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, October 31, 2008

Turn Right, Or Left, Or Continue Straight Ahead

I'm continually amused by the pundits constantly arguing about what to call the economic crisis as the world hurtles toward the edge. Is it a downturn? A recession? A bubble? Sports broadcasters are like the political pundits, they fill hours and hours of meanlingless chatter about a game that only takes one hour to play. My favorite sports hedge was when a TV news anchor asked the sportscaster who he predicted would win the annual rivalry between USC and UCLA that year. "UCLA is certainly the stronger team," he blandly intoned, "so I'm going to pick USC to upset." Brilliant move. There was no way he could lose. I once many decades ago asked the writer and publisher of a weekly stock market newsletter how his predictions the previous week had turned out. He answered, "I've been doing this so many years I know how to word things so I'm never wrong."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One Man's Silly Is Another Man's Art

I'm a little late posting today, but thankfully able to post even though I've been smoked out of my house while the fumigators wait for the little buggers to come staggering out wearing tiny gas masks so they can mow them down with tiny Uzis. The miracle of the Internet! It doesn't seem very long ago that a friend of mine and I were trying to get our modems to talk to each other, adjusting baud rates and the like.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Everybody's Got One

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I'm racing to get things done and clear out of my house this morning, since it's going to be tented and fumigated for termites. Metaphors for life abound: half-finished containers of food that must be either sealed some way or thrown out, a reminder of projects I've been meaning to complete and probably never will; little creatures gnawing away unseen at the foundations, keeping us mindful of the fragility of things we take most for granted. I'm a nomad for the next couple of days, but should have internet access and will be able to continue blogging uninterrupted. Should I for any technological reasons as yet unforeseen miss tomorrow you'll know why, and I'll make it up with two cartoons on Friday. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thy Will Be Done

If the day of the week had been named after the evangelist Billy Sunday he could be called eponymous, but alas the day came first, and there's no term for that other than aptly named. This is just a random and essentially meaningless observation on the way to quoting him: "Going to church doesn't make a man Christian," he said back in the 1920's or thereabouts, "any more than going to a garage makes him an automobile." Good thing to remember in this time when faux Christiantity has become so inextricably entwined with politics.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Costume Malfunction

Myron Cohen, a wonderful Borscht Belt comedian, was perhaps best known for his story about the man who came home early one day and found his wife in bed naked. Suspicious, he threw open the closet door and discovered a man cowering inside. "What are you doing here," the enraged husband shouted. "Everybody has to be somewhere," the man said.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Nose On Your Face

I have an admission to make. Despite all the talk of 401k's lately, I don't know what they are. Oh, I know they have something to do with money, and I know that they're something people acquire in the hope of having sufficient funds for a comfortable retirement, but beyond that I don't know the details. I don't have one, which is supposedly a bad thing but nowadays may be a good thing, since with the economic crisis they're disappearing like campaign promises the day after election. This is all a way of saying that even though I don't much understand the underpinnings of the crisis, it came as no surprise to me when Alan Greenspan, in his mea culpa before Congress this week, admitted that in all his years as a free-marketeer he never factored human greed in to his thinking. It's pretty terrifying when you realize that too often those with the most power miss the most obvious things.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Head Trip

At the state hospital a psychiatric patient is taking a stroll in the gardens when she sees a man spreading something on some plants. "What're you doing?" she asks.
"Putting fertilizer on the strawberries," the gardner answers.
"What's fertlizer?"
"It's animal poop."
"Why are you putting it on the strawberries?"
"It makes them sweeter."
"Imagine that," the woman says, "they call us crazy and we put sugar on ours."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Harold Be Thy Name

John F. Kennedy reportedly once asked his Chief Justice if a certain piece of pending legislation he was afraid might violate the separation of church and state was constitutional. "Most certainly," the Chief Justice told hm. "It hasn't got a prayer."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In Good Spirits

And on another subject altogether, the other day I heard a pundit taking the position that mankind's responsibility for the global harming problem is being blown out of proportion. Cows, he argued pass enormous amounts of methane gas, and therefore are just as big polluters than we are. What udder nonsense. First of all, we wouldn't have so many cows if we weren't such huge consumers of t-bone steaks and Big Macs (and just imagine the amount of pollution resulting from cooking fries). And second, are farting cows a good reason to go on having gas guzzling cars?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Old Dogs, New Tricks

I had a friend who spent some time writing speeches for a politician who was running for Congress, attempting to unseat an incumbent. Once, at a state fair, my friend listened while the man gave a stump speech that had been written by another of his writers. "If things continue the way they have under my opponent," the politician intoned, "the situation in this state will be...." And here the man paused for a moment, looking slightly bewildered, before thundering dramatically what sounded to my friend like "achin' de chows." My friend went to the candidate afterward and inquired what it was he'd said. "Damned if I know," the man replied, "I just read what was written." My friend asked to look at the text and found the phrase in question. It was, "akin to chaos."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Time Flies

With computers, cell phones, i-pods, GPS systems and the like making our lives easier and presumably more enjoyable we forget how incredibly brief the "age of technology" has been. It was only a hundred and twenty nine years ago today that Edison first demonstrated his incandescent light bulb. That's shorter than twice my lifetime. For hundreds of thousands of years man got along without electric light, and then came this explosion of stuff. The problem is that our brain is simply not sufficiently evolved emotionally to deal with the amount of information constantly bombarding us, nor the speed with which it's accessible.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Culture War

As has been alluded to in a recent editorial cartoon, George W. Bush may have got elected because he was the kind of guy people could imagine themselves having a few beers with in a local bar. Turns out he's not the kind of guy you want to have a hangover with next morning.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nobody Claims Cartoonists Are Sane

I suppose there are those for whom the characters in long-running sitcoms take on a reality beyond the half-hour confines of the format, but not for me. Perhaps it's why I have never, as they say, "got into" them. To me the Seinfeld's, and Archie Bunkers, and the friends on Friends were always actors playing roles. The comics have always been different. Pogo and company, the Peanuts gang, the inhabitants of Dogpatch were real to me, and I imagined their lives continuing apart from the strip. Even now, when I pick up the comics page and find Satch is absent from that day's Get Fuzzy I imagine he has the day off, and wonder what he's doing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Music Hath Charms

An old man sat weeping as the orchestra played Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. "Ah," said the woman seated next to him, "an incurable romantic." "No, ma'am," he replied, "I'm not a romantic, I'm a musician."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

It's curious, but suddenly the media doesn't seem to be talking anymore about the economic crisis, whatever you want to call it: downturn, recession, depression, panic, credit crunch. The market's still tanking, the jobless rate is rising, consumer's aren't buying, and gas isn't cheap, despite the fact that prices have dipped. Meanwhile, an article in the Los Angeles Times tells of the Sunset Marquis in Hollywood, where a luxury suite goes for $7000 a night. Who has that kind of money? The CEO's whose companies got bailed out?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Skin Deep

On this day in 1854 Oscar Fingall O'Flahertie Wilde, better known as simply Oscar Wilde, was born. "The only way to get rid of a temptation," he once said, "is to yield to it."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The I's Have It

Voting is serious business. I admit to a kind of panic about voting, which gets worse as election day nears. I try to do my homework, but no matter how much I do I still feel as if I don't know enough. Not so much about the presidential candidates. Good heavens, the campaigns are so "in your face" you can't help but be informed. It's all those lists of judges and commissioners that get me, the people I've never heard of. Propositions are also my undoing. Both sides have convinced me that if I vote for the other side it will be a disaster. If I skip over them I feel as if I've betrayed my birthright, but if I vote for someone or something bad I feel like I'm entirely responsible. When I step into the voting booth I suddenly have the sense that the whole weight of the elctoral process has been dumped on my shoulders, and I leave the polling place even more anxious than went I went in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Word to the Whys

I'm not a grammar nazi, as some people who know me contend. I admit I appreciate good speech, but I understand that language changes and grows, sometimes in wonderfully colorful and useful ways. However, when a grammatically clumsy phrase or linguistic clunker moves from people in the street to widespread usage by television commentators, you know the culture is headed to hell in a handbasket. Two that get me crazy are "where it's at" and "at this point in time." What the heck is wrong with "where it is" and "at this time," both far more graceful?

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Greeks Had a Word For It

The little boy who grew up in Beverly Hills was very upset when he stormed in the front door. "What's wrong?" his mother asked him. "Tommy just told me how I got here. I can't believe it. It's really terrible." The boy's mother figured the time had finally come for "the talk." "Oh no," she said, "it's not terrible at all. In fact, it's beautiful. Let me explain it to you. " "There's no explanation," the boy wailed. "Well, what did Tommy tell you?" "He said his parents brought him home in a Bentley. I got here in a Nissan Sentra."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Looking Back II

I met Leslie Caron in 1960. At Princeton I was a member of the Triangle Club, the group that puts on a full-scale original musical each year. We had an offshoot group, Triangle Junior, that presented a cabaret version of the Triangle Show at colleges and organizations. The summer of 1960, when I was the club's president, we toured European army bases for the USO. We had a stopover in Paris, where we were invited to visit the set of Fanny by director Joshua Logan, a former Triangle member and Triangle Club trustee. Our group's picture was taken with Ms. Caron, Mr. Logan, Charles Boyer, and Maurice Chevalier. Friday evening, 48 years later, Ms. Caron kindly signed my copy of the photo. (That's me on the far right.)

Click on image to view enlarged.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Looking Back

I had the pleasure of seeing a screening of Gigi last night at the Motion Picture Academy, not just any screening, but a celebration of the film's 50th anniversary and a salute to Leslie Caron, who had flown in from her home in Paris. I haven't yet quite gathered together all my thoughts and feelings about this timeless, extraordinary film and the still incandescent Ms. Caron, but as I was leaving the Academy and walking toward the parking garage with the friend who had accompanied me another audience member, also headed the same direction, turned to us and said, "wasn't that a wonderful movie." It was a simple declaration, but it encapsulated a much larger truth. Great art doesn't just unite us, it makes us need to reach out to each other to share the exultation that's in our hearts.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I know I've said this before in the past, but it seems apropos to repeat it now that we are beseiged by an avalanche of gas-baggery on two fronts, the elections and the financial crisis. Pundits, columnists, talk show hosts, the ladies on The View, Aunt Millie, all have something to say about the headlines. So here it is, The Fools Law of Expertise: for every qualified expert in a given field who gives you an opinion, there's an equally qualified expert in the same field who'll give you the exact opposite opinion.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Accentuate the Positive

Negative campaigning has got a bad name, and it's a darn shame. Don't get me wrong, I believe it's incumbent on candidates to make a case for what they intend to accomplish once elected, and how they plan to accomplish it, but along the way it makes sense that they attempt to convince the electorate that the other guy is the wrong man for the job. Negative campaining is not the issue, false, misleading, distorted, and dishonest campaigning is.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Little Dab'll Do You

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Apropos of absolutely nothing, something's been bugging me for years and it's time to get it off my chest. Why, when you call United Airlines, say, to check on an arrival time, do they end the call by saying "Thank-you for calling United?" Who the heck else am I going to call for United's arrival time? Qantas?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Whistlin' Down the River

There's lots of doomsday rhetoric going on lately. Pres. Bush hurls twin messages at us, if we don't throw tons of money at Wall Street total collapse of absolutely everything is imminent, and "things are going to be fine I'm your president you elected me to be the fixer now go on out and buy stuff." Crisis isn't new, nor is the brink of disaster. On this day in 1881 the British political leader William E. Gladstone got up and comforted the populace by saying, "The resources of civilization are not yet exhausted." The resources still may not be, but we are.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

To quote Sarah Palin on nuclear proliferation: "Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people in too many parts of the world." On why, as governor of Alaska she has the foreign expertise to be a heartbeat away from the presidency: "It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there." You can't invent this kind of comedy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Green Power

"Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic," thundered William Jennings Bryan in his Cross of Gold speech to the Democratic national convention in 1896, "but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

On the Other Hand

You may have noticed that in all my posts (700, as of today) I've never once spoken about conservatives and liberals. The terms may have had validity once, in a simpler time, but it's become a mindless shorthand, an intellectual laziness that allows people to avoid any substantive discussion of complex issues, to the point where all that's left of substantial debate is meaningless sputtering. I prefer to divide people into those whose ideas are so set into concrete they cannot change, and those willing to constantly have their own most cherished positions challenged by new arguments.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Grate Debate

More whacky, wonderful stuff in the news. On the one hand we have the Senate dealing with what our leaders keep telling us is an economic catastrophe of historic proportions by passing a bill meant to ease the crisis. But not just any bill. This one's loaded with so much pork one can actually hear it oink. Meanwhile, the media giants are arguing about who won the vice-presidential debate. Who won? Funny, I didn't think there was supposed to be a winner until November, and I was under impression it was decided by votes, not a bunch of pundits scoring it like it was synchronized swimming.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

You Bet Your Life

In an interesting confluence of facts that has no meaning other than what we wish to make of it, today is the anniversary of the births of two 20th century icons, Mahatma Gandhi, born in 1869, and Groucho Marx, born sometime in the 1890's. The one gave us surreal humor, the other the principle of non-violence. Both serve us well right now, as Congress attempts to extinuish a fire with gasoline and matches, the conflagration they had a hand in starting.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"The Sky Is Falling," Cried Chicken Little

The hysteria about the imminent collapse of everything we hold near and dear is based on a big lie. The party line has it that if the government doesn't come through with its bailout there will be a huge crisis of confidence which will cause lenders to stop lending, businesses won't be able to get the money they need to keep going, jobs will be lost, and nobody will be able to buy anything so they can pay off bum loans. What crisis of conficence? Lending is supposed to be about doing due dilligence and having confidence the borrower can pay it back. Don't lend to dead beats, which is what got them into this mess, that and lending to dead beats to buy wildly overvalued property. So what they're telling us is that confidence in the markets must be restored so lending institutions can go back to making loans nobody in his right mind would have confidence in. Weren't we once told "neither a borrower nor a lender be?"