Thursday, December 31, 2020

Q Toon: Auld Lang v. Syne

Extending 2020? Doesn't everybody think it was more than long enough?

Well, not a certain occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue desperate to find some way to keep January 20, 2021 from happening.

Adding more months onto everyone's least favorite year might not win him any new fans, but you can bet his legions of Trumpster cultists would suddenly be agitating to observe Undecember, Duodecember, Tredecember, ad infinitemcember all the way to 2025 and beyond. 

And it isn't any more ludicrous than any of the other frivolous lawsuits filed on the Donald's behalf.

When L. Lin Wood, Jr. filed one of those suits with the attestation that: was surely a Freudian slip of epic propecia. Proportions!

I only hope that nobody on the Team That Couldn't Sue Straight sees this cartoon in time to take this argument to court.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Merry Christmas, 1920 Style

"A Rare Bird" by J.N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, Dec. 25, 1920

St. Stephenback Saturday wishes you a merry Second Day of Christmas; and as my gift to you today instead of a couple of lousy turtledoves, I bring you a collection of cartoons from the newspapers on December 24 and 25, 100 years ago. We'll start off with a rather bizarre holiday offering from the great Jay N. Darling, capturing the Spirit of Christmas in a bear leg trap.

"Just What We Wanted" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 24, 1920

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle's front pages in December were full of reports of a crime wave plaguing New York, but I am just going to assume that Nelson Harding is being facetious in this cartoon of New York Mayor John F. Hylan.

"To All Evening World Readers" by John Cassel in New York Evening World, Dec. 24, 1920

Other editorial cartoonists took a holiday from grave matters of politics. John Cassel wished his readers a merry Christmas...

John M. Baer, The Nonpartisan Leader, Fargo, ND, Dec. 27, 1920

...As did cartoonist-Congressman John Baer, fresh from a defeat at the ballot box which he apparently accepted without filing dozens of frivolous lawsuits or entertaining the notion of martial law. (I know I said these cartoons were going to be dated December 24 and 25, but I'm granting the biweekly Nonpartisan Leader a little leeway.)

"A Couple of Wiseacres" by Magnus Kettner for Western Newspaper Union, Dec., 1920

Magnus Kettner's cartoons generally steered clear of politics and were relatively gentle when they didn't. His cartoons were targeted to a rural readership, where it appears the horseless carriage was still a thing for future generations.

"Poker Portraits" by Harold T. Webster in New York Tribune, Dec., 1920

Guys get their share of ribbing in the humor panels for Christmas. A charitable explanation here might be that this fellow isn't as clueless as he looks. Perhaps he's Jewish or Sikh, and new to this country. And if he's Sikh, it's cartoonist Harold Webster who is the clueless one, having forgotten to draw him wearing his turban.

Be that as it may, cluelessness survives from bachelorhood to married bliss...

"Oh, Man" by Clare Briggs in New York Tribune, Dec. 25, 1920

I'm sure that Alice got a nice bathrobe, at any rate.

"You Send an Answer" by Robert Ripley in Washington Evening Star,  Dec. 24, 1920

Robert Ripley (yes, he of "Believe It Or Not" fame) leads our selection of cartoonists pushing Christmas commercialization. What heartless bastard could possibly let down this little girl praying to Santa for a doll?

"Can You Beat It" by Maurice Ketten in New York Evening World, Dec. 24, 1920

Maurice Ketten's shoppers aren't confusing religion with shopping. They are hep to a variety of Christmas shopping strategies, from fancy wrapping to regifting. Note the Prohibition reference in panel five.

"We're Out of 'Em" by Gaar Williams in Indianapolis News, Dec. 1920

Hey! Put the newspaper down and get that little girl her doll! Right now! Before they're all gone!

"Has She Forgotten Anybody" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, Dec., 1920

If consumerism isn't your yuletide thing, there's also plenty of Christmas Charity guilt tripping to go around.

"I Wish My Mamma and Me Was Dogs" by Albert Wallen for Federated Press, Dec., 1920

Albert Wallen offers up a "Bah, humbug!" to the dogs of the late Mrs. Louise B. Pams, proving that there was nothing strikingly original about Leona Helmsley. Yet who knows but that Mrs. Pams was a loving and kind soul, forsaken by the grasping wretches of her ungrateful family, all except for Fido and Fifi. And seeing as all her children were deathly allergic to canines, wasn't this the charitable and thoughtful thing to do, all things considered?

"Same Old Knockout" by "Jim Nasium" in Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 25, 1920

Striking a blow against commercialization of the holiday, "Jim Nasium" was the pen name of Philadelphia Inquirer sports cartoonist Edgar Forrest Wolfe (1874-1958). Yes, Virginia, there used to be sports cartoonists as well as editorial cartoonists at any newspaper able to brag about its circulation figures.
This Santa may pack a mean punch, but he has got to be one of the scrawniest Santa Clauses ever drawn.

"No Hold-up Here" by Bill Sykes in Philadelphia Evening Ledger, Dec. 24, 1920

Man, you really do not want to get on Santa's bad side in Philadelphia. That guy has a wicked temper!

Well, that's enough violence for one holiday. I'll close today's trip beyond Memory Lane with a gentle wish to you and yours from the nation's capital.

Clifford Berryman in Washington Evening Star, Dec. 24, 1920

And to all a good night.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Q Toon: Cabinet Building

You were expecting maybe another Christmas cartoon?

President-Elect Joe Biden is busy assembling his cabinet, and there are some interesting choices. They are a remarkably diverse bunch, racially, ethnically, and LGBTQ+ly, for one thing. One of them is on record saying nasty things about Republicans, which has shocked, shocked! a party where such behavior is completely unknown.

There might be more significant resistance to Biden's choice for Defense, Lloyd Austin II, a retired U.S. Army four-star general, commander of U.S. Central Command until April, 2016. The National Security Act of 1947, which began the process of replacing the Department of War with the Department of Defense, requires that the head of the department not have served in the U.S. military for seven years before assuming the job. Congress waived that provision for Gen. George Marshall in 1950 and Gen. James Mattis in 2017, but members on both sides of the aisle have expressed reservations about yet another waiver.

So some of Biden's other cabinet choices seem more at random. For Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Biden wants former Chief of Staff in the Obama administration Denis McDonough, who has some experience in foreign policy, but not in the military or in health care. Former Gary, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of Biden's rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination last winter and one of his best spokesmen on TV in the fall, has been tagged for the Department of Transportation.

Secretary of Transportation is something of a dead-end job as far as political aspirations go. Oh, sure, Liddy Dole tried running for president in 2000 with Transportation Secretary on her résumé, and Andrew Card shows up on cable news now and again. But can you name any others? If you can think of the name of Donald Trump's Secretary of Transportation before reading past this comma, you are probably her husband, Mitch McConnell.

So will my LGBTQ+ continue to be interested in Mayor Pete? Will we ever hear from him again?

Ah, well. The President-Elect is an Amtrak aficionado, so maybe there's still a chance for the Department of Transportation to make news after all.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

'Twas the Noughts Before Christmas

December, 1980
In honor of Monday's Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, Spaceback Saturday opens today with a cartoon I drew 40 years ago this month to mark Voyager 1 having passed beyond Saturn. The probe sent back our first pictures of the dark side of the planet on its way out of of our solar system.

And we did indeed come again; Voyager 2 made a more extensive visit the following August, and the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft reached Saturn in 2004

in Manitou Messenger, St. Olaf College, MN, Dec. 5, 1980
My Saturn cartoon was just something I drew in my sketchbook and never published. This was the only cartoon I drew for publication in December; it featured Utah's brand new Senator-elect Orrin Hatch, of whom I didn't have a wealth of photos to draw from. Republicans won a majority in the Senate that year, but not in the House, so Hatch's proposal for a less-than-minimum wage didn't get very far.

It didn't go very far away, either. Republicans have kept hauling the idea out of storage again and again ever since.
in UW-Parkside Ranger, WI, Dec. 6, 1990
Jumping ahead ten years, we find leaders of the U.S. and Iraq heading inexorably toward Gulf War I. 

in UWM Post, Milwaukee, WI, December 13, 1990
Back in September, I posted a poster I had drawn for the UWM Post for which I had left the colorization to someone else — with dubious results. Here's a cover drawing I made for their Winter Sports issue three months later, for which I took care of the colorization myself. 

Having only two colors to work with, black and blue, simplified matters a bit; but unlike today, I didn't have a graphics program and computer to work with. The specific shades of black and blue were accomplished with halftone sheets, very thin plastic with a dot pattern on one side and adhesive on the other. Placing the larger pieces onto the drawing without any folds or wrinkles was one of the more challenging aspects of this drawing.

An advantage of this process over the easier Duoshade is that the originals created with their chemical process discolor over time. I still have the original drawing with the black halftone sheets on it (but not the separate blue overlay), and it hasn't discolored at all. 

I suppose if its artist portfolio were more heavily trafficked, the halftone plastic could have torn or come loose — and who knows what might have happened if I had hung this on a wall and exposed it to light for 30 years.

Okay, let's jump ahead another decade.

Q Syndicate, December, 2000
Setting aside some of the more dominant issues of December, 2000, we have this: the management of the Gospel Rescue Mission in Tucson issued an apology to their Republican Congressman for turning away his help at their homeless shelter over the Thanksgiving holiday.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Rep. Jim Kolbe was asked not to volunteer at a Tucson homeless shelter's Thanksgiving dinner because he's a homosexual.

"This decision is based on your publicly announced sexual orientation that is diametrically opposite to admonitions in the Bible,'' Gospel Rescue Mission board member Evelyn H. Haugh wrote in a faxed memo. ``This mission is founded on biblical principles, and we cannot give a public forum to a public official who is blatantly flaunting those principles."

Kolbe, the only openly homosexual Republican congressman, downplayed the snub but said biblical teaching "tells us that no people should be made to feel smaller than others.''

"It would undermine the very essence of Thanksgiving if the good works of the Gospel Rescue Mission and others were eclipsed in controversy,'' Kolbe said. ``The mission has provided noble service to (the) community and I wish it only the best in its efforts to feed and clothe the downtrodden.''

Kolbe, a seven-term congressman who acknowledged his sexual orientation in 1996, helped serve meals at the shelter's Thanksgiving dinner last year.

Skip Woodward, board vice president, said Kolbe had been allowed to serve because "he just showed up and took us by surprise.''

"Kolbe's very public stand on homosexuality is inconsistent with our beliefs,'' Woodward said. ``We wouldn't want anyone who advocated adultery to serve either.''

Arizona Gov. Jane Hull expressed disappointment at the mission's revoked invitation to Kolbe, saying "hunger sees no sexual preference.''

in Milwaukee Business Journal, Dec. 14, 2000
The other day, NPR had a story about the death of the shopping mall. I don't remember the editorial I drew this cartoon to accompany, but apparently it had something to do with one shopping mall being pretty much like every other.

Which was pretty much the point, wasn't it? You could go shopping secure in the knowledge that there would be a Nordstroms, an Orange Julius, a WaldenBooks, a J. Crew, a Kay Jeweler, and a Sam Goody in whatever mall you went to, in whatever town you lived in. All in the comfort of the great indoors! What could possibly be more convenient?

Alas, the only constant is change. Adapt or die. Evolution is inevitable.

Q Syndicate, December, 2010

Which brings us to a cartoon from the waning days of 2010. Say, I hear this fellow has been back in the news again lately.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Q Toon: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I started to get the idea for this week's cartoon driving to work the other morning when "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," sung by Topsy Chapman, came up on the iPod playlist. And I ended up learning something about the song I had never noticed before.

LGBTQ+ wags have had fun with the "Make the yuletide gay" line since Paul Lynde was a pup, and in a quarter century of drawing cartoons for the LGBTQ+ press, I'm sure I must have at least alluded to it once. I thought, however, that this particular verse had resonance for 2020. 

Later, when I went on line to get the lyrics for pitching the idea to my editors, however, the words didn't seem as a propos as I had thought they were in the car.

I thought about changing the words, but that would have required changing the cartoon to excuse my bowdlerization. Then, when I looked up the writers of the song, I found that there have been a number of revisions of the lyrics, including this particular stanza.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is from the Judy Garland film, "Meet Me In St. Louis." In case you haven't seen it, Judy sings this song to her little sister, who is upset that the family has to move away from the titular city right before Christmas.

Years later, when Frank Sinatra wanted to sing the song on a Christmas album of his, he complained that the line "Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow" was too much of a downer; so he got the line changed to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." 

That was the line I found when looking up the lyrics. It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the context of the stanza, but I'd never really noticed that there was more than one version of the verse before.

If Frank didn't like the muddling through stuff, he would have hated the original first verse:
Have yourself a merry little Christmas:
It may be your last.
Next year, we all may be living in the past...
Garland, co-star Tom Drake, and director Vincent Minelli certainly hated those lyrics, and practically had to twist Hugh Martin's arms and screw his thumbs before he finally agreed to "let your heart be light" instead.

If he hadn't given in, that's one Christmas Standard none of us would ever have heard.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Together in One Photo

  • Dr. Jill Biden
  • Half of Time magazine's Person of the Year, PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden
  • Time Guardian of the Year, Porsche Bennett-Bey

Monday, December 14, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek

The Post Office is getting to be a really happening place these days! 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Saturday Morning Book Report

"If It Isn't the Corn Borer, It's Something Else" by Frank Miller in Des Moines Register, May 23, 1975

Last month, I mentioned having bought a book of cartoons by Des Moines Register editorial cartoonist Frank Miller in a resale store. (I should clarify that if you came here by googling for the Frank Miller who drew Batman, Sin City, and Daredevil cartoons, that's someone else entirely. But you're welcome to read on.)

I first encountered Miller's cartoons in the Milwaukee Journal, which used to run three portrait-oriented, syndicated editorial cartoons side by side on its Saturday editorial page. The newspaper racks in library where I went to college had the Des Moines Register, which was one of the last U.S. newspapers running its editorial cartoonist on the front page, so I got to see his work much more often in those years.

"A Low Opinion" by Frank Miller in Des Moines Register, June 28, 1956

Over the course of the book, you watch Miller develop his curious pen-and-ink style with copious shading that appeared hastily scribbled. But not haphazard; the earliest drawings in the book are drawn in charcoal, and this shading appears to be Miller's way of emulating charcoal with pen and ink. Sometimes, as in the cartoon at the top of this post, characters' faces would be entirely in shadow — not something you see in most cartoons.

The editorial cartoons section of the book opens with Miller's first cartoon for the Des Moines Register in 1954, and ends with the cartoon he had not quite finished drawing when he died in 1983.

Since it was Miller's editors at the Register who chose the cartoons for the book, they may not have been the ones Miller would have chosen himself. They tend to be on the gentler side, particularly where individual Iowa politicians are involved. (An exception is a cartoon showing Senator Roger Jepsen, who had switched his vote on a military sale to Saudi Arabia, carrying his own head under his arm.)

By way of illustration, this cartoon by Miller, a Korean War veteran, probably didn't raise a lot of Iowans' hackles in 1965:

"Some of Us Are, Fella" by Frank Miller in Des Moines Register, Nov. 30 1965

Ten years later, as the South Vietnamese military collapsed, this cartoon might have been a little more controversial. It's not in the book; nor is any other cartoon about Saigon's defeat.

"American Monument in Southeast Asia" by Frank Miller in Des Moines Register, ca. March 29, 1975
The writers of the book describe Miller as "unassuming but not humble, aware of his talent but not crowing about it," so perhaps fire and brimstone cartooning was simply not his style. He might not even have seen any point in collecting his cartoons in a book in the first place; to clear out his basement, he once sold several of his original drawings in a garage sale for only 25¢ apiece.

The book allows that at least two of Miller's cartoons provoked such a response that he was forced to apologize for them. In one, a calendar of September hath 31 days. The other, commenting on Sandra Day O'Connor's ground-breaking nomination to the Supreme Court, hangs on a mildly sexist, even trite, joke. If  Miller stuck by any of his cartoons in the face of reader complaints, there's no mention of that in this book.

What you will find are every president from Truman to Reagan, a couple of Iowa governors, lots of lovingly rendered Iowa scenery, and one famous visitor to the state.

No caption, by Frank Miller in Des Moines Register, Oct. 4, 1979

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Q Toon: The Hungary Games

You may have seen news reports about József Szájer, 59, Hungary's representative to the European Union Parliament in Brussels, getting himself arrested after police broke up a 25-man sex party above a gay bar. It wasn't the orgy per se that broke the law; the problem was that the number of men gathered exceeded COVID-19 restrictions.

I have no idea how many guys one is allowed to have at an orgy in Brussels. I suppose that's one of the things one is expected to check before traveling abroad.

The gay sex stuff is somewhat more at issue for Szájer back home in Budapest, however. Szajer is one of the founders of the ruling Fidesz Party, originally a liberal anti-communist organization, but which has veered hard to the right under the leadership of Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister since 2010. Criminalization of homosexuality is prominent among Orbán's policies. 

Szájer has resigned from the EU Parliament and from Fidesz. He doesn't deny being at the orgy, but does say that the ecstasy police found on him didn't belong to him. Expect him to revise and extend his remarks in order to join a long line of disgraced preachers and politicians from Ted Haggard to Andrew Gillum blaming drugs for their walk on the wild side.

Orbán wasted no time accepting Szájer's resignation, telling Magyar Nemzet, "What our fellow member József Szájer has done does not fit into the values of our political community. We will not forget and refuse his thirty years of work, but his actions are unacceptable and indefensible."

In addition to homophobia, Orbán has served up a right-wing stew of anti-immigrant legislation, obsessing over racial purity, outlawing homeless persons, stifling the press, and stacking the courts with compliant lackeys. Some of this should sound familiar to you even if you don't follow Hungarian politics.

Orbán's election in 2010 heralded a rising tide of fascism around the globe: Duda in Poland, Duterte in the Philippines, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India, Trump in the U.S., and the chronic threat of Le Penisme in France.

(Le Penisme refers to the right-wing politics of Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine Le Pen. Don't be a dick.)

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Sneak Peek that Will Live in Infamy

This cartoon kept me up really late last night. Must've been all the lettering.

Well, that, and that I hadn't gotten a damned thing done during the Packers game.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Saturday Hash

Uncaptioned, by Clifford Berryman in Washington (DC) Evening Star, Dec. 3, 1920

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas during a presidential transition can be a slow news period as far as political cartoonists are concerned. The incoming president is busy filling his cabinet with people the cartoonist hasn't learned to draw yet, and the outgoing president is not desperately trying to stage a coup to overturn the popular vote. Well, not normally.

1920 was a pretty normal year as presidential transitions go, so editorial cartoonists had plenty of opportunity to address topics of general interest. Some of them, as illustrated by Clifford Berryman's complaint against unregulated gun sales above, are if you'll pardon the yuletide expression, evergreen.

"Big Flap Jack Contest" by Frederick Opper for International Feature Service Inc., ca. Dec. 3, 1920

Fred Opper's complaint about high prices never gets old, either, although it would be hard to find a mainstream cartoonist today blaming "grocery profiteers" and "rent gougers." What went up, however, must have come cheap; those "pick pocket prices" are the same ones my generation's grandparents used to remember fondly in the '60's and '70's.
"Out" by Bob Satterfield for NEA, ca. Dec. 1, 1920

Bob Satterfield commends a drive to oust criminals, indecent dancing, and vice from the nation's dance halls.

"Tormentors" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 3, 1920
Nelson Harding begs to differ. Besides opposing dirty dancing, "fanatical reformers" were pushing to extend prohibition to tobacco and any number of other vices. There was even a push by something called the Lord's Day Alliance to nationalize "blue laws," making any commercial activity, interstate travel, or newspaper publication on Sundays a federal offense. That particular proposal died for lack of any member of Congress wishing to be associated with it.
"Broken Idols" by Magnus Kettner for Western Newspaper Union, ca. Dec. 3, 1920
Speaking of vices: I've somehow made it through the last two years without posting anything about the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, but Magnus Kettner gives me an opportunity to get around to it at long last. A grand jury handed down indictments against eight baseball players and five gamblers in October. A committee headed by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis convened in December to begin setting rules to clean up professional baseball.
"An Ounce of Prevention" by J. N. "Ding" Darling in Colliers, Dec. 11, 1920
"Ding" Darling offered some advice on avoiding strikes of the non-baseball variety.
"Ireland, 1920" by David Low in London Star, ca. Dec., 1920
Meanwhile, overseas, 100 Irish "Black and Tan" guerillas killed 17 police cadets in an ambush near Macroom, and British police uncovered a plot to attack the House of Parliament and 10 Downing Street. In retaliation, the British arrested the Irish Vice President (President De Valera being in the U.S. at the time) and three politicians who were members of both Parliament and Dail Eireann.
John T. McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, ca. Dec. 4, 1920
Armenia's armed conflict against Turkey was not going well. Tsarist Russia had fashioned itself as the protector of the Ottoman Empire's Christian minorities in the Caucasus; Soviet Russia's support of the Armenian cause, however, was limited to diplomatic protest. The same was true of western powers, each of whom would rather that someone else step in.
"A Peaceful Change" by Bob Satterfield for NEA, ca. Dec. 2, 1920
Mexican President Venustiano Carranza was killed during a coup led by General Álvaro Obregón in April, 1920 (most historians believe he was assassinated, but some argue that he committed suicide). On December 1, the provisional government of Adolfo de la Huerta turned power over to Obregón. This marked the end of ten years of civil war, and the beginning of a quarter century of military generals heading the Mexican government.
"Can They Untangle It?" by Wm. C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, ca. Dec. 2, 1920
In 1920, the California revisited a 1913 "Alien Land Law" severely restricting non-citizens' rights to own agricultural property in the state. The law's primary targets were Japanese immigrants, and the 1920 law sought to close loopholes left open by the original law. Japan regarded California's actions as a violation of the spirit of a 1911 friendship treaty between Japan and the U.S. 

In 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California's laws were not a violation of 14th Amendment rights of equal protection. Eventually, the California Supreme Court decided in 1952 that the 14th Amendment did indeed invalidate the Alien Land Laws.