Thursday, March 31, 2005

Pick a Little, Talk a Little

We have a new entry to the “WTF???? Hall of Fame.” This is last Friday’s B.C.:

WTF? I know Johnny Hart tries to get Christian themes into B.C. from time to time, and my guess is that this is one of those times. I also think it’s a pun: “idol” for “idle.” But the phrase I’d always heard was “Idle HANDS are the devil’s playground.” At least that was what Professor Harold Hill told the good people of River City, Iowa. This is back when the River Citians had trouble, or more properly, “Trouble” (with a capital T) in the form of a pool table! Then they got a boys’ band and everything was A-OK.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, the proper pun would be “Idol HANDS are the devil’s playground,” but I’m guessing that “An idle MIND is the devil’s playground’ may be a variation on the old standard that I had not heard. So, OK. It’s a pun. Got it.

So, that’s one Christian message on the importance of a strong, Protestant work ethic. Or at least I thought that’s what the adage always meant – if you weren’t busy, you’d get in to trouble. But the use of “idol” in the pun also calls to mind “Thou shalt not worship graven images” which is one of the Commandments, which makes the strip JUDEO-Christian.

But, still, it just confuses me. Why did he carve a devil? The point of the commandment against idol worship was that you shouldn’t think that God was in a statue or other graven image. The representation of a god was just that – representation, and you shouldn’t worship it. An "idol mind" would not necessarily carve an image of a devil. It could just as easily conceive of a Clay Aiken statue. It didn’t HAVE to be a devil statue. The point of the commandment, as I see it, is you should worship God, not random other stuff. So I guess the devil statue just makes the point more obvious. Or would, if I understood the point.

How did the guy end up under the devil statue’s pitchfork? Is he, indeed, worshipping the devil’s statue? If he is a Satanist, worshipping the devil, then I think there are larger problems than him worshipping an idol. I mean, he worships the DEVIL. The DEVIL! Who cares if he also worships a statue? He worships the DEVIL!

Maybe, though, he’s not worshipping, but he fell under the pitchfork. Carve a devil statue, then get stuck under its pitchfork? Sounds like karma to me. But karma’s a Buddhist thing, and I don’t want to get another religion all mixed up in this.

Is the carved devil wearing lipstick?? Is it a cross-dresser??

In conclusion: Don’t worship the devil. Don’t say the comics never gave you guidance for your life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sky Masterson, Meet Mario Van Peebles

In the comic strip Curtis, Derek and Onion are bullies who beat up Curtis in the school yard. I think Curtis lives in the inner city somewhere -- not necessarily a bad, bad area, but I don't get the sense that he lives in a real upscale area, either. Despite all the horrible tales we hear about violence in inner city schools, these guys usually just beat him up for his lunch or lunch money. Awwww. They're like bullies from an era gone by. Speaking of:

Onion is the guy in the hood (I'm pretty sure "Onion" is his "street" name. You know when you go taking kids' lunch money, you do it under an alias). The other guy is Derek. He confuses me, to say the least. His hair-do: the fade? the . . . lines on the side of the head? (I don't know what they're actually called.) Well, it's straight out of New Jack City. Which means he should be doing worse things than stealing a kid's lunch money.

But then he speaks. "Makes poifect logic t'me!" "Poifect?"Is he from Guys and Dolls? Is he going to "The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York?"

Are they gangters or gangtas? It's so hard to tell.

Actually, "poifect" sounds more Three Stooges than anything.

Yesterday's umbrella post sparked some interesting comments. I think it's the first time we've seriously discussed how the strips are drawn. No consensus. Even our semi-resident comic artist isn't sure how this should be done. I am admittedly quick to criticize Drabble, and this may have been one of those instances. I have zero artistic talent, so maybe I should leave the art alone and should stick to criticizing the humor. By that logic, though, I'd need "humor talent," so forget it. I'll complain about what I want to complain about.

Some more votes for worst February Family Circus rolled in today. The Valentine's comic is gaining ground. I fear Emily may be running some sort of "Family Circus Veterans for Truth" campaign.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What Time is It?

Time to buy a new umbrella. Seriously, check this out:

I think it's raining right through his umbrella. Maybe it's just that fancy artistic thing called "perspective," and we're just seeing the raindrops in the background. But, in my paper, this was the strip right above it, so it looked even weirder:

Whatever, Drabble. Get a better umbrella, and you won't be so miserable.

Still taking votes and nominations for worst Family Circus in February. Vote for one of the three, or choose your own and tell me why it's so bad ( The Organ Donor has a very slight lead (or does it? You know, it's the one I'm backing, and since this is my blog, and I'm the one counting the votes. . . It'll be like Florida 2000 all over again unless I get an independent auditor). Of course, you can also comment publicly. And maybe I should subtract a vote, since the organ donor post did get a negative comment . . .

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Nothing Like Kicking Back with a Good Marmaduke

I love it when the comics get all self-referential. If they are snarky? Even better. If one of my favorites snarks on one of my least favorites? Why, it's like a little piece of heaven. From today's Dilbert:

Just so you know, Carol has skillfully played one boss against the other and has gained some free time. Marmaduke! Ha ha. Huge-ass dogs are funny. And they are funny over and over and over -- 18,000+ times.

I love how Scott Adams equates wasting time with reading Marmaduke. Awesome! Here's something I think will come in handy for many of you:

Friday, March 25, 2005

And the Nominees Are . . .

For the "Worst Family Circus in February:"


Why it's so bad: It's a pun with no follow-up. The children don't look confused or surprised. Dolly isn't misusing or misconstruing the actual fact. That fact is their church needs someone to donate an organ.

Why it might not be the worst: You can supply your own joke if you so choose. Or, you can chuckle over the fact that "organ donor" can have two meanings. So does "ugly mug" (bad looking face OR bad looking coffee cup) so, chuckle over that, too.


Why it's so bad: Where's the humor in one child treating another child like crap? Why doesn't he want his brother's help? Why is he so angry? Is there even a punchline here?

Why it might not be the worst: Jeffy's a young child trying to assert his independence, and part of that independence is making his mother a Valentine from start to finish. P.J.'s "helping" means that Jeffy isn't solely responsible for the Valentine. Kids -- aren't they cute?


Why it's so bad: The punchline, "Grandma plays solitaire on the computer," like "the church needs an organ donor," is a statement of fact, and this time you can't even supply your own pun.

Why it might not be the worst: The point here is that today's children, so steeped in computer cuture, don't realize that solitaire originated as a card game, even though today it's more commonly played on the computer. Kids today! They probably don't realize that Little House on the Prairie started out as books (actually, that's kids in MY day, but whatever). Heh heh heh.

Nominations are still being accepted, through the end of March. We will then begin our next challenge: March's worst Broom Hilda.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Don't Say I Didn't Never Give Y'all Nothin'

Hey folks! If you're anything like me, you're often looking for ways to save time. For instance, why chop 2 onions by hand when you can simply put them in a handy dandy food processor?? I know this blog is usually full of complaints and rants, but I would also like to provide a service, and so I present this guide:

Print that out and laminate it. Then, you can just turn to that instead of actually reading Dennis the Menace. Here's how it works: SKIP Dennis in your paper (saving you the 10 seconds it takes to read it, plus the 45 seconds it takes you to stew over how un-funny it is). Now, later in the day, when you are at a boring meeting, or if you get placed on hold, you can take out your guide and get your fill of wacky Dennis hi-jinks for the day.

Here's some examples:

Scan down the list and choose one "joke" (for instance, "Dennis says something "wise" to Joey). Then, you can just make up your own "joke." You can imagine Joey and Dennis sitting on the stoop. Dennis says, "Just because it's spring, you don't have to play with Slinkies " Or for "Margaret is a bossy bee-yotch," imagine Margaret in the park with a gang of boys. "Boys stick together because they never take baths!" Heeeeee Heee. Then you just chuckle to yourself at your own humor (one of those was an actual DTM, BTW).

The good thing about it is that you can do all sorts of things that are funnier by combining the jokes. For instance: you can combine saying something wise to Joey with bossy Margaret and the dog. Imagine Dennis saying to Joey, "Ruff is humping Margaret's leg because he likes bitches."

Or, you can combine inappropriate chat, Mr. Wilson, and dardnest things and get this:

Dennis: Mom, I think Mr. Wilson wants to see you.
Mom: What do you mean?
Dennis: I heard him say something about "See Alice" to Mrs. Wilson.

See Alice?? Cialis?? Get it? Good, 'cause the Wilsons aren't!! BWAH HA HA. Ooooh. Mr. Wilson can't "get it up." (and see? there's another little joke I can think on later.) I crack myself up.

In other news: We've got a bit of a debate going on over worst Family Circus in February. We have the church scene (and come on, you guys KNOW that one's the worst -- PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME), Jeffy is an asshole to PJ (who's only trying to help), and MaryAnn has suggested solitaire (who's watching the kids while Dad plays cards and Mom cuts weight?). Support your least favorite! Email me at or post your comments to the blog.

Only rationale: Jeffy has OCD

I'd like to nominate the Valentine's Day "Very Special Strip" as the worst FC of February:

Posted by Hello

Along the lines of the Original Creepy Clown strip, this FC makes no sense.

Why is Jeffy so mad? How is PJ trying to be "helpful"? Why is PJ's alleged "helpfulness" making Jeffy rage and seethe so?

From the looks of it, Jeffy made Thel a kiddie-kitsch Valentine (replete with a backwards "E" or "R", I'm sure).
He finished it and it looks like PJ is picking up the crayons.

Having been the bratty younger sibling, I could not imagine my sister tattling on my for picking up her crayons and putting them away. If I were, say, eating the crayons or pouring paint all over her homemade kiddie-kitsch seasonal greeting, perhaps... and in retrospect, I could see her rationale for seeking parental intervention.

But if I were putting away her crayons??? No mother IN THE WORLD would punish a younger child for helping his older brother CLEAN UP. She has four tykes running around, last night's meatloaf to purge and a stairmaster to spend 3 1/2 hours on. She can use all the help she can get!

Does Jeffy really think that his mom is going to punish PJ for PUTTING AWAY JEFFY'S CRAYONS IN WHAT LOOKS TO BE AN ORDERLY FASHION (i.e. back in the box)?

The only rational explanation I can come up with as to why Jeffy is mad about PJ's "helpfulness" is that he has OCD. Jeffy needs his crayons replaced in a particular manner (points up, organized by hue, and then by value) and PJ is doing it all haphazard, as one would imagine a baby to do.

In this case, Thel would be aware of Jeffy's condition and sensitive to his needs, and PJ should learn not to muck up Jeffy's system.

While it would be commendable for Bil Keane if he were using the FC and its characters to help make obsessive kidlets more acceptable to mainstream middle America (you know, those people who complain about "edgy" Boondockses), a quick look back into the development of Jeffy suggests otherwise.

For example, let's review this strip from a week earlier, where Billy and Jeffy try to make a snowman, but don't have enough of the "good stuff" to do the body-- just the head-- and they leave it at that.

Posted by Hello

Obviously, an obsessive little boy would not have made 1/3 of a snowman. Come on now! It would have been a perfectly proportioned mini-Frosty.

This "Make PJ stop bein' helpful!" reeks of "kids say the darnedest things", and in the worst way... he's saying the darnedest thing, but there's not even a transparent "Oh, he means this!" aspect to it.
He means nothing!
It's almost Pinheadian in its circularity.
Simply put, it's maddening.

So boo on you Bil Keane! Taunting us with new-millenial mental illness sensitivity, when, in reality, it's just another mangled and weak "kids say the darnedest things".
Boo on you!

Thank you. And vote (early and often!) for 2/14/2005 in the "Worst of February" poll!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cracked Rear View

Get Fuzzy: Creepy Clown rating: 1 Creepy Clown (1 C.C. = awesome comic; 5 C.C. = it sucks).

See? Here's another good one. Wow! The comics are actually better than I thought! I think, though, that the bad ones are so bad that they taint the rest of them. It's like, Kevin Costner has had a pretty good career, with some really great movies, but Waterworld? The Postman? They suck, and they make us think Kevin Costner sucks. Maybe he does, but he's not as bad as all that.

[this development puzzles me (the comics, not Kevin Costner), to say the least, and I may just abandon this concept of rating all the comics, and go back to the original idea of sticking to the bad ones.]

Anyway, Get Fuzzy is funny, and it took me a while to figure this out, but it's basically the funny Garfield. Or, it's Garfield for adults. You have a single guy and his talking pets -- a pain in the ass, lazy cat and a dumb, overly excited dog. There are plenty of sight gags (usually on Rob's tshirts or hats), enough pop culture references to make it seem up to date, without necessarily being a strip about pop culture. All very good.

Still, though, I have no idea what the heck this was all about. I always hate it when a comic seems smarter than I am. You know the feeling? Like if you just understood the reference or were clued in to one crucial bit of pop culture, you'd get the joke. It's one big reason I think Zippy the Pinhead sucks. Someone more in tune to the post modern deconstruction of American architectural kitsch may disagree. That's fine.

Oh? And today's Boondocks? Yeah, Poor Hootie. I had no idea that was Hootie until I was watching basketball with some friends this weekend. Oh, Hootie. Let Her Cry, indeed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hi Flagston is a Sexy Beast! Not.

We have reached a consensus that Blondie has "had work done." She looks great! Now, I want to know what happened to the Family Circus mom. Here she is in October 1986:

And here she is in October 2004 -- nearly 18 years to the day later:

HOLY COW!!! How did she do that???? Atkins? South Beach? Zone? It's really quite amazing.

OK, I realize she is a character in a daily comic. She doesn't even have a name as far as I know. I know that she did not go on any sort of diet and isn't real. Still, I'm interested to know at what point Bil Keane changed her from normal-sized (maybe even slightly overweight -- it's hard to tell with such a round face) to frighteningly thin? Was it when his son Jeff started assisting? Was it gradual, or did they change the way she was drawn in one day?

What does this say about pop culture? I read where Marilyn Monroe was actually a size 10 (or 8, I don't know, the point is she was normal sized), but most sex bombs of today are no larger than a size 4, if that (except maybe Catherine Zeta-Jones). The point is our image of beauty (at least that fed to us by pop culture) is incredibly thin, and has gotten noticeably thinner in a relatively short timeframe. It was only 18 years ago that the mom looked pretty normal.

I've written before about the "hotness" factor of the women in comics. I wonder when this started, and if it's a recent development. What did Dennis' mom look like 30 years ago? Speaking as a straight woman, I feel slighted. Where are the hot comic strip men??? Beetle Bailey just doesn't do anything for me. Ditto for Dilbert. Oh yeah, and Dagwood. Need I go on?

Monday, March 21, 2005

You Should Pray Just in Case

The challenge was to find the worst Family Circus in the month of February. And, even though February is the shortest month, I thought the challenge would be simple. 28 Family Circi? Yes, it will be easy to find the worst of the worst. Turns out, it's a good thing February is so short. They're all pretty bad, and while it's easy enough to choose the one or two that aren't hideous, picking the absolute worst? Not so easy.

I submit the following:

"Daddy said we'd have some good old-fashioned music in our church if we can get an organ donor."

It's obviously a play on the phrase "organ donor." Get it? Because "organ donor" typcially means your internal organs -- kidney, liver, heart, etc. Dolly means "organ donor" using organ to mean "an instrument consisting of a number of pipes that sound tones when supplied with air . . ."

Let's leave aside the fact that the English language is so fucked up that one word can mean both "your liver" and "the thing that produces the music at church."

Also leave aside that one of my guilty pleasure favorite movies uses organ donation as its "hook." This would be Blink, where Madeline Stowe used to be blind, but then she gets the corneas (I think) of a dead woman. She's been blind for so long that sometimes she sees things (like a serial killer!!!!) but it takes her awhile to process the image. This seems absolutely ludicrous, and not at all based in science, but, still -- great movie! Also, Aidan Quinn is hot.

Why is this particular Family Circus worse than most? The way Family Circus works is: kids say the darndest things, and they sometimes get things mixed up in such a cute and endearing way. But Dolly hasn't gotten things mixed up! A church needs an organ to produce "good old fashioned music." Clearly, their church does not have an organ (for whatever reason), but if they can get someone to donate an organ, this will be corrected. An "organ donor" is exactly what they need! Dolly is exactly right, and is probably repeating what her dad said. She has "organ donor" correct, and she has the reason behind the need for an organ donor correct. She's not saying anything that an adult in the same situation would not say. She's not confused, not mixing up the words, not using the words incorrectly, not doing anything but reporting on what their church needs. How is this different than leaving the church saying, "Daddy says we need a new youth minister."?

There's some "kids say the dardnest things" potential in the "organ donor" phrase, Bil Keane just didn't hit on it. Like, "Daddy does someone need to die in a car accident for our church to have an organ donor?" That would suck in the typical F.C. sense, but would at least show the quirky cuteness of kids and how they get things mixed up.

Also, it would open a very existensial debate. If someone's death helped out a church, what would that mean? Did the dead person not pray as hard as the church congregation? Was God so tired of the church just singing along to the piano that he reached down and smote some poor soul so that the church could have an organ? Were the members of the congregation really bad singers? Should you be less sinful, just in case there's a church in your area in need of an organ?

True organ donor story: My grandparents' church is from the 1840s. Several years ago an electrical fire broke out, destroying the sanctuary, including a massive built-in organ. The sanctuary was re-built, but the organ takes a lot longer to build. Luckily, another church somewhere had an organ already built, but had not yet built their sanctuary, so my grandparents' church has the organ in the meantime. An actual "organ donor" case. But, since in this case the problem was fire and burning, you might call it an "organ graft.' Yuk yuk yuk. I'm gonna give Bil Keane a run for his money on lame ass humor!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

An Open Letter

Dilbert: Creepy Clown rating: 1 Creepy Clown (1 C.C. = awesome comic; 5 C.C. = it sucks).

What can I say? Dilbert is the hizzy. It rocks my socks. It's the funniest damn thing in the comics today. I know that's not the world's greatest compliment, but it's still the truth.

So. An open letter to Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert):

Dear Mr. Adams,

Thank you for the excellent, funny, and insightful strip you produce every day. Its greatness reminds me of two strips from my childhood and teen years: Gary Larson's Far Side and Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes. Even now, across America, people have old Far Sides and C&H's taped to their office doors, cubicles, refrigerators, breakroom bulletin boards. The newspaper may be yellowing, and the tape used to hold it up may be cracked and brittle, but the brilliant humor shines through. Dilbert has now taken its rightful spot on America's corkboards and office doors.

The Far Side and C&H made fun of human nature. They were loving and without malice, though, and that attitude forced us to laugh with Larson and Watterson. In doing so, we laughed at ourselves. Dilbert is their succesor, instead of their peer, only because the Far Side and C&H are no longer with us.

Mr. Adams, I ask that you take that to heart: there is no shame in putting down your pen and saying "enough." When your creative juices get stale, when putting out the strip becomes a burden, just stop. If you think this is a good idea for a strip:

Panel 1: Dilbert is nervous about asking for a raise
Panel 2: Dilbert asks for a raise
"Punchline:" The pointy haired boss says no.

Put down your pen and step away from the drawing board. Dagwood's been asking Mr. Dithers for a raise for decades. Still not funny. You, Mr. Adams, always seem to make Dilbert's run-ins with the boss so much better. You take the scenario described above and add layers, so that the denial of the raise is not the joke, but the platform upon which the joke is built.

I am not saying that you are even nearing this stage. (Your latest bit with Alice attacking felonious CEOs is great. I loved the one where she worries about working in a "high crime" area, meaning white collar crime. Tee hee. ) Only you, Mr. Adams, will know when the time has come to say goodbye. It will be a sad day for me and for the millions of Americans who expect humor on the funny pages. But it would be a sadder day still if we opened the comics to find Dilbert complaining about his neighbor borrowing his stuff. Because. That's. Not. Funny.

All the best,
Big Al

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mathletes Unite!

I started this blog out of frustration at how much the daily funny pages sucked. How angry some of them made me. How reading the back page of the daily "Lifestyles" section felt like my own personal Pleasantville. Then I felt the pressure of trying to write daily for the blog and felt the need to come up with "themes." This ultimately led to the theme of discussing every strip in the Raleigh News & Observer. Now I find myself mired in a fairly long stretch of comics that are, well . . . not bad. And that's surprising.

Now, "not bad" is damning with faint praise. If I were interviewing for a new job, and my potential employer called up my references, and they said I was "not bad" . . . Would I get that job? No I would not. Still, the "not bad"-nessof so many of the comics surprises me, to say the least. Do I watch TV shows that are "not bad?" No, they get axed from my viewing list. Do I watch movies that are "not bad?" Not if I can help it. "Not bad" books? They get set aside after about Chapter 3. Do I listen to "not bad" music? Not since ITunes - no longer am I forced to buy the whole Chumbawumba CD just because I like one song (oops, there's my 90s groove showing again; I DID buy "Stacey's Mom" without having to buy the whole Fountains of Wayne CD.) On the funny pages, though, "not bad" is pretty darn good. That doesn't speak well of the state of our funny pages today, but it's better than I thought.

Speaking of "not bad," next on the N&O list is Foxtrot. Foxtrot's not bad. It's a family comic, but fairly up-to-date, and at times funny. There's not a lot to it, aside from the incredibly geeky younger son Jason, but that'll do. This year for Christmas, Jason wrote a "MERRY CHRISTMAS" card in all math. For instance, for the "E" in "Merry" he had "mc²" (that's Einstein's theory of relativity, folks). Somehow he found a math or science reference for everything in "MERRY CHRISTMAS."

I didn't enjoy that strip as much as I did the letters to the editor that followed. See, the N&O serves a geographic region that includes 3 major research universities (UNC, Duke, and NC State), at least 4 other smaller colleges, and a huge industrial park that includes pharamaceutical, software, and engineering R&D companies (Research Triangle Park -- it covers an area larger than Chapel Hill). So, what happened when this Foxtrot appeared? Every day for about a week, the paper ran a letter to the editor explaining something that "Jason" had done wrong. The fact that you can (or can't, I don't remember -- and don't care, don't email me) take the square root of a negative number. About why some of his other equations, while mathematically correct do not actually represent the physical state. And etcetera

Ah. The geek quotient is pretty high around here. That works out well for me, as it lowers my relative geek quotient. Somewhere like Las Vegas I may seem pretty geeky, but here . . . I'm pretty low on the geek list.

Foxtrot's Creepy Clown rating: 1.5 Creepy Clowns (1 C.C. = awesome comic; 5 C.C. = it sucks).

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Comics on Comics

Big thanks to Emily and John! Depending on their desires, you may be hearing more from them. We are going to tackle this crappy comic problem from all the angles.

In 2 of Sunday's strips, the characters actually discuss the comics.

First, in Sally Forth, Sally and Ted discuss the joys of reading the Sunday paper (Oh, Sally and Ted, I hear ya! The Sunday paper on a leisurely Sunday morning is one of my greatest joys. Probably why I don't have kids.)

Anyway, it turns out Sally reads the "soap opera" strips. She says, "I've put 15 years into this strip, Ted, and I want to see how this day finally ends."

Yep, I tried Rex Morgan, MD for about a month. Panel 1 would re-cap yesterday's "events" and set the scene. Panel 2 would move the action forward at a sloth-like pace. Panel 3 would set up the "hook" to get you to read the next day. Talk about slow-paced! Nomar Garciapparra settles into the batters' box faster! I gave up, and went back to skipping the soap comics. The only one I have to deal with now is Gil Thorpe, and I skip it with gusto!

Next, in B.C., the cavewomen are discussing a real old timey strip. From the late 19th Century. The Sunday strip is too large to include, so you can see it here. They are talking about Smokey Stover. I think they are meta-ing for Johnny Hart (B.C. author) here. They talk about all the great gags in the background, how the strips were larger, how there's no room these days.

I am no sort of comic strip expert. My sole experience is reading them every day in my paper, and now writing on this blog. I am willing to be educated, though, and I like that Hart is introducing some comic history. I'm not sure I agree with his analysis that the reason the comics aren't funny today is because they are so small. I don't doubt that with more space the artists could draw more sight gags and develop their punchlines. But since B.C. just pulled "if it ain't baroque don't fix it," I'm not willing to believe the ONLY problem is lack of space.

I looked up Smokey Stover. It's a strip about a fireman, Smokey Stover (imagine that. The main character is the name of the strip. I'm looking at you, Blondie). You can read about it here. I haven't perused it very thoroughly yet, but it does seem to be a vibrant, fun strip. I'm glad to learn more about it.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Family Circus-- 45 years of un-funny

Apparently February 28/March 1 marked the 45th anniversary of The Family Circus (the first strip was run on Feb 29, 1960).
I, of course only saw this this week when the stuff ran on the website.

In observance of this momentous anniversary (3 weeks late), I looked through the archives on the site to try to find one strip that made me chuckle.
Or at least grin.

Believe it or not, I found one-- a strip from 1960.

Maybe it's just retro appeal, but the idea of little Billy collecting political buttons (and favoring Kennedy to Nixon-- is Bil Keane trying to tell us something) and trading them (aren't they handed out for free) is just silly to me. Posted by Hello

So, thumbs up to election-season Bil Keane, ca. 1960. We hardly knew ye.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Carbon-dating Blondie, a hypothesis

I have to admit, I don't read the comics in the newspaper. I, personally, have more of a binge-y personality, so I read a month's worth of a comic in one foul swoop.

I've been a little obsessed with the Blondie carbon-dating since Al mentioned that a few weeks ago, and I think I might have come to a conclusion. Or at least a postulate. A hypothesis, if you will.

For your consideration, the following Blondie strips (please note my own carbon-dating, they are all from the first week of February... those sure were the days...):

Posted by Hello

February must have been "Bring Blondie to Y2K Month" with all these new-fangled techno-gadgets shown. The Bumsteads have a flat-panel monitor, so it's got to be pretty recent, but since we don't see Cookie with an iPod and Alex's phone is the classic Motorola clam (and looking kind of hefty at that), it's got to be in that post-reality teevee/ pre-OC window of the 'aughts.

I think Blondie should be read as if D&B are your sprightly grandparents (if you don't have grandparents, the just sprightly 80 year olds). This is the only way not to get flummoxed at the inconsistencies with their attitude (note how Blondie is standing over Dag like a 1984 "Oooh... Computers!" advertisement) and dialogue and the addition of new-fangled technogadgets in their home. They still work because it keeps them entertained. The kids should be seen as grandkids.
Blondie got a lot of plastic surgery. No shame in her game! Remember, back in the day (the Depression) all she had going for her was her looks and the hope to snag a rich beau. She's got to keep it up.
And Dagwood... well, if he could just as easily be 35 or 55 or 75 the way he's drawn and acts. Seriously.

-- Because who calls his InBox an "email basket"? Your grandpa who used to work for IBM and likes to give dictation and say "Read that back to me, Betty..."
-- Because who enjoys getting email forwards? Your grandparents who are bored and like reminders that we know that they're not dead yet.
-- Because who gets antsy at a young kids' driving? Not his dad, but his grandpa because the grandpa isn't used to driving while on the phone.

Think about it.

That is all.
Thank you.

John on Zippy the Pinhead

Read it here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

(Co)sining Off -- temporarily.

I started my gimmick of rating the News & Observer comics about 6 weeks ago. And 6 weeks in, I have completed exactly one column (or 1/3) of the N&O comic strips. I'm not the greatest at staying at the task on hand, eh? It reminds me of my trig teacher from high school. He was always going off on tangents, and he was an excellent storyteller. So, we'd always try to get him to talk about his old college days or the crazy stuff he did when he was a kid. Those tangents were much more interesting than learning about sine, cosine, secant, tangent . . . oh, snap! Wait a minute! "Tangent" is a trig thing! So, his going off on tangents was actually sort of appropriate. Wow. It's taken me 15 years to figure that one out.

ANYWAY, Foxtrot is next. I like Foxtrot, and don't have much (yet) to say about it, so I think I will let it percolate while I take off to Baltimore, where I'll be kickin' it molar style with the dentists. Aw yeah! Not just any dentists . . . the research dentists! Where do you think they come up with those "1 out of every 3 dentists recommends . . ." commercials? Dental research, baby!

In the meantime, I've lined up a couple of guest bloggers for you. Not to fear! You can get your fix of crappy comics! A new perspective on these small strips that make me so crazy. Maybe even some different strips. Who knows? It will be fun to find out!

So, I will have some fun in Baltimore, play a little hooky from my conference when the Tar Heels play ball and when my friends come up from D.C. for a little bit of fun in the Inner Harbor. And I will enjoy checking the blog to see our guest bloggers' insightful thoughts!

Adios muchachos!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Now, if the Comics Only Had Title IX

Well, the good news is that the next handful of strips in the N&O are all pretty decent. The bad news is that they aren't very fun to write about. Ah well.

In other news, I will be out of town later this week, and may line up a guest blogger. I have someone in mind, but his computer may not be up to the task. Anyone interested? Email me: with a list of references, salary history, cover letter, and resume. No, don't do that, 'cause I ain't payin' no one! Anyway, I will catch up with my guest blogger, and we will see what happens. So, the blog will just be dormant after tomorrow and for the rest of the week or maybe not. I will be at the International Association of Dental Research General Session. Two words: Ya and Hoo. Also, Par and tay!

OK, Curtis is the next strip.

Creepy Clown rating: 2.5 Creepy Clowns (1 C.C. = awesome comic; 5 C.C. = it sucks).

Curtis is entirely inoffensive. It's your typical "family strip" with a cute little brother, a put-upon dad, a patient mother, a bitchy litte girl (a diva, really), and your typical "family strip problems" (sibling rivalry, difficulties with school, dad wanting to relax, kids wanting money, etc.)

The twist to Curtis is that the family is African-American. I think what really sets Curtis apart, though, isn't its characters' ethnicity, but their socio-economic status. The dad works at the DMV, the mom stays at home, and it looks as though they live in a not-great part of town. They seem to be the least affluent family on the funny pages. This is a good thing, I think. I think anything that makes the comic pages more accurately reflect life in America as it actually is is a good thing (and, you know, since we already have a Viking warrior, a lasagna loving cat, and some birds who work at the newspaper, the comics ARE already representive of America today).

So, yeah, affirmative action on the funny pages is a good thing. I'm glad someone allowed Curtis, Fast Track, and the Boondocks in. But even though I don't have a Scalia view of the funny pages, I don't have a Bader-Ginsburg view, either. Call me an O'Conner; I think the setting and backdrop of Curtis are great, but have to criticize:

Curtis is never really funny. It's never maddening in the "God how backwards can they be?!" way, nor is it ever maddening in the "those kids a so sweet it makes me sick" vein. No, it's just never truly funny. Clever, sometimes, I'll admit. Curtis seems like the perfect strip for the little kids reading the comic pages. I think kids will "get" the humor, but it's not so dumb that parents will want to punch a hole in the wall.

So, that's good, I guess, and really what the comics are for. Yeah for Curtis. Unoffensive and blandly unfunny, but at least providing some much needed diversity to our comic pages. And it's good for kids! It's sort of like Chris Rock at the Oscars.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Non Sequitur:
Creepy Clown rating: 1 Creepy Clown (1 C.C. = awesome comic; 5 C.C. = it sucks).

I love Non Sequitur. I think it, along with Bizarro, are the true decendants of Gary Larson's Far Side (at least they're the closest thing to it in the News & Observer). By that, I mean that they just show some funny stuff -- inherently absurd situations, or people taking things too literally. It's not The Far Side (and what is?), but it's the closest I get in the N&O. Incidentally, there's a comic not in the N&O that totally rocks my socks, and that is Tom the Dancing Bug. If you are not familiar with TTDB, get yourself over to that website right away! You won't regret it. (WAIT . . . come back! I mean AFTER you finish reading the thrilling and edifying thoughts I have here.) I'll put the link up again at the end of this post. Oh, great, right? That's what you're saying? You have to read my mindless pap AGAIN? OK, scroll to the end if you must.

Non Sequitur's not quite The Far Side. Primarily because it has some recurring characters, particularly bitchy little girl (but in a kick-ass way) Danae, and her family, including her pet horse Lucy. Also, Non Sequitur can be fairly political sometimes, in a way The Far Side never was. I happen to agree with NS's politics, but I think that makes its humor less inclusive than The Far Side's.

Anyway, I have one beef with Non Sequitur: prior to the creepy clown and the old timey tv test pattern, Non Sequitur published a strip that joins them in the "What the Hell?" Hall of Fame (induction ceremonies this summer, Pete Rose not invited). This was from the fall of 2002. I will describe:

It was a one panel strip. The setting was the foyer of a split level home. A man was walking in the front door (wearing a suit and carrying a brief case -- I assume he was coming home from work). His wife was coming down the steps into the foyer. There was a coffin in the foyer, and the man said, "I see you booked our vacation online."

????????????????????? eh? I did not understand it. I saved the strip and kept meaning to email the artist. But, I moved, started a new job, a whole bunch of stuff, and basically lost track of it.

I still sometimes ponder it and wonder what it all meant. Do vampires use the Internet to book vacations? I know Gnomes use Travelocity. Do vampires use Orbitz? Is the point that it's hard to do things on the Internet, and there are unintended consequences? Like she meant to get airline tickets, and ended up with a coffin? Does that make any sort of sense? No it does not. Did the guy hate his wife, and was he equating going on vacation with her to death? Then why make the big deal of booking the vacation online? I've tried to figure out wordplay as well -- punning on "coffin" on "vacation" on "Internet." No doing. I'll never figure it out, and it will remain one of the unanswered mysteries of my life (along with why I once thought it a good idea to date a guy whose favorite movie was The Crow, becuase he "enjoyed themes of revenge.").

So that's it for Non Sequitur. Not a whole lot of fun to write about a comic you actually enjoy.

Don't forget: Tom the Dancing Bug. WARNING: If you are Republican and/or conservative and don't have a good sense of humor about it, don't go over there. Otherwise, trust me. This is laugh outloud, by yourelf, in your cubicle, make your co-workers thing you are crazy, funny.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

When Big Al Met Drabble

I promised myself one more Drabble, and in the interest of fairness, here's today's:

Well, I must say that I totally do this! I sometimes get really excited to have the house to myself (typically on one of my husband's reserve weekends). Usually, it's so I can turn up some music and sort of dance around all dorkily. Also, to watch cheesy "chick flicks" that my husband hates. Having the house alone for the weekend is the only reason I've gotten to watch such fine fare as 13 Going on 30 and Kate & Leopold.

Sometimes, I go the opposite route. See, my husband's pretty much of a goody too shoes when it comes to eating. He introduced tofu to my diet, let's put it that way. So, if he's gone, I, like Norm Drabble (shudder), can sit on the couch, drink beer, watch sports, and eat junky crap (chicken wings, for instance, are not a part of my husband's diet).

Yes, paradoxically, my options for spending the weekend home alone tend to be a) Meg Ryan movie marathon with ice cream, chocolates, and pjs or b) baseball marathon, tending to my fantasy team, eating chicken wings and drinking beer. I'd say I need to discover a middle ground, but "middle ground" is for the non-home alone times.

So, if this were most any other strip, I might have had a little chuckle of recognition. Instead, it's Drabble, so . . . to be less like Norm Drabble, I need more Meg Ryan in my home alone weekends and less Skip Caray. Ah well.

It pains me to say that a Drabble could be "OK," but "even a broken clock is right twice a day." Also, "even a blind pig finds an acorn every once and awhile." (I never got that one -- do sighted pigs find acorns all the time? Do pigs eat acorns?). I will try to "shape up or ship out," and "get with . . . " ACH! Stop me! B.C. has got its claws in me!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A Tired Cliche -- Music to My Ears

It's a sad day. Tonight is the last-ever NYPD Blue. Yes, it is my favorite TV show. Strange but true. I've mentioned that I'm stuck in the '90s, right? Yes.

Also, I'd like to rail on Drabble for a little longer, but instead have to point out today's B.C.

The punchline is "if it ain't Baroque - don't fix it." BWAH HA HA HA! Just take any random pun/cliche and you have a comic strip! Seriously, "if it ain't Baroque - don't fix it." That's it -- that's the only joke. Tomorrow, it will be "raining cats and dogs." HA HA HA.

How original is this? A Google search for the phrase "if it ain't baroque don't fix it" yields 845 results. There are 357 results for "If it's not baroque don't fix it," and 59 results for "if it isn't baroque don't fix it." Here, it's called a bad joke (scroll about midway down the screen). That's a page about Handel violin sonatas, so the author's not what you'd call a "humor expert," but, yeah, not funny. Also, when you search those terms and the word "joke" there are a lot of hits for "Pre-Classical conservatism is the school of thought that fostered the idea if it ain't baroque dont' fix it." I think that may be funny if you know what "pre-classical conservatism" is, but I don't know pre-classical conservatism "from Adam." HA HA HA

Gah! I can't believe you can just do that and call it "funny." I think I first heard this particular bon mot on some Saturday morning cartoon. Sounds like a Bugs Bunny special. I also think it was spoken by the wonderful Lumiere, the talking candlestick (voiced by the late, great Jerry Orbach) in Beauty and the Beast. ("We'll prepare and serve with flair a culinary caberet! Be our guest! Be our guest . . ." ahem . . .) As I was saying, as lame as this joke is in any context, at least in those instances it was only one miniscule part of a masterful whole. Today's B.C.? That's all there is. Lame. Of course, you know they say that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

At least the guy who did the asking has a black cloud of irritation over his head. I guess he wasn't expecting such a lame answer. Why did he ask, then? Really, can you have a business or any sort of thing specializing in baroque and not make that joke? No, you cannot. Still, it makes me "madder than a wet hen."

Of course, if we weren't trotting out this lame wordplay, kids today would never be exposed to it. I don't consider that a huge loss, but I suppose at one time, I thought it was pretty clever. I don't think B.C. needs to take on this responsibility, however. I think kids still probably watch Beauty and the Beast on video. Also, at some point in their schooling, they'll have to learn about the different styles -- Baroque, Roccoco, Queen Anne, etc. (those are the only ones I know) -- and I bet they'll have "if it ain't baroque, don't fix it" as the heading of at least one textbook or handout's Baroque section. Although, "you can't judge a book by its cover," as I'm sure you know.

Well, I know I overanalyze these things, and I hate that I may not "see the forest for the trees," but I don't want to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." Unfortunately, when "push comes to shove," this sort of thing really "gets my goat." So, I'm going to "get out while the gettin's good," but don't forget, "He who laughs last laughs best."