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, February 29, 2008

A Wine Is a Wine Is a Wine

There is probably no other cultural ritual sillier than the tasting of the wine at a restaurant. It's a moment of sheer bliss for the person who does the tasting, the fleeting opportunity to play the role of expert at something he or she knows absolutely nothing about. And absolutely nothing's at stake if you're the sipper, because it's a virtual certainty no one else at they table knows anything either, so you're not going to get called out. The only thing that matters is how well you act the role, the initial sniff, the swirl of the glass to release the myriad of "odors," the moment of the sip when you affect just the right look of discernment, and finally the pay-off, when you nod subtly to the sommelier that the crap with the fancy French name he's foisting off on you is acceptable. A slightly raised eyebrow is part of the act, meaning good but not great. The sommelier is playing his part too, at once supercilious and subservient, his authority bestowed on him by the little pewter cup hanging around his neck on a chain.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This Petty Pace

I am pathologically punctual. If I'm invited to a dinner party at, say, seven o'clock, I'll be there at the dot of seven. Sometimes I can't help it. I try to be a little late and I still end up arriving a precisely the appointed time. Other times I'll arrive ten or fifteen minutes early and have to walk around the block a few times. Here's what ticks me off (pun intended), the hosts are never ready when I get there because they've assumed everyone will be fashionably late, so I end up feeling like a clumsy intruder as they rush around trying to get things ready. Why the heck do we even bother with clocks and watches, if people seem to pay so little attention to them? When I drove cross country, just me and my two dogs, I crawled into my tent to sleep when the sun went down and was on the road when it came up. I ignored the time, I kept mileage.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bill Adolph Cunningham

Geez, I take one day off from commenting on the political doings in the sewer to bring class and sophistication to the proceedings here with a fart joke, and look what happens, we're wallowing in slime again. Wouldn't it be refreshing if the media could be discussing McCain's views on the Israel-Palestine situation, or an admission from him that while the surge in Iraq may result in fewer deaths, the political miasma there has worsened. But no. Notice that McCain didn't get on stage and immediately denounce his vile introduction by Bill Adolph Cunningham, the one in which Bill Adolph Cunningham trashed Sen. Obama. He waited until later, when he found out about the uproar Bill Adolph Cunningham had caused. McCain's reminding me more and more of what they once said about Spiro Agnew: "he's the kind of guy who'll bust you for pot and then smoke your stash."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It Wasn't Me

Click on image to view enlarged (though why one would want to is anyone's guess).

With all the talk about politics going on lately, I thought I'd get away from it briefly and deal with some lofty, sophisticated humor, something that would catch the interest of the average fifth grader. Of course, as with political subjects, it still leaves a lingering stench. From the The Fool's Rules: when passing gas in public make sure there's at least a third person present to blame it on. That or a dog.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Democracy In Action--All New Episodes

Ralph Nader is in the race, and you can bet that the chorus will be wailing, especially Democrats. "Spoiler," everyone will be mindlessly caterwauling, still blaming Al Gore's loss to George Bush on him. Gore lost all by himself, with help from the people who stole Florida for Bush. Sometimes, in the words of a former Secretary of Defense, democracy is "messy." I for one applaud Nader's choice to run, and look forward to his keeping issues the other candidates refuse to discuss front and center in voters' minds, like the way Republicans and Democrats alike have sold out the American government to corporations while systematically undermining the voice of the people.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

X-Rated Pooch

It's interesting that there used to be a time when people didn't talk about sex, they just did it. As Saint Augustine said in his Confessions in 5 B.C., "Give me chastity and continence, but not just now."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Funny Peculiar

Clowns are terrifying. They're okay from a distance, but at the circus we all, adults and children, are thinking, "please don't let him come near me." I think they're an embodiment of what I call our primal clown. That's the part of us that reminds us that deep down we're really jackasses. No matter how lofty and important a person, this inner clown is there, constantly letting the air out of their overinflated ego. In medieval times the court jester was the personification of the primal clown, the only person allowed to needle the king with the reminder that he was a buffoon. It's no accident that in Shakespeare's King Lear the character of the fool disappears from the play without explanation when Lear descends into madness, as his last vestige of sanity flickers out. We need our clowns, but a part of us hates them because they can't let us forget how damningly human we are.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pop pourri

It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don't. It's not accurate. Actually the world consists of pet lovers and non-pet lovers, and between the two there's an abyss. Notice I didn't say pet owners. There's a difference between simply owning a pet and believing one's beloved animal possesses remarkable intelligence, deep sensivity, a range of emotion, and unerring instincts. I admit I'm one of the latter. My dogs even occasionally provide me with cartoon ideas.

Completely off the subject and off-the-wall: on this day in 1630 popcorn was introduced to the Pilgrims by the American indians. This is not the start of a riff on huge buckets of the stuff soaked with imitation butter at the local multiplex. I only mention it because I'm wondering who the heck it was that was so enamored of the gustatorial sensation that he marked the date in his diary. I believe the indians accidentally discovered it during their early experiments trying to develop a gunpowder substitute.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's That Smell? Must Be Election Year!

One would think this muck would be thrown by a rival candidate, or at least by some shadowy bottom feeders like the Swift Boat crowd, but no, this time it's come from no more august and prim outfit than the New York Times. According to their sources John McCain had a dalliance with a lobbyist a few years back and hustled through legislation on her clients' behalf. I don't doubt it's true. It's unlikely at this point the great grey Times would indulge in backstairs nattering if it weren't. What I want to know is, who cares? When I first glanced at the story on the Internet the second headline read: Was McCain Too Comfy With a Lobbyist? Initially I read it as, "with a lobster." Now that would be a story that mattered!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Big Bite

One the worst phenomena of our culture is so-called fine dining. To me it's torture. I once had lunch in what passed for a posh restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I was nicely dressed but without the requisite jacket so they loaned me something to put on. It was a busboy coat. Another time I was with some rich folks in a very snooty French restaurant in Manhattan. I was the height of fashion, wearing expensive shoes, an elegant jacket and slacks with a turtleneck sweater, but no tie, a gross violation of the dress code. They loaned me a tie. To tie on over the turtleneck! I looked like a friggin' clown, for God's sake. You'd think in both cases management would have been embarrassed to have someone in their place looking that ridiculous, but no. Rules trumped good sense and quality.

When eating in an upscale place/ You rarely pay for decent food,/ But rather for a slower pace/ And large amounts of attitude.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A House Is a House Is a House

Frank Lloyd Wright believed that architecture was the greatest of the arts, and he may have had a point. One of the primary functions of art, he said, was to teach us how to live our lives. Wright's innovative and revolutionary designs certainly did that. When Stanley Marcus, of the Texas department store, received Wright's plans for a new home, he discovered to his dismay that there were no bedrooms or closets. "In your climate," Wright told him, "you don't need bedrooms, you can sleep outdoors." Wright had never been to Texas, however, and had no idea how bitter cold it could get. As for closets, Wright frequently short-changed his clients. As far as he was concerned all they were good for was accumulating junk.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ba Da Boom

High on my list of things to be avoided at all costs are stand-up comedians that begin a routine with the words, "have you ever noticed," as in: "Have you ever noticed how crazy modern slang is? Like when you're down with something it means you're up for it." Come to think of it, most stand-up comedy is to be avoided at all costs. And while I'm totally sympathetic to every possible minority group, I'm always just a little uncomfortable when their jokes focus on themselves to the exclusion of all else. Fat guys making jokes about fat guys, gays making jokes about gayness, ugly chicks making jokes about how hard it is to score a date, Arabs making jokes about getting through security at the airport. And then there was the Chinese comic who told about his uncle, an inspector in a shirt factory. "His name is 21." No wait, that one was pretty funny.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

On Top Of the World

You have to take your hat off to science. Researchers have now come up with a tear-free onion. Like they've got no bigger problems to solve in the world. When an onion is sliced it releases an enzyme that produces the gas which makes makes us cry. A bit of genetic engineering and voila, no more sobbing while preparing the quiche lorainne. They say it should take about ten years before it hits the supermarket, and is every bit as tasty and pungent as the tear-jerking onions we know and love. Why, I wonder, do they go to all the trouble when holding a match in your mouth while chopping onions works just fine? And anyway, I for one look forward to a good cry once in a while.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Right to Be Wrong

The Czech director Milos Foreman once told of growing up under Gestapo rule. It was a tragedy, he said, whereas later, under the Soviets, it was farce. I have some of that same feeling now with our present administration, except that comedy and tragedy seem mixed in equal parts. I have a feeling few people are aware of, or understand the implications of the "signing statement." To be sure, presidents have used it in the past, but only rarely, whereas this president has made something of a fetish of it. It's the presidential version of lying with your fingers crossed behind your back. When a bill passed by Congress gets to his desk the president signs it, but attaches to it a statement that he doesn't intend to enforce any part of it he doesn't like. It's completely unconstitutional, but that doesn't stop a spoiled rich kid.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Imbalancing the Budget

I'm the first one to admit I know nothing about economics. It anyone wants proof they need only look at my net worth. But still, I expect the government to handle finances better than I do. So how is it that while tax revenues go down because of cuts, the spending goes up? I mean, aren't all those people losing homes in the collapse of the prime lending maket precisely because they tried to spend more than they had? Where's the logic of having a budget that increases the national deficit, and war costs that are "hidden?" And how do we find the bucks to run around the world handing out money to third world countries like a drunken sailor? Not that I'm against spreading wealth around, but when you're several trillion dollars in the hole, where the heck does it come from? Could one of the candidates for president please explain it to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Let's All Get Along

I'd been living in Italy for several years when I came back to the U.S. for a visit and discovered that everyone was being polite to each other. It's when people started saying "have a nice day" to everyone else whether they meant it or not. It's also when the salad bar came into existence, the grownups' equivalent of an ice cream shop for kids. Who can resist putting a small amount of lettuce on the plate, just enough to qualify it as a salad, in order to leave room for the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, green pepper, Bermuda onion, unidentifiable crunchy white stuff, cheddar cheese, nuts, seeds, raisins, chopped egg, julienned ham, and scallions, all topped off with gobs of blue cheese dressing? The first time I encountered one I wanted to scream across the room at my serving person Melissa, who had told me to "yell" if I wanted anything, "fix me a plate of salad, would ya."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yea Verily, And All That Drivel

Two noble houses do appear o'erfallen:
The Texan Bush, his legacy in ashes,
And now the wife of Bill endures the pain
Of watching as the black Obama dashes
All her hopes to seize her husband's mantle.
But all's not lost, don't count her out just yet.
The young upstart could stumble, trip and fall,
And she could best McCain, the aged vet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Domestic Bliss

Mankind has come a long evolutionary way from the jungle, where the males duke it out with each other to add females to their harems. Even with elephants, one of the most social of the so-called wild beasts, when they're not battling with each other, sometimes to the death, the bulls keep their wary distance from one another while the ladies spend their days lolling around together in peace and harmony. Male homo sapiens, on the other hand, except for the occasional cad and bounder, like to "hang out." Late into the 20th century, sanctuaries like McSorley's Ale House in New York were forced to take down their "no women allowed" signs by the feminist movement, and yet a distinctly male atmosphere still prevails. Two subjects dominate the gents' conversation. Chicks, and how much they hate "fags." Maybe it's why lots of evangelicals don't want to believe in Darwinism. It explains too much.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Beat Goes On.... And On

To sum up: the various twists and turns of the national soap opera that is our presidential campaign is endlessly fascinating, but the bloviating is out of control. It's like the sports pundits yammering for weeks on end about who's going to win the Super Bowl. In the end it's all meaningless. And the cost of it is not just staggering, but literally unconscionable. As Jimmy Kimmel said: "Mitt Romney spent millions of his own money before getting out of the race. I'm not going to be president either and it didn't cost me a penny." These people want change? Just think of the change that could be brought about with all that money! But at least our country's growing up a little bit. If Sen. Clinton doesn't win it won't be because of her gender.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Trial and Error

UCLA is in trouble because of research into nicotine addiction that, it turns out, is being funded by a major tobacco company, thereby, critics claim, compromising the objectivity of the results. But that's only the beginning of their troubles. Part of the experiments involve giving high amounts of nicotine to monkeys and then killing them in order to dissect their brains. On top of that, another aspect of the research is selecting teenagers who are heavy smokers and subjecting them to brain scans. I understand that animal rights activists would like for the two groups to be switched.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Click on image to view enlarged.

I was a limoncello afficianado long before Danny DeVito went into the business of bottling it, before it even hit the U.S. When I learned how to make it from an Italian farmer's wife, it wasn't even something that was found in stores. But over there, drinking grade alcohol is available in any grocery. I had tiramisu before it became a fad over here as well. Translated as "pick me up," until relatively recently it was a very local specialty in Italy. It's also usually dreadful. Once it's a day old it gets watery and tastes of the refrigerator. Then again, how could anything made with ladyfingers be remotely edible?

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Beat Goes On

My wife phoned from Italy yesterday. She said they're all abuzz over there about Hillary and Barack. The idea that the U.S. stands at the brink of electing either a woman or a man of African-American parentage seems astonishing to them. I told her we feel the same way. Italy is going through it's own problems right now, or perhaps it's more accurate to say yet again. A tiny splinter party dropped out of Prime Minister Romolo Prodi's fragile coalition and his government fell. Now it seems that elections are probably going to be held three years before scheduled, and Berlusconi is favored to regain power. You remember him. He's the ex-cruise ship crooner and hoofer who was one of the few European leaders to back the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. Then, when things went horribly sour over there, he claimed he had secretly tried to dissuade Bush. Another bad piece of work.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What's In a Username?

The history of names is interesting. People once very simply were named according to what they did, such as John the Crowther, the inept and rascally 17th century crwth player. This worked as long as most people went into the same line of work as their fathers. When record keeping came into being the name of the father was passed along even when the trade wasn't. Jacob's son was elided to Jacobson. A lot of names were descriptive. The Internet has opened a literal Pandora's box of possibilities. Identities are stolen, others are invented to suit whims. Speaking of names, I recall the joke, popular when I was in grade school, about Sam Uglybutt. He went to court to be able to change his name, and the judge asked his reason. "Your Honor," Sam said, if your name was Uglybutt wouldn't you want to change it?" "I see your point," the judge said. "What do you want to change it to?" Sam paused and answered, "Charlie Uglybutt."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

All the News That Fits we Print

What's this country coming to? We went a whole day yesterday without the media saying one word about Brittney Spears or Lindsay Lohan or, gulp, O.J. Simpson. You'd think something important was happening. I have to admit, both races for the nomination have gotten exciting. If it keeps up like this the candidates may wind up being chosen by fat white guys in back rooms sucking on foul cigars, just like in the old days. You can't leave it to voters to get it right.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Vote That Counts Is the Vote That's Counted

Every political leader in America, it seems, has at one time or another waxed poetic about the privelege and responsiblity of voting. Lyndon Jonson said, "voting is the first duty of democracy." John Kennedy declared, "the ignorance of one voter impairs the security of all." "The ballot is stronger than the bullet," Abraham Lincoln proclaimed. "Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the people themselves," Franklin Roosevelt observed. But as I step into the voting booth today I won't be able to shake one thought: sooner or later they all lie to us. Another thought nags at me, putting paid to all the lofty sentiments from the past. A fully informed electorate is essential to a healthy democracy. What are we to think then of the obsession with secrecy that has been a hallmark of recent administrations?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Lost in Translation

I'm fascinated by the ambivelent relationship the U.S. is having with latinos right now. On the one hand illegal immigration is what's called a hot button issue, otherwise known as a wedge issue. On the other hand, the candidates are courting the latino vote like crazy. Suddenly they're all speaking Spanish. I fully expected Sen. Ted Kennedy the other day, while campaigning for Barack Obama in Los Angeles, to blurt out, "Ich bin ein Messicano."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Week

It just gets better and better. Ann Coulter is endorsing Hillary for president, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are savaging John McCain, and Pat Buchanan had high marks for both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama in last Thursday's debate, where they were so chummy with each other I thought maybe we were supposed to register them as a couple at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Meanwhile we have the Super Bowl today and two days later Super Tuesday. How much Super-ness can we be expected to take?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Accessories By Any Other Name

Fearful that I'll forget a cartoon idea, I try to write them down when they come to me, even if they're just the germ of ideas that need developing later. I've found that driving in the car is a great time to mine my mind for these nuggets, so I keep a sketchbook and pencil with me at all times. This way I can quickly jot them down at the next light. It's turned out that I've inadvertently discovered a foolproof way to get across town without being stopped. On the other hand, I risk having ideas disappear into the firmament.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Life In Busy-ness

I don't remember that anyone ever talked about multi-tasking when I was younger. Stressing out is another fairly contemporary concept. We used to just get worn to a frazzle. People don't raise children anymore, they're involved in parenting. No one changes jobs, they make career choices. We don't simply eat some food when we're hungry, we have nutritional options. There was a time when folks had stuff to do, now they organize their day, and they don't sit down to catch their breath the way they used to, they take recreational interludes in order to recharge. I'm exhausted thinking about it.