Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Interesting Paul Krugman piece

Read it in The New York Times or just read it here:

Jonathan Chait and Robert Waldmann, in slightly different ways, highlight a crucial dynamic in American political debate: the extent to which public figures are punished for actually knowing what they’re talking about.

It goes like this: Person A says “Black is white” — perhaps out of ignorance, although more often out of a deliberate effort to obfuscate. Person B says, “No, black isn’t white — here are the facts.”

And Person B is considered to have lost the exchange — you see, he came across as arrogant and condescending.

I had, I have to admit, hoped that the nation’s experience with George W. Bush — who got within hanging-chad distance of the White House precisely because Al Gore was punished for actually knowing stuff — would have cured our discourse of this malady. But no. Why not?

Chait professes himself puzzled by the right’s intellectual insecurity. Me, not so much. Here’s how I see it: in our current political culture, the background noise is overwhelmingly one of conservative platitudes. People who have strong feelings about politics but are intellectually incurious tend to pick up those platitudes, and repeat them in the belief that this makes them sound smart. (Ezra Klein once described Dick Armey thus: “He’s like a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like.”)

Inevitably, then, such people react with rage when they’re shown up on their facts or basic logic — it’s an attack on their sense of self-worth.

The truly sad thing, though, is the way much news reporting goes along with the condescension meme. That’s Waldmann’s point. You really, really might have expected that the Bush experience would give reporters pause — that they might at least ask themselves, “Isn’t it my job to ask whether a politician is right, as opposed to how he comes across?”

But NOOOO! [/Belushi]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy birthday, Ralph Stanley!

Ralph's 86 today.

Don't know how I missed it at the time, but back in '08 he endorsed Obama. Good man.

New toon for KMUW

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cartoon cars

So it turns out there's this dude in California (where else?) who turned a bunch of old amusement park bumper cars into street-legal cars. I always loved the way bumper cars looked -- just like cartoon cars. So these are right up my alley.

Here's the copy from a virus email a friend sent me about them:

Yes, these little beasties are street legal. They run on either Kawasaki or Honda motorcycle engines and co-opt vintage bumper car bodies into the most awesome form of mini-car we've seen in too long.

There's seven of these little monsters floating around California, and they're all the creation of one man, Tom Wright, a builder on the outskirts of San Diego who figured the leftovers of the Long Beach Pike amusement park needed a more dignified end than the trash heap. They were originally powered by Harley motors but they rattled like hell and Tom replaced them with Honda or Kawasaki 750's. A couple have been measured as capable of 160 MPH, which is terrifyingly fast in machines with such a short wheelbase.

Olympic metaphors forever!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I've always loved the illustration of William Joyce, known for such children's books as "George Shrinks" and "Santa Calls." His style is slightly nostalgic and reminiscent of an earlier era. It's interesting to compare his work with this 1930s or 40s children's coloring book illustration signed by "The Baileys."

That's Joyce on the left and the Baileys on the right. I haven't been able to uncover anything about The Baileys. The copyright page was missing from the well-used coloring book. But Joyce seemed to be somewhat influenced by their style, or at least by their era's style. It's fun to look at the similarities.

I ripped off the coloring book cover for our poster below. My apologies to the Baileys, whoever they were.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact it is the third Saturday of the month once more!

I love old children's illustrations and for years have collected such things from estate sales. This was the cover on a coloring book that looks to be from the 1930s. Beautiful. Reminds me of a song we'll have to do this week: Pig in a Pen. A sweet love song in honor of Valentines Day!

Come out if you can. The food's good at the Watermark Cafe. Plus there's books. And banjos!

Roundball fever hits my house

This was my commentary on KMUW back on February 5:

I never thought I’d say this, but, man! I’m really into basketball these days! Generally I barely pay attention to it. But a couple of things happened recently that turned me around.

First, a generous friend gave my wife and me tickets to a Shocker game a few weeks ago. So we gingerly waded into the roiling, churning, chanting and cheering throngs of happy Shocker fans at Koch Arena. I had no idea games were like that! The energy was contagious. The team played skillfully. And before you can say Dr. James Naismith, I was converted. Though I must shamefully admit that we had to furtively consult Wikipedia at one point just to find out if a game was divided up into halves, quarters or innings. (Please don’t tell anyone. I’m still embarrassed about that.)

The second thing that happened to change my attitude is that all three of Kansas’ division 1 teams are having great seasons at the same time. So I find myself doing bizarre things like watching basketball games on television when I would normally be watching whatever’s on Turner Classic Movies. Or playing my banjo. My gosh. This sport is eating into my banjo time! I have truly lost it.

Still, this is exactly what basketball was invented for. When James Naismith nailed up those peach baskets and started having his PE students shoot balls into them back in 1891 up at Springfield College in Massachusetts, it was to keep people occupied and distracted from the harsh New England winters.

We know a thing or two about harsh winters here in good old Kansas. We’re in the middle of a doozy. But thankfully, we’re distracted by our Kansas teams having a doozy of a basketball season.

So, though it may seem blasphemous to some of you highly partisan team fans, I’ll say it anyway:

Go Hawks! AND go Cats! AND most of all, go Shocks!

For KMUW, I’m Richard Crowson.

School consolidation: Snowball in hell

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monday morning snow

Karen, my wife, took this shot in our backyard on Monday morning. It was a beautiful snow.

I was up early, as usual, around 6:00 or so. Everything was still. The snowfall had ceased. A thick white blanket had hushed the morning. White sky. White ground. White trees.

Being the only one awake to witness the stillness of such mornings makes it seem as if you and the silence are merging somehow. The mental barriers that often seperate us from the reverence of nature's essence dissolve. There's a flowing together of the quiet and peaceful dignity all around with the unspoken and unmanifested part of one's self. Those are precious times to me. That's when I feel the "peace that surpasses all understanding" most fully, to get biblical about it.

Sometime around 7:30 I began to see some falling snow beneath the maple in our backyard. I thought at first that a squirrel had scurried over a branch and knocked the snow off. Then I saw more falling from another tree. Gradually an almost rhythmic pattern was observable as some condition of the rising temperature combined with a very fine fall of sleet to make the fragile accumulations on the branches surrender to gravity and turn loose their delicate hold. The result was a morning of hundreds of little snowfalls from hundreds of little and large limbs.

It was almost a magical vision. Except that there was no magic involved. Just the flow of nature's laws dancing an ancient dance. A timeless dance really. A ballet to the music of stillness.

Oliphant on Obama and his critics

Beautiful drawing. Perfect metaphor.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My favorite target

What would I do without the Kansas Legislature to kick around? What would the Kansas Legislature do without public ed to kick around?

More Richard Thompson genius-ness

It's been a while since I've posted a Richard Thompson toon here. So here's a recent beauty. Nobody can touch his perfect marriage of drawing style to killer wit. Does that make sense? I don't know. I get real goofy on the subject of Richard Thompson.

Visit his blog and you'll see why.

Do you not love that dog in the second panel???

Dogs know

This is another drawing from "Guardians of Being," a little book which matches the words of Eckhart Tolle to the cartoons of Patrick McDonnell, and his strip "Mutts."

Raisin em kids ryatt!

Saw this cool vid on the Bluegrass Blog.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Video shows every violent act in the 2010 Superbowl ads

I'm as guilty as anyone else of laughing at some of these ads. This vid brings home just how much violence there is in them. It's advertisers' bread and butter. Because we eat it up.

Wouldn't it be great if we became sensitized to the awfulness of such acts?

Thanks to whoever went to the trouble of making this eye-opening video.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guess I hacked off a few good folks once again

This toon prompted this letter in The Eagle:

O'Reilly not hater

I was once again annoyed by editorial cartoonist Richard Crowson's depiction of Fox News host Bill O'Reilly as a "hate talker" (Jan. 31 Opinion). Just because O'Reilly and other Fox News hosts have a different view from other media doesn't make them haters.
O'Reilly is not a hater, though at times he does bloviate. He regularly invites opposing views and debates them openly. In his attempt to take the "spin" out of the discussion, he may seem to be unfair based on well-edited sound bites. But anyone who listens to his entire point can't help but be impressed by his desire to weed through the political rhetoric and get to the root meaning of the topic. His ratings are pretty solid proof that the public has a craving for commonsense discussions that usually have both sides represented.
O'Reilly is filling a need that could also be filled by the mainstream media if they could return to the unbiased age of such icons as Walter Cronkite. After all, one of the jobs of the media is to keep our government honest, isn't it? Without an unbiased watchdog, there is the potential for the government to run rabid with no accountability.

And this anonymous Opinion Line caller:

The only thing comical about Richard Crowson's Sunday editorial cartoon was how ridiculous it was. To imply that Bill O'Reilly was somehow complicit in the killing of George Tiller was an absolute joke.

Then there was this one:

I am surprised The Eagle ran the Crowson cartoon. It was spot-on, but I bet you get complaints for going after the biggest spin master on TV.

Tell it to the party of no

From a terrific piece on Ayn Rand in Slate:

She said the United States should be a "democracy of superiors only," with superiority defined by being rich. Well, we got it. As the health care crisis has shown, today, the rich have the real power: The vote that matters is expressed with a checkbook and a lobbyist. We get to vote only for the candidates they have pre-funded and receive the legislation they have preapproved. It's useful—if daunting—to know that there is a substantial slice of the American public who believe this is not a problem to be put right, but morally admirable.

13-year-old Mei-chan in Kyoto plays amazing banjo

This is an old New Grass Revival tune, I Will Fly Away, that I've always loved. Mei-chan is all over it. Courtney Johnson would've been proud. (You don't know who Courtney Johnson was??? Go here.)

Oliphant nailing it again, as usual

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes' artist Bill Watterson in rare interview

Most everyone loved Calvin and Hobbes, me included. Here's an interview with its "seclusive" creator at the Cleveland Plain Dealer website by John Campanelli.

Or you can just read it copied below:

With almost 15 years of separation and reflection, what do you think it was about "Calvin and Hobbes" that went beyond just capturing readers' attention, but their hearts as well?
The only part I understand is what went into the creation of the strip. What readers take away from it is up to them. Once the strip is published, readers bring their own experiences to it, and the work takes on a life of its own. Everyone responds differently to different parts.
I just tried to write honestly, and I tried to make this little world fun to look at, so people would take the time to read it. That was the full extent of my concern. You mix a bunch of ingredients, and once in a great while, chemistry happens. I can't explain why the strip caught on the way it did, and I don't think I could ever duplicate it. A lot of things have to go right all at once.
What are your thoughts about the legacy of your strip?
Well, it's not a subject that keeps me up at night. Readers will always decide if the work is meaningful and relevant to them, and I can live with whatever conclusion they come to. Again, my part in all this largely ended as the ink dried.
Readers became friends with your characters, so understandably, they grieved -- and are still grieving -- when the strip ended. What would you like to tell them?
This isn't as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of 10 years, I'd said pretty much everything I had come there to say.
It's always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now "grieving" for "Calvin and Hobbes" would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them.
I think some of the reason "Calvin and Hobbes" still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it.
I've never regretted stopping when I did.
Because your work touched so many people, fans feel a connection to you, like they know you. They want more of your work, more Calvin, another strip, anything. It really is a sort of rock star/fan relationship. Because of your aversion to attention, how do you deal with that even today? And how do you deal with knowing that it's going to follow you for the rest of your days?
Ah, the life of a newspaper cartoonist -- how I miss the groupies, drugs and trashed hotel rooms!
But since my "rock star" days, the public attention has faded a lot. In Pop Culture Time, the 1990s were eons ago. There are occasional flare-ups of weirdness, but mostly I just go about my quiet life and do my best to ignore the rest. I'm proud of the strip, enormously grateful for its success, and truly flattered that people still read it, but I wrote "Calvin and Hobbes" in my 30s, and I'm many miles from there.
An artwork can stay frozen in time, but I stumble through the years like everyone else. I think the deeper fans understand that, and are willing to give me some room to go on with my life.
How soon after the U.S. Postal Service issues the Calvin stamp will you send a letter with one on the envelope?
Immediately. I'm going to get in my horse and buggy and snail-mail a check for my newspaper subscription.
How do you want people to remember that 6-year-old and his tiger?
I vote for "Calvin and Hobbes, Eighth Wonder of the World."