Thursday, September 29, 2005

Absorbing Further Nuance

Let's check in on Gil Thorpe and the gang, shall we?

Pardon me that I don't know who these folks are (don't follow Gil closely enough to know), but I do know who Brick House is! He's #53! Here's a picture:

Brick House is the completely dweeby guy who is little, wears thick glasses, and says dorky things like, "Stellar, sir!" and "Absorb further nuance." And, do you get the humor? That a guy named Brick House would be a total nerd? See, you'd expect "Brick House" to be a huge tough dude, and you'd expect someone who was such a geek to be named something like, I don't know . . . Leonard. Leo-NERD! Get it? HA HA HA. I crack myself up.

LESSON: Small, smart, articulate, nearsighted guys should NOT play football (or any sport for that matter). Jocks and other cool guys should make fun of them and/or beat them up.

But, Let's return to today's strip, because there are more lessons to be learned! How much time has elapsed between Panel 2 and Panel 3? Is the boll weevil statue in Enterprise, Alabama related to Brick House's presence on the football team? Does it have anything to do with a team going 0-9? Does it have anything to do with anything? Is this part of the Brick House conversation of Panel 1 and 2, or is it something else entirely?

And let me praise Gil Thorpe just for once. The message on the chalkboard, "U.S. Geography" seems appropos to the topic at hand (unlike some other cryptic chalkboard messages). Of course, that's only true if the topic at hand is weird landmarks in the U.S., not Brick House. For those interested, as the man says, there is truly a statue of a boll weevil in Enterprise, AL. It's even weirder than you may imagine, as it's not just a boll weevil, but a classically dressed (i.e., Greek or Roman) woman holding the gigantic boll weevil over her head. And, it's prominently featured on the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce website. It's really kind of awesome, the boll weevil statue is.

But, message to Gil Thorpe: if I wanted to learn about insane American roadside attractions, I'd read Zippy the Pinhead, thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I'll Get You My Pretty!

It just so happens, I think Becky from Funky Winkerbean is attractive. Well, as attractive as I, a real-live human heterosexual female, can find a one-armed comic strip woman. She's only got one arm, but she's not nearly the most bizarrely proportioned woman in the comics (Blondie, I'm talkin' to you). So, yeah, she's attractive. And yet, yesterday, oddly, she looked like the Wicked Witch of the West.


AIEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Except, Becky's face isn't green. So, I think it would be more accurate to say she looks like Miss Gulch. That would be the woman Toto bit, so she was taking him away to the sheriff! Then, she got sucked up in the cyclone . . . never to be heard from again.

In Becky's case, I think it's just the eyebrows that make her so Margaret Hamilton-esque.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jack + Rose = Forever

The comics are sending messages through the school chalkboards again:


This time, Shoe is telling us that SOMETHING (it's obscured) minus BA equals Leo squared. Leo Squared! Leo DiCaprio???? Cool! Leo is HOTTT!! I *heart* Leo! HEE. I am a 14 year old girl. From 1998. LEO! Call me.

What is this BA and what do you subtract it from to get LEO squared?

And you should also note that while you have the "underline," which in a summed math problem connotates "equals," you also have the equal sign under the underline. Essentially this says [Obscured] minus BA = EQUALS LEO squared. Whatever.

Oh, also there's: "CAT." Not sure if that's part of the math lesson, or a remnant from a spelling lesson. But, if you are in a class where you are learning such difficult math problems that subtracting BA somehow equals LEO squared, your spelling lessons should be more difficult than C-A-T.

Then again, Leo the Lion is technically a C-A-T, and they are birds in a school house (wearing backwards baseball caps -- bird elementary school is lax on the discipline); it's entirely possible that bird school is different than human school.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tears of a Slob


Chip will be going home to show the TRUE answer to what "makes a happy home." Clearly, he was just using the Thurstons to show what's NOT a happy home.

What's not a happy home? One in disrepair. One with toilet on the front lawn, and . . . sausage links strewn about the kitchen. One with a big freaky, clown picture in the living room. What is it with the clowns, anyway?

Well, the Thurstons are obviously big, huge, redneck slobs, right? But I resent the implication that a messy home = an unhappy one. OK, so the Thurstons are a little over the top slobby, but you KNOW Lois Flagston is one of those with the spotless home despite the presence of 4 children and a husband who doesn't seem to do much around the house. Is that what we should be striving for? Will that make us happy? Perfection?

And, aren't the Thurstons Hi and Lois's NEIGHBORS??? Do they not have a neighborhood association? We don't, but I can guarantee you that if someone around here put a washing machine AND toilet on the front lawn, boarded up a window, and left other windows unrepaired . . . well I have no idea what would happen and don't want to find out.

Isn't Lois a real estate agent? Does she freak out over the nose dive her own property is taking since they live next to such unmitigated slobs?

And does Chip have to wear a beret an neckerchief to show that he is an auteur? Oui!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

All Apologies

Folks, the funniest thing I've seen in the paper in a long time was in today's "Letters to the Editor" section. It had nothing to do with the comics, and I regret sullying my blog with non-comics posts, but . . . oh my, it was too good to pass up.

First some background, in a letter to the editor on Sept. 17, J. Russell Capps a N.C. state representative, wrote that the hurricanes devastating the Gulf Coast states could at least partially be attributed to those state's gambling industries -- specifically evidenced by the devastation of the casinos. Additionally, Florida's recent hurricane woes can be chalked up, in part, to that state's lottery. Despite two very active hurricane years, North Carolina has been relatively spared -- yes, we've had some hits, but nothing particularly bad. Rep. Capps fears that our recent passage of a lottery will bring this streak of hurricane-free good luck to an end, as God punishes the state for state-sponsored gambling.

Needless to say, the letter has resulted in a flurry of letters from people mocking or supporting Rep. Capps. PERSONAL NOTE/OPINION: I disagree with Rep. Capps and his supporters - I do not feel God is punishing the people of the Gulf Coast because their states have legalized gambling. But, I also disagree with the writers who dismiss God's influence out of hand. It is an interesting science vs. theological debate which would be inappropriate here.

Regardless, the best letter appeared today. IT MUST BE READ. The first few paragraphs contain some theological/scriptural lessons on God's wrath. This is pretty standard fare for the folks writing in to justify God's actions in the Gulf. But, you must keep reading until the end:

++++++++++++++++++++

Thanks to The N&O for allowing everyone to see the disdain for the intervention of God in the lives of all of us through all these natural disasters we have been experiencing. At least I can appreciate what God is doing and now understand why He is going to have to destroy this nation just like He had to destroy the whole world with a flood in Noah's time.

Please read Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. If we sin, God sends curses. If we do not sin, God sends blessings. That's a simple formula for success and it works!


And please don't say one ought to be serving, instead of pointing out our sins. Our sins are the cause of all of our problems. We need to get to the cause of these hurricanes and work on how we as a nation can be more righteous instead of just dealing with the effects after they hit.


Now, Martha asked Christ to have Mary come help her in serving. What was Christ's reply?

"Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

In all these national disasters, God is indirectly talking to us and the clear message is that we need to quit smoking!

May we all not get too busy serving others and take time to listen and obey before it is too late.
Don Wheatley
Greenville

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

"The clear message is that we need to quit smoking!" Ehhhhhhh? Really? How is that clear? I did just look up Mr. Wheatley's referenced Leviticus and Deuteronomy chapters. And didn't quite make the smoking connection. What in the world is he talking about??????

And is he saying that we SHOULDN'T be serving others? Or should be only serve others after we are no longer sinners? Who among us isn't a sinner? So, there should be no one serving others? What if we serve others by, say, operating a smoking cessation program? Hmmmmm. . .

I'm sorry this isn't comics related, and we'll get back to them next post. I could go on and on and on about Mr. Wheatley's letter, but, I'll let it stand.

TO ALL YOU SMOKERS OUT THERE: STOP SMOKING!!!!!! I WANT TO LIVE, AND DON'T WANT ANY OF YOU CRAZY-ASS NICOTINE FREAKS BRINGING THE WRATH OF GOD DOWN ON ME AND MY FELLOW CLEAN-LUNGERS.

That is all.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Talleyrand!




So, I know (and have known for awhile now) that Garfield isn't anatomically correct, strictly speaking. For instance, his walking around on his back legs. Now, that's just not something that cats do (at least, mine don't). So, it's not like I depend on this strip for scientifically accurate clues about feline anatomy. Still, Garfield in Panel 3 is off-the-scale weird, and quite frankly, is CREEPING ME OUT. He's got all these sharp little teeth poking out.

Do cats have sharp teeth? Let me check my forearm. Yep, I still have the little bite mark from trying to "play" with the cat's green mouse. But do they have a mouthful of equally sized, equally shaped teeth? No. That's just creepy. And I know his "fangs bared" smile is in anticipation of eating the chickens that apparently inhabit this hypothetical planet, but still . . . CREEEEEEE-EEEEEEEPY. And why isn't Jon freaked out? His cat is SCARY.

OK, here's another nitpick:


That's some strange math Ditto is learning. Check out the blackboard. 2+2=???? 4! But don't you think Ditto et al are a bit too old to be learning simple addition? On the other hand, the square root of xyz? Well, it's not even part of a formula, so how are they supposed to figure it out? Aren't they a bit young to be learning square roots? Much less algebraic square roots? This is just the artist putting some "math stuff" on the board to convince us this is a school. But, see, I was sold by the teacher, the other students at the desks, the globe, etc. Don't try to slip your coded "math messages" by me, Mr. Browne!

Unless they're learning about the XYZ Affair. You know, elementary school kids often learn about late 18th Century Franco-American diplomacy. Right? No? I think it's as likely as learning algebraic square roots.

Nice to see Ditto's still wearing those clodhoppers, though. So popular with the little kids these days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold



*Sigh* Yeah, these are the fact of life: men play golf, women shop.

Ya take the golf, you take the mall, you take them both, and that is all - the facts of life. There's a time ya gotta go and show you're growing [but not in the weight dept, if you're a woman], now ya know about the facts of life. When the world never seems to be livin' up to your dreams, [throw a big party and invite all your friends], suddenly you're finding out the facts of life are all about you [and your 1930's 'do].

Anyhow, these are the immutable laws of our gender, and they cannot be altered. Don't muddle my comics-generated worldview with such words as "Annika Sorenstam" or "metrosexuals."

Look, people, I warned you about these facts a long time ago.

What else to say? Well, I thought they were on a cruise, but panel 1 looks like a hotel lobby. Well, a hotel lobby set in an ice skating rink. The floors are really shiny! And the carpet looks like the edge of the Presidential seal. Like the carpet I've seen in the Oval Office (in movies, yo). So, they could also be in the Oval Office. On ice. Is not Condoleeza Rice a figure skater? Yes. It's in there, if you're willing to read the whole thing. You will also learn that she listens to Led Zeppelin while working out . . . and she's buying a stairway to heaven. (Because women like to shop, you know. Even Secretaries of State.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Billy and the Duke of Flatbush


Well, OK, Billy. So . . . this sign is for the benefit of . . . the garden? Like, this is supposed to cheer up the now-fallow garden? Or is this sign for the benefit of other people? Like, this is supposed to cheer up the people who have grown accustomed to enjoying Billy's fresh summer salads? Why is he picketing in the house? Shouldn't he be outside where he can provide the full supporting effect to who or whatever the heck it is he is supposed to be supporting and cheering on?

As for the sign, well, technically, "'til" is NOT the contraction for until. "Till" is actually the correct form, evolving etymologically BEFORE until. So, it's either till or until; 'til is incorrect (although gaining acceptance). Don't believe me? Well, read here. Still, those kids say the darndest things, as you well know, so I find Billy's misuse amusing -- a word that only the most esoteric, nitpicky grammarians among us will find objectionable.

And, of course, "Wait till next year" is the baseball rallying cry of also-rans everywhere. Now most often used by Cubs fans, it's an age old saying. Billy could have been a Red Sox fan, but since this is the crazily anachronistic Family Circus, I'm pegging Billy and the rest of them as long suffering Brooklyn Dodgers fans. Dem Bums. Well, Billy, have no fear. Soon enough, 1955 will arrive, and you will no longer have to wait till next year. Then, they'll move to Los Angeles. The joy of finally getting what you want . . . only to have it ripped away from you and moved across the country. Life is full of victory and defeat. Learn to get over it, kid.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Baby Killer! No. . . Self Killer!


I am not a long-time Funky Winkerbean follower, so I have to learn some of the characters as I go along. For instance, this "Susan Smith" person. To Les, she is obviously a blast from the past. Are we, the readers, supposed to also remember Susan Smith? Let me look into this. Ah yes, I see:

"Batiuk continued to stretch the boundaries of comic strips in 1995, when he created a special series in which Susan Smith, an A-plus student at Westview High, discovers that her love for teacher Les Moore is unrequited. Despondent, Susan attempts suicide."

ZOIKS!

I thought Susan Smith was the woman who drowned her kids in her minivan, then blamed it on a black guy. Now I wonder about other returning Funky Winkerbeaners. Is there an Andrea Yates?

Now she will be student teaching with him. Hmmm . . . perhaps the people doing the student-teaching assigning were as ignorant as I. Now really, this is nothing more than plot contrivance. It seems to me to be very bad policy to have a student teacher partnered with a teacher she once had a crush on. Even worse if said crush led her to attempt suicide.

What was her attempted method? Please fill me in, so I can be on the look out.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Form Of . . . A Suburban Mom!



Lois Flagston has some kick ass powers. First, she is sitting in an uncomfortable looking chair, in the middle of the room, reading her book. This was a strange place to be sitting, so, in the time it takes Hi to come in, sit down, pick up the paper, and Chip to come in with his comment, Lois has teleported to the next room, and is now sitting behind the linen covered table, sans book. Not bad.

Lest you think she doesn't actually have teleportation powers, consider her purpose in the strip. Yes, she sets up the joke, but her presence isn't necessary to support the punchline. Imagine the last panel without Lois. Does it change the "joke" at all? No, it does not. Clearly, the artist has moved her from one room to the other PURELY to show us her magical powers.

Her powers do not extend to making sure her husband has a non-lame haircut.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Celebrating Onomatopoeia

Surprisingly (to me, at least) today's (9/11/05) comics did NOT dwell on the 9/11 anniversary. In fact, only B.C. made mention of today's tragic anniversary. So, while I thought that would be a sure "theme" to today's post, we here will celebrate the onomatopoeia. Enjoy:

If you are musically inclined, you can set this to the tune of the "Cell Block Tango," from the muscial Chicago:

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Delayed Entry

This was supposed to be Monday's post, but my computer ate it, and this is my first chance to try to re-post. Sorry for the delay!

The winner of "Today's Best Strip" goes to Curtis:


The whole comic crossover thing with the Blondie anniversary was . . . well, strange. It just doesn't fit in my mind that Hagar would go to a party with Cathy, you know? But, this one was funny. The barbershop guys invited to the party? Getting lost and showing up at Mary Worth's? Earl putting the moves on her? The cops showing up post haste? Heh heh heh. And, a not-too-thinly veiled comment on the quality of policing in Curtis' neighborhood vice Mary Worth's. Read into it what you will.

Plus, there's Curtis' googly eyed astonishment at the situation, and I suppose that's Earl finishing his comments with a hiccup. If he's drunk, he might DEFINITELY want to steer clear of Ms. Mary Worth, considering her recent escapades with Rita.

Meanwhile, the News & Observer continues with its effort to brand the Keanes as Communists (also available here):

Matt in Raleigh believes Family Circus is pointless, banal, devoid of meaning.

Frank from Cary disagrees, rebutting: "Family Circus is ... a children's cartoon, for gosh sakes. It is not meant to be philosophically pored (pun intended) over at the local watering hole on Friday evening. Get a life!"

As for us, we're sticking by our assertion that while the comic may seem pointless, banal and devoid of meaning on the surface, creator Bil Keane is in fact sending subversive messages extolling a one-for-all, all-for-one way of life.

Yep, Bil Keane, creator of what is viewed by the gullible masses as the comic strip of quintessential "American" values, is indeed a pinko. Billy, Jeffy, P.J., Barfy, the little girl ( whatever the heck her name is) are all part of Keane's devious plot to have us give up our SUVs and take mass transportation!

Evidence from recent panels:

Saturday, Aug. 27: A downtrodden Billy heads to bed as he remarks: "Nothing new happened today. It was like a rerun."

Obviously, Keane is commenting on the oppressive nature of capitalist society. When joy is found only in individual achievement, the rewards are often hollow, without merit, leaving one to trundle off to bed weary, defeated. "Comrade" Billy, on the other hand, might instead be bouncing off to bed (in a collective, with 12 other kids in the room) pronouncing, "Another fulfilling 16-hour day spent toiling for the good of the whole."

Not funny, true. But why start?

Monday, Aug. 29: P.J. is planted in front of the TV (a not-so-veiled attack on indulgent western life). Mom asks: "Were you planning to watch TV all day?" To which P.J. replies: "No Mommy. Just till you make me stop."

Message? Control by the state (Mommy) is good. It saves us (P.J.) from our own wanton and unproductive ways (TV).

Shrewd, Comrade Keane. Shrewd.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Happy Anniversary Bumsteads



Well, it's finally here, and as an obviously big moment in comics history, I suppose it can't pass without comment. So, Happy Anniversary Dagwood and Blondie! This blog has spent a good bit of time harping on this strip, and I fear the 75 years owes much more to the inertia and entrenched conservatism of the funny pages than it does to the genius and humor in this strip. Let's face it -- it's stuck in some sort of 1950s/2000s time warp, nothing ever happens, and I can't recall a funny strip. That said, it IS a part of the American cultural psyche -- at least the Dagwood sandwich is.

What to note about this particular anniversary panel?

-- I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out if anyone from the major comic pantheon had been snubbed. It took me a good while to find Cathy, but there's the noseless wonder, right under the Born Loser (who's right under Cookie's elbow). Who's missing? Well, there are no Doonesbury folks, and no Funky Winkerbeaners, either. As political real-world type strips, their absence makes sense. But no one from the Broom Hilda gang? THAT, my friends, is a snub.

-- Why did Elly and John Patterson and Sarge and Beetle get the only speaking lines?

-- Why is Beetle's formal uniform something last seen in Patton's era?

-- Of all the Foxtrots to attend the party, why is it Peter?

-- Are Hi and Lois drunk?

-- Isn't Lois Beetle's sister? I hope they get a chance to catch up.

-- Am I the only one creeped out by how much Cookie and Alexander look like Blondie and Dagwood? Are they clones?