An ordinary day, except for the looming catastrophic deadly snow which is not only expected to kill tens of thousands, but do what to the commute? That’s right: snarl it. The commute will be snarled. And no, tens of thousands will not perish. But expect some snarlage.

Only traffic is snarled these days. People in books may snarl, but no one goes to a concert, encounters an untidy queue, and thinks “the humans are snarled.” If there are strings involved, something is tangled. How an animal sound became applied to unmoving cars, I don’t know. I suppose I could do a newspaper search . . . okay. First appearance in the archives is 1914, after which it really takes off.

Busy day, for stupid reasons. I wrote a column three days ago, set it aside, opened it up to file and discovered that I’d misunderstood something. It wasn’t a big thing, but it meant I had two chunks of column that were closely related, but did not want to mesh or merge. Finally got a new framing device, went off to the gym for a short session, came back and banged it out in 7 minutes to hit the artificial, pretend deadline I like to set. Then a meeting - Zoom of course - and then the walk back to the car in blustery weather the likes of which we’ve not had in a while. My umbrella was blown out and reversed, as accordance with the cliche. That’s because it’s a cheap insubstantial thing I carry just in case I want to struggle with a cheap insubstantial thing. The metal frame is made out of hummingbird bones. I’m surprised rain doesn’t shoot right through the fabric like hot lead through a Kleenex.

Anyway, it’s supposed to snow a lot over night. Or maybe not. Even if we’re getting pounded I am going to the office, because I am a Plainsman and I’ll be damned if I’m going to cower at home where it’s nice and warm and comfortable, with food and drink and -

Let me take another run at this. I’m not going to break my gym streak because there’s snow. I have a love-hate relationship with Winter, inasmuch as I love it when I’m looking at it, not when I’m feeling it. They say you can’t be cold if you’re dressed properly, and that’s true, but I lack the means to cover every single inch of myself. You turn a corner and the wind lances your eyeballs. You knock the snow off the car and some falls down your cuff. It’s no way to live, but at least you know you’re alive.










What do you take away from this editorial cartoon?I filed it away months ago and just found it when reconstructing the hard drive. Here's my take: dad is a jerk, and the cartoonist is smug, misanthropic, and banal.

First of all, that’s not how you answer the kid’s question. You do your part to instill wonder and curiosity. You can talk science and theology and the possibilities of other cultures so alien we can’t even think of them in terms of “war” or “travel.” You mention a movie or TV show you saw when you were his age, and how it showed aliens. You end with the beautiful marvel of the skies, and how we know so much now, and have seen such beauties. And there’s so much more to come.

No, not this guy, because the dad’s a muppet-mouth for the cartoonist, who channels all the super-smart cynical grinning guys we knew in college, the ones with the unfashionable glasses and bad hair and halitosis, always reading sci-fi or fantasy, curiously immune to music, casually contemptuous of the people who moved with more ease in the world and actually talked to, like, real girls on a normal basis. They contented themselves with the burden of knowing true big things like maybe chemistry or FORTRAN and had come to terms, yes they did, with being smarter than everyone else. Well, let the shallow people have their silly pleasures.

The point of the cartoon, inasmuch as it has one, is that we’ll probably destroy ourselves, because did you know humans are violent? It’s true! We have wars! Nothing to look forward too, son. Humans suck.

I don’t know why this set me off as it did, aside from its laziness, and its cheap reassurance to the audience that they’re the smart ones. Feh.

Most editorial cartoons hit me this way. It seems as if the people who go into the trade are impervious to subtlety, and are just chasing intra-bubble approval. On either side, though, there's one common trait: the art is usually bad. It's objectively sloppy and dumb. I seem to remember political cartoons being much more interesting to look at, even if you disagreed. If modern editorial cartoons seem incapable of supporting an intelligent reaction, it's because the artistic scaffolding is so thin.

The artistry in the old cartoons wasn't always sophisticated, and the panels were usually jammed with stuff, but at least you knew the cartoonist could draw.

I just poked through the paper archives at random, and this is typical.

As usual, the message is a bit . . . snarled, but the man could draw. And letter, too. Some guys letter like they've got a Sharpie clenched in their fist.





It’s 1915.

This is a lot of news. And remember, the papers were huge in those days.

Man is arrested for creeping; blames novel. Really.


Sure, pal.


Any more on the guy?

The story gives his father’s name as P. A., and says he was a lumber merchant, but a Google search for Loring P. Crossman turns up this guy, who’s the right age, but his father was George Loring Corpsman.

Google books lists a G. A and a G. L Crosman in the lumber game in Portland.

So they got it wrong. Loring seemed to improve; he was married the next year. Didn’t frighten women any more.


  I’ve never seen that before. Ever. Just . . . Italian, in an English-language paper.

I think we’re expected to know the backstory here.

This was in another paper on the same day:

NEW YORK, Dec. 11.—"Soul kisses" that lasted for more than two hours were described by Everett P. Ketchum this morning before Supreme Sourt Justice Blanchard in testifying in the suit for separation brought against him by Mrs. Ada Brown Ketchum on the ground of cruelty.

Ketchum told how, when he was first introduced to his wife, she was described to him as "a girl who had never been kissed before in her life." "She said," he testified, "that a kiss was such a sacred thing that she had saved it all her life for the man whom she was going to marry. I thought it a very beautiful idea.”

Ketchum said he proposed exactly five days after they had been first introduced. "Tell us about that first kiss she gave you, Mr. Ketchum." "Well," said the lawyer, "it was like this. We were seated on the sofa in the parlor. She put her arms around my neck and drew me to her and said: "Everett, darling, this is what they call a soul kiss. This is because of my extraordinary love for you. I never knew before that a kiss lasted so long. I don't know how the ability to kiss came to me, but—,” She leaned into my arms. Her lips met mine. She grabbed me. I tried to take my head away because I could not breathe, but—"

"How long did that kiss last?" asked Mr. Levy.

"Two hours," was the reply. "I could not get away.”

Okay, well, hold on a minute here.

She says it was him.


Science can help!

But it doesn't.


The body was found in early May the next year. The police had deferred the inquest for a while, hoping to solve the case, but the parents believed the killer would never be found, and asked for the inquest in August. It was granted, which enabled them to collect on the boy’s life insurance.

That’s what the Philly paper said on August 13, 1916. Not mentioned in the story: the father was arrested for the murder on May 6.

After August, the story falls out of the paper completely. Odd.

  They don’t report these much these days.

  Or these.


So . . .

Punky Dunk was a cat who owned a dog.

It’s a lovely series. You can buy it on Amazon today, if you wish.



That'll do! Back to the Fifties now. This site never ends, you know. It's a two-year project. At least.




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