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 *).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sauce For the Goose

I cannot for the life of me understand how the growing of a plant can be outlawed, especially one that can ease pain. I'm not now and never have been a pot user. I've tried it in social settings, I've even gone so far as to inhale, but it never did anything for me. It was hashish brownies that once whacked me but good. It was in Guadaljara, Mexico, on location with a Charles Bronson film I'd written, a night shoot. Poppy, the costume designer, baked them in the producer's motor home. I ate one but after a couple of hours I felt nothing, so I ate another. Half an hour later the tsunami hit within minutes. I tried being cool, but it was impossible. As soon as I said something to someone I forgot what it was I'd said. When they answered me, I had no idea what they were talking about. By the way, Poppy scored the hash off the marine guards at the American consulate. Semper high.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

And By the Way You're Ugly

I'm no apologist for Dr. I'm-At-Dinner-John. (I'm not making fun of his name, which is the cheesiest form of insult, I just had to come up with a way to pronounce it.) There's no question that he repeats a lot of blatantly untrue things over and over, just like another world leader whose name I won't mention. And he's eroding the constitutional rights of his people, just like another world leader whose name I won't mention. And he's capable of invading other countries, even though he hasn't done it yet like another world leader whose name I won't mention. No, my problem with the president of Columbia University is more related to my experience as a writer and director. That whole travesty was just bad drama. The denouement was given away in the first five minutes, in the introductory remarks. I've written action movies, and rule number one is you wait until the last reel for the hero to knock off the bad guy. You have to give the villain at least ninety minutes to show us how really dangerous he is before you turn the tables on him. If you can't hold the audience until then it's just plain bad writing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Weather or Not

For years I, like most people probably, puzzled over the odds the weather people give us. How, I wondered, do they arrive at a "fifty percent chance of rain," or "eighty-percent?" It seemed like there was never a correlation between the number they forecast and the reality. As with so much in life, it's not what it seems. It's not, as one might think, a matter of what will be, but rather what has been. It's just the percentage of times, given the same temperature, barometric pressure and wind direction, that it's rained on that day of the year in the past. But also like so much else we deal with in modern life, it doesn't make a bit of difference. For one thing, who cares whether the chance of rain is fifty percent or eighty, you're still going to want to take an umbrella to work. For another thing, no matter what the numbers, the only umbrella you can find is the broken one. I like the forecast I heard on the radio years ago: "Rain tonight, followed by tomorrow."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Into the Wild Blue Flounder

My childhood model airplane aspirations always ended in disaster, or at least what passed for disaster to a ten-year old. I'd painstakingly and lovingly cut and shape and glue together all those little balsa wood struts and pieces, stretch the "skin" over the frame, and when my little beauty was done I'd wind up the rubber band-powered propellor and crunch, the whole thing would collapse in a ball of splinters and ripped paper. My later attempts with gasoline power fared no better. One of the first jokes I ever knew would resonate in my mind. One man tells another he's been laid up in bed. "What was wrong?" the friend asks. "Flu." "Oh, and crashed, I suppose." Ba da boom.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Politically Incorrigible

When I sit down in the morning to write the accompanying commentary to these cartoons I usually have no idea where my mind is going to head. Today I flashed on the most recent blog entry of my friend Jean Burman (, concerning political correctness. I created this a few days ago, and it hadn't occurred to me that it might be tasteless, crass, and insensitive until I connected it to Jean's observations (with which I both agree and have reservations about, but that's another story). And then I recalled the true story of a feminist author who was terrified of flying but had to spend a lot of time travelling to conferences and speaking engagements. To overcome her phobia she took a course (dare I call it a "crash" course?), and was told that the first time she flew after "graduation" she should explain her situation to the cabin attendants (notice I didn't use the sexist term "stews"), and ask to meet the pilot, thus putting a human face to the person who would be responsible for her safety and well-being. But when she saw that the pilot was a woman, she burst into tears.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rudy, Ruder, Rudest

What are we to make of Rudy Giuliani interrupting a speech to the NRA to answer a cell phone call from his wife? A "perfect storm" of circumstances? He forgot to turn off his ringer before taking to the dais just as his spouse, who had no idea of his schedule, was about to board a plane in London? Or a way too cutsie, coy set-up? Giuliani is an invention of his own making, shedding his old crypto-liberal positions and ideas like a snake sheds his skin as he remakes himself into what he hopes will be an ultra-right icon, pro gun, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant. His trump card, he wants us to believe, is that he's tough on terrorists, but based on what? On 9/11 he strutted around the streets of New York while the president was fleeing across the country in the opposite direction. That's it! Big deal. The one area he's having some trouble with, given his spotty marital record, is the whole family values bit. Maybe seeming to be available to his darling by cell at any hour of the day and night is supposed to do the trick. Rudy as dutiful hubbie. Hey, in this day and age of instant YouTube appearance is everything.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Son Also Rises

Click on image to view enlarged.

I've always been curious about whether artists are innately quirky and off-the-wall, or become that way because it's expected of them. I, of course, think I'm completely normal, but that may only be because I also think no one else is. Cops present this same connundrum. I once was researching a script for Hill Street Blues, and accompanied some vice squad cops conducting a sting operation. I joined them in a seedy motel office, where they were staked out while lady cops dressed as hookers lured unsuspecting johns into a motel room where other cops would leap out of the closet and arrest them. It was like living in a TV show. Did the TV cops learn from their real counterparts, I wondered, or did these real guys learn their roles from watching TV? The thing that bothered me was that they all seemed to be enjoying it way too much, crime fighting turned blood sport when the crime was so benign and the criminals just a bunch of horny schlubs. Policewomen make smashing hookers, though.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Dog-Walkers' Life

Dog poop in the city teaches us depressing lessons about all humankind. I live in a residential neighborhood where the occasional single family home is shoe-horned in between mostly two-storey apartment dwellings, and "lawns" are small rectangles competing for the limited remaining space with concrete slabs that serve as two and three-car parking areas. We have a lot of dogs where I live, and therefore a lot of dog walkers. Most by far pick up after their animals, but there some so boorishly irresponsible that they apparently don't give a damn, and leave their dogs' crap where it dropped. It's the few that despoil things for the rest. One can't help but notice that it's the folks with the biggest dogs who are the worst offenders, those in-your-face people whose huge pets are reflections of their egos, and who I suspect are rather pleased to be constantly leaving their brobdingnagian scatalogical marks on the world for the rest of us nerds, bearing our little poop collection bags, to suffer.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Two For the Price of One

My thanks to Kate for catching my gaffe. Thanks heavens someone is paying attention. To make up for my having reposted a cartoon a couple of`days ago that had already been posted last April, I'm double posting today. This is another of those first art cartoons. This way I can maintain my, dare I say it, streak of a new cartoon for every day begun last year. Today's post, by the way, brings us up to 322.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hope Springs Internal

There's a company offering a "simulation of space flight." For several thousand dollars you can experience a few minutes of weightless. All they do, really, is take you up in a big windowless cargo plane and go into a dive while you float around and bump into other people and get thoroughly nauseous. It reminds me of a ride I went on once at Magic Mountain where they spin you around in a big cylinder-like thing best described as a barrel standing on end. Once it goes fast enough they drop the bottom out and you're pinned to the wall helpless. After I got off I lost my lunch. At least it cost a lot less than a phoney ride into orbit.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Eye of the Beholder

A critic could argue that it doesn't show, but I regularly attend a life drawing workshop where artists work from a nude model. In a world that passed through the explosion of public nudity that was part of the so-called sexual revolution back in the 60's and wound up in this young century with the horror and outrage that greeted a brief, barely glimpsed "costume malfunction," an outrage that extended to the Halls of Congress, life drawing is a delightfully staid anachronism. Even if one doesn't draw, they should attend one of these sessions, if for nothing else just to understand how normal, natural, and unsexualized nudity can be. I marvel at the unselfconsciousness of the models, who strip down to the buff and pose motionless with a nonchalance matched only by the artists who draw them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Wouldn't you know it, the toilet stall in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport where Sen Larry Craig got busted has become a tourist attraction. I wonder how long it'll take them to have docents showing people around, and maybe a gift counter selling postcards and little porcelein replicas of the WC. Next thing, no doubt, crowds will be flocking to the hotel room in Vegas where O.J. pulled off the guerrilla raid that, to hear the media report on it, made D-day look like a Sunday walk in the park. I bet the Vegas honchos are wishing they'd never bothered to spend so much building a cheesy replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Immaculate Consumption

Let's face it, it's a plastic world. Pay cash nowadays and you're liable to arouse the suspicions of Homeland Security. Credit cards used to be about convenience, now they're about identity. It's how the powers that be keep track of us. But few of us realize what a tenuous hold we have on our identity. A well-known actress of my acquaintance last week applied for an ID card in New York, where she now lives. She needed it because she was to fly to California for a TV job and you need a photo ID to get on a plane, but both her California driver's license and passport had recently expired. She went to DMV armed with the license and passport, birth certificate, marriage license, and the social security card she'd had since she was kid. They wouldn't give her the ID because, they said, the social security card wasn't valid. Huh? The supervisor even recognized her from television, but hey, that didn't mean she is who she is for some reason. In fact, how do any of us know we really are who we are?

Monday, September 17, 2007

They Gotta Be Kidding

It's astonishing the TV shows that get greenlighted these days. Television executives are like a group of 7-year old boys. It doesn't matter how intelligent and socially adjusted they are as individuals, put them together in a group and they instantly dumb down. Years ago I was writing a biopic of the first Mayor Daley of Chicago for a major network, and in a script conference one of the vice presidents said to me, "remember, we don't want this to be a political movie." Yeah, right. I tried an experiment a while ago to see just how far I could push the envelope. I pitched an idea for a new reality show called Out On a Limb about a group of quadruple amputees training to compete against each other in the triathalon. I expected the executives to throw me out of the room. Instead they sat there like a bunch of monkeys, scratching their chins and glancing at each other in search of clues as to how they should react. Finally one spoke up. "You know," he said, "that might just work." Scary.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


The giant bookselling chains Borders, and Barnes and Noble, originally haughtily announced they were refusing to stock If I Did It, the hog swill co-authored by O.J. Simpson about Nicole's murder, but would only make it available over the Internet. That was before sales went through the roof. Now they've backtracked and decided the promise of huge profits outweighs the stench that will pervade their stores. So much for riding high horses along moral high roads. And by the way, talk about reading the fine print, check out the way the "if" on the title page has virtually disappeared inside the "I," making it all but impossibe to see, thus rendering the title, for all intents and purposes, I Did It. What a class act. Did I say class? I meant crass.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cartoon Noir

I have a confession. When I try to read mystery novels, or go to detective movies, or watch TV shows where legal puzzles are being solved, I can't follow the story. Chinatown had me scratching my head, as did The French Connection. Hitchcock's films keep me in the dark, figuratively as well as literally. Everyone else I know claims they've figured out the ending before they've finished their bucket of popcorn. At some point around the halfway point in the film they're going "aha." while I'm going, "huh?" I wouldn't know a red herring from a green flounder. I know I'm a fairly smart guy, but for years I thought it was a sign of ignorance, or early senility, but then I realized I just couldn't care less. I tune out on all the "he saids" and "she saids." Plot does squat for me.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Down the Rabbit Hole

Let's see if I've got this straight. The president says his so-called "surge" that he put into place last January with some 25,000 additional troops is working. Now, he tells us, security has improved. Therefore, on the counsel of his top general in the field he's authorized the gradual withdrawal of those troops until the number of American soldiers in Iraq is 130,000, the number it was back in January before the surge was put into place. In other words, things were a godawful mess, now the situation is arguably improved, so we're going to go back to the way it was when it was godawful. No plan to get the hell out, no plan for success, just do nothing interminably as American boys die and billions of dollars are poured down the tubes every month. Oh, and Osama bin Laden has dyed his beard and is turning out videotapes in less time than Britney Spears spends in rehab.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You Can Beat a Dead Horse

The whole Sen. Larry Craig business has nothing to do with morality, justice, the propriety of the law, nor even hypocrisy. Now we can only gape opened mouth at the train wreck Craig's allowed himself to become. Here's one of the fifty most powerful men in the country, making decisions that affect you and me, claiming he entered a guilty plea for something about which he insists he's innocent well after the fact because, he says, he was under duress. Poor baby. The only thing more surreal and, yes, insane delivered up by a politician lately is Pres. Bush telling the Australian Prime Minister we're "kicking butt in Iraq" as if he were talking about a high school football game. 28 American soldiers killed in the past two weeks, another few billion down the drain, a whole country in tatters, an entire region of the world destabilized, Osama bin Laden busy making videotapes, no end in sight, and we're doing what?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I just don't get the running thing. I'm a bicycle person, but not decked out in the fancy togs emblazoned with European logos. If I'm going to get out and exercise I don't want to be calling attention to myself, I'd rather enjoy a certain amount of anonymity. That way, when I'm halfway up a steep hill and decide to walk my bike the rest of the way I don't call attention to myself. I once saw a slightly overweight, middle-aged biker togged out in brightly colored spandex duds, jersey, and the funny little cap walking his three thousand dollar racing bike up a hill. A passing motorist shouted "way to go, Lance Armstrong" at him. The whole scene depressed the crap out of me. I don't know whether it was the cyclist desperately clinging to his last shred of fantasy bestowed by our consumer society, or the rudeness of the driver. These are strange times.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Koffee Klatsch

For a number of years I lived aboard my sailboat, a Fuji 45 ketch with a sleek black hull. Once, while I was returning from Catalina Island with two friends a whale breached barely a hundred yards astern of us and then swam off to the west. We were under power then, so we turned to follow and quickly lost sight. Moments later he suddenly reappeared, swimming alongside right next to us, a majestic presence almost the length of the boat. He then proceeded to play with us, diving under the hull and reappearing on the other side repeatedly before finally abandoning us. I suppose I should have been afraid, but I was too awestruck, and he showed no signs of anything but curiosity. More than anything else, I was thrilled. One thing was certain, he was huge and we were small, and we were visitors in his world, not he in ours. Lots of lessons to be learned, folks.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chow Down

I'm not a fan of nouvelle cuisine. It's always beautiful, color coordinated sprigs and shoots and shavings of things artistically arranged around a miniscule bit of marinated mahi mahi tuna or something en croute, the polar opposite of super sizing. It puts me in mind of the joke about a man in an upscale French restaurant. The waiter asked him, "How did you find your veal, sir?" "Easy," the man answered, "I just nudged aside the two stalks of asperges blanc vinaigrette and there it was."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

All the World's a Critic

I've long wondered about this business of having to always say something nice when you feel nothing but malice. It seems unnatural to me. My father was the movie critic on the New York Times for years, and I can tell you there were times he had absolutely nothing nice to say about a film, and made no effort to find something. The world is filled with journalists, pundits, commentators, reviewers, lawyers, and college professors saying rotten things about people all the time. So why did our mothers lay this heavy burden on us? The New York Times book reviewers, on the other hand, always, without fail, find something bad to say about a book, no matter how lavishly they've praised it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Measure For Measure

There's a new TV commercial on my list of all-time worst. A slightly plump woman is at the kitchen table with her young son, who's refusing to finish his dinner. The husband, standing behind them, tells the son, "eat your vegetables or we're not going to Baskin and Robbins for an Oreo cookie sundae." The husband turns away and the mother grabs the boy's plate and starts gobbling the peas and carrots greedily. It's disgusting stuff. On the evening news this was followed soon after by a story about the increase in diabetes due to obesity. I guess it has something to do with the equal time law.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Abstract Grafitti

Click on image to view enlarged.

Public bathrooms have got a lot of bad press lately, and for all the wrong reasons. From an aesthetic point of view it's remarkable that architects and designers for decades have applied so little imagination to these essential areas of buildings. Even Frank Lloyd Wright failed miserably in this respect, along with every other 20th and 21st century architect. Outhouses showed more creativity, for heaven's sake. It seems like the only guiding philosophy in their design is to make you want to get the hell out as fast as possible, unless you're looking for an assignation, and then decor is the last thing on your mind. And while I'm on the subject, why do they call them rest rooms? Maybe because they're uglier than the rest of the building.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

School Daze

I admit to a certain skepticism that's guaranteed to outrage a lot of people, but I believe ADD doesn't really exist, it's just another way for the pharmaceutical people to push expensive drugs. As an acting teacher and high school lacrosse coach I've known a lot of kids who've been diagnosed with the so-called condition, and in my experience they're just brighter than other students and so they get bored faster. The smarter they are the "worse" they are. It's amazing how well they can focus if you just find the thing that interests them. It's why they make terrific actors. If ADD had been around when I was a youngster I'm convinced they'd have pinned it on me. In fact, if they pinned it on adults I could claim a bad case of it still, which would be far more socially acceptable than having my brothers think of me as a crazy, irresponsible artist.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Moving Right Along

Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho has now established himself as the ultimate flip-flopper. Having pled guilty in court to soliciting sex from an undercover cop in an airport bathroom, he subsequently insisted he was innocent. Then last Saturday he resigned his senate seat. Yesterday he indicated he might withdraw his resignation. I thought it was interesting that his son and daughter declared they wouldn't care if he was gay, though they felt it might not go down well with their mother.

The world has turned upside down. Also yesterday a shark at Rockaway Beach in New York was savagely attacked by angry beachgoers, but was rescued by lifeguards. What's next, lawyers making greedy client jokes?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Meanwhile, Back At the Cave

The really amazing thing about human beings is what a relatively short time we've been around on the planet, so we can be forgiven for not having got things right yet. Creatures like sharks and cockroaches have been around for billions of years, and suit this world way better than we do. I once went rafting on the Zambesi River, which flows between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It's filled with crocodiles, and we were given instructions on what to do if we wound up in the water which went something along the lines of "get the hell out of the water, fast!" It's not something you can practice for, and if there does happen to be a croc anywhere near, forget about it, you're croc dinner. It's when you realize we're part of the food chain, and not necessarily the top.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Little Workplace Humor IV

It occurs to me with something of a shock that perhaps the "middle" in middle class really means average, falling somewhere in between those who are actually good at what they do and those who are totally clueless. We've created a mass of middling capable people in corporate life, government, engineering, medicine, and the entertainment industry who really excel at only one thing, making their inept bosses think they're better at their jobs than they in fact are. That's mildly amusing when the worst damage they can do is greenlight the Hummer, mess up bridge construction, and start wars we shouldn't be fighting, but when they make dumb movies like Balls of Fury it's time to worry about the future of mankind.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Life Style

It's astonishing, isn't it, that we've come to the point where humans are defined by little plastic cards and numbers? Take it all away and suddenly we're nobody. Henry David Thoreau would have a field day with this. It's got to be turned around. We have to get back to a simpler, purer way of living, and we can start by eating food that is, well, food, not a bunch of chemicals and artificial ingredients. Go to your kitchen right now, check the boxes, wrapping, and containers the stuff you ingest come in. Bagels, for instance, used to be made of flour, yeast, and water. But buy a package at the super market and you'll find mono- and diglycerides, sodium steroyl, lactylate, potassium iodate, enzymes, calcium iodate, arzodicarbonimide, calcium propionate and potassium sorbate, guar gum, sulfiting agent, and soy lecithin. With the food industry doing this to our bodies, and television taking our souls, who needs an identity?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Going Back

We should all be encouraged by the latest news out of Italy. Forensic scientists are inching closer to discovering what really happened to the "Iceman," whose perfectly preserved, frozen remains were found in the Italian alps in recent years. The man, evidently a hunter, died 5000 years ago. It was originally believed he had been killed by an arrow, but the scientists have now determined that the arrow wound was not sufficient to end his life, and that he was finished off by "blunt force trauma" to the head. In other words, he got bonked. I for one am glad that time, effort, and money is being put to this. I just hope they'll finally get the son of a bitch who did it.