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, June 30, 2008

Ballots and Bullets

When I was in Zimbabwe many years ago, back when Robert Mugabe was in the early stages of his presidency, I met a white man who had fought on the side of Rhodesia against the independence movement. "We came in second," was how he explained the loss, which at that time was freedom's gain. Even then the people were poor, but gentle and respectful. The biggest danger was the tigers that roamed the countryside

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Here's Looking At You, Kid

Some of you may recall this cartoon from the ArtCafe, but it's actually redrawn for posting here. It's one of the cartoons that set me on the path that led to this blog (603 daily cartoons without missing a day), but it seemed a good time to include in this motley growing collection, in commemoration of Peter Paul Rubens's 431st birthday. I like to think it would give him a chuckle.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Home Is Where the Art Is

Click on image to view enlarged (recommended).

This week New York City unveiled a major "arts" project, $15 million buckeroonies for four towers made of scaffolding that serve as waterfalls. I'm a proponent of environmetal art, like Cristo and Jeanne-Claude's Gates and Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, or James Turrell's epic Roden Crater in the northern Arizona desert, but this ill-conceived silliness, by icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, looks like, well, waterfalls made of scaffolding. The overblown hyperbole award goes to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gushed that the towers evoke the "awe that led the European explorers to compare the New York skyline to the Garden of Eden." Huh?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole Part III

It stands to reason that excessive waste goes hand in hand with excessive consumerism. So if the government is encouraging people to go out and spend like crazy, what they're saying is that massive waste is necessary to get the economy back on track. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ho Ho Haught Couture

Fashion, it seems, is dominated by the powerful obsession with being new and groundbreaking while not straying far from the established look. What is "in" this year, as evidenced by the costumes modelled on the runways in Paris and Milan, has as much relationship to what people wear as a Formula One racecar has to the family sedan.

Another milestone: today's cartoon is the 600th, without missing a day. Tell your friends and family about us, and surprise them with a cartoon on a t-shirt or mug by going to*.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Haughty Cuisine

Awful story, but true, reported in the International Herald Tribune a number of years ago. A Swiss couple was travelling in Thailand with their little miniature poodle. As they settled down to order in their hotel dining room they told their waiter, who spoke imperfect English at best, they also wanted their dog to eat. Eager to please, he smiled, nodded, and led the dog away to the kitchen by the leash. After what seemd like an interminably long time the waiter returned, still grinning, with the fricaseed dog on a platter, ready to eat.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Drug Testing

Dr. William Osler, an early 20th century physician, said that a young doctor begins his professional career with 20 drugs for each disease, and ends his career with 1 drug for 20 diseases. This is somewhat in line with my contention that a specialist is not a doctor who knows more than anyone else, he's one who's forgotten more than anyone else. There are neurosurgeons who don't remember how to take a patient's temperature.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Hilarious Duo Yin and Yang

On this date in 1868 a machine for writing was patented. It was called a "Type-Writer." I always thought of it as the instrument of the devil. My father was a writer, so the damned contraption was as much a fixture in our house as the refrigerator. When my older brother was about six he asked my grandmother for ice cream money. She felt it was a good time to teach him a life lesson, and suggested he should work to earn his treat. "I can't," he said, "daddy won't let me use the typewriter."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In Memoriam

To Leonardo, 6/3/91 - 6/21/08

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Texting Not Spoken Here

I don't text. As far as I'm concerned text is a noun, nothing but a noun, and will never in my world become a verb. I have a cell phone -- in fact I've given up my landline and only have a cell phone -- but it's not a computer, a TV, or a camera, it's just a phone. When someone calls me it rings like a telephone. It doesn't play Battle Hymn of the Republic, the theme from Jaws, or Fur Elise, and it doesn't vibrate. More often that not I don't even take it with me when I go out. Texting to me is like a foreign language that I'll never understand or attempt to understand. Actually it's more like pig latin, the ultimate in geekery. Ixnay onyay ityay.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What's So Funny?

One of my mother's favorite stories about me involved my first attempt to tell a joke. I had evidently heard one that went, "What is honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone with very little dressing." In my retelling of it the punchline became, "I don't know what's so funny about this, but the answer is, "just some lettuce with no mayonaise."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It Beats a Blank Stare

I plead guilty to occasionally using emoticons, the ubiquitous and insidious combining of punctuation marks to approximate faces tipped on their side in order to clue a reader as to one's real attitude. It's the ultimate passive-agressive gesture, as in I'm going to say something that could be construed as nasty and sarcastic but I'll throw in a little colon, dash, and paranthesis to show you I'm not serious. In acting it's called "indicating," when the outward expression of an emotion is unsustained by anything approaching sincerity. It also demonstrates how pathetically inept we are at expressing ourselves verbally, when we substitute little manufactured images in lieu of making a little extra effort at linguistic precision. And just so none of you take me seriously and get offended by this rant, :-).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Taxing Our Patience

In 1886 Wlliam Jennings Bryan said, "When I find a man who is not willing to bear his share of the burdens of the government which protects him, I find a man who is unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like ours." What would he have to say today about a nation whose spending has gone wild while the promise to cut taxes has become an essential part of every politico's campaign rhetoric? It was Benjamin Franklin who, in a 1789 letter wrote that "nothing is certain but death and taxes," but he probably purloined it from Daniel Defoe. The conflation of the two, however, has always bothered me. After all, death is a one-time deal.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Three Altars, No Waiting

The evenng news in Los Angeles yesterday was saturated with the story of the lesbian couple who became the first locals wed under California's legalization of same sex marriage. It was a perfect example of the media's shaping the message to suit its voracious need for drama. "The marriage took place," one anchorperson trumpeted, "under a shadow of controversy and protest." But there was very little protest, and those seeking to overturn the new law in November were nowhere in sight. The location was the steps of the Beverly Hills City Hall. Residents were far too busy trying to figure out how to afford gas for their Hummers to even notice, other than a single lunatic somewhere in the background shouting, "you'll all burn in hell." Meanwhile, Hollywood was deputizing volunteers to officiate at the expected tsunami of civil ceremonies. An hour of indoctrination and a set of robes, and you too can play preacher.

Monday, June 16, 2008


"America is a country of young men," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1870. Five years later Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, "How beautiful is youth! How bright it gleams/ With it's illusions, aspiration, dreams!" I wonder what these gentlemen would have to say today as our attempts to dig our way out of a hole just causes it to get deeper and deeper. In 1940 Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared, "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future." It seems like we're failing on both counts. What else can we think when we short-change education while we pay for an illegal war, and then borrow against our future from the Chinese so our government can dole out a few bucks to people to encourage them to rush out and buy a new TV set?

Meanwhile one has to laugh at a headline in today's news: "Bank Robberies Rise, Economy Is Suspect." Well, duh.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Write Stuff

A disproportionately large number of famous writers are alcoholics, more than artists who tend to be legendary drunks. There's a difference. The latter embrace their vice as a choice and a source of pride. I have a theory about this. The artist, like the musician, must master physical techniques in order to share their vision with the world. The writer has no real skill. He need only scribble down words with a pencil or peck them out on a keyboard, and thus suffers from a massive and unconscious inferiority complex. Malcolm Lowry was an exception. He was a drunken alcoholic and loved every minute of it. He underwent treatment in the early days of aversion therapy. The process involved receiving an injection that made one allergic to alcohol, and then being put in a tiny windowless room for 48 hours with an unlimited supply of booze. The patient drank and threw up for the entire period, then was brought out for 24 hours to sober up and get vitamin shots. The whole thing was then to be repeated two more times, but until Lowry everyone was cured after two sessions. Lowry came out after his third session and begged to be put back in again.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

They Call It Progress

Yesterday, as always, the mail delivery person dumped a pile of colorfully printed flyers on my doorstep. As always, I scooped them up and threw them out without so much as glancing at them to see what they were hawking. It's a daily ritual. This is the kind of stuff that goes on that we never think about, the forests that get cut down, the tons of oil-based ink, the fuel required to get this crap from one place to another, the waste that clogs landfills and sewage systems. And I never looked at it. Twenty thousand years from cavemen to us, and this is what we have to show for it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Flip Side

Laura Bush has been more visible lately, speaking out against the government in Mynannmar after the typhoon, and now touring Afghanistan and making political-sounding speeches while her husband is rattling around Europe. What possible reason could there be for this? Nah, say it isn't so. I predict that the first woman president will in fact be closely related to a past president. It's the only way she could get enough visibility to overcome the glass ceiling. Hillary still tops the list of potentials, since she still isn't through yet, and then there's Chelsea, which means that Michele Obama and her daughters, Laura Bush, and even, gulp, the Bush twins make the list. I've already ruined my day, and it's barely started. Now I have to salvage what's left of it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Much Ado About Doodoo

Old man Werzenheimer worried his 4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren because even into old age he continued to hit the bottle, smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, enjoy a frequent joint, and eat rich food. "You're killing yourself," they kept telling him. "Then it must be a slow death," he said, "since I've been doing it for years."

It was Robert Herrick, the English Cavalier poet best known for his line "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," who in 1647 wrote "The longer thread of life we spin/ The more occasion still to sin."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The His Story of Our Times

I've determined that I shall not get emotionally caught up in current events, and rather experience them as a fascinated observer, much the way one would watch an ant colony. These are extraordinary times, after all, like being around to watch the events of the French revolution unfold, albeit at a safe distance from the tumbrel. Thus it was slack-jawed astonishment rather than a perfectly appropriate rage that I felt when I read that Bush has acknowledged his "rhetoric" was possibly a bit too warlike in the lead up to and execution of his Iraq adventure, and apologized for giving the impression that he was anything but a "man of peace." And Vlad the Impaler regrets that his misdeeds overshadowed his good works.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Going Out In Style

Lifestyle is one of those words we never heard when I was a kid. It probably took hold as more and more people identified what came to be called a "gay lifestyle," which was really just a dismissive stereotype. Eventually lifestyle became about one's place on the economic ladder, and everyone except the poor had one. Maintaining or improving one's lifestyle became obsessive, symbolized by how wide a screen television one could afford at a big box store, something else that didn't exist when I was a kid. Now people are getting frantic because the crumbling economy is threatening their lifestyle, and it's blamed on our leaders, who of course have no problem maintaining their lavish lifestyles. The sooner we can give up the notion of a lifestyle the quicker we can get on with enjoying our lives.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Early To Debt and Early To Rise

Everyone talks about what the next President of the U.S. is going to do, but the reality is there's only so much he can do. The real question is, what can we do? Let's face it, the biggest problem facing us right now is the economy, and as far as you and I are concerned it's a matter of how far we can stretch our monthly budget. The government has for the past 25 years hoodwinked us into thinking it all rests on our shoulders, the more we spend the better things will be. It's why the Consumer Spending Index has become a major indicator of national economic health, and that's just plain loony. Stop and think how much money we pay to corporate America in the form of interest rates, and that's bucks we get nothing for except the ability to get even further in debt to them.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fly the Fiendly Skies

The airline industry has gone bonkers, fewer flights, baggage costs extra, fares are soaring. Unemployment is at its highest point in almost 20 years. Gas prices are going through the roof. The dollar is tanking against major currencies. So what do the news discussion shows discuss? The chance of Hillary as Obama's running mate. It's as if everyone has been lulled into a coma, and the media are complicit in the Big Opiate. Here's a thought, and trust me, it's a good one, friends. Everyone should figure out a way to sacrifice bigtime and spend twenty-five percent less than what they consider belt tightening. Save the rest. That takes twenty-five percent out of the economy, so instead of corporate America holding a gun to our heads it's the opposite, we're sticking it to them. We'll see some solutions muy pronto.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Until Debts Do Us Part

Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) was a British clergyman, brilliant at times and distracted at others, until he gave up the pulpit to lead a somewhat erractic and eccentric life, writing books, collecting and selling art, travelling, and gambling. He'd be forgotten today but for his epigrams and witticisms, of which there were many. One example, in his book Lacon he wrote: "Marriage is a feast where the grace is sometimes better than the dinner."

Friday, June 06, 2008

I'd Walk a Mile

In 1970 I was doing location shooting for my film The Martlet's Tale in Tunisia. I was told that every Wednesday there was a camel market in the vast main square in Hammamet, and decided it would be a wonderfully unusual backdrop for a scene between the two young protagonists. We scheduled the scene for Wednesday and moved the entire company to Hammamet. Sure enough it was an amazing sight, right out of the Arabian Nights, a vast sea of camels stretching for acres. At the crack of dawn we were there setting up cameras and equipment while the hairdressers prepared the actress, later to be my wife. And waited, and waited, and waited. And watched the market slowly disperse until late in the morning when we had to bribe the last remaining camel owner not to leave with his single beast. So we wound up shooting the scene of the two young lovers walking down a street past.... a camel. That's what in the film biz is called local color.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

To the Victor the Spoiled Stuff

It's comforting that all the pundits and bloviators have settled on Obama's choice of a running mate as the hot topic of the moment. It obviates the need for them to come up with original subjects to fill twenty-five hours daily of empty chatter, and takes a lot of pressure off the public. Nobody needs to fear they might be missing something on another channel. Let's not forget that President Bush settled the matter of the vice president by asking one of his father's trusted insiders to head the committee that would select a candidate for him. The man looked over the field of possibilities and wasted no time choosing himself. It was Dick Cheney.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Signs of the Times

It's all about marketing. Give a product the right name and it'll move like crazy, but with a clunker of a name it'll sit on the shelf gathering dust. There's an apartment building near where I live -- I swear I'm not making this up -- with its name writ large on the facade: Chee-Zee Apartments. Little wonder there are vacancy signs.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Leonardo's Day

My Jack Rascal Terrorist turns 17 today, and he's going strong. This would be noteworthy in itself, but it's even more remarkable given that just one year ago the vet diagnosed him with congestive heart failure compounded by a tumor and gave him only a few days to live. Leonardo wasn't ready to toss in the towel yet, not as long as he still had money in his meter, and not as long as I was feeding him my homemade meatballs. At the time it was all he would eat. The vet said that under the circumstances I should give him caviar and champagne if he wanted it. Man, it costs a fortune keeping a dog in caviar and champagne. Evviva, Leonardo!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Spreading the Love Around

The Marquis de Sade would be 368 today were he still alive. It's difficult to say what he might be doing if he was among us today, leading a cult perhaps, or producing snuff videos for release on the Internet. I suspect he'd feel quite at home. He spent the last decade of his life in the loony bin at Charenton, and nowadays one gets the feeling the inmates have taken over the asylum. As Rodney King famously asked, "Why can't we all just get along?"

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Wages of Fame

Scott McClellan's seemingly sudden personal apotheosis has inspired the question "why didn't he speak out sooner?" The common wisdom apparently is that he must have known that he was serving malicious masters and willfully gave public voice to their lies. But anyone who ever worked in Hollywood and has been in on some of the drivel that gets greenlighted by top studio executives and made for astronomical amounts of money understands the process. Group think is an amazing thing. It leads otherwise intelligent people of taste to being fooled into believing that chicken poop is chicken salad, or at least chicken poop salad. It reminds me of the joke about a group of friends on a hunting trip. None want to cook, so they agree that they'll draw straws, and the loser will cook until someone complains. The man who draws the short straw is a terrible cook, but just to make sure on the first night he goes out and finds a cow pie, bakes it up and serves it to the others when they come back to camp. "This tastes like s***," one of the hunters exclaims. "Good though!"