I’ve always had a soft spot for funny animals. When I was just a tadpole, my Aunt Greeta gave me a subscription to Walt Disney’s Comics And Stories, so my formative years were shaped by writer/artist Carl Barks’ wonderful adventures of Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Uncle Scrooge.
When I got a little older, I graduated to Walt Kelly’s Pogo in the Sunday papers, even if I didn’t understand what the heck he was talking about half the time. It didn’t matter, since the action and visuals were so lush you could get lost in Okefenokee Swamp just admiring the scenery.
When I got into cartooning, I was introduced to George Herriman’s classic Krazy Kat. I was too young to have enjoyed them in the newspapers, but there were many collections to ogle over. Krazy, and his (or her, we’re never quite sure which) reluctant suitor, Ignatz the mouse are considered to be the apex of sequential art by the majority of those in the cartooning profession. Subtle and whimsical, the strip was treated with indifference by readers and despised by editors, but it was the favorite of publishing monarch William Randolph Hearst and therefore was given a long run in his vast newspaper empire until Herriman’s death in 1944.
With all that fur influencing my anthropomorphic education, it was only logical that my first comic characters were Junior Jackalope and Suicide Squirrel. Their first appearance in The Nevada City Independent coincided with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and they went on to star in twelve comic books and numerous strips in other publications until the early nineties.
I drifted away from animals for awhile, doing underground comix about rock’n'roll and my own bizarre life, but in 1994 I approached The Union with a new batch of beasties in the daily comic strip Roadskill. The idea was to build up a pile of strips and then submit the best to the syndicates. My ace in the hole was Jay Kennedy, Editorius Maximus at King Features, who knew my work from the undergrounds. (Kennedy was himself an underground cartoonist before he went legit with the Hearst syndicate. He was responsible for getting Zippy the Pinhead into the mainstream papers.)
Jay was supportive of me, but felt the strip was too weird for general consumption. It’s no secret that many editors hate funny animals, because audiences become attached to them and they’re hard to get rid of. (Isn’t that what comics are supposed to do?) At any rate, I could see that the only path to syndication was to lobotomize my characters down to the Garfield level. For me, that road could only lead to the insanity and suicide. Roadskill eventually morphed into It Takes a Village Idiot and left the comics page for the editorial page.
But this spring, I began to notice that squirrels were watching me from the blossoming trees. I could hear their frenzied chatter and the drumbeat of cracking nuts calling out to me. One afternoon I was lying in bed watching TV when I happened to look up through the window to see one of the fuzzy tree rats staring down at me from the eaves of the roof. Creepy.
And so, starting this week, the new improved Roadskyll will appear on this blog every Sunday. To move things along, I’ll run a cartoon every day for the rest of this week so those of you who are unfamiliar with the characters will get some idea where we’re going, if that’s possible. These things tend to take on a life of their own.
So check in tomorrow. As we say in the biz, See you in the funny papers!
Last summer, I did a series of illustrations for former Nevada City resident and NC planner Paul Cogley’s debut CD. Most of the songs were written about Paul’s experiences in NC, including one about our old favorite restaurant, Mama Su’s Squeeze Inn. As reported here before, Su is no longer with us, but her spirit lives on. Here’s a link to Paul’s live version of the song on Youtube, recorded at the Nevada Theatre. Paul’s website – http://paulcogley.com/
Within nanoseconds of the horrific bombing of the Boston Marathon, cable news went into overdrive to relay the events to the public. After four hours of running the same video loop of the explosions, (from every angle and in slow motion) pundits turned to speculating who or what could be responsible for such a vicious act. Opinions ranged from the Tea Party to Al Qaida to the CIA to Some Guy Who Worked In The Building Across The Street And Wanted To Get Some Time Off. As the television audience began to fall asleep, Chris Matthews of MSDNC put forth a new line of reasoning: Does the public really have any reason to possess a pressure cooker other than to build bombs, given that microwave technology can fry a chicken just as fast? (And asked in Matthew’s typical style of answering his own question the way he thinks it should be addressed.)
Twitters across the country went viral, and by nightfall Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed new legislation limiting the sale of home pressure cookers, declaring, “the time is past when we can overlook the danger presented by these instruments of death and destruction. Is it just a coincidence that you can buy these things at a store called Target?” The bill was was immediately co-sponsored by Senators Schumer, Gillibrand, and Boxer, while Collins of Maine said she would consider it until the last moment and then backtrack.
The right wing press didn’t waste any time coming out in opposition. Sean Hannity put on his best hurt puppy dog face and went into a long spiel about how he remembered his grandmother canning apples that would later be used in American Apple Pies. Rush Limbaugh snarled that it was another attack on business and jobs, even though most of the pots are made in China these days. Senate Minority leader McConnell vowed to filibuster the bill.
A plethora of advocacy groups on both sides weighed in. A 2.3 million dollar study that concluded most pressure cooker accidents happen in the kitchen was hauled out by feminists to reinforce the pro-cooker control argument. “Women have been chained to these devices for hundreds of years. Why should we be put in harm’s way when we can buy the same thing at the grocery store?” queried Mona Lotta, spokesperson for WACC (Women Against Cooking Coalition). The pressure cooker manufacturer lobby immediately introduced a three minute ad on You Tube describing the health benefits of responsible pressure cooking, as presented by tearful children. It was followed by another video from EIR (Eat It Raw) that advocated “beating your pressure cookers into plowshares” and calculated the energy savings that could be achieved by dismantling the traditional kitchen stove.
By the third day, Senator Feinstein had amended her bill to cover only background checks for cooker purchases. “You shouldn’t just be able to pick up one of these at a yard sale,” she mused. Even though polls showed that Americans supported limiting access to pressure cookers by a ten point margin, Democrats in rural jurisdictions were being pressured by pro-canning groups who vowed to mount primary challenges to anyone who would restrict their cooking rights. By the fourth day, the bill was dumped into the “unfinished business” file, along with immigration reform and guns.
Jonathan Winters passed away today, leaving the world with one less voice of mirth and laughter. Although it is not widely remembered, Winters was a frequent visitor to Nevada City in the past. I never encountered him personally, but I do recall the stories from those who did. My own memory is sketchy on the details, but I believe he was somehow related to the family that ran Alpha Hardware. As a lark, he would sometimes work the counter, befuddling the local customers with his talent for creating funny characters. Wish I knew more about it. Anyone else out there remember these stories?
California politics have always been weird, but one of the strangest episodes was the Governor’s race in 1934. Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, decided to go mainstream in the newly revived New Deal Democratic Party after years of running on the Socialist ticket. In 1933 he authored a short story entitled I, Governor of California, and How I Ended Poverty: A True Story of the Future. In it, he proposed turning factories and farms into co-ops, levying a 39% tax on anyone making over 50K, and generally upending the entire political structure of the Golden State. The acronym EPIC stood for “end poverty in California”, but as you can see from this editorial cartoon by Fred Korburg, others saw a different message.
Those in power were not amused. At the time, California was a mirror image of today’s majority. Republicans held every statewide office and controlled the legislature by wide margins. Governor Frank Merriam was not particularly popular, so the media and the movie industry mounted a devastatingly relentless smear campaign against Sinclair. Lines spoken by characters in his novels were passed off as quotes from the candidate, making him appear to be a madman.
And it worked, although Sinclair’s ambitious agenda probably scared off enough voters on its own. Merriam won in a landslide, and Sinclair went on to write a sequel to I, Governor called I, Candidate For Governor: And How I Got Licked. Even so, Democrats picked up seats in the legislature and started their long march back to power.
And that’s where we are today. I suppose I should be excited to be in the Big Petri Dish of politics. The new veto-proof majority has pretty much abandoned the slow road to Utopia. There are numerous bills floating through the system that intend to modify Prop 13. The main intent is to tighten the noose on commercial property loopholes, but there is also a move to lower the bar on local special elections, from 66% to 55%. That might be okay if all the voters were property owners, but that’s hardly the case in our present state. There’s also a plethora of new gun control bills headed our way, just to show Washington that “we can do what you can’t.”
And they’re just getting warmed up. Obamacare kicks in at the end of the year, and the process has become so convoluted that the govmint had to hire hundreds of “navigators” to steer people into the new system. Next year should be somewhat chaotic as the program unfolds, or folds. Of course, our legislators will be ready with our homegrown single payer plan to pick up the pieces. On the positive side, Mark Leno is pushing a bill to allow bars to stay open until 4am, which should be a boon to bar owners and purveyors of alcohol and crank. (You’ll need a few pops to stay vertical at that hour. Trust me. I’ve been there.) And of course, there is still support for the problematic bullet train, even as the latest estimates project massive cost overruns and more opposition from communities impacted by the route. Could it ever be profitable? Possibly, if air travel becomes too expensive and people get tired of being x-rayed and probed every time they get the urge to go to LA.
At this point, the only thing standing in the way of Democrats is our conservative-progressive (or is it progressive-conservative?) governor. The Republican Party, slowly dwindling into the New Whigs, doesn’t have a clue. (Hint: Stop bashing Latinos.)
So yeah, I’m a little more apprehensive than excited. All I can do is sit back and echo Pete Townsend’s sage words: I’ll get on my knees and pray, we don’t get fooled again.
11:05 a.m. – A woman from the 200 block of Catherine Lane reported birds were mocking her; she said law enforcement was sending the birds to watch her.
Is this another nefarious plot by Sheriff Royal to stifle the freedoms of the citizenry? Are they really birds, or cleverly disguised drones? What kind of birds are they? Jailbirds? Stool pigeons? So many questions…