Monday, August 1, 2011

My, my, how things have changed

The great Rollin Kirby, cartoonist for the New York World drew this during the build-up to WWI.

Things are a bit different now.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Charles Millbern

One of the perks of having the small amount of local notoriety that I may have, is that fascinating people sometimes approach me with cartoon-related stories to share. Over the years I've been the fortunate recipient of several such people's attention and it's always a rewarding experience.

So it was that a fellow member of my church, Calvary United Methodist, came up to me a few weeks back with a keepsake book she had put together of her father's cartoon work. She was Pam Malone and her father was Charles Millbern. Charles passed away at the age of 86 this past January. This is from his obituary:

Charles started his career as a printing pressman before becoming a commercial artist for Western Lithograph & McCormick-Armstrong. He was a very talented cartoonist, drawing cartoons for the Army Times during WWII. He later drew editorial, business, & sports illustrations for the Wichita World & Wichita Eagle-Beacon. Charles proudly served in the US Army during WWII in the European Theatre & fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

The book which Pam has generously loaned me was a treasure trove of Charles' cartoons. They are terrific and I asked her if I could share them here on the blog. So with her permission, take a little trip back into the Wichita of the late 1950s and early 1960s through the eyes of the talented Charles Millbern:

Ah, summer!

Last week's KMUW commentary below, or listen here.

All the talk lately about the Rapture that didn’t happen has put me in the mood to remember a rapture that I used to experience repeatedly: The last day of school before summer break. I remember how delicious that day was. Going to school on that day was a hollow formality. Mostly, we just picked up our report cards, fidgeted our sticky legs in our wooden desks for a few moments, and popped out of that school like tightly wound little springs—all joy and expectation.

The dusty path that my canvas tennis shoes bounced me along led directly to three months of homemade bows and arrows, Tarzan yells, model cars, and St. Louis Cardinal baseball games through a scratchy-sounding plastic Sears Silvertone transistor radio. Throw in a couple of slices of watermelon and a sweating aluminum pitcher filled with homemade icy lemonade, and you’ve got something very much like the Rapture. I was ejected from the earthly realm of homework sorrows and six-week test dread, and plopped into a land of milk and honey—or, make that Milk Duds and Bit O’ Honey.

But I also remember my friend Mike. Mike was more subdued about the end of school than some of us. I found out why one night as a 4th grader when I slept over at Mike’s and witnessed his mother’s screaming rage as she slapped and spanked him relentlessly for some small act of disobedience. For Mike, a three-month summer break just meant three months of ‘round-the-clock terror.

I’ve heard tales from teacher friends about such students—little ones who felt safer at school than anywhere else and who sometimes cried at the beginning of summer of of Christmas break. The prospect of having to spend more time away from school is not a rapturous event for them.

Well, in this era of either two-working-parent or one-parent households, here’s hoping the children in your world will have enough imaginative free time for a rapturous summer. Between art camp, tennis lessons, swim lessons, violin, and all those other modern, keep-‘em-busy summer obligations.

I wish...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Song to Governor Sam

Rap-up session

Count me among the unscrubbed Plebian souls who don't care for it

Yeah, yeah. I know it was money that could only be used for art and not for museum funds. I still think it's ironic that the amounts were precisely the same...

Here's my KMUW commentary on the Waterwalk sculpture or read it below.

Man, talk about irony… there’s been enough irony in the air lately here in Wichita that they should be running crawls across the bottom of our TV screens: “Warning! Heavy irony in Wichita area atmosphere. Please wear protective head gear especially when in the vicinity of the Wichita City Hall.”

By now, everyone knows about the Wichita City Council’s recent approval of $350,000 to have an abstract sculpture by renowned New York artist Albert Paley erected at WaterWalk. The 38-foot-tall piece is supposed to be a tribute to—among other things—Wichita’s aviation heritage. Yeah. That’s what they said. Our aviation heritage.

This comes less than a year after our Kansas Aviation Museum asked the city for financial help with their desperately needed capital improvement project. The city turned them down. The cost of the Museum’s project: $350,000. The exact amount which the city council is willing to spend on the sculpture which is a tribute to our aviation heritage. That, my friends, is what you call irony.

Why is the Council more interested in symbolism than substance? This sculpture is a symbol of our aviation heritage. The Kansas Aviation Museum is a substantial upholder and steward of that heritage. Our city’s tepid support of this important institution is, as a recent letter writer in the Wichita Eagle pointed out, embarrassing.

The Kansas Aviation Museum cannot even afford to heat and cool most of its building. And our city leaders are paying $350,000 for a sculptural tribute to our aviation heritage? Breathtakingly ironic. They should just embrace its irony and erect a giant iron butterfly. Or, better yet, a led zeppelin. Or… no! I’ve got it! How about a lead balloon?

Friday, May 13, 2011


Friend Dan Rouser forwarded this article to me and I thought it blog-worthy:

The Eleven Craziest Things Newt Gingrich Has Ever Said

By George Zornick (from The Nation)
May 11, 2011

Today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will announce a run for the presidency. Over his long and checkered career, Newt has said some wild and crazy things—most are deeply offensive, while some are outright bizarre. Here’s the most unhinged Newt-isms, 1989-present.
(1) “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [my grandchildren are] my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” [Address to Cornerstone Church in Texas, March 2011]

(2) “The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument.” [To Mother Jones magazine, October 1989]

(3) “All I would say is, why did it take so long? The whole thing is strange.” [Speaking to TPM about the recent release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, April 2011]

(4) “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.” [To the National Review, September 2010]

(5) “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.” – [Newt’s explanation for why his multiple affairs won’t damage his political fortunes, as told to his jilted wife.]

(6) “The secular socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” [In his book To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, May 2010.]

(7) “This is one of the great tragedies of the Bush administration. The more successful they’ve been at intercepting and stopping bad guys, the less proof there is that we’re in danger…. It’s almost like they should every once in a while have allowed an attack to get through just to remind us.” [At a book talk in Huntington, NY, April 2008]

(8) "A mere 40 years ago, beach volleyball was just beginning. No bureaucrat would have invented it, and that's what freedom is all about.” [At the Republican National Convention, August 1996]

(9) “I want to say to the elite of this country—the elite news media, the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite: I accuse you in Littleton… of being afraid to talk about the mess you have made, and being afraid to take responsibility for things you have done, and instead foisting upon the rest of us pathetic banalities because you don’t have the courage to look at the world you have created.” [Speaking about the Columbine shootings, May 1999]

(10) “How can you have the mess we have in New Orleans, and not have had deep investigations of the federal government, the state government, the city government, and the failure of citizenship in the Ninth Ward, where 22,000 people were so uneducated and so unprepared, they literally couldn't get out of the way of a hurricane.” [Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, March 2007]

(11) “I’m running for President.” [5/11/2011]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Imagine how he'll play when he's 9!

An 8-year old pickin' the far outn' that thang!
(Check out the taxidermy)

"All us folks is big on corn!"

Now a word from our sponsor:

Cabin fever

I reverted to an antiquated style of editorial cartoon with this one. Ordinarily I try to avoid things like giant menacing clouds with giant menacing labels on them such as these. It's all very 1950. But, then, I'm an antiquated guy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Rest in peace, Oliver Fizzpatrick Crowson. Born January 8, 2002 - Died May 9, 2011

Joyland no more

Here's a beautiful, sad video by Mike Petty of one of Wichita's ghosts.

No Joy from Mike Petty on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thought you'd heard every Christmas song?

What's where in Wichita arts

Last year I was commissioned to draw up a cartoon map of the City of Wichita which showed all of the nonprofit arts organizations in our fair city. Poster-size prints of the map are available from any of them. It's a fundraiser for Wichita's arts community. If you can get one of them and run me down, I'll happily sign it for you.

It turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than I expected, including both Prairie Pines and the Center for the Arts in one the perspective is a bit skewed, as it were. (But some say my perspective is always skewed so that's fitting!)

Local marketing firm Marketing Resouces worked with me on the project. Mike Katzenmeier of that company has hired me for many years to produce art work for his clients. The entire thing was underwritten by the Trust Company of Kansas. This local company has been a strong supporter of our arts community for many years and deserves our thanks for continuing its tradition of believing in the value of the arts to Kansas' citizenry. In a state where politicians seem to think the arts are of questionable value to our community, such companies as TCK and Marketing Resources are especially heroic.

Stewart's on target (pun intended)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hooray for the Shox!

KMUW commentary on you, if you post hateful anonymous comments somewhere

Now that our Kansas Legislature has passed a law protecting us all from the scourge of voter fraud, I believe it’s time for another law addressing another fraud issue. Seems to me that our culture has become awash with anonymous internet comments of the snarkiest sort.

Under the cloak of anonymity, people say all sorts of vile, nasty things in the comments sections after news, opinion and even sports pieces. These nameless, faceless attacks are aimed at the folks who actually had the courage to attach their names to what they wrote. But invariably in the comments they are ripped to shreds in a snarky feeding frenzy by what we who worked for newspapers used to call anonymous gutless wonders. They name-call. They accuse. They insult and they cower in anonymity.

So I got to thinking. 76% of Americans call themselves Christians. I suspect the percentage here in the Great State of Kansas is even higher. Yet the anonymous comments on our Kansas websites are full of as much vitriol as anywhere else.

With all of the good Christian folks hereabouts, I have to conclude that most of those who are posting anonymous hate-filled comments must surely be doing so fraudulently. They can’t be real Kansans. They must be guilty of commenter fraud. So get on it, legislators. Force commenters to show IDs before they post those nasty anonymous, almost certainly illegitimate, internet rants. The scanned images of every spittle-slinging, hate-spewing commenter, taken from their photo IDs, must be visible with each posting they contribute on the internet.

Or else look for the glow of computer screens in their windows and shoot ‘em from helicoptors like feral hogs. After all, Kansas is a Christian state.

For KMUW I’m Richard Crowson.

And I use the term "thinker" loosely...

Ode to Ode to a Daffodil

KMUW commentary back on April 18:

Are you as happy as I am to see those daffodils popping up? Man, it seems like it’s been a long winter. And I’m not just talking about the weather. The news itself has brought us dark cloud after dark cloud as of late. I’ve found myself transfixed to an unhealthy degree by images of Northern Japan’s tsunami misery.

I thought we had it bad what with the looming deep budget cuts here in Kansas that are sending divisive cracks along our landscape. Those cracks spider outward from Topeka and we get our schools divided from arts divided from the disabled divided from teachers’ pensions divided from, well, you get the idea. If “to every thing there is a season” we are apparently in the season of civil division.

All of this is against a backdrop of our national political divisions. Storm after blustery storm of partisanship has whipped itself into a windy fury of uncivil public discourse, often ending in torrents of childish name-calling and deeply wounding mutual distrust.

And then upon this bleak and barren landscape, right in the middle of this seemingly unending recession’s chill, daffodils have the audacity to raise their little yellow trumpets toward the roiling gray clouds.

It’s enough to make one get up off the couch of self pity and open a book of poetry. Maybe to a poem by William Wordsworth. Maybe to these lines in which Wordsworth recalls having seen a stand of those impertinent floral fellows in his “Ode to a Daffodil:”

“For oft, when on my couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.”

For KMUW I’m Richard Crowson.

Could we round up and deport Kansas legislators???

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's not very far from sulphur to sugarcane

This song really grows on me. Elvis with killer band including Jerry Douglas and Stuart Duncan (the world's most underrated fiddler) and Mike Compton. At Merlefest last year.

Ralph and Carter with Reno and Smiley!

Here's a great old clip of the Stanley Brothers singing and playing with Reno and Smiley!
Two of my favorite banjo players doing a punchy double-banjo break. What's not to like?

Why I play music

So I can make posters, of course. I really enjoy making music posters. It gives me a chance to experiment with different techniques and try new stuff. Sometimes it works pretty well as in the first one below. And sometimes not so well as in the one below that. It came out kind of Hallmarky. I think it's partly that font I used. Plus the washed-out colors. I was trying for a light, springtime sort of effect. Oh, well. There's always next month.

Oliphant on PBS

I'll be going in to KMUW at 4:00 today to record my commentary for this week. I'm going to look around while I'm there for one of those unicycle-generator thing-ies like Oliphant drew in this toon.

All us cartooners really miss Jesse Helms...

Oliphant on Europe

Luckovich on the Newtster

Everybody talks about how brilliant the Newtist is. Sometimes even people who are opposed to him talk about what a great mind he has. He's supposed to be so smart? Then why does he have a history of thinking with his d*#@???

Just can't tie us down!

I love, no make that loooooooooooooooooooooove Richard Thompson's work. Here's one of his Cul de Sac toons that sort of hits home, since I sometimes play the banjo in classrooms. The way the kids can just run with an idea and take over is so true to life. You never know what they're going to say. That's part of what makes it fun.

Faux voter fraud

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Phred Phelps

Today's commentary on KMUW is here or read it below.

Whenever I feel a little bit down about this old world of ours, about the direction things seem to be going in, I turn my thoughts to Fred Phelps and, by golly, I see the beautiful side of life again. His skeletal facial features are hardened by decades of wallowing in the odious, putrid mud of hate and self-loathing. Yet that face always serves as a reminder to me of our society’s amazing ability to resist the pull to meet violence with violence. The emotional and psychological violence inflicted by the Phelps clan has not been successful in eliciting a physically violent response from us. Remarkably he and the other members of Westboro Baptist Church are all able to walk around physically unscathed.

Considering how frequently and how long these people have been thrusting themselves at the rest of us, the fact that they are all apparently unbruised and physically healthy is nothing short of a miracle. To the Phelps family Americans have demonstrated nothing less than Christ-like behavior. We have turned the other cheek time and time again against the battering of Phelps’ fetishistic signage. Just this week the United States Supreme Court found yet another cheek to turn toward the Westboro-ites’ tightly fisted picket signs. The spirits of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Patriot Guard and others who will not be moved to violence against these hate-fueled people who try so hard to chide and goad us down to their level.

So whenever you find yourself thinking we’re all going to hell in a handcart, consider that this handcart may also have u-turning capabilities. We choose not to sink into Fred Phelps’ hell with its’ lake of fiery hatred, brimstone violence and flaming prejudice.

Thanks, Fred. For showing us how not to behave!

For KMUW I’m Richard Crowson.

Keeper of the Planes


Friday, February 18, 2011

How can a state that can't afford a $600,000 Arts Commission possibly afford a 6 million dollar Governor's Mansion???

My KMUW commentary for today is below, or you can listen here.

If Governor Sam Brownback is really serious about attacking our state’s 492 million dollar deficit, why is he messing around with teensy little amounts like the $600,000 that the state will “save” by obliterating the Kansas Arts Commission?

Come on, Guv. Let’s really get after it. If aesthetics are a luxury we can’t afford in these tight times, and that’s the implication of your Arts Commission abolition, what about the house you live in? I don’t know the true value of Cedar Crest, the Kansas Governor’s Mansion, but I suspect it’s considerably more than the 4.4 million dollars that was spent on renovating it in the 1990s. Let’s be conservative (we like being conservative!) and put a 6 million dollar price tag on it. And sell that sucker to the private sector.

What better way to send a signal to Kansans that you walk the talk, than by selling Cedar Crest and giving that money to the state? Then you can underscore your sincerity by moving into a double wide at Topeka’s Sunflower Acres Mobile Home Village. Heck, maybe the private sector will buy you one of those $29.95 sofa-sized paintings on sale in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Who needs all that pretentious NEA-influenced art made by Volvo-driving, pointy-headed, liberal-leaning so-called artists anyway?

By selling the Cedar Crest Mansion you can put a big ole 6 million dollar dent in the state deficit instead of pock-marking it with that measly $600,000 gained by abolishing the Kansas Arts Commission.

Never mind that the $600,000 actually brought 1.2 million dollars to Kansas each year. Never mind all of those small arts entities in rural areas that will lose funding once there’s no Kansas Arts Commission. Let ‘em raise money by selling Elvis paintings at intersections. That’s the kind of thing that attracts businesses to Kansas. Not theatres, galleries and museums. And certainly not governor’s mansions. For KMUW I’m Richard Crowson.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lying liars.

Oh yeah. Brilliant idea. Let's arm all university students.

So here's a little glimpse of what life on campus would be like if students carry guns as many conservative gun-rights folks are advocating. Yeah. Real good idea there. Turn higher ed into higher dead.

Shooting suspect on Tennessee university campus captured

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 14, 2011 3:06 p.m. EST
One person was shot late Monday morning on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University on Monday.
One person was shot late Monday morning on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University on Monday.
  • NEW: A shooting suspect is arrested at Middle Tennessee State, a spokesman says
  • NEW: The lockdown at the school has been called off, and have police confiscated a gun
  • NEW: The victim was shot in the hand and brought to a local hospital, the spokesman says

(CNN) -- A suspect is in custody about an hour after one person was shot late Monday morning on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University, a school spokesman said.

Officials called off a lockdown, which had been in effect as SWAT teams and other law enforcement authorities converged on the campus, after the suspect was detained about 12:45 p.m., said the university's media relations director, Tom Tozer. A gun said to have been used in the incident has also been confiscated.

Authorities were alerted at 11:51 a.m. about a shooting in a basic and applied science building located in a cluster of university structures.

"From what I understand, there were two men who got into an argument over by some of our buildings," Tozer said. "One shot the other in the hand, then took off."

The victim, whose condition was not immediately known, was taken to a nearby medical facility. Tozer said he cannot confirm whether those involved were students.

Meanwhile, police began hunting for the shooter on 25,000-student university's campus, in the central Tennessee city of Murfreesboro. Firearms are not allowed on campus, per school policy, according to Tozer.

The spokesman said that officials believe the situation is now under control.

"We are advising people to proceed with caution with normal activities today," Tozer said.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

KMUW commentary on Satchmo

Just finished the terrific biography of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout entitled “Pops.” It paints an image of the jazz trumpet master as a man of great emotional, artistic and intellectual complexity. That might be surprising to many who only knew him as a clownish, gravelly-voiced pop vocalist with an outrageous ear-to-ear grin.

Anyone who watched Ken Burns’ PBS documentary about the history of jazz knows that Armstrong was a genius on his instrument. It’s been gratifying to see him get the recognition he so deserved for his role in the creation of that most American musical art form.

Reading the story of his life as outlined in Teachout’s book, I was struck by another role that Satchmo played for us all: the roll of spiritual teacher. He was not a particularly religious man in the traditional sense. But here are Armstrong’s words about an encounter he once had:

“Years ago I was playing the little town of Lubbock, Texas, when this white cat grabs me at the end of the show – he’s full of whiskey and trouble. He pokes on my chest and says, ‘I don’t like…’ ”and here Armstrong says the guy used the n-word. Continuing with Armstrong’s words: “These two cats with me was gonna practice their Thanksgiving carving on that dude. But I say ‘No, let the man talk. Why don’t you like us, Pops?’ And would you believe that cat couldn’t tell us? So he apologizes – crying and carrying on…And dig this: that fella and his whole family come to be my friends! When I’d go back through Lubbock, Texas for many many years they would make ole Satchmo welcome and treat him like a king.”

That theme ran throughout Louis Armstrong’s life. He returned love for hatred. What a man. What a life. And what a lesson for us all.