by accusations that Judge Haynsworth had ruled on matters in which he had a financial interest, and had bought stock in the Brunswick Corporation while hearing a case in which it was involved.
"Aw, What're a Few Conflict of Interest Stock Deals?" by Bill Sanders in Milwaukee Journal, October 11, 1969
A tangential relationship with Bobby Baker, a Senate staffer convicted of larceny and tax evasion in 1967, proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Following the Senate's 45-55 vote to reject Haynsworth, Nixon's next nominee was a Tallahassee, Florida judge named G. Harrold Carswell.

Civil rights leaders were skeptical of his repudiation of a 1948 racist speech he had given, yet Democrats were at first wary of mounting opposition to a second southern judge. Sen. Edward Brooke (R-MA), the lone African-American in the Senate, led opposition to Carswell.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination 13 to 4 in spite of Carswell's spectacularly mediocre judicial record. Seven out of 24 of his rulings had been overturned on appeal. Florida State University law school dean Joshua Morse claimed, "I cannot think of a single thing of Judge Carswell's that I am familiar with." Harvard Law Dean Derek Bok said, "The public record of Judge Carswell's career and accomplishments clearly does not place him within even an ample list of the nation's more distinguished jurists."
"How Can You Ask Us to Support a Guy..." by Tom Curtis in Milwaukee Sentinel, March 18, 1970
Speaking in Carswell's defense, Sen. Roman Hruska (R-NE) famously replied, "So what if he is mediocre?  There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers.  They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?  We can’t have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters and stuff like that there."
"Holmes v. Carswell" by Pat Oliphant in Denver Post, March 25, 1970
Nixon pulled out all the stops to convince Republicans that they had a duty to confirm Carswell, but in the end, 51 Republicans and Democrats voted down the nomination. Grousing that Senators would never confirm any southern conservative, Nixon named Minnesotan Harry Blackmun as his third choice for Oliver Wendell Holmes' seat on the high court. (Blackmun would author the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, and conservatives would resolve never to nominate any but the most reliably right-wing justices ever again.)

I have no editorial cartoons to accompany this next item (nobody draws cartoons about the dog that didn't bark), but this is a good moment to point out that Jimmy Carter remains the only president since Andrew Johnson not to name a single justice to the Supreme Court. Even James Garfield, president for only six months and on his deathbed for almost half of that time, got to name Stanley Matthews to the Court.

We now come to appointments I had the opportunity to draw about myself, so I don't have to continue stealing other cartoonists' work. In 1987, Ronald Reagan raised liberals' hackles by appointing former Solicitor General Robert Bork to the seat vacated by Justice Lewis Powell. Bork had been the Nixon underling who fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox when his superiors, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy A.G. William Ruckelshaus, resigned rather than carry out Nixon's order. He was also outspoken on his goal of overturning the civil rights and privacy rulings of the Warren and Burger courts.

After the Senate voted 42-58 to reject Bork, Reagan's next choice was Douglas Ginsburg (no relation to RBG), a 41-year-old whom he had named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia a year earlier.
The Ginsburg nomination quickly collapsed after news broke of his marijuana use in the 1960s and 70s as a student and as an assistant professor at Harvard. Ginsburg withdrew his name from consideration after only ten days in the national spotlight, and the spectre of Reefer Madness breaking out in judges' chambers was averted.

George W. Bush had two Supreme Court vacancies to fill in the summer of 2005: longtime Bush friend Harriet Miers led the search for a successor to Sandra Day O'Connor, for which she recommended John Roberts. But when Chief Justice William Rehnquist died of thyroid cancer, Bush decided to nominate Roberts to replace Rehnquist and Miers to succeed O'Connor.

Democrats and Republicans alike found her answers to Senators' questions lacking, contradictory, and even insulting. Having no experience as a judge, elected official, or academic, her record was even thinner than Carswell's.
With Republicans in the majority, it was their reservations about her commitment to conservative orthodoxy that would doom her appointment. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) saw to it that every one of her verbal missteps, especially statements that suggested that there was an outside glimmer of a ghost of a chance that she might perhaps uphold Roe v. Wade, made it into the press. Miers withdrew from Senate consideration before a vote could be taken.

Finally, we come to Barack Obama's foiled appointment of Merrick Garland after the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Whereas Republicans this year have expressed a sense of urgency to fill the Anthony Kennedy vacancy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) found no necessity to have nine justices on the court when its fall term was to begin nine months later, on the grounds that there was to be a presidential election a month after that and the inauguration of a new president after yet another two months.
Unlike Abe Fortas, Merrick Garland never even got a hearing.

Speaking of lame duck appointments, here's another bit of historical Supreme Court trivia for you. Having been defeated his reelection campaign in 1840, President Martin Van Buren nominated Peter Vivian Daniel to the Court one week before leaving office in 1841. The U.S. Senate confirmed Daniel's appointment in five days. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Q Toon: Kavanaughta Know

This cartoon may seem like it's Throwback Thursday, but it's not.

That there was an allegation of sexual assault against the Honorable Judge Kavanaugh was known when I sat down at the drawing board Sunday night. The credibility of the allegation was not, nor the identity of his accuser, the latter of which is immaterial.

Experience has taught me not to prejudge rape accusations, so I chose not to do so this week. Journalists have a responsibility to include caveats such as "allegedly" and "according to..." when reporting unproven criminal accusations; a good cartoon, on the other hand, would be cut off at the knees by including any element of "it might not be so." Where in Ed Hall's powerful cartoon could he have stuck in "allegedly"? Where should Matt Wuerker have included "if true"?

If I can't declare Kavanaugh guilty of sexual assault, I can still question his honesty. Former Senator Russ Feingold has done as much in a Huffington Post piece accusing Kavanaugh of lying under oath in 2006 when he denied involvement in the nomination of Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court three years earlier; contrary to judicial ethics, Pickering had solicited letters of support from lawyers who had appeared in Pickering's court, some of whom had pending cases in that court.
But newly released emails show that Kavanaugh appeared to be the primary person handling Pickering’s nomination, at least by 2003, and was heavily involved in pushing for his confirmation as early as March 2002. There are emails showing that Kavanaugh coordinated meetings with and about Pickering; that he drafted remarks, letters to people on the Hill and at least one op-ed for then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales about Pickering; that he advised Gonzales on Pickering strategy; and much more.
In last week's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh repeatedly evaded Democrats' questions. He couldn't remember writing this; he had no recollection of saying that.

For a guy who claims to know exactly what the Founding Fathers were thinking when the Constitution was written in 1789, Brett Kavanaugh sure seems to have a lot of difficulty figuring out what Brett Kavanaugh was thinking in 2003.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Environmental Stewardship: Papa's Got a Canvas Bag

Once a month, I turn the blog over to my dad for the "Environmental Stewardship" column he writes for his church's newsletter. When citing this article, please credit John Berge.

Most environmentalists have opposed single-use, plastic bags since before Earth Day and would greatly restrict or ban them. So would a lot of the neighbors of landfills and people who live along highways and county roads where many of these bags seem to end up.

Likewise, the owners and operators of these landfills who must bear the cost of clean-up and the animosity of their neighbors. In addition, when people use them a second time to get rid of household or medical waste and tie the plastic bag shut, it greatly reduces the rate that the trash in those bags will decompose, thus hastening the end of the useful life of the landfill.

As the City of Racine looks for ways to reduce or eliminate non-recyclable waste, it has been pointed out that the Wisconsin legislature, in its wisdom or response to lobbyists, has prohibited any municipality in Wisconsin from banning or severely restricting the use of these omni-present plastic bags. Therefore, it is up to the retailers, or we as individuals concerned with our environment, to reduce, eliminate, or at least find multiple uses for these symbols of our modern, throw-away society.

First, a little background information of which the average citizen may not be aware: According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags per year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags per year.

According to Waste Management, only one percent of plastic bags are returned for recycling; that means the average family recycles 15 bags a year while the 1,485 end up in landfills or blowing around the neighborhood, into the rivers and streams, ending up in the oceans to be fatally ingested by marine life.

So what do we do about this, on the assumption you do care? The first suggestion is to use canvas, mesh or reusable plastic bags for groceries and other purchases. I keep at least five bags in the car at all times, and do my very best to remember to bring them into the store with me. And this applies to not just the grocery store since virtually ever retailer will put an already packaged purchase into a plastic bag.  Cloth and mesh bags are readily thrown in to the weekly wash to keep them fresh, while the fancier reinforced plastic bags can be wiped clean almost as easily.

If you do end up with a plastic bag, be sure it is reused at least once. The church and many of us use or reuse plastic bags –– as wastebasket liners, storage containers, and even on highway clean-up projects. Back when garbage collectors would reach into the bin for a small load, we would tie the bag closed for their convenience and safety. Now that the collection is mechanical and automated, it is best to leave any plastic bags untied so that the contents have a better chance of decomposing in the landfill.

Much plastic bagging is recyclable. Single-use bags that are not being reused, bread bags, bags that the newspaper comes in, plastic wraps around some junk and other mail and similar thin plastic material can be recycled at most grocery stores.

Let us not be one of the 1,500 bags-per-year people or the one percent recyclers. We can and should be responsible environmental stewards. The CEO of a grocery chain with stores in the Racine area has said that his company will no longer use these polluting, wasteful bags in the not too distant future, but until then, it is up to us.

Monday, September 17, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

But I'm sure he's going to remember a drunken night at a party in high school with perfect accuracy.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Baseball, Sunday Drivers, and Murderous Medicis

Gosh, it's been a fortnight and a half since we revisited World War I, so Scattershot Saturday takes a quick look around at how the War That Didn't Quite End All Wars was going in September, 1918.
"We're Ready, Uncle Sam" by Berrns (?) in Milwaukee Journal, September 11, 1918
I wanted to start with this cartoon only because the Milwaukee Journal didn't employ an editorial cartoonist in those days. I don't know whether this front page cartoon was drawn by someone in the ad department at the Journal or by someone in D.C. cranking out one of these for each of the 48 states.

Whichever it was, the directive had clearly gone out that cartoonists needed to publicize that all men age 18 to 45 were now required to register for the draft. "18 to 45" appeared on scores of editorial cartoons all across the nation at once, with no need to spell out the significance of those numbers.
"Batter Up!" by J.W. McGurk in Philadelphia Journal, September, 1918
The draft, and a Selective Service “Work or Fight” order, requiring all able-bodied men to either serve in the military or work in a “necessary” civilian occupation, pushed the 1918 World Series of baseball up to September 5 through 11. The Boston Red Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs four games to two in the series, which suffered from a lack of popular interest. Players even threatened to go on strike over the poor attendance, which could possibly have been because so many of their fans were busy in the trenches overseas.

In a move to tap into popular support for the war effort, a military band was featured during the seventh inning stretch of game one in what is reputed to be the first playing of "Star Spangled Banner" — not yet our national anthem — at a sporting event.

(The dialogue in these cartoons is difficult to read even with click-to-embiggen technology; McGurk's baseball player is saying, “Here's where the doggone game goes on ice!”)

"The Gasoline Slacker..." by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, ca. September, 1918
Low attendance at Comiskey and Fenway may also have had something to do with the government urging Americans to "save gas for General Pershing" by curtailing unnecessary automobile travel. A particular target was Sunday driving, when one was presumed to have no particular reason to leave the house. And yes, Game Five of the World Series was played on a Sunday.

In Billy Ireland's cartoon, a carload of "gasoline slackers" whizzes past "those of us who would like the use of our cars the rest of the week." Uncle Sam, carrying his "supply of gasoline," grouses that "If they haven't any more sympathy for the welfare of our men in France than that, I will have to take over all of the gas."
"The Complete Alibi" by Harold T. Webster in New York Tribune, ca. September 10, 1918
For all the gasless Sundays, Meatless Mondays, Wheatless Wednesdays and so forth being promoted on the Home Front, the Entente forces at last had some good news to report from the Western Front. One month into the 100-Day Offensive, the allies were pushing the German army east from the Somme and the Marne.

Webster's Kaiser assures the German people that "Ve are trying to entice der enemy into Berlin und dey iss svallowing der bait mit sinker, line und hook! Alretty ve has fooldt dem into taking t'ousands und t'ousands of our men prisoner! It iss a glorious victory yet!!"
"Den Verdieste Seine Krone!" by Arthur Johnson in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, September 8, 1918
The erosion of Germany's Western Front could no longer be ignored even by German cartoonists, so Arthur Johnson was left to carp about the high price the Entente armies paid in human lives for their victories. The note atop this cartoon explains that "General Foch was handed the marshal's baton by Poincaré."
"A New Policeman on the Beat" by Bushnell for Central Press Association, ca. September, 1918
On the Eastern Front, American cartoonists displayed considerable overconfidence in reports of victories by Japanese, Czechoslovakian and Cossack fighters against the Bolsheviks in Siberia. The Czechoslovak People's Army of Komuch seized Kazan, Tartarstan from the Bolsheviks in August and captured the Imperial Russian gold reserve. Backed by the Czechoslovakians, anti-Bolshevik Russians established a rival government in Omsk, Siberia in September. It would last only two years.
"Reinfall" by Max Richter in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, September 8, 1918
Max Richter's cartoon errs in the opposite direction, predicting that Czechoslovakian hopes of independence from Austria-Hungary would be doomed by their partisans' adventures in the east. The text below explains that Czechoslovakians, lured by British promises of self-determination, happily entered the Siberian mousetrap, but predicted they would have difficulty getting out.

"Le Prime Vittorie dei Nippo-Americani in Siberia" by Glycetti (?) in Il 420, Florence, September 15, 1918
And then there's this Italian take on the Siberian situation.

To the modern reader, there's a whole lot of non sequitur in this cartoon, ostensibly about some military victory by American and Japanese troops in Russia. I have no explanation for the crying moon, Kaiser Wilhelm's ladder, the nail through the Russian bear, why Woodrow Wilson and the Japanese guy are barely onlookers, or why the Italian, Frenchman and British characters are standing on a cloud (unless they're dead, which would be kind of weird, but, well okay, let's go with that).

I can tell you that Lorenzino de' Medici was a Renaissance era Italian politician who befriended, debauched with, then assassinated his cousin Alessandro, the Duke of Florence. He then wrote a grandiloquent Apology claiming to have killed Alessandro in the interests of reestablishing a republic, fled to exile in Venice, and was eventually killed by agents of Emperor Charles V, Alessandro's father-in-law. Supposedly, the devil refused to admit Lorenzino into Hell for fear that he would usurp the devil's rule.
"La Corona di Polonia e Carletto" by Luccio in Il 420, Florence, September 8, 1918
So here's a cartoon about Austrian Emperor Charles I that is needs absolutely no explanation. Does it?

And finally, the Allies moved ahead with plans for the post-war world. President Wilson commissioned his diplomatic adviser, Edward "Colonel" House in September to draw up a constitution for the League of Nations. House proposed that "unethical" state behavior such as espionage would result in "blockading and closing the frontiers of that power to commerce or intercourse with any part of the world and to use any force that may be necessary."
"Vorberatungen für den zu Gründenden 'Völkerbund' der Entente" by Max Richter in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, September 15, 1918

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Q Toon: The New Kid, the Sequel

In last week's cartoon, a gym teacher spoke to his class about the transgender girl forced by school district policy to enroll in the boys' physical education class. This week's cartoon follows the story into the school principal's office.

I don't know what electives schools offer in Phy Ed these days. Not being an athletic sort, I took both golf and ping pong in high school; they were quarter-credit classes. In golf class, offered only in months when we tend not to have snow, we did nothing but putt around a very miniature course in an area behind the school known as "the bowl." We never learned anything about teeing off or getting out of sand traps, or any of that. Perhaps on the day that stuff was on the syllabus, it rained.

In college, I took canoeing, in which I enjoyed paddling up river to Dundas to grab a quick beer (until the instructor told me to knock it off), and bowling. The latter class was held in the campus bowling alley and game room, where I could never hear the instructor over the incessant tintinnabulation of pinball games. It wasn't really the reason why I signed up for those particular classes, but I didn't need to shower either of after them.

The cartoon principal's suggestion of counting Video Games 101 toward the Physical Education requirement isn't really so far-fetched. There's the hand-eye coordination thing, after all, and I suppose it really builds up those thumb muscles. There's even a movement to include "egames" in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
[IOC President Thomas] Bach still needs convincing. He won an Olympic gold medal in fencing, which uses swords, and tried to draw a distinction.
“Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people,” he said. “But sport is the civilized expression about this. If you have egames where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values.”
Egames were a demonstration sport in the 2018 Asian Games, and are scheduled to be a “full-medal event” by the 2022 games. But the recent real-life killings at the video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida may have put a damper on the movement to get them into the Olympics, at least for the time being.

But hey, if The Doctor can have a thirteenth regeneration, I guess anything is possible.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

And What About Naomi?


Over the weekend, Australian cartoonist Mark Knight of the Melbourne Herald Sun drew a cartoon lampooning tennis great Serena Williams for losing her temper in the US Open championship match when the court judge penalized her a point for smashing her racket and an entire game for complaining about it. The cartoon provoked accusations that Knight was promoting sexism and racism. Her lips were too big and her biracial opponent, Naomi Osaka, was too white, in the view of many observers.
"Can You Just Let Her Win" by Mark Knight in Melbourne Herald Sun, September 10, 2018

I defer to the many people, including other cartoonists, who found the caricature offensive. The real Ms. Williams's lips are not that big, and if it weren't for the dress and the situation, I wouldn't recognize her in the cartoon. Also, as others have pointed out, Knight has a tendency, shared with a number of Aussie cartoonists, to be free and loose with racial caricature. That, and the fact that the Herald Sun is a Murdoch-owned tabloid, could explain why Knight's editors doubled down by reprinting the offending caricature on the front page today.

In Knight's defense, I would note that the two players' skin tones are nearly identical; Osaka being in the background however, she has none of the shading and contouring used in the Williams caricature. On the other hand, Knight did draw Osaka's blonde ponytail much longer than she wore it during the US Open, adding to the impression that he whitened her up.

Cartooning people of races other than one's own is fraught with the risk of letting some racism onto the page, consciously or unconsciously. I have yet to find a computer screen color that matches oriental skin tone, and I'm even less confident that the screen color will match the printed color. Darker skin tones, moreover, can muddy a caricature, especially in print.

Coloration aside, the question is: If caricature is based on exaggeration, how much is too much? Does the oriental person one is drawing really have slanty eyes? How far can a Semitic nose be hooked without going too far? Can one identify a character as Latino without slipping "Sí, Señor" into the dialogue? Where is the line between Little Black Sambo Face and dreary portraiture?

I'll give a case in point from my own oeuvre. Three years ago, I drew a cartoon about President Obama's visit to Kenya, during which he criticized his hosts' treatment of Kenya's LGBTQ citizens. 
My caricature of President Uhuru Kenyatta included a pair of very full lips. But if you look at a photo of him, how else could he be caricatured? I didn't hear a lot of criticism of this cartoon, but that can be attributed to the limited exposure that my cartoons get. This blog rarely gets visitors from anywhere in Africa, and my cartoon certainly wasn't printed in Kenya.

Ted Rall commented on Facebook the other day that the idiosyncratically monstrous characterizations of people in his cartoons are a reaction to the racist caricatures he saw in other cartoonists' work. Nobody he draws remotely resembles anybody enough to fit any timeworn stereotype. Closer to the center of the verisimilitude spectrum, Signe Wilkinson once responded to complaints about racial stereotyping by drawing a cartoon of eight identical Everymen in suits and ties who were labeled as belonging to eight different national and ethnic backgrounds.

I do try to be inclusive in my cartoons, which means drawing people who appear not to be Minnesotans of Scandinavian heritage. Tomorrow's cartoon includes a school principal whose skin tone is darker than mine but lighter than Serena Williams's. I didn't give her a name, so you'll just have to guess for yourself where her great-grandfather might have been from. And whether it makes any difference.

And what about Naomi?

Saturday, September 8, 2018

UWM POSTer Child

A couple weeks ago, Supersizeback Saturday featured some cartoons I'd drawn in Augusts of years ending in -8. In digging through my archives for that post, I came across the oversize drawing for this UWM Post outerfold (like a centerfold, but wrapped around the outside of the newspaper) and considered including it.

I was thinking that I might have drawn it right after the 1988 Republican National Convention, but since the cartoon's publication date was the day after Labor Day, 1989, I realized that I had drawn it a year later and I'd have to leave it for another day.

Like today. I suppose I should have held it for a post next year of September cartoons in years ending in -9, but what the heck.

When I call this cartoon oversize, I mean that this "UWM POSTer," as the UWM Post called it, was printed on a sheet of newsprint larger than a typical newspaper page today. I had to make four scans of the newspaper and piece them together to end up with the above image.

My original pen-and-ink drawing is the same size as the printed cartoon. I generally prefer to draw my cartoons larger than they will be printed, but this drawing took up an entire sheet of the largest chunk of bristol board I could find. (The original was badly stained when our basement flooded several years ago, but the newspaper was in a box on a shelf and not in the artist portfolio standing in danger's way on the floor.)

Now, I get that my caricature of Dan Quayle cum Alfred E. Neumann might have needed to be identified for some college-age readers. Quayle had a bland, Wonder-bread average-ness to it, and giving him the missing tooth, orange hair, and aileron ears made him even less recognizable. What gets me about this cartoon is that  the editors of the Post felt that the headline needed the parenthetical "vice-president" for the benefit of readers who apparently wouldn't know who Dan Quayle was even given his full name.

(Note: his full name is actually J. Danforth Quayle; but what, me, quibble?)
The following year's back-to-school POSTer section served as a sort of voters' guide and includes a mention on the calliope wagon of my generic Democratic Congressman in those days, Luke Warmish. It appeared on campus one week before Wisconsin's partisan Primary Election Day; the most hotly contested contest that year was the Democratic race to challenge the Republican incumbent State Attorney General.

I have no idea why the African-American "Issues" guy is blue. There are three African-Americans in the crowd with reasonably rendered skin tones; but whoever got stuck with the task of colorizing all those people clearly got fed up with the process of cutting halftone sheets for the red, blue and yellow overlays. (Witness the Blue Man Group at the base of the light pole.)

In addition to the POSTer, the Post ran five of my illustrations and cartoons for articles inside the paper. (I have notes on all of these that they were drawn in August, so I must have had several days' lead time.) Issues ranged from cuts in student financial aid — the article it accompanied used as an example a student loan of $2,500, which would cover less than 10% of the estimated cost for a Wisconsin resident undergraduate taking six course credits in Fall, 2018  — to reproductive choice and Native American treaty rights.
The treaties were a hot-button issue in Wisconsin at the time, involving Euro-American complaints over Native American spear-fishing rights guaranteed in those treaties. At some point, I'll probably devote a blog post to that episode in Wisconsin history in order to give it the attention it deserves.

I had actually drawn this cartoon in May, but it made its way into the "Stop the Parade" issue anyway. Incumbent Republican Governor Tommy Thompson had attempted to give himself a little wiggle room on the abortion issue with his reelection campaign coming up. If the pro-life camp, here personified by activist Randall Terry, had any misgivings about Thompson's position, they never let on. They were leagues away from Democratic challenger Tom Loftus's position.
And then there was this sketch for an article about expectations for Women Trying To Have It All.

Finally, there were two editorial cartoons. This one was included in the Stop the Parade section; I blogged this cartoon not so long ago, but since it ran in the issue of the UWM Post at hand, here it is again, just in time for the reworked reboot of the Roseanne-free Roseanne show (and bitching about football players and the national anthem):

And, as another example of how everything old is new again, while also bringing this blog post around full circle, here's my cartoon for the editorial page of that September 4, 1990 edition of the Post.