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 *).

Monday, March 31, 2008

Race to the Finish

This cartoon notwithstanding, I agree with Lee, who pointed out the other day in the comments that it's unfair of the media to keep up this steady drumbeat calling for Hillary to withdraw from the race and leave Barack as the presumptive Democratic candidate. She is, after all, within striking distance of the nomination, and it's simply not true that her winning is a statistical impossibility. Only if you believe the polls, and we know what a mistake that is. Meanwhile, I still don't get this super delegate thing. There's something about it that just doesn't seem democratic. I mean, here's this relatively small group of people who get to vote twice. Did I miss something in Politics 101?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Then There's the One About....

I don't know of any formal government-funded studies done on this, but most people cannot tell a joke. Ignoring the first principle of creative expression, communicate the maximum of information with a minimum of "strokes," they load up their stories with a landslide of detail in the hope of being interesting and only succeed in becoming a big yawn. One of my favorite people is an actress who admits to being a lousy joke-teller, the kind that always bungles the punch line. She once had an audition where she was asked by the director to tell a joke. "Stop me," she began, "if I've heard this one." In one of my early childhood attempts to tell a joke, I repeated one I'd heard my mother tell: "What is honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone with very little dressing." In my version the answer became "mayonaisse."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

They've Got a Secret

I'm all for domestic spying, the more the better. In fact, I think everyone should have personal surveillence devices, or PSD's. In the near future they'll be incorporated into your cell phones along with a GPS satellite locating system, text messaging, TV reruns, games, video camera, and WMD's so that anyone, at anytime, on a whim, just by texting the word zap can destroy everything within fifty miles. It will also be able to read thoughts. Since everyone will know what everyone else is thinking secrets and lies will be a thing of the past. It should make elections a lot of fun.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Out of the Mouths

This has nothing to do with the cartoon, but I thought it was worth sharing. The other day my 100% latino lacrosse players from Huntington Park High School in East L.A. went up against New Jewish Community School in the Valley. After the game the home team announced it was bringing in pizza for all the boys. I was talking with a couple of my players when their coach came over to ask me if we had any preferences for toppings. One of my guys suggested pepperoni. The coach genially pointed out that some of his players only ate kosher. Later, when the pizzas were arriving, my player sidled up to me looking nervous. "What's it going to taste like, coach?" he asked me. "I've never had Jewish pizza before."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Old One-Two Punch (Line)

Today's news brings us the bizarre story that scientists at Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute, funded by a $270,000 government grant, are developing fish that can catch themselves. I'm not making this up. In a twist on Pavlov, Black Sea bass are being genetically bred to swim into a net when an underwater whistle is blown. In a related story, administration officials have announced that none of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were actually captured, but rather checked in by themselves when they heard a recording of George Bush singing I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The other day authorities in an outlying Los Angeles County community ousted dozens of homeless people from a field that had been made available to them and their tents, and put fencing up around it. They claim they're going to grade the field to improve it, and let the homeless back on the land, but we know that's a whopper. Meanwhile, the executives and CEO's responsible for the prime lending meltdown are getting huge severance packages, and rentals in Malibu have reached $150,000 a month. 'Nuff said.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rock On

One of the thing's that's unique about my generation is that we were the first to go from not wanting our parents to catch us smoking marijuana to not wanting our kids to catch us. The other is that rock 'n roll started with us back when we were teenagers and it was almost universally denounced and savaged by grown-ups. The rockers were all scrawny kids like us. I was in prep school when one girl, whose father was in the record business, introduced us to the then unknown Elvis's first album, and we were blown away. Now all those guys are old farts, some of them still rocking out. My lacrosse players don't even know there was a time before rock. It's like Gregorian chants to them, always here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Women's Lip

A fascinating story is playing out in Los Angeles right now that sets the dialogue between men and women regarding gender equality on its ear. The L.A. Police Department has announced its intention to begin recruiting S.W.A.T. team members from its distaff ranks. The move is being hotly protested by no less than the wives of present S.W.A.T. officers because, they insist, women aren't physically capable of doing the job safely and thus would put their husbands in greater danger. Danger? I bet some of these worried wives could swing a mean frying pan if they found out hubby was pulling a spitzer on them. (n. spitzer, v. to spitzer: to cheat on one's wife, esp. with $4500 a night hookers)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My Fatwa Can Beat Up Your Fatwa

HAPPY EASTER everyone!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

On A Clear Day You Can See Katrmandu

The saddest day in all of human history was the day someone drew a line on the earth and said to someone else "you can't cross it." I hate to be cynical, but it was probably inevitable, given our genetic make-up. If that's so, then there's a real likelihood mankind is inevitably hurtling toward disaster. We can only hope it's later rather than sooner, long enough so that maybe the grandchildren of our grandchildren's grandchildren can still enjoy some of the beauties and joys of this existence without being beset by too much of the sadness and woe. Wait, did I say I hate to be cynical? There may be an up side. If Darwin had it right then maybe a genetically improved model will evolve out of the mess, and borders will be a historical relic.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Going Postal

I don't really mean to take away from postal workers. When you think about it you realize they do a remarkable job, getting a little envelope with a scrawled address on it across the country in very few days, all for 41 cents. I have a delivery person who's been on the same route for years. He's highly intelligent and extremely efficient. We've had lengthy conversations about esoteric matter like the subtle differences between certain type faces. I'd love to know what it is, aside from the rare case where one of them goes bonkers on the job, that's earned them their reputation. In my opinion if there's any job that would drive one totally nuts in a very short time, it's working at the lost luggage counter for an airline.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Into the Deep End

A madness has swept through the land. As I drive across Los Angeles every day from one end to the other to get to lacrosse practice I literally watch the gas station employees changing the signs to reflect the constantly rising prices. I'm not sure whether it's the so-called economic crisis, the government's "response" to it, or all the talk about it in the media, it basically comes down to the fact that people aren't buying enough. So the answer, of course, is everybody has to go out and buy more stuff, except that people don't have enough money. Other people are selling their stocks and are opting instead to keep their money in safe places, which causes the value of the money to go down. So you either spend all your money on crap and have none, or you hang on to your money while it becomes worthless. Meanwhile, Starbucks has become a perfect symbol of the whole sorry mess. Folks have finally woken up to the fact that neither the hype nor the coffee nor the faux Italian labels are worth what you pay for them. One thing's sure, double mocha caffe lattes will never be a fuel alternative.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Double or Nothing

I'm addicted to quiz programs. I actually learned Italian by watching a quiz show while first living in Italy. It was called Rischiatutto ("Risk Everything"), and was essentially a Double or Nothing knock-off. It was a great way to learn since, unlike watching the news, say, where one's attention could wander, I had to try and answer the questions. But my favorite quiz show over there was called Colpo Grosso, which translates as "Jackpot." It was a strip quiz, with a host as sleazy as the show's concept, where the contestants played against each other and had to remove an article of clothing each time they missed an answer. As Dave Barry says, I'm not making this up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Big Five Oh Oh

Another day, another milestone. Today's post is our five hundredth since we first set out on The Fool's Journey, five hundred cartoons without missing a day. And while we're talking about anniversaries, it's worth recalling another major notable date in history. On this day in 1934, in Fort Worth, Texas, the first laundromat opened. It's especially interesting given that the new governor of New York was sworn in yesterday and within hours after the ceremony, with his wife standing solidly by him, wasted no time in getting down to business and announcing that he had in the past been carrying on an extra-marital affair. It seems especially fitting, given its proximity to the date on which Americans first started washing their dirty laundry in public.

Monday, March 17, 2008

How Are Things In Glocca Morra?


And if you hear a horrific caterwauling coming from the mist-shrouded glen it's just me, playing some old Celtic favorites on my crwth and setting the leprechauns astir.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I'm reminded of the song from Bye Bye, Birdie that goes "Kids.... why can't they be like we were/ Perfect in every way/ What's the matter with kids today?" The scary fact is that the occasional misfits notwithstanding kids today are probably way better than we were. So what if the occasional study by a group of old fogeys tells us they don't know who the Speaker of the House is, nor where Zambia is located, they're more aware of what's going on in the world and far more tolerant of differences. They're intelligent, funny, and interesting. I have the pleasure of working closely with a group of high school kids as a coach, and the only thing that nags at me is the knowledge of the sorry mess of a world the older generations are leaving them.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Wake-Up Call

This morning's news brings word that some airlines are raising prices steeply, as much as $50 a round trip on some routes. It's not clear what this will do to discount fares, which traditionally have been all over the map, pun intended. I have in the past gone online to book a ticket, felt it was too costly, and gone back hours later to find a much cheaper ticket on the same flight. Still, the rate hikes give new meaning to the slogan, "Up, Up, and Away."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Promise Her Anything

The American electorate is like the ultimate perfect mistress, soaking up candidates' promises and never complaining when they go unfulfilled. "I'm going to bring the troops home." "I'll provide health care for everyone." "Better education." "More and better jobs." It's all the equivalent of "I'm going to leave my wife and marry you.... right after Christmas." Little wonder that when voters assess the character of those running they turn off their brains and overlook the avalanche of lies that make up a large part of the campaigns. One of the flaws of democracy as we experience it, an otherwise wonderful and unattainable ideal, is that the pathological ambition of those running for the highest office renders them unqualified for the job.

We're excited that yesterday one of our cartoons was included in the Michael Levine E-Lert, a newsletter digest of events and opinions that is e-mailed daily to over half a million people worldwide, including White House staffers, corporate CEO's, journalists, and Academy Award winners.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Scarlet Letter - R

Thomas Carlyle called economics "the dismal science." So true. In 1790 Thomas Burke wrote: "....the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever." The world is awash with a tsunami of numbers, all being manipulated and fiddled with to try and convince us everything is just fine when it isn't. Meanwhile, economics is nothing more or less than the struggle to keep your head above water.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Dog's Life

It's been nine months since my buddy Leonardo, my 16-year old Jack Russell Terrier whom I refer to as a Jack Rascal Terrorist, was diagnosed by the vet as having a serious congestive heart condition and given a matter of days to live. That was back in June and he's still going strong. Oh sure, he shows signs of aging. He coughs, he wheezes, occasionally he staggers slightly, especially when he's just woken up, and there are moments he seems a bit lost, but most of the time his appetite is excellent, he's energetic and in good spirits, and he still likes to jog when he goes for a walk. It seems he still has money in the meter.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Rat Race

When it comes to work, the English language lets us down. Every word we have for it is fraught with ambiguity and multiple meanings. A ditch digger goes to "work," but so does a musician with the New York Philharmonic. I'm presumably working when I draw a cartoon, but it seems like too much fun to call it that. It's ridiculous to say that a professional baseball player is going off to work when he leaves home in the morning, but it's equally misleading to say that he's going to his job. "Labor" isn't any more helpful. Perhaps the reason for all this is that work is a relatively new concept in human existence. Cave men didn't go to work, they went out to bonk animals while their women gathered leaves. I think I'm going to have to work at this idea a little more.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole Redux

On 60 Minutes last night Sen. John McCain was asked what he had to offer the American people after the past two terms of Republican administration, the implication being that they've been disastrous. McCain answered with a straight face that he, presumably unlike his predecessor, would lower taxes, improve security, get rid of government controls on corporations, and attain victory in Iraq. Is there any precedent in American history for a candidate making the same promises that got the previous occupant of the Oval Office into epic trouble?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Art Hysteria 101

For my money the Mona Lisa may surely be one of the most overrated paintings in all the history of art. From the time I first saw it in the Louvre I've wondered what the fuss was all about. There's nothing particularly special about the technique, it in no way reflects anything significant about the times or culture it came from, nor does it tell us much of anything about the sitter. An enigmatic smile? One man's enigmatic is another man's bland. Alas, it has set the standard for five centuries of bad portraiture, pictures that mummify the subjects while attempting to glorify and idealize them.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Lies Like Truth

My friend Nicholas Delbanco, the highly praised novelist and head of the creative writing program at the University of Michigan, once said in essence that autobiography is fiction disguised as the truth, and the novel is the truth disguised as fiction. So what's with the spate of writers lately churning out "autobiography" they've invented wholecloth? The latest is a quintessential white valley girl, graduate of Campbell Hall prep school in Los Angeles, who faked the autobiography of a half-native American girl's experiences as a foster child growing up with gangs in the ghetto. The literati are beating their breasts about how this could happen, and why publishers aren't vetting these books better. The reality is that novels don't make money. Publishers can do much better with tell-alls, the more lurid the better, so they'd prefer to look the other way. I have it on good authority that Mark Twain never got anywhere nearer to the Mississippi River than Hoboken.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Rhymes For Our Times

I suggest it's time for some new nursery rhymes, ones that have contemporary relevance. What the heck is a tuffet, anyway? And the idea of eating curds and whey is downright disgusting. I remember how thoroughly grossed out I was as a kid when I found out it was the watery slop and chunks of white goo in the milk bottle after it had been left in the refrigerator for a month. Blackbirds baked in a pie? They have to be kidding. With the heads, feet, and feathers left on, no doubt. And an old lady living in a shoe? That's a stretch.

Here's a new one for starters:

A homey named Chuck with an i-pod
Got mugged in the park, oh my God,
He said "no more, I'm settling this score,
And went after the guy with a rod.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Spin Doctor

Wheel of Fortune is the perfect dinner time TV show, which, I suspect, is why it's been going on since the dawn of man. It is utterly mindless, and doesn't require even a modicum of attention while one goes about braising the pork chops. Every now and then you can glance up from your tasks and solve the puzzle. The topic is "Thing." You see "---h- -r-" on the screen, cry out "Noah's Ark," feel smugly superior for a moment, and go back to chopping onions. Has anyone ever attained fame by doing even less than Vanna White? She was once asked what skills were required for her job and she answered, "knowing the alphabet." It's been calculated that she's walked the distance to the moon and back two times just yo-yoing back and forth pushing the little buttons that light up the letters. Meanwhile neither she nor Pat Sajak get any older. His hair has gotten bigger though over the years.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Home Is Where the Hearth Is

There's a new biography of Bill Mauldin just out that I'm looking forward to reading. Mauldin is the artist who set the bar impossibly high for social commentary as visual art, a bar that was put in place by Hogarth and Daumier. It is presumptuous and pretension of me to think of what I do as art, but Mauldin was an important artist of the 20th century along with Charles M. Schulz, who, incidentally, bestowed great praise on Mauldin when he had Snoopy proclaim of him, "he drew great mud." For my money these two geniuses will outlive all the Warhols, Rauschenburgs, Pollocks, and Picassos who worked in their period. Mauldin and Schulz were their period, central to defining and memorializing it.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

In Loco Parentis

It's legend that parents should never teach their children to drive. I can attest to it. I was sixteen when my mother took me out for a drive on Martha's Vineyard with me in the pilot's seat. It went reasonably well until we approached our driveway on the main road. I'd mastered straight lines and gentle curves, but making tight turns wasn't yet in my back of tricks. Unfortunately, nobody'd had the foresight to tell me slowing first was advisable. I apprached the driveway at about 30 miles an hour and went for it. Recognizing impending disaster in the shape of a stone post hurtling our way, I went for the brake pedal. Alas, so did mother, and hit the accelerator instead. Crunch. Mom, of course, denied it. My brother was in the car and saw the whole thing, but mom continued to deny it until her last breath. Parents can, on the other hand teach their children to swim, best within twenty minutes after eating a big meal.

Monday, March 03, 2008


It wasn't that long ago that the pundits were all calling him a long shot. Then he became a contender, though still with an outside chance at best. Pretty soon the media bloviators were proclaiming him the front runner, calling him inspirational, a breath of fresh air, a symbol of a new America. Next thing you know he was all but anointed, and then suddenly they were yammering about his lack of substance. With the nomination in sight, they're now blabbering away about his supposed ties to a Chicago "crook." Poor Obama. There have to be times he just wants to stay home and play with the kids.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Do You Want Any Money Today?

Money, money, money, money, money, money, money,
Do you want any money today?
Money, money, money, money, money, money, money,
Nice new bills we giving away.

So go Irving Berlin's music and lyrics from the musical Call Me Madam, which were sung in the original Broadway incarnation by the incomparable Ethel Merman. Nowadays this is the mantra of the credit card industry, which with the complicity of the U.S. government is the embodiment of usury. Meanwhile, Americans stagger under impossible credit card debt, and at the same time the government is trying to find ways to keep everyone spending, like handing out free money. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but you won't hear the candidates for president talking about it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Putting On the Squeeze

One has to wonder just a bit about people who keep dangerous beasts as pets. My late friend Cliff Gorman, the extraordinary actor who starred on Broadway in Lenny, once presented his wife with a baby lion, which was especially iffy since they lived in a New York Ciy apartment. The lion used the bathtub for his bed, and wasn't at all happy when Cliff and his wife wanted to shower. Lions don't start out with a quiet roar which grows louder as they get older. They don't roar at all until they get bigger and certain hormones kick in. One day Mr. Leone, by now approaching his full growth, "found his roar," as they say, and you can imagine the consternation when the neighbors began to hear a roaring lion next door. Mr. Leone wound up in a New Jersey zoo, where Cliff and his wife had visitation rights.