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 *).

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Campaign That Keeps On Giving

Father Michael Pfleger's meltdown sermon was fascinating on a lot of levels. I couldn't take it seriously as a slap at Sen. Clinton from the pulpit simply because it was such a portrait of insanity. Offensiveness is deliberate, but this was a man going bonkers in public. You wouldn't be insulted by a loony street person spewing invective while hurling his own feces at passing traffic, you'd know he was deranged. Sane people wouldn't do that. Likewise with Pfleger. I noticed he's now "apologized" for his lunacy. An apology is meaningless in this case. How in the name of all that's holy can you apologize for that kind of over-the-top craziness? If he truly regretted what happened he'd have himself committed.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Global Harming

The White House, under court order, has finally released a report on the environment that it has been holding up for four years, and it's pretty dire. The report focuses on expected climate changes in the U.S. resulting from the warming of the planet, and while it contains no new science it's a compilation of studies that have been done in the past. Still no hint of what can be done about it, which is probably not much. Let's face it, even if hypothetically everyone in the country gave up their car tomorrow and we went back to horses and buggies, we'd be up to our waists in horse crap.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Say What?

With former White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan's "tell all" book just out we're watching yet again a pattern of news that has become the norm over the past years. It starts with "breaking news," which lasts about five minutes until every media outlet and blogger in the entire world has hold of it, and moves quickly to "yes, I've heard," when the public is still calling friends on the cell phones to tell them about it. That lasts a couple of hours. The rest of the day is taken up with people desperately switching back and forth between CNN and MSNBC while they squeeze every last bit of juice from it, and then begins the final phase, "dragging it through the dirt," which can last for weeks, or until Amy Winehouse wets her pants in some bar somewhere and there's new breaking news. Why do they call it "news?" As a friend of mine once pointed out, it should be called olds, as in "have you watched Charlie Gibson lately on the Evening Olds?"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If You Knew Sushi Like I Know Sushi

I admit, I'm not a big seafood eater. I know, we're always being told how good it is for us, and how we should have it x numbers of times a week, so I try to remember to have it occasionally, but that's the best I can do. There's just something about fish that tastes so, well, fishy. I had crocodile a couple of times when I was in Africa. Crocodile tastes like absolutely nothing. You have to serve it with a seafood sauce or bread it and fry it for it to have some semblance of flavor. Nowadays fish seems to have lost a lot of whatever appeal it had as a healthy substitute for meat, what with the oceans loading up with toxins and fish farms pumping fish full of steroids and stuff. The day is not far off when we'll be told that artificial food concocted in laboratories from chemicals and infused with ersatz flavor is far better for us than the real stuff. The scary thing is it's probably true.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


A part of me keeps saying to myself, "John, hold your tongue, yesterday was a solemn day of rememberance, not an occasion for politics, we've had more than enough of that subject lately." But another part of me, perhaps the larger part, is saddened and sickened by the president, at Arlington, from whose mouth platitudes of care for the nation's fallen soldiers dropped with the hollow thud of empty mortar rounds. This isn't politics talking, it's humanity. We're talking about a president who ducked his service to the country, and whose minions have deftly hidden his records. This is the president who arrogantly lied and obfuscated our way into a war that continues to kill daily while he and his surrogates go on lying to us. And oh yes, this is the president who announced he was giving up golf as his own personal way to make a sacrifice for our brave young service men and women. Crescat scientia vita excolatur.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Make Mine Well Done

For the past three days the media has been reporting that John McCain is hosting a barbecue for possible vice presidential running mates this weekend at his Arizona ranch. For the life of me I'm not sure why this is so darned important. The big speculation seems to be whether it's just going to be for the eatin' or whether there will be discussions of a substantive nature, job interviews, as it were. Who cares? I mean, what's this all about anyway? Is he testing to see which ones like mesquite? Or do they have to pass the badminton test? Buon appetito.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Going Nowhere Fast

Today is the day of the great annual paean to unapologetic fuel consumption called the Indianapolis 500, an event with a carbon footprint larger than that of several 3rd world countries put together. Okay, I admit, I love car racing, though one of the reasons I gave up doing it several years back was because of the waste, not just of fuel and rubber but my own resources as well. As races go, Indy is actually one of the duller ones, though the grand prize for dullness goes to Grand Prix racing, where more often than not one driver dominates a season while the rest tag along. NASCAR ain't bad, but the best racing is sprint cars. For fun and excitement there was nothing like Ascot, the half-mile dirt oval here in L.A. that was torn down a decade ago to make room for an industrial park. It was there I saw a several car pile-up one Saturday night that left one of the wrecked cars caught upside-down in the catch fencing. Moments later the trackside announcer was on the scene, interviewing its driver. "How are you?" he asked. "I'm a little shook-up but I'll be okay," the driver answered." "How's your car?" the announcer persisted. "Screw the car," the driver shot back.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Oops, My Bad

You know what they say about squash? You've got to have guts to be in that racket.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Simon Says

Before there were traffic signals there was heavy traffic, often chaotic, and in big cities policemen were placed at busy intersections to try and keep things sorted out. William Potts came up with the first traffic light in 1920, in Detroit, by adapting railroad signals. But the first traffic control device, gas powered, predated cars. It was put to use in London in 1868 to regulate the movement of horses, buggies, and swarms of pedestrians. It required a policeman to stand beneath it and turn it manually, and a year later it blew up, injuring it's operator. Overworked, no doubt. Traffic lights have been trying to get back at us ever since.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's the Stupid Economy, Stupid

We have it all wrong about the Luddites. They've come to be associated with opposition to any kind of technological advancement in favor of a simpler, less complicated life style. We look on modern-day Luddites who eschew the computer and microwave ovens with a certain bemused and sympathetic tolerance. In reality the original Luddites back at the beginning of the 19th century had it right. Their enemy was the Industrial Revolution, specifically the mechanical looms that replaced them with unskilled, lower paid workers. What they perceived was the beginning of the end, and we're paying the price today, with an economy that's run amok, or better still, that's like an elephant getting bigger and bigger until it can no longer support it's own weight and must croak.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Art For Art's Sake, But Who Is Art?

Click on image to view enlarged.

Two bits of art related news: Will Elder, the genius who was one of the founders of Mad Magazine back in 1952 has died. Elder once created a scalpel-sharp satire set in the Playboy mansion . Playboy sued him and won. But Hugh Hefner was such a fan of Elder's work that he turned around and hired him to contribute what would become a long-running feature, Little Annie Fanny.

In an unreleated story, a Lucian Frued canvas of a grotesquely obese nude woman, done in the artist's no-holds-barred realism, has set the world's record price for a living artist, $33.6 million, at auction in New York City. Move over abstracxt expressionism.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What the Meaning Of Is Is

I've long maintained that language is an impoverished and imprecise means of communication. Our obsessive reliance on it fails to take into account just how frequently it's the cause of misunderstandings. From petty domestic squabbles to the United Nations, more verbiage is expended trying to sort out disputes that began with the spoken word than is uttered regarding any other human pursuit. We're seeing this in action right now in the presidential campaign. "That's not what I meant," is spoken daily, by every candidate and their surrogates. McCain on Obama on "negotiating with enemies," Hillary on what happened on the tarmac in Kosovo, Michelle Obama on her feelings about America, Sen. Craig on just what it was he said to the cute cop in the airport lavatory, George Bush on "mission accomplished." Well actually, George Bush on just about everything. It was the press secretary to the late Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago who once admonished journalists to "write about what Hizzoner means, not what he says."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Irish Export

Donnybrook is the term for a particularly rough brawl or fracas, and is an especially frequent feature of ice hockey. It turns out it's named for a suburb of Dublin, once the location of the Donnybrook Fair. Held from the reign of King John onward, it became famous far and wide for drunken brawling and violent disorder until it was banned in 1855. Today the good folks of Donnybrook take pains to erase any indication of their rowdy past. No such luck in professional hockey, where the governing body makes a very public display of disapproval each time there's a brawl resulting in serious injury, but shows no inclination to end the practice. Wink, wink.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Law and a Side Order

It's always nice on a Sunday morning to turn to the Bible for the day's little homily. Today it's Exodus, 21:24, where it's written, "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." To which I add, the wrist is yet to come.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I regularly buy sliced mangos from the Mexican street vendors as I drive through South L.A. It comes in little plasticene bags and is sprinkled with red pepper powder. It's delicious as all get out, especially on a hot day, but I'm guessing it's prepared and packaged far outside the scrutiny of the health authorities. Still, that doesn't bother me. I figure since it's nothing but fruit and spices it's still better for me than half the stuff you read on the labels in the market. I wanted mashed potatoes the other day. I was feeling lazy and figured I'd get a package of the prepared kind. I read the ingredients, recoiled in horror, and bought a couple of potatoes which I took home and mashed. Ninety percent of the stuff we buy is what author Michael Pollan calls "foodish," resembling food but closer in reality to a manufactured commodity.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Something a little different today, a bonus cartoon. Actually it's one I posted previously (Jan. 11), but with the caption reworked to reflect the news that the California Supreme Court has passed a ruling clearing the way for gay marriage in the state. The homophobic element is up in arms, screaming that this is an affront to the natural institution of marriage between a man and a woman. This argument ignores, of course, the obvious, that no institution. by definition, is natural, not to mention that mankind got along for hundreds of thousands of years before coming up relatively recently with the custom. Even the creationists ought to have some trouble with this argument, since Adam and Eve never got married, and neither did Cain after he iced Abel, schlepped himself off to Nod, east of Eden, and found himself a woman. Which brings up another question, where the heck did all those Noddians come from?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mary Had a Little Lama

I had this whacky dream the other night that the pope was being chosen on a new reality TV show entitled Vatican Idol. Tens of thousands of people had the opportunity to audition for a minute, doing whatever it is they think popes do, and then it was narrowed down to a handful of finalists. Three judges made comments like, "yo dude, listen up, real spiritual, real spiritual, I liked it," "I really felt your soul," and "If I'm going to be honest with you it was like an imitation of a bad cruise ship chaplain." The audience then got to vote. The field was narrowed down to three teen-agers, two boys and a girl with tattoos, when I woke up.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hoot Cuisine

The surest sign of a decadent culture crashing and burning is its cuisine. The latest fad to hit the upper end restaurant scene is what's called "molecular manipulation," and it makes Wolfgang Puck and the nouvelle cuisine folks look like purveyors of hash with catsup. It can best be described as bits and pieces of tastes and scents combined using laboratory equipment instead of blenders and stoves and served in bites rather than portions. A typical menu -- although nothing is typical in this field, the more outre the better -- is dehydrated bacon wrapped in apple leather, shrimp, lemon rind and cranberry-gel tempura fried on a vanilla bean, a single grape skinned and wrapped in peanut butter and brioche, or for desert strawberries and Nicoise olives in a sphere with a crust of white chocolate flavored with violet. I'm not kidding, friends. Doesn't it all just get your mouth watering?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Split Personality

I'm happy to say that I never wanted to be a magician when I was a kid, calling myself The Great Crowtherini, or something of the sort. As I've mentioned before, I did, however, yearn to be a trapeze artist, which was far less safe. You can't break your neck pulling handkerchiefs from your sleeve. I did have one friend who was obsessed with becoming an escape artist, and spent all his time devising elaborate stunts he never brought to fruition. He was the "bad kid" in the neighborhood, and wound up in jail for auto theft when he was eighteen. As far as I know he never succeeded in putting what skills he'd acquired to practical use. As Dave Barry says, I'm not making this up.

Monday, May 12, 2008

More Bathroom Humor

This is off the subject, I know, but yesterday's lead headline in the New York Times read: "Already, Obama, and McCain Plot Campaign Strategies." Now that rattled me. They've just barely (and, I might add, unfairly) counted Hillary out, and suddenly there's a new candidate to worry about named Already. I just hope he (or perhaps it's Ms. Already) doesn't start blathering about the need for change.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mea Culpa

My wife and I were married in Rome, in the Catholic Church. I'm not Roman Catholic, but it was a lot easier to do than had Carla and I been married in the U.S. where the rules are far more draconian. It involved nothing more than my meeting with our local parish priest and answering a bunch of questions. I'd only been in Italy a few months at the time, and my Italian was spotty at best, but the priest was a jolly sort who wouldn't be deterred. As he asked each question, such as the one about making Catholic teachings available to any eventual offspring, he nodded vigorously or shook his head, cueing me as to the expected answer. I have no idea what all I may have agreed to, but there's a good chance that after 38 years I've broken my promises to him, the pope, and God more than once. I confess.

Shameless Commerce Department: A reminder that all of my cartoons are available on quality t-shirts, mugs, aprons, and mouse pads. They make great gifts. Just go to I have a few listed, but if there's a favorite that's not there it's not a problem, you can contact me at Most originals are also available, framed or unframed. Contact me by e-mail for details. In response to inquiries, yes, a book will eventually be forthcoming.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


One has to admit, even if somewhat grudgingly in the case of skeptics, that there's a startling degree of accuracy when it comes to individuals' character and their sign of the Zodiac. But I don't tend to read newspaper or magazine astrology columns, if for no other reason than the idea of a twelfth of humanity having the same reading for that day or month that I do irks me. And you know it's pretty useless stuff when you see the little disclaimer saying it's "for entertainment purposes only," which basically means you can't sue when your marriage to a taurus goes sour after your horoscope urged you into it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Early Tibet And Early To Rise

I just don't get it. When I was a young boy Mt. Everest hadn't yet been climbed, and was considered unconquerable, so it was a very big deal when Edmund Hillary (not yet "Sir Edmund") became a hero by doing the impossible and making it to the summit with his Sherpa guide Tenzig Norkay. Everest was as distant and unattainable as the moon, a presumably enduring symbol of that which could not be reached by man even in his wildest imaginings. Now, bingo, Everest is but a way station on the Olympic torch's route to Beijing, as easily reachable as London and San Francisco, and somewhat less problematic given that there weren't any protestors camping out up there. Come to think of it, I wonder why the Chinese didn't send the flame by way of the moon?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Merger, She Wrote

So acquisition talks between Yahoo and Microsoft have broken down, and this is good for me, the lowly consumer, because....? I'm concerned about food and gas prices, and the financial analysts are telling me about some billionaires who won't be getting even richer this week. CEO's are being handed stratospheric amounts of money when they get fired from tanking corporations, and I'm stretching my budget to buy lacrosse balls for my high school team because the school can't come up with a few bucks. My theory of economics is akin to heat exchange in thermodynamics, when somebody gets richer somebody else gets poorer to the same extent.

We're tickled pink, yesterday's cartoon was picked up by Michael Levine's daily e-mail newsletter ( Over a quarter of a million subscribers! Cool!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Democracy, A Messy Business

Another couple of primaries have gone by the boards and the primary season that we were told would likely end in February with a clear nominee presumptive drags on. The only thing clear to me is that the system is "broke" and nobody knows how to fix it. The whole delegate idea is a bad one, a relic of the days when the pols picked the candidate in smoke-filled lung cancer-friendly rooms. Add to it the "super delegates" and you have the electoral college system that everyone compains about gone whacko. Why is there such an aversion to one man one vote? Count the votes in each state, add them all up, and bingo, a winning candidate. Makes sense to me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tall Story

When I was a kid my parents gave me a trapeze for a present, and I rigged it from a tree in our backyard. I taught myself some truly hair-raising tricks on it. My folks were good about not taking it down and burning it, but I must have given them some bad moments. I also became adept at walking on stilts and riding a unicycle. My dad said repeatedly he was going to apprentice me to the circus. He was kidding, but I took him at his word, and to this day I regret he didn't make good on the promise. The circus or school? It was a no-brainer.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Don't Wake the Neighbors

It was William Congreve who wrote, "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast," in The Mourning Bride. Congreve never drove along Slauson Ave. in South Los Angeles with his car wondow open, exposed to boom boxes and blasting amps with woofers pounding away at seismic levels. You don't even need your window open. I've been stopped at a light while the car next to me sent out sound waves that had my dashboard rattling to the beat. And you can't say anything. Some of those thugs will shoot you. So much for soothing savage beasts. On the other hand, it's not what Congreve had in mind when he spoke of "music."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Use Your Bean

It always amuses me the way Starbuck's has built its brand on its pretentious coopting of Italian words to mean things they don't mean in Italy. I suppose the clientele are supposed to feel a bit closer to the romance of the old country, but the whole Starbuck's "experience" couldn't be further from the familial community gathering place offered by the ubiquitous Italian cafe. Everything about Starbuck's seems forced and ersatz to me, a counterfeit rip-off of the real thing. Silliest of all is the little name badge worn by the servers identifying each as a barista. In this case the term is correct, but the wearing of the label is ridiculous, like writing tazza on the cups would be. The first time I noticed one I actually thought it was the young man's name, and remarked on the coincidence: "Wow, your name's Barista, do you realize it means counterman in Italian?" He looked at me very oddly.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush

There was a time not long ago when to spin a yarn, or to spin a tale, meant to invent something outright, usually exaggerated or outrageous. Now "spin" has become business-as-usual for our political class. It's come to mean to reshape a story to one's own advantage, and as such involves a large amount of distortion. To this day the spinmeister supreme was Richard Nixon's press secretary during the Watergate days. Once asked in his daily press briefing about the latest bombshell to land in the predsident's camp he replied, "that's so ridiculous I won't even bother to deny it." Within hours the story was proved to be true. Confronted next day by reporters, Zeigler answered, "well, I never denied it."

Friday, May 02, 2008

Mad Cat Disease

My wife and I once had a cocker spaniel and a cat in Rome that fell in love with each other. It wasn't just a dog and a cat getting along in the same household, they were deeply bonded. We had Bullo the dog first and then adopted Milarepa, who got her name from Indian legend. Their relationship began when Mila was still only weeks old. Originally we had intended for her to remain outside, on our ample terraces, but she quickly discovered she could get in the house by sneaking in underneath Bullo, Trojan horse style, when the door was opened for him. Ours was a strange menage. We had another cat, Whiskey, a male who lorded it over both of them. Mila managed the dual relationships well, Whiskey for occasional sex, and Bullo for tenderness and understanding.

I made Michael Levine's e-mail digest of news and events yesterday ( with the Grand Theft Auto cartoon (Wednesday 4/30). It goes out daily to almost 300,000 subscribers. As Gypsy Rose Lee might say, "great exposure.")

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Loss Leaders

"Loss leaders" is the term given in retail to those goods on sale in stores and markets with prices that are ridiculously low. The store can't even make a profit on them, but they bring people in who then presumably will buy other things. I heard a report on the news that corporate bosses now earn on the average around 400 times more than the workers in their companies. Twenty years ago it was more like 40 times. These are the real loss leaders nowadays, the politicians and honchos who line their pockets while the rest of us struggle. To borrow from Paddy Chayefsky, are we mad as hell yet and unwilling to take any more?