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 *).

Thursday, January 31, 2008

When Flips Flop

I take back all my complaining about the endless presidential campaign. It's turned out to be one of the most entertaining ever. Who could've imagined the McCain comeback, Huckleberry calling for a constitutional ammendment officially recognizing one god, Romney flipping through positions as if he were shuffling a deck of cards, Ron Paul with a name that sounds like a porn star, Giuliani changing family values to mean taking his mistress to the Hamptons on the taxpayers' dime, and all of them sniping at each other like valley girls? And then there's the likelihood the Democratic candidate will be either a woman or an African-American, literally. If you're a political mainliner it's sheer bliss, the only downside being having to go cold turkey after November.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Cold Day in Heck

Nobody's really serious about global harming, not Al Gore not 60 Minutes, not any of the corporations that are claiming to be going green mainly because of the public relations benefits, none of the scientists. The reason I know is that you don't hear anybody talking about the energy waste of refrigerators, and it's monumental. I would even be willing to go out on a limb, with zero statistics to back me up, and say that taken together they're the single biggest waster of energy in the country, if not the world, and doing something about it is astonishingly easy. It's just that people, including those who say they care about global harming, would resist it like crazy. Anybody who's ever lived on a small boat and has had to rely on generators and batteries for electicity knows about this. I'm talking about changing from top loading to front loading. Cold is heavier than heat. Open a refrigerator door and instantly a huge amount of cold spills out the bottom. Open a top loader and the cold just sits in there. Oh sure, it takes some serious organization. It's not easy to find the mayo when it's underneath a pile of other stuff, but if we really do care, it's worth it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Three Strikes You're Out

"Give me some peanuts and crackjacks," goes the lyric of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, written in 1908 by Jack Norworth. Those were simpler times. Nowadays it would need to include garlic fries, pizza, nachos, eggrolls, and a cornucopia of whatever is available in the food court of the local mall. I admit I love baseball more than any other sport except lacrosse. I enjoyed playing it as a kid, but never as much as I like going to the game. Not because it's fast, but because it's so liesurely. It's not just an athletic contest, it's a picnic, a town meeting. I was at Dodger stadium a few years ago when the same Cardinals player hit back to back grand slam home runs against the same Los Angeles pitcher, the first time it had ever happened in the major leagues. "We've just seen history being made," someone near me exclaimed. "No," I said, "we've just seen trivia being made."

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Hole Truth

Justice is blind, or so the old aphorism goes. On the other hand, there's another aphorism that says, "he couldn't get justice so he went to court." The concept of a "jury of our peers" has done a one-eighty since its use in old England. Nowadays we select a jury of people who presumably know absolutely nothing about the case or the litigants, and have no prejudice in the matter. Originally the jury was to be composed literally of peers, villagers and neighbors who knew the person on trial as the cheating scoundrel he was. It sped things up, even if it wasn't always fair. I like the Italian system, where the litigants have the constitutional right to do anything necessary to press their case or defend themselves, including lying. I'm not making this up.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Right Up Our Alley

I've heard that dumpster diving has become a big thing in major cities. Folks have discovered that restaurants and food stores routinely throw out huge quantities of perfectly good food, usually because the "use by" date has just past. Even the well-heeled are patrolling back alleys to fill their larders and refrigerators. Also known as urban foraging, binning, skipping, and alley surfing, it's become especially common in New York, where people are organizing elegant dinner parties and serving nothing but their free swag. I've no doubt it will soon lead to organized competitions, with points deducted if, say, you can't find the right garnis for your pot au feu and are forced to pick up some at Gristede's.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Love a Parade

I don't know what it is about marching bands that makes me cry. I'm inexplicably moved by the slightly out of tune blaring sound (I am, after all, a crwth player), the sense of all those people with a common purpose, the way the sousaphone takes on a life of its own, the ill-fitting uniforms. I admit I cry easily. When I go to a sad movie I start weeping when I see the tickets. But I do feel ridiculous when a parade goes by and there I am, sobbing away. Gets me every time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Size Matters

As personal service has been phased out over the years by economizing, the one place I'm glad to see it is in the shoe store. There's something quaint about the salespeople measuring your foot with a metal thing that looked like an instrument of torture, and then coming back from the stock room balancing several boxes of shoes, none of which fit and none of which were quite what you were looking for. Nowadays one is faced with stacks and stacks of shoes of all styles, sizes, and prices, and you wait on yourself. It can be bewildering and anxiety producing, yet at the same time welcoming, when I realize I don't have to worry about holes in my socks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A (Sled) Dog's Life

Because of global harming the official start of the Iditarod race is being moved north from the town of Wasilla, according to recent reports. The problem is that lately they haven't been having enough snow. It's ridiculous that the debate continues about whether or not man bears a significant responsiblity for the planet's precipitous rise in temperature. It's now a given. The real question is how we can reverse it, and I say that it can't be done. Mankind is going to go on warming houses, fueling transportation, manufacturing stuff, and all the other things that existence demands. Sure, it can be done more efficiently, but it can't be eliminated, so even though the warming can be slowed it can't be stopped. What we need to do is start figuring out what to do about it. Cities are going to be inundated? Move to higher ground. No more ice? Drink scotch neat. And put wheels on sleds.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Watch Your Head

I grew up across the street from a golf course, but I never got hooked. I just couldn't wrap my head around the concept of whacking a little ball, walking after it, then whacking it again, until eventually you manage to tap it into a little hole. And nowadays most people don't even walk, they ride a little rent-a-cart. This, folks, is not a sport for sane people. My older brother worked as a caddy right through the time he was in law school. He told people he was earning money in "entertainment logistics." He tried hard for a long time to get me into caddying. Finally one day he dragged me out to the golf course where I was put to work at what was entry-level caddying, an idiotic exercise called shagging. You stand out on the driving range while golfers rain down balls on you which you have to run around and pick up. It was my first and last involvement with golf.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Phase Is Familiar

As the aphorism goes, instead of chips off the old block we now have saps out of old trees. "What would you give to be young again," a man was asked on his seventy-fifth birthday?" "That's a no-brainer," he replied, " I'd give fifty years of my life." The other day I mentioned to my forty-something nephew, who participates in a pick-up lacrosse game on Sunday mornings, that I thought I'd show up and play one of these weekends. "I wouldn't stand in your way, but I wouldn't recommend it," he said. I asked why not. "Because you're old," he said. Ouch.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What a Revoltin' Development!

I'm not a John McCain supporter, but I feel compelled to defend him against Chuck Norris's charge that he's too old to run for president. I've worked with Chuck Norris, and to borrow a phrase from his idol Mike Huckleberry, he's got the IQ of brocolli. Norris is one of those people who, when you're having a conversation with him, will stare blankly into space without ever hearing one word you said and then answer with a non-sequitur. He won some martial arts championships when he was young and became a film extra and stunt double, a career where you look tough and pretend to get hit. He parlayed that into movie stardom by taking Steve McQueen's advice and letting other characters do most of the talking so that audiences won't notice you don't know what you're doing. I don't deny him the right to support a candidate, even if he is a bonehead, but it seems to me when he starts slamming other candidates, especially for something as meaningless as their age, he's way out of line. Hopefully few people will listen to him beyond those close-relatives of apes who cite the bible as proof Darwin had it all wrong.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Shaggy Clam Story

Tommy Tuna lived a life of exemplary virtue, while Sam Clam was a wild party animal, but regardless of their differences they were best of friends until one day Sam was dredged up and became part of a chowder at Delmonico's, while Tommy was caught and wound up in a tuna salad. Because of the lives they led Tommy Tuna's soul went to heaven, while Sam Clam was relegated to the underworld. Sam thrived, eventually opening his own discotheque down below, but he missed his old pal. So he wrote to him in heaven inviting him to come visit. Tommy appealed to St. Peter, who granted him a twenty-four hour leave. "But," St. Peter admonished, "you must be back before midnight, and don't lose your harp." Well, Tommy and Sam had a great reunion, until Tommy noticed he only had seconds to get back to heaven. He bade Sam a hasty good-bye and raced back, arriving just as the pearly gates slammd shut behind him. St. Peter scowled, "what happened to your harp?" "Oh my gosh, Tommy Tune said, "I left my harp in Sam Clam's Disco."
"Happy is he who suffers the least pain; miserable is he who enjoys the least pleasure." -- Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1762

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Last Writes

The Directors Guild and the Producers Alliance reached an agreement on a three year contract after just a few days of negotiations. At issue were the same terms covering electronic downloads from the Internet that have been such a sticking point for the Writers Guild. It puts a huge onus on the writers now to either accept essentially the same deal as the directors or hold out for a sweeter deal. Still, there's something else that could drive a wedge through the striking writers, the demand that reality television be covered by the Writers Guild. The assumption, which everyone of course already knows, is that to a large degree reality shows are in fact written, or at least follow some sort of pre-planned blueprint. What, you thought that the spats between Simon and Paula were real?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Spend, Spend, Spend

The economists and politicians have finally acknowledged that there's an elephant in the room. While the cheerleader in chief has been disingenuously insisting that the economy is vibrant and strong, it's been disintegrating. Now they've got to the point where, instead of really facing up to it, they've started arguing about what to call it. Is it or isn't it a recession yet? Their bone-headed solution is always the same, even though they may not agree on how to accomplish it, get people to spend more money. The Democrats want to hand out cash to everyone so they'll buy more stuff, the Repubicans want to give breaks to big business so they'll hire more workers who'll then have the bucks to buy bigger TV sets and take trips. It's all lunacy. The real solution is belt tightening, getting off the roller coaster, convincing people to spend less and corporations to accept cuts in profits. You can't save a flimsy building by taking material from the bottom to add a floor at the top. You have to rebuild the foundation. Good luck telling corporate America it's good for the country if people economize.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Cut Above

We all know dogs were ascended from wolves. What is less known is the uncommonly rapid genetic transformation from feral to domesticated that took place, resulting in the animals we know and love today. Thousands of years ago wolves scrounged in the garbage dumping places of early man, and instinctively fled when anyone approached. But in a relatively short time those wolves lacking that "fight or flight" gene hung around and made friends. I suppose it's why dogs prefer table scraps to Alpo still today. What is less understood is the genetic change that took place resulting in dogs that somehow know to only bark at the mailman when he's bringing bills.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's That Funny Smell?

The "endangered species" list is a strange concept. In reality there are hundreds, probably thousands of species that are endangered, and hundreds of thousands more that no longer exist. The only ones that make the list are the ones we've either hunted to extinction or whose habitat we've destroyed making it impossible for them to reproduce. Our quest for food isn't the problem. If something dies out, like the woolly mammal, we just move on to a new food source. It's our appetite for stuff that's at fault, furs and crocodile skins and ivory, all the things that are expensive and wind up being sold on Fifth Avenue. A list isn't going to help. It'll take a major pardigm shift in our appetites for ways to flaunt our wealth in the same way that aborigines will often cover their bodies with trinkets.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Simon Says Think This

Watching news clips of the pack of hungry jackals beseiging a pathetically wounded Britney Spears I was struck by the analogy with the media journalists and pundits covering the presidential campaign, breathlessly creating the story they're supposedly covering. Hillary Clinton had a moment during a Q and A in New Hampshire where she momentarily choked up when a questioner touched a nerve. Within minutes it was trumpeted around the world as a meltdown that would destroy her political ambitions. The next day it was being proclaimed by the same "experts" as the reason for her victory in the New Hampshire, and for the next week the media couldn't talk about anything else. But the fact is, there was no story. She was understandably exhausted and got emotional for a few seconds. The pundits saw it first as a crack in her armor, and then as her humanity being revealed, and they attributed their screball ideas to what they seem to think is a monolithic public. They make their cheesy living inventing that craptrap the way the scumball paparazzi make their living hounding Miss Spears, and if they all went away I'm convinced the public would be the happier for it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Watch Out For That First`Step

When I created this cartoon it was meant solely to be funny, a bit on the dark side, admittedly, but nevertheless the intention was humor. It was only after it was done that I began to see the political and social ramifications. These characters can stand for just about anything we want them to. I see George Bush in the doorway about to jump, with Congress lined up behind him. But the jumper could as easily be the Democratic Congress, and the others all those who voted it into office. Or perhaps it tells us something about pollsters and the public. Feel free to read into it anything you want.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Let's Get the Pluck Out of Here

My thanks to Anonymous for his welcome "professorial" comments regarding the Welsh crwth, pictured here. (Anonymous, by the way, is arguably the author of more quotes and aphorisms than anyone else in the world. It was he, for instance, who gave us, "experience is the best teacher, too bad the learning process takes so long.") I'd only correct one thing, the tuning he refers to harkens back to before the advent of standardized notation, when it was every man for himself. It still is, to an extent. Nowadays, as one can find out in my book Crwthing For Dummies (known to some as Crwthing For a Bruithing), there are as many tunings as crwth players (or crythors in Welsh), seven at last count, three of them on the run. Wikipedia also has this wrong, as well as their assertion that the crwth was not, as I said, a favorite instrument of medieval bards. I have documentation to prove it was. Incidentally, I deeply resent the old Welsh joke, "Er iddo ymledu i sawl yug ngogledd-prllewin ewrop roedd y crwth yn offeryn nodweddiadol a ddyfeiswyd," which translates as "What's the difference between a crwth and a trampoline? You take your shoes off to jump on the trampoline."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Number Please

The telephone game ought to be completely different now that everyone has a cell phone. Nowadays, somewhere along the line, somebody's going to lose their signal and the whole thing will have to start again. Someone will be using their phone to take pictures, another person's phone will be turned off, still another will be watching Gilligan Island reruns. Whatever the first person said, it'll never make it to the end, not even garbled. In another generation the game as we know it will be obsolete. Everyone will be texting the next person. By the way, I'm happy to say I have to idea how to send text messages, and I'm going to keep it that way.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Belly of the Beast

I can't figure out Log Cabin Republicans. It would seem to me like an African-American joining the Ku Klux Klan. And I wonder who thought up the name. "Log cabin" suggests the hardscrabble life of pioneers roughing it in the woods. Maybe it has to do with all those rumors about Abe Lincoln. Or maybe they know something we don't about Davy Crockett and all them b'ar hunters. It reminds me of the joke about the newbie at a logging camp up north, where the men don't see a woman for months at a time. "What do you guys do for sex?" he asks an old-timer soon after he's arrived. "The Chinese cook," he's told. He's of course repulsed, but after a couple of months he's horny enough to give it a try. "But," he tells the old-timer, "is there any way I can do it without anyone knowing?" The old-timer tells him only seven people will know. "Seven?" he asks. "Sure. There's you, me, and the Chinese cook, and then there's the four guys who have to hold the Chinese cook down."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Music Hath Harms

My name has its roots in an ancient Welsh musical instrument called the crwth, generally described as a six-stringed bowed lyre. The favorite instrument of the Welsh bards that in times of eld roamed the British isles, it became extinct around the beginnng of the 19th century, largely because, in my experience anyway, getting a good sound from it is an impossibility. I actually had one made for me in England a number of years ago, so I speak with some degree of authority. The biggest problem is the flat bridge, which means that strings can't be played separately as with a violin. Add to that the fact that two of the strings are drones that only play one note each, and sick cow is the best way to describe the moaning it produces. Back in medieval times a crowther was a player of the crwth. Nowadays the dictionary definition of a crowther is "an inept and rascally fiddle player." That's me alright.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fair's Fair and Fowl's Fowl

The most enjoyable aspect of Hillary's win over Obama last night in New Hampshire had to be watching the pundits fall all over themselves in attampting to explain away their breathless hyperbole of the past few days as they all but nominated Obama the next Democratic presidential candidate. The downside is that this won't shut them up. Onward to Super Duper Tuesday on February 5 means more vacuous bloviating. Meanwhile, I'm thinking that after 16 years it might be nice to have a president older than I am, but please don't let it be John McCain. How about Clint Eastwood?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Strike While the Irony's Hot

The failure of the Writers Guild to whip up much passion about Jay Leno's return to late night shows, I think, how little juice the current strike has. Leno is a guild member, and in a stunning bit of illogic claims that it's okay for him to deliver his nightly monologue because he writes it himself. He also says he's doing his show out of concern for his 100 employees who aren't writers but are affected by the strike. In other words, Leno can esentially weaken the Guild's position by undermining the strike, while remaining blithely unconcerned about the thousands of other non-writers whose incomes are affected. It's pretty agressively anti-union, but nobody's taking much notice. Meanwhile, the networks have trotted out two new mindless "unwritten" offerings, American Gladiator redux and The War of the Dancers, both of which are attracting huge numbers of viewers, reminiscent of a cat who will sit staring at glittery tinsel for hours on end. I'm betting that most people won't really give a rat's hoo hah about missing the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, as long as they've got something with bright lights and loud noise to keep them entertained.

Monday, January 07, 2008

My Cliche Can Beat Up Your Cliche

The problem with the presidential election process is one of expectations. As long as we remain convinced that candidates are capable of dealing with substance rather than image, that good ideas in the hands of largely marginalized candidates have a chance, that the media pundits will say something meaningful and significant, and that the electorate will find a way to demand more of the media and candidates both, then we expect it. Friday night's debate was pure entertainment once the expectations were dialed down and I accepted that they were funnier than Jon Stewart and more kitschy-dramatic than Desperate Housewives. Of course, one had to tune out the nagging realization that one of the cliche-spouting, squabbling candidates was likely to be the next leader of the free world, a scary thought until I remembered who's been the leader of the free world for the past seven years. When you're down where else can you go but up?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Today Is Sunday, Wasn't It?

I thank Kate for this link to a Kenny Chesney song, which she included in the comments accompanying Friday's post: It was apropos then, and equally so here, so I'm repeating it in case people missed it. There seems to be a theme developing. Meanwhile, with the debates last night and another primary coming up on Tuesday I have the oddly conflicted sense that while on the one hand time is going by incredibly fast, simultaneously the same day is being repeated over and over, as in the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day. Thanks to everyone, by the way, for their comments. I get a huge kick out of them, one and all, including when we rub sticks together and create some heat.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Buy More Stuff

Economists tell us that growth is the engine that drives the economy. I'm no economist, but it seems to me there's something fundamentally flawed about that notion. It may work in the short run, but it puts the future of the world at risk. It's not just that eventually you run out of markets, but resources as well. Meanwhile, advertising is the engine that drives growth, and advertising is arguably the most egregiously wasteful of all human enterprises. It's output has no intrinsic value. Newspapers and magazines, television and radio, billboards, handouts, the Internet, junk mail, skywriting, they all innundate us constantly with messages that are not just infuriating, but also a ravenously costly aspect of the economy they're supposed to drive. Almost immediately it all vanishes, leaving no imprint on the culture other than kitschy and fragmentary evidence it once existed, like decades-old publications, throwaway coasters printed with the logo of beer that hasn't been around since the 1950's, and snatches of bygone slogans like a little dab'll do ya.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late

On my fiftieth birthday someone asked me what it felt like to reach that elevated age. The only thing that occurred to me was that suddenly a century didn't seem like such a long time. The prof''s comment the other day about recalling a time before cable television evoked in me a deep sense of time's rapid passage. That and the advent of a new year. Not to mention a glance in the mirror. All those kids I was in elementary school with are getting old. Not older, old. I'm still astonished that there are old rockers. I was in high school when a classmate showed up with the first LP of a then unknown young singer named Elvis Presley. I was already nine-years old when the first man to ever fly an airplane, Wilbur Wright, died. One need only go back ten years before my birth to the first talkie movies. When I was born there were still sailing whaleships on the ocean, and pendulum clocks weren't just artifacts. As Bernard Baruch once said, "old-age is fifteen years older than I am."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Two For All And All For Two

Today's the day that everyone has been waiting for breathlessly, the day of the Iowa caucuses, the Super Bowl of the elctoral process, the day the presidential campaign ends. That last, of course, isn't true. It just seems that way. It's still going to go on for another ten months, until next November. That's when the 2012 presidential campaign begins with a special edition of Chris Matthews' Hard Ball, as a pack of bloviating pundits will start handicapping the candidates who'll be trumpeting their love of Jesus and calling for change like a debutante who can't decide what to wear to the ball until 2016. I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to the new American Idol as welcome relief from it all. Just kidding! It's called democracy, folks, and we have to embrace it. Aside from the fact they didn't have television, it was as messy for the Founding Fathers. It's just that then the game was only played by rich white men.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hope Springs Renewed

Those whose lives are madly spent
In hot pursuit of lots of stuff
Don't know that some can't pay their rent.
They never think they've got enough.
But there are folks who scrounge the street
Grateful for the scraps they find,
Whom rich men pray they'll never meet.
Out of sight is out of mind.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Ring In the New

That collective groan we hear is people all over the city waking up with a raging headache this morning and resolving never to get sozzled on New Year's Eve again. As resolutions go that one's not bad, since you can wait an entire year before you break it. It's the folks who resolve not to sleep late anymore that are in trouble. I've never understood the idea of getting juiced as a way of greeting the new year. New beginnings should be fresh, filled with energy and resolve, which must be tough to do if your head throbs and your mouth tastes like the inside of an old shoe. Ah well, chacun a son gout, as they say in France, "today's celebration is tomorrow's gout."