Cartoons, cartoons, cartoons.... John Crowther's Cartoon Odyssey

I think of it as The Fool's Journey. I've been asked who the "fool" is. It's me, but in the classical sense of the court jester. Only the fool was allowed to tell the king of his follies. All cartoons are available as prints or originals, framed or unframed, through my website or e-mail. For mugs, t-shirts, and other products visit my gift shop at* (be sure to include the *).

Friday, August 31, 2007

300, Count 'Em, 300

For the record, today is our 300th post without missing a day, which makes it a good time to remind everyone that I'm still accepting contributions to my campaign for president. Of course, I haven't announced my candidacy officially yet. If I did, all the other candidates would by vying for equal time here at The Fool's Journey. I steadfastly retain my right to be the only fool represented here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Oops, My Bad Redux

The interesting thing about Sen. Larry Craig's misadventure is not so much the story itself but rather the way it's a litmus test for conflicting opinions. Like any good parable, the facts are simple. A "family values" legislator with a record of voting against any legislation that protected gays or their rights was arrested for cruising a man in an airport toilet. Something questionable certainly took place because the senator pled guilty to having done it. The moral is, if you want to live in the closet be careful what you do in bathrooms.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Do As I Say etc.....

I admit it's ungenerous of me, but I can't resist a major case of schadenfreud. I mean, one of the most aggressive homophobic "family values" Republicans in the U.S. Senate. He wasn't even having jollies with a hired callboy in a hotel room, for heaven's sake, he was sliming around in a public toilet hitting on undercover cops. How can you not feel a warm glow? Talk about a guy making his own bed, romping in it, and then denying he even knows where the bedroom is. Even if one looks past one of the most egregious cases of hypocrisy in modern history, one has to wonder about Craig's fitness for leadership. Where's the responsibility? This pond scum claims he pled guilty just so the whole thing would "go away." Huh? Does anyone else hear the words "cover-up" when he says that?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In Our Nation's Service

It's getting more and more difficult to deal in humor when politics provides us with news this funny. Back in June Sen. Larry Craig (R, Idaho) was arrested in an airport men's room for "lewd conduct." It seems he was playing footsie with an undercover detective in an adjoining toilet stall. Keep in mind, this is a guy with a draconian record when it comes to voting against gay rights and protection for homosexuals. In court he pled guilty and was given a $500 fine and suspended jail time, and now that the cat's been let out of the bag he's claiming the whole thing was a misunderstanding and he was really innocent. So if this worm-slime creep is innocent, why the heck did he admit to being guilty? I mean, now he's got a sexual misconduct conviction on his record. His reason? He just wanted to put it behind him. No pun intended. I take that back. Pun definitely intended.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Bright Side

The more things change the more they stay the same, as the old saying goes. The passion for Homeland Security is not a new thing. During World War II, when I was not yet 5 and my family was summering on Nantucket Island, my dad was taking 8mm movies of my older brother and me on the beach (my younger brother hadn't been born yet). A Coast Guard patrol came along and confiscated the camera. Later my dad got it back. I still have that small reel somewhere, packed away among nearly forgotten "treasures." The censor's clearance is stamped all over it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The First Hybrid

A couple of days ago Lee, a fiercely loyal participant here at the "journey" for which I'm ever grateful, quite astutely asked what the cardinal in my cartoon was doing driving his own car. She might also have wondered what he was doing riding around town in his robes and miter. I have no excuse for my apparent lapse in logic, except to say that even when I was drawing the cartoon in question I considered the anomaly. But that's one of the joys of cartooning, the anarchy of it, the ability to throw anything that makes sense to the winds in the pursuit of the gag. One always hopes that beneath the surface disunity lurks the seeds of a deeper truth about human folly, but I won't pursue that any further lest it seem prententious and self-serving. Suffice it to say I have it on good authority Neanderthal Man didn't speak English. I'm not even sure he came up with the wheel, let alone roller skates.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cogito Ergo Ego

I have great admiration for dentists and psychologists, the former because they can endure having their hands inside people's mouths all day long, the latter because they've committed themselves to the hell of having to get inside people's entire heads. It must be a little like spending your whole professional life at the most boring cocktail party imaginable, and given how boring cocktail parties are, that's pretty darned boring. Actually it's way worse than just attending a boring cocktail party, it's like being forced to do nothing but listen, without being permitted an occasional sly dig. A famous writer, who was also a notorious drunk, once said, "I don't drink at parties so that I'll be more interesting, I drink so other people will be more interesting."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Oops, My Bad

Carla and I were married in Rome, by Father Peter Jacobs, a great man and one of the most genuinely spiritual people I've ever known. He once got in trouble in New York, where he was the chaplain of the N.Y. Fire Department, for defying the Church. An elderly Catholic woman had remained unmarried and spent her life tending to her mother after all her siblings had gone off to start their own families. She was in her 70's when her mother died. It turned out she and the mother's Jewish doctor, then in his 80's, had fallen in love but had kept it a secret for years. They decided to marry, and in deference to his fiancee's wishes the doctor agreed to do it in the Catholic Church. But the New York diocese denied permission when on principle he wouldn't agree that "any children born of the union would be raised as Catholics." What was the chance they were going to produce offspring? So they came to Father "Jake," and he married them regardless.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Big Brother Is Watching You

Security cameras are becoming ubiquitous. I think it's a positive thing. My position has nothing to do with either the argument that it will cut down on crime or the concern that it will erode civil rights. I just think that once people know they may be captured on tape they'll stop picking their noses in public as much. I worked for Candid Camera years ago, and we had to get signed releases from anyone we filmed who might be identifiable. I was always astonished by how rarely someone refused, no matter how dumb they appeared. Anything, just so they could tell Aunt Nellie they were going to be on television.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Today's Small Is Tomorrow's Big

Los Angeles, in its desire to attract more residents to its downtown area while shamelessly handing it over to developers, has passed new zoning regulations lowering the legal size of apartments in high rise buildings. It's now something like 800 square feet. That's not even big enough for a queen-size bed. A dinner party would be three people with tv trays and take out. You'd have to step into the corridor just to change your mind. It'd be like living in a Winnebago on top of a flagpole. I'm guessing they'll be the most expensive slums in the world. They'll have gazillionaires hanging out on the front stoop drinking latte grandes on a hot summer night just to get some air.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Endless Campaign

They're still playing musical chairs with the primary dates, with every state trying to get a jump on everyone else. The way things stand now, there's a good chance the candidates for president will be chosen by the first week in February, which means a full-nine month campaign. Imagine the cost. Imagine the mud that will be slung. Imagine the crushing tedium and disinterest that's sure to settle in somewhere around mid-May. The irony is that the July to November campaign was once considered long, but the length was justified by the fact there was no television, and the candidates had to crisscross the country in trains, getting exposure to people from a rear platform on the last car. The more ways the candidates now have to assault us with the cliches and bromides that have little to do with reality and everything to do with ad execs' notions about what "sells," the longer the thing gets dragged out. Is nobody in charge that can save the hopeless parody that's all that's left of this thing called democracy?

Monday, August 20, 2007

A La Mode

When my friend Merritt Blake is out of town I go in to The Blake Agency in Santa Monica and "look after the store" for him. Now I'm about as far from a clothes horse as one can be. In the semi-darkness of my bedroom I throw on whatever I get my hands on first in the morning and let it go at that. The agency shares a back alley with a homeless shelter, and there's always a crowd of them standing around out there smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, and jaw jacking. The other day I parked in the agency's designated parking space, got out of my car, and was about to go to work when it suddenly hit me, here I was about to spend the day being responsible for a well-respected Hollywood "boutique" talent agency, and the loitering indigent and down-and-out were dressed a lot better than I was. I suppose there's a lesson to be learned here, but I'm darned if I know what it is.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Wheel Thing

I once had a classic 1956 Bentley I'd picked up from a Vegas comedian for a song. The best thing about that car was that whenever I went to a restaurant where there was valet parking, it was always left right in front. The doctors and lawyers had their $75,000 Mercedes and BMW's careened God knows where by the car jocks, but when I exited after my meal my Bentley was there where I'd left it. I had lunch with a TV executive once at an up-scale Ventura Blvd. eatery. When we left he had his parking ticket in hand. I gestured toward the Bentley. "My car's right here," I said. He laughed, appreciating what to him was surely a good joke. "No really," I said, and went to get in. I'll never forget the look on his face.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Viewing From Across the Room

A turning point in the history of America came with the invention of the TV remote. Suddenly we went from being a people who worked together to build a great nation to a collection of hedonistic, egomaniacal sociopaths. The so-called "Me Generation" was a direct result of the small gadget that allowed one person in the family to dominate the viewing choice of everyone else, and it got worse from there. Originally it wasn't too bad, most places in the country only had two or three selections Even in New York we were limited to 7 channels, and it was a good bet that at any given time there were at most two shows on that anyone had any interest in seeing, like Milton Berle or Yankees baseball. Now, of course, there are hundreds of possibilities, and he who owns the controller owns the world. The rest of the family is reduced to fighting for it like starving lions battling for a piece of carrion. The whole presidential campaign comes down to this, who's going to get their hands on the remote?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Even Taggers Draw the Line Somewhere

There's a plan underfoot in East Los Angeles to set aside areas where grafitti is encouraged. It won't work. Art doesn't exist exclusive of the circumstances that nurtured it. Take away the outlaw nature of grafitti and it's no longer the genuine article. It's ironic that people decry the contemporary art world, with its pompous mission statements, artificially inflated prices, and marketplace chicanery, and in the next breath denounce the freedom of grafitti, which for all its crude technique, limited content, and stylistic sameness is some of the only art being produced nowadays with passion, energy, and pure fun. There's also something in-your-face political about it, but without the meaningless sloganry and shopworn rhetoric that has come to dominate our political arena. Grafitti's statement is made by its very existence. Legitimizing it would cut out its heart and soul.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Am Therefore I Am

Click on image to view enlarged.

Up until the Impressionists came along artists served a social function, developing their skills to create work that reflected the times they lived in. About a hundred and fifty years ago artists rebelled, and started turning inward to serve themselves. With abstract expressionism it no longer mattered that a painting didn't look like anything recognizable, as long as the artist could convince the maketplace it was an accurate depiction of his feelings. Throughtout history artists have had huge egos, but there was a time when then egos were put at the service of society. Now, it seems, society is asked to serve the artist's ego.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Politics Makes You Know What

The most troublesome aspect of the unbelievably noisy and endless presidential campaign now going on is that it's noisy and endless. I suspect that part of the blame can be laid at Karl Rove's feet. It was he who created the divide and conquer strategy that now grips our political process. Whereas we once depended on our leaders to bring us together, Rove postulated divisiveness as a way to cement a Republican hold on power for decades to come. It didn't work. The result was that Democrats and Repubicans alike retreated into campaign mode where nothing has to get done. The lame duck president is reduced to background chatter, while politicians on both sides can debate their respective positions forever, and nobody is required to take an action based on a principle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's a Dog's (And Cat's) Life

Never underestimate the wrath of pet lovers. Professional athletes are to a disturbing degree a bunch of thugs and misfits. Well, okay, that's probably an overstatement. But it's safe to say a disconcerting lot of them behave like sociopathic children, and yet still they enjoy the adoration of their fans. But when it comes to mistreatment of animals they step over the line. So when an Atlanta Braves football player was accused of a heavy involvement in dog fighting and all the unspeakably cruel stuff that it involves, the animal-lovers among the fans, and there are lots of them, rose up and demanded justice. It didn't take long for the NFL to act. If the U.S. military were sending dogs to Iraq instead of people, you can bet we'd be out of there quickly.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Eyes Have It

In the Huntington Library there's a rare early edition of Shakepeare's Hamlet that was compiled entirely from the actors' memories of their roles. "To be or not to be," Hamlet intones midway through Act III, "Aye, there's the problem." It reminds me of the story about the play that opened on Broadway and was an instant hit, with a long run assured. The director went off on vacation, and when he returned a couple of weeks later he dropped in to catch a performance. The next day a notice appeared on the backstage bulletin board: "Rehearsal Tomorrow, 10 AM, to remove the actors' improvements.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Money, Money, Money

Talk about con games, the stock market is the biggest one there is, a great, bloated whale. My great-grandfather had the right idea. His pal Isodor Strauss came to him one day and said he was going to buy a store that was failing and would my relative invest? My great-grandfather said no thanks, but he'd be happy to lend him some money, which he did. He got every penny paid back. The store was Macy's. I directed a film financed by a man who published a weekly stock market newsletter. I asked him once jokingly how his progostications had turned out the previous week. He answered he'd been doing it so long it didn't matter what he wrote, he knew how to hedge his advice so it would always seem right. Like the time a TV sportscaster was asked his prediction for the UCLA-USC game. "USC is definitely the stronger team," he said, "so I'm picking UCLA to upset." Brilliant. You can't lose.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Crooked Path to Enlightenment

Whether we're the result of God's design or of natural selection based on survival, one has to wonder why Man is endowed with such remarkable lack of self-awareness. Would we all race out lemming-like and jump off the nearest cliff if we could see ourselves as we really are? Case in point, politics are to a disconcerting degree driven by the religious zealotry of people who leave their compassion at the church doors after the Sunday service. As Gerald Stanley Lee, a 19th century preacher much followed in his day, said, "the only trouble with goodness is the people who claim to have a hold on it."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Isn't Anybody In Charge?

Just when you thought this whole presidential campaign tedium couldn't get any sillier, another state announces it's moving up its primary. There now seems a good chance that the regional elections will begin this year, in December, now that Florida has moved its primary so it can stake the claim to being the first in the South, which means that New Hanpshire has to move its caucus so it can retain its claim to being the first in the nation, so Iowa must now move so its caucus can predate everything. Sooner or later California, which had moved so it wouldn't be last, will have to move again. The day will come, I fear, when the primaries for the 2012 general election will happen before the 2008 election ever takes place.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The News: A Barrel O' Laughs

Every now and then the evening news provides a good belly laugh, and I'm not talking about the tendency of weather people to try and desperately outdo each other in the frantic, slightly pathetic, and often bizarre attempt to be funny. It's dispiriting that most news broadcasts nowadays have got themselves confused with sitcoms, but sometimes the news itself is downright entertaining. The latest was a story that aired yesterday, and it's bizarre enough to be worthy of its own joke: there was this man who managed to get on an airplane with a monkey in his hat. I'm not kidding. It happened. He subsequently flew from somewhere in South America to Miami, changed planes without attracting attention, and was on his way to New York when someone noticed the monkey clinging to his pony tail. The man never did explain how he got past security screeners and customs officials, which is a little bit scary since it could've turned out to be a terrorist monkey.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Food For Thought

I wonder what the message was that they were sending us about food back when we were kids. Some lady eating nothing but fat? That's disgusting. And who knew just what the heck lean was. Little Miss Muffett, so the rhyme goes, was "eating her curds and whey," presumably enjoying it. I remember what a gross out it was when I found out curds and whey were basically what happened when you left the milk in the refrigerator about ten days past its due date and it turned into clumps of sour smelling goo and some pale white watery stuff. Then there was Jack Horner, with a pie made out of two dozen blackbirds and one lousy plum. And what's with all the nursery rhyme people named Jack? Not a Hector or a Bernard in the whole crowd.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

No Lies Left Untold

The presidential primaries don't begin until January, half a year away, but the campaign has been going on so long already the pundits have started to refer to it as "just around the corner." Remember back when Kennedy and Nixon debated each other leading up to the elections? The good old days. The actual election isn't until a year from November, and we're being treated to debates once a week, it seems like. There are so many candidates that each one has very little time to respond to a question. They no longer have speech writers, they have gag writers. Does anyone pay any attention to these debates? You know even the media is bored with the whole thing when they try whipping up a controversy about Hillary Clinton's "cleavage."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Half a Loaf

I wonder if the race to invent the wheel was as fraught with drama as the headlong, down-to-the-wire race to be the first man to fly. Few people know that at the same time the Wright Brothers were struggling in lonely anonymity on the dunes of North Carolina, Samuel P. Langley, then head of the Smithsonian Institute, and his friend Alexander Bell were inching closer to launching a heavier-than-air machine off a houseboat in the Potomac River. It helped that they had a huge government grant. Only days before Orville Wright made his ground-breaking flight, Langley and Bell failed on their final attempt. The Wrights knew about their efforts, and got word of the failure. Talk about schadenfreud. But getting the plane off the ground wasn't the real challenge, getting it to fly in a straight line was. Therein lies another tale. This time the Wrights beat Bell and his new partner Glen Curtis to the punch, after which Bell and Curtis engaged in some extraordinarily nefarious industrial spying in an attempt to steal the Wrights' secret and beat them out in getting the first patent on the flying machine. In the end courts decided nobody could patent flying. The poor fellow who invented the wheel never even got credit.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


There's an actual science to laying out supermarkets. It's a specialty, tapping into the psychology of the shopper in order to separate them from their money. I admit to being an impulse buyer. I'll go the store for some lemons, say, and walk out with a cartful of stuff I don't need. I also have a thing about making sure I have enough of everything on hand at home, so that even if I don't want something right at the moment, it's there in case I need it later. So I'm an easy mark for the experts. I have gotten better, though, and now don't throw away nearly as much stuff that goes bad before I can get to it. But the thing about supermarkets that really floors me is this, how come the smallest section by far is the health food section? It definitely tells you a lot about the rest of the junk in there.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Another Day, Another Freakin' Grant

Just when you thought things couldn't get sillier, a pair of psychologists at the University of Texas in Austin have released the results of a study in which, after presumably exhaustive research for which they were undoubtedly well paid, they concluded that there are precisely 237 reasons why people have sex. I haven't seen the list, but I feel sure that if you threw some of those bucks my way I could come up with a 238th reason.

A mea culpa: I fear that some of these commentaries and the ensuing debates may have become like the tail wagging the dog. I enjoy the give and take, and welcome it, but my intention is for people to enjoy the cartoon first of all. That's what I'm doing this for. The accompanying words are only meant as a small window on the thought processes that are the soil from which the cartoon has bloomed. As far as I'm concerned the text is expendable. I'd hate for anyone to think that my primary interest is mouthing off, with the cartoon as illustration, or worse, like the forgettable little joke with which after dinner speakers inevitably begin their boring lectures.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Sermon From Hell

The dean of Melbourne, Australia's St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Rev. Monsignor Geoffrey Baron, was recently relieved of his post for having repeatedly screamed obsceneties, racial epithets, and sexual slurs at a group of boys who were skateboarding outside the cathedral on church property. Granted, the boys were extremely rowdy, but the bishop's meltdown, captured on video by a cellphone and posted on YouTube, was downright shocking. More horrifying to me was the fact that in a poll, 31% of respondents found the cleric's behavior excusable, while another 12% were not sure. What does this say about people, when only slightly more than half of those polled, 56%, feel that there's something wrong with a bishop of the Catholic Church running around flailing his arms and screaming the f-word at a group of bad boys. There's some serious moral confusion going on here. So much for turning the other cheek. I'm happy to report, however, that Mon. Baron has joined the growing list that includes Paris Hilton, Mel Gilbson, Lindsay Lohan, and Don Imus, and apologized.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Those Merry Founding Pranksters

One thing's for certain, the writers of the U.S. Constitution didn't have access to a copy of White and Strunk's The Elements of Style, mainly because unfortunately it hadn't been written yet and wouldn't be for another hundred and fifty years. I say unfortunately because they could have benefitted from some advice about separating clauses with commas. It's pretty ironic actually, one clunky sentence that would count against you bigtime in an English 101 essay, and look how many lawyers it's kept busy for generations. The choice of words is a bit curious, too. We assume the framers intended "bear" to mean carry, but what if that's wrong and they really meant "tolerate?" Or better yet, what if it's some arcane ursine reference? I've heard of bear claws, but bear arms?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Chewing the Fat

I want to know how I can get my hands on some of that research grant money that's being thrown around. Somebody actually funded a recent study by the Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego that concluded, after interviews with more than 12,000 people, that hanging around with fat people can cause you to get fat. I'm really glad to know that, since all these years I've thought that eating too much was the culprit. I wonder what would happen if some obese guy hung around for a while with a skinny crowd and the fat guy started to lose weight? Somebody'd have to fund another study. They used to blame the tendency to get fat on genes. Now it's having fat friends. I need about a hundred grand to study the fact that if you drink too much booze you greatly increase your chances of falling down.