Today: death averted at Blair's house; credit card refusal; the meanlessness of the political cartoon

This was almost the Lost Weekend. Friday morning around 4 AM I awoke with fever deliriums. I would have preferred to remain awake, staring at the ceiling, sweating it out, but no: back into the maelstrom. I dreamed I was in Australia, and a tidal wave of historic proportions was en route - it would not only swamp the coastal area, it would sink the entire continent. So I went to Tim Blair’s house, and was not at all surprised to find he was holding a rather large party. He gave me a drink; I wandered around, finding people enjoying their last moments on earth with cheer and pluck. After a few hours I caught a ride back to town with someone who seemed utterly unaware the wave to come, and insisted on swinging through downtown to take in a sidewalk show of trained miniature dogs. Isn’t it cute how they form small pyramids? You idiot! The wave is coming! Wwgh! Mrghphm! Crimggr!

WAKE! Thrash; moan, turn, sleep. And back into it. So it went until I got up, and as soon as I knew I was up for good, I knew I was down for keeps. This was bad. This was Dengue Fever. This was Rigellian Plague. Cymbelline Blood Madness. I was looking down the barrel of five days pasted to the bed in a twilight state, waiting for death, or Tuesday.

By noon I was less dead, which was a good sign. I had no particularly grievous symptoms – horrible aches in the leg muscles, but that could have been from crab-walking down the hill with the Christmas tree the previous evening. (If I take it down the steps I get needles everywhere, and they eventually migrate back into the house months later. So I roll it down the hill – but I have to shepherd it as it goes. As much as I would enjoy seeing one of the speeding louts from the local high school get a grill-full of tree as they barrel down the street, it’s not wise.) I had a small fever – well, maybe. I had a voracious appetite. Well, let’s just see. I feel better already. Really! I feel like dancing!

Seven o’clock: the nadir. No nothing. Just urgh. Just a deep desire to sprawl on the sofa and watch “Toy Story” with Gnat, which I did. As the evening wore on, I felt better; I had a medicinal sip of brandy, which made me feel remarkably hale. In fact, bundled up in a robe by the fire watching TV, caring not for any of the work I was supposed to do and had not, I thought: this is quite the lark. I should start the day with a profound urge to vomit more often.

All better Saturday. Off to Southdale with Gnat, since Mom was out. We had a meal, went shopping. At Eddie Bauer the coats were marked down about 79%, so I bought two. As I stood in line the clerk gave a customer the usual spiel: you can save 10 percent off today if you apply for the card. She demurred. He pressed the point, reeling off a myriad of advantages. And yet she stood firm. It came my time; I put the coats on the counter and said “I don’t have the card, and nothing you say today will make me get one. But thanks.”

He smiled and laughed. He got out the scanning pistol and beeped the tags.

“Would you like to save ten percent today by applying for the Eddie Bauer card?”

(pause for deflation)

“No. Thanks.”

“There are many advantages, including special coupons in the mail.”

“I already get them.”

Alarm. “You do? Do you order online?”

“I do.”

“Ah, well.”

I wanted to say: what the hell did you think I was talking about when I first showed up here? But no. Then to the Gap; same question. Then the Apple store, where I would actually say YES if they asked the question, but they never do. I did the annoying customer routine: Yes, I’d like a flash memory iPod, a headless Mac, a G5 Powerbook, and an iPhone. I know you have them back there! Gimme gimme! Har de har. Oh, I crack myself up, and bless the world for not punching me in the jaw on general principle. Said farewell to an employee who reads the Bleat AND buys the book - his last day – and left with that warm toasty Apple glow. So kill me. Home; piano lessons; put Gnat to bed, suffered insomnia that kept me up until 3 watching the most dreadful sci-fi krep you can imagine, but that’s tomorrow’s Bleat. (Species 2. For starters.)

Sunday: work. Now this.

I’m losing my interest in mainstream newspaper political cartoonists. I’m starting to feel the same way Corbusier felt about New York skyscrapers: there are too many of them, and they are not big enough. Of course, he was wrong, and I may be too. But. Our Sunday paper runs a selection of syndicated luminaries, and this week they just made me feel . . . tired. The entire genre disappoints. There are practitioners past and present who rose above the medium, but in general, over the years, editorial cartoons are obvious, tendentious, simplistic, wrong, unfunny, self-righteous and annoyingly small-minded. Ask them to do a cartoon on the completion of Michelangelo’s Pieta, and they’ll draw something on the world’s depleted marble reservoir. From this Sunday’s page:

What did you think of when you considered the horrid human toll of the tsunami? Well, if you’re like WaPo cartoonist Tom Toles, you immediately thought of a man standing on a battered beach reading a newspaper story forecasting increases in CO2 emissions. “Does it say what the West will be sending?” says the Innocent Urchin. “A six-foot increase in sea level,” says his father, who is too poor to afford an article. (China’s contributions to global warming are apparently irrelevant.) The dingbat in the lower right-hand corner has the standard passive-aggressive towel-snap: “The U.S. is pledging the biggest share.”

America gives half a billion in private donations to tsunami relief, but neveryoumind. The real issue is global warming, and besides, everyone’s spending all their time and ink patting the US on the back. We need the Brave Contrarian Voices who will hold our well-shod feet to the fire and shame us with cross-hatching.

There’s more! Journey to new frontiers? Piss on it! Slip the surly bonds of earth? Piss on it!

My old friend Jack Ohman (one of my favorite cartoonists - I love his drawing style, and while I disagree with many of his points he's not a cheap-shot artist, and he's funny. He's also a hell of a nice guy and very funny in person. End Rotary Club testimonial.) (But it's true.)
had a cartoon about Social Security reform. “Regular Social Security Card” : a picture of the classic SS card. “Future GOP Social Security card: “Condolences on your loss . . ,” with the classic arrow bouncing-down-a-graph you see in stories about the 1929 crash. Inside the card, “Very sorry, George W. Bush.”

From this we can conclude that Jack has no money invested in the stock market. Because if that’s what he sees as the inevitable result of letting a segment of SS money be invested as you see fit, then it stands to reason he wouldn’t be stupid enough to put one dime of his own money into the shell game, and has all his money in passbook savings accounts. My condolences on your 2 percent return. And then there’s this, from David Horsey, who apparently feels that the neocon chickenhawk idea is a fresh new concept that needs immediate airing. (Did you know that we allow people who haven't served in the military to have influence on national security? Sooth! Clasp your breast! Fall backward with the vapors!) Have fun with the archives, and don’t miss The Afghan War is a Hopeless Quagmire, followed by Victory in Afghanistan Came Too Quickly! Then there's this, and this. A bad situation. Bad place. Bad people. But don't you go nation-building! It’s the problem of the genre – you have to react to events, of course, but you have to show yourself smarter than what seems apparent. Or you have to illustrate the main OBVIOUS SCREAMING TRUTH of the day even if it contradicts something you drew with equal chest-puffed confidence last week. Failing that, it's enough to be a contrarian, because that provides the grunt of bemusement or anger, and if you get that grunt, you did your job.

That’s the profession for most practioners: Grunt Obtainer. My reaction is usually one of four. One: if you think I’m that stupid, fine. Two: if you’re that stupid, fine. Three: if we agree, that’s nice, but I can’t exactly use your point in an argument because it’s usually the sort of reductio ad absurdum used by cynical adolescents who believe that artfully rephrasing a suspected hypocrisy invalidates every other aspect of your argument. Four: Nice drawing. I'm not saying the genre is over, or should be swept off the page - but it's stale. Smart papers would hire some guys who'd put together JibJab flash cartoons, load 'em with soundbites and video clips. They'd be just as cruel and unfair, but they'd back it up. It's a Pixar world, and the editorial cartoon has yet to climb off Tom Nast's lap.

Tomorrow: we discuss the new TiVo for radio, and how it will affect blogging. Do stop by. New Joe, of course. I seem to have decided that he works for a matchbook company. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, like all entries; that’s the fun. At least for me.

Perm link: here.

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