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, November 30, 2007

The Elephant in the Room

One of the more surreal experiences of my life was meeting O.J. It was just a few weeks after a jury had found him innocent of the murders of Nicole and Ron, and he was with his son at a fair at the middle school his son attended. The sons of a friend of mine also went to the school, and I'd volunteered to do tarot readings to help with the fund-raising. What struck me as incongruous was the total disconnect between the man who had so recently been accused of a brutal crime, which half the country still believed he'd committed, and the cheerful, smiling man who was enjoying the day with his boy like any other dad. There was a moment there when it seemed he might have his cards read, but he decided against it. I think we both were afraid of what might come up. I can see it now, me telling The Juice, "ah, my friend, the death card, have you by any chance been involved with any murders lately?"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Time For a Change

I wonder if there might come a day when the American electorate will rise up in revolt against this whole silly presidential campaign business. I have always in the past found myself leaning heavily in favor of one candidate or another well ahead of elections. It was a simple matter of weighing the pros and cons of the applicants for the job and making a decision, but now they've all trashed each other so thoroughly that the whole field looks terrible, and we still have a year of this idiocy left. Thomas Jefferson, smart man, once said there should be a revolution every twenty-five years. That's about how long it takes for any institution to become the opposite of that for which it was originally established. We're almost two-hundred years overdue, Tom.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Distaff Side

Talk about women driving men to drink, most men don't need to be driven, they just stagger there themselves. It was Aristophanes who wrote in Lysistratra way back in 411 B.C. about women that one "....can't live with them, or without them." Michel Eyquem de Montaigne wrote in 1588 that "women are not entirely wrong when they reject the rules of life proscribed for the world, for these were established by men only, without their consent." And it was some anonymous wag who much more recently said "women's work is never done.... by a man."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

All the News That's Unfit

The truth is out, about seventy-five percent of the drivel on the evening news is completely made up. I wouldn't have known if I hadn't realized that in the past couple of weeks the news is even stupider than usual. See, usually they have writers putting the stories together, and ever since the writers' strike it's being done by the mothers-in-law of network executives, which is why a lengthy segment of the 6 O'Clock News on ABC the other night was devoted to what Oprah did on her show that day. If I wanted to watch Oprah I'd watch Oprah, not the news. It's why we haven't had any high-speed chases lately. It takes talent and know-how to put one of those stories together so that the anchor people don't run out of inane things to ask the helicopter pilots, whose answers are all scripted anyway. That story about Bush meeting some foreign dignitaries in the Oval Office yesterday? A rerun. I hope the writer gets a residual.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Money Talks With Forked Tongue

Today's green is yesterday's lo-fat. Corporate America has discovered that environmental awareness sells, so we should all be prepared for a tsunami of "green" companies who, we're told, have lowered their carbon footprints in the rush to be responsible stewards of the planet. The problem with this, as we know too well, is that it's a marketing con job, another bit of Orwellian doublespeak. It has yet to be seen whether reversing global harming will be done without cutting profits, but you can be sure if there's a choice profits will come first. Meanwhile, as the pundits argue about whether Man's profligacy or the inevitability of naural cycles is shrinking the ozone layer and melting the ice caps, the ozone layer continues to shrink and the ice goes right on melting. And the simple reality missed by the pundits is that Man with his appetites is as much a destructive force of nature as locusts devouring a field of crops. The other reality is that if the coporate geniuses show some uncharacteristic foresight and planning, "green" can be good for business.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hell to the Chief

My friend and fellow blogger Jean Burman ( reports from Australia that their one-month long campaign ended with elections this weekend. One month! Lucky them. A month ago our presidential sweepstakes was almost a year old, and the elections are still a year away. Right now the media is going crazy about who's ahead in the Iowa caucuses set for early January, which is the "official" start of primary season, and the Iowa caucuses aren't even really an election. They're a bunch of 50-and-older well-off white people, less than ten percent of the registered voters, who get together across that state to have coffee and cookies and register their preferences. The media, who still don't know that most people in America are not over-50 and white, keep insisting that the results there will be significant. Meanhile, the candidates are hell-bent on personally shaking hands with everyone who'll vote. What mother would want their child to go through that one day, for the dubious distinction of becoming Liar in Chief?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bringing Up the Rear

The Writers Guild strike grinds on, with no end in sight, which is more than you can say about the guy who cleans up after the elephants. I won't draw any parallels with the quality of the work dumped out by my fellow scribes, nor will I discuss the issues involved in the walkout. This homily has more to do with the overwhelming majority of the guild membership, those bartenders, substitute teachers, and attorneys who spend their free time at Starbucks holding down a table with their laptops, nursing a latte grande for hours, happy to be seen tapping out what they hope will be the next Stephen Spielberg megahit. They'll vote for a strike every time, because now they can be seen on the picket line, and maybe even be filmed by a TV news crew. Not strike? What? And quit show biz?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Out of the Frying Pan

There seem to me to be three levels of human organization: civilizations, societies, and cultures, each overlayed on the other. When people ignore culture, all they're left with is a civlization and society. When the inidviduals in a society become less and less social, only a civilization remains, until people start to be increasingly uncivil to each other, and then the whole thing falls apart. In the mad pursuit of what those who stand to profit the most call "economic gowth," culture has gone by the wayside, and our social fabric is breaking down. Turn on talk radio for evidence that civility is going out the window. There's plenty of reason for folks to be anxious. Apparently keeping people scared is supposed to be good for business.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

No Harm, No Fowl

Somehow the president's photo-op "pardoning" of two turkeys who presumably, if this adminisration could be believed, are now free to live to a ripe old age, is emblamatic of everything happening in Washington these days. Make a big deal out of saving a couple of turkey lives while today we celebrate the annual national turkey holocaust, complete with stuffing. Mark my words, those supposedly repreived turkeys, having had their fifteen minutes, are by now, well, meat. White and dark. It wouldn't surprise me if some White House chef writes a tell-all book about the switcheroo one day, but it still won't be clear if the president ever knew. The buck stops over there somewhere.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Talking Turkey

Like every kid I always looked forward to Thanksgiving, but with a qualification. I dreaded the thought of the soup my mother would make with the turkey two weeks later, after the carcass had been picked clean and dried to the consistency of wallboard. Now, of course, we hear from the health and culinary experts on television and in the newspapers a steady drumbeat telling us that if we prepare the bird for cooking improperly, don't carve all the meat off immediately after it's cooked, avoid leaving it sitting out longer than ten minutes, and cook the stuffing separately it can become a little bacteria factory and make us deathly ill. Sure takes the fun out of a holiday whose only purpose is eating. My mom, like everyone else, did all the wrong things, but I don't remember ever having got sick from the turkey. I sure hated the soup though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why Are They Called Waiters?

American waiters have the amazing ability to interrupt you just when you're getting to the punch line of a joke. In America waiting tables is a job, in Italy it's a career. Italian waiters can be solicitous without your ever realizing it. They know exactly when you need something, without asking every five minutes if everything is all right, it's a sixth sense. At the necessary moment they materialize, unlike their American counterpart who has mastered the knack of going deaf while focusing his gaze squarely on a distant galaxy just when you want his attention. Italian waiters don't give you their name, "Buona sera, mi chiamo Giovanni," rather they maintain a polite distance until you've become a regular. Then they become friends for life. One can be away from a favorite restaurant for two years, and when you finally make a return visit the waiters have a way of greeting you as if you've only been missing a couple of weeks, letting you know they're pleased to see you again while saving you the embarrassment of having to explain your absence.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Truthiness II

I grew up, as did generations of Americans, with the image of George Washington as the paragon of moral rectitude. ("I cannot tell a lie," went the old joke, "Popeye did it.") It was a model that politicians until very recent times presumably followed, and we know that's not true. I suspect even old George told a whopper or two, and dissembling was a lot easier before television and now YouTube because, well, who knew? But I suspect the problem isn't just with the politicians, but with the nature of people. "We have met the enemy and he is us," said Pogo famously. The electorate is lazy, and all too willing to buy the goods based on packaging. Nobody wants to take the time to read the fine print on the labels.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Normal newborn infants come into the world knowing how to vent anger. Their rage is manifest quickly and naturally the first time their hunger isn't quickly appeased. But it takes a little longer to pick up laughter as a social strategy, and it isn't until they walk and talk that they learn to lie. They acquire the skill the first time they go into the living room when they shouldn't and break a vase. "I did it, mommy," they confess when grilled. "Thank-you for telling the truth," mommy responds. "Now go to your room and maybe next time you'll learn to stay out of the living room when I'm not there." That's not what they learn at all, they learn to deny the truth. "It wasn't me, mommy," they answer next time. "Must have been the cat."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Immaculate Consumption Part II

In another week of grim news from several fronts, one story brought joy to my heart. A restaurant in New York City was shut down by the health authorities for being infested with cockroaches and rat droppings. That in itself is no big deal. After all, it's New York, where finding cockroaches and rat droppings in a restaurant is as common as getting a Middle Eastern cab driver. What makes this story so deliciously different, if you'll pardon the pun, is that it offers on its menu a chocolate sundae for $26,000, a Guinness Book record, edging out, I'm guessing, a $19 flan at some faux-French place in Vegas. Of course, the sundae features 27 different types of rare cocoa and "edible" gold gilt, and comes served with a take-home gold and diamond bracelet. Whereas with the flan you can't even keep the limoges china it comes in. What's dispiriting is not that there are people who are able to afford such a concoction, but that there are folks so relentlessly crass that they'd want to.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mr. Blackwell Move Over

There seems to be a new unspoken adage nowadays: if you don't have something nice to say about someone, say it to their face. I believe it's the insidious and pervasive influence of "talk" radio, which combines fuzzy thinking with nastiness, and reduces the noble idea of well-regulated debate to the civility and intelligence level of a barroom toward the end of Happy Hour on any given Friday. Why else would we have a culture in which an attendee at a John McLain rally asks a question in which she refers to Sen. Hillary Clinton using the "b" word, and then have McLain chuckle and say, "good question?" Does anybody know where they've hidden the moral compass?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Little Communion Toot

It's interesting that in our religion obsessed culture, mind-altering drugs, which throughout mankind's early history played an important role in attaining religious bliss and ecstasy, are anathema to the so-called "values" crowd. The gift from the gods of primitive societies has turned into the devil's curse. The Oracles of Delphi would sit in the inner sanctum, which literally means holy place, breathing in the smoke from braziers and respond to the questions of those who came great distances for their "wisdom." The answers were enigmatic at best. "Where should we put the city?" asked colonists from Megara in 667 BC who would found the city that was Byzantium, became Constantinople, and today is Istanbul. "Put it opposite the blind," responded the Oracle, in her drug-induced stupor. "Ah," said the Megarans, "it must mean it should go in a place so beautiful that only a blind man couldn't see it, and selected the Golden Horn as the spot. Anybody who couldn't figure that out without consulting a blitzed-out virgin must have been doing some pretty powerful stuff himself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Free To Speak, Except When....

No wonder we as a nation have become so angst-ridden. We pride ourselves on what we call our democracy, and yet we have such a tenuous hold on just what democracy is. The inescapable fact is that it's riddled with paradox. The majority of voters didn't want George W. Bush for president in 2000, so we got him for the next 8 years. Democracy is predicated on the electorate's making choices based on its knowledge of what our leaders are up to, and we have an administration that is cloaked in secrecy, such as lying to us about the true cost of the Iraq adventure. Yell "fire" in a crowded theatre and your rights to free speech won't help you, you'll probably get arrested, but sidle up to an usher and say, "I think the guy seated next to me may have a bomb in his back pack, and you can be sure they'll clear the place. Lest we forget, it was George H.W. Bush who, as vice president, at a state dinner in the Phillipines lauded the brutal dictator Ferdinando Marcos as "that great friend of democracy."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hope Springs Infernal

I wonder if cave men had mid-life crises. Probably not. I'm guessing it's a relatively recent phenomenon for most men, occurring at that point when they're doing as well as they can possibly do in life so they'd better have a little fun before it's over. Either that or they've acquired enough security to become completely bored with whatever it is that's making them secure. Security is a fickle and elusive partner. It doesn't matter how well a man is doing, he's going to find ways to never have enough stuff by acquiring too much and then getting so burned out by trying to keep up with his own profligacy that he finds new and expensive ways to distract himself from the stress of it all, like taking a mistress. Or flying lessons. Or trying to become a rock star at fifty. Cave men had it easy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Where There's Smoke

When I was about eleven or twelve, when other kids were beginning to experiment with cigarettes, I made a quite conscious analysis of smoking and decided it wasn't for me. I simply couldn't see the sense in taking leaves, drying them out, crushing them up, setting fire to them and breathing in the smoke. It's a testament to American advertising genius that they were able to convince the masses that something so inherently absurd was pleasurable. But then, as Frank Lloyd Wright pointed out, move the "m" in "the masses" over one space and what have you got?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Super Size

While still in college I moonlighted as an actor playing bit roles with The Association of Performing Artists, a fine repertory company specializing in the classics and graced by the beauty and talent of Rosemary Harris, the British actress who would become one of the reigning monarchs of the American stage. Also in the company was a wonderful actor named Thayer David. Thayer was, in a word, heavy, but somehow it seemed natural since his girth was so much an inseparable part of his joyous persona. I recall once when the company was gathered around a large table in a restaurant for the post-performance supper that is so often a fixture of the working actor's day. Thayer, as was his wont, was piling into a huge plate of roast beef and mashed potatoes, onto which he was piling gobs of butter and rich gravy. "Thayer," one of the actresses asked, "do you try to be fat?" "No," he said grinning, "I just enjoy it."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

We're All In This Together

Landing at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is an amazing experience. It's one of those rare places when, as you look out the window on approach, you realize there's no place else in the world you could possibly be. A number of years ago, a major airline's transatlantic flight from the U.S. was scheduled to land at Frankfurt, Germany, well to the northeast. Somewhere over the ocean, air traffic control made a critical error and vectored the huge jetliner to Amsterdam. The pilots failed to do any backup navigating and didn't catch the mistake. Back in the cabin passengers and attendants watched perplexed on the little tv monitors that showed their steady progress toward not just the wrong airport, not just the wrong city, but the wrong country. It wasn't until the plane broke through the cloud cover on final approach with what they thought was their destination runway ahead that the pilots saw the dike holding back the north sea, and the flat landscape dotted with windmills. Whoops. That's what happens when the people in charge put all their trust in flawed intelligence.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Haute Cuisine, Extra Haute

The bad news is it looks like the writers' strike is going to be with us for awhile. The good news is you won't find any reruns here. The thing that really annoys me about the strike is the really lame chants and songs being heard on the picket lines. "What do we want? A contract. When do we want it? NOW? I mean, how shopworn can you get? Listening to my fellow scribes trying to sound like macho autoworkers you begin to get an idea why television is so mind-numbingly bad.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Glass Is Half Full

I noticed that after one year of daily posting I'm using up 4% of my alloted space on the server. That's a relief. It means I can do this for the next 25 years before I run out. The only thing is, now I have to start worrying about what I'm going to do after that. It's amazing the tricks our heads can play with us, for better or for worse. Several years back the state lottery officials introduced a new game, but quickly discovered that fewer people were participating. Evidently word had got out that the new chance against winning was something like twenty-eight million to one as opposed to twenty-six million to one as previously. Folks just didn't like the new odds. Go figure.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's Art If the Artist Says So, And You Can Too

Click on image to view enlarged.

The really scary thing is that this isn't in the least far-fetched. A New York Times article last week featured an artist named Ingrid Calame, whose latest obsession, after a career forged by tracing stains and calling it art, is capturing the skid marks made by racecar drivers on the track at the Indianapolis Speedway. Her work is being shown right now at a high-end Soho gallery. I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand, I appreciate pushing the limits of what we understand and accept as art. I love the work of Cristo and Jean-Claude, and when I think of the Sistine Chapel, little rectangles of pretty landscapes or abstract splotches hung over sofas seems somehow silly to me. On the other hand, if Ms. Calame is going to push the idea that skidmarks on pavement is art, the least she could do is make them her own skidmarks.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

One Year Old!

The Fool's been around for one year today without missing a day, my friends. That's fourteen pounds of drawings, countless pencils and pens and several erasers. It's been an interesting time, with some very satisfying and fulfilling milestones, though the anniversary was commemorated yesterday with a rejection letter from Parade Magazine that thanked me gently for my submission but said my work didn't fit with their "editorial needs." Editorial needs? I thoght they were looking for cartoons. Oh well, I ain't giving up, and hopefully neither will the Writers Guild. And by the way, my heartfelt thanks to you loyals.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Water Water Everywhere

I readily admit that I'm a disaster when it comes to care of plants. Simple watering is beyond me. It's always either too little or too much, and within days they're croaking. What makes it unfortunate is that I not only like plants, I anthropomorphize them and thus feel guilty and remorseful for days after they die. I've attempted vegetable gardens, done everything by the book, and ended up with the most pathetic results imaginable. I'll spend weeks turning soil, fertilizing, watering, tending, all the while looking forward to the bounty that will grace my table, and in the end sit down to a side dish of three sorry stringbeans. It's why we have supermarkets.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Gimme That Old-Fashioned (Cicadian) Rhythm

Driving in the car is made much more entertaining by the experts they interview on the news shows. Yesterday on NPR I heard a genius psychologist who's made his life's work studying diurnal and nocturnal cycles inform us that daylight savings time causes disruption in our sleep schedules. Yeah, and I bet next time someone will tell us that eating a lot makes us feel full. It puts me in mind of the old Ben Franklin saying from Poor Richard's Almanac, "Early to rse and early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead." Or something like that.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Heel Heal Thyself

One of the justifications I give for having never gone into therapy echoes Charles Schulz's, it might take the edge off my creativity. I know that's nonsense, but when you're looking for a justification anything will do. I knew a since deceased Tony and Oscar-winning actress who was in therapy for years, lurching from one therapist to the next. It never hurt her creativity in the least, she was brilliant in every role she played, but she was an emotional basket case and it didn't do her any good either. She was too cagey for therapy, and too much of an actress, and managed to reveal to the various doctors only enough to project the character she wanted them to see. Thus she remained for herself, and them, the victimized, tragic heroine of her own life.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Special Delivery

It has been said that the bun is the lowest form of wheat, and the pun is the lowest form of wit. I rest my case.

Counting down: as of this coming Monday The Fool will have posted for an entire year without missing a day. Actually, the total number of posts will be 366, due to the fact that there were two postings on the inaugural day, 11/6/06.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

You're Never Too Old

Language is an amazing thing. We no longer have old age homes, we have assisted living facilities. People aren't handicapped anymore, they're challenged, which seems a bit ridiculous to me. Handicapped is a good word, it suggests that you're allowed a couple more swats at the golf ball to get it into the cup, a far more benign way than challenged to say someone deserves an edge when looking for a parking spot. We're all challenged when trying to parallel park on a crowded street.