CSotD: A Season of Giving

Let’s set a bit of a holiday mood with Barney & Clyde, which has always had a bit of a Frank Capra tone. The difference is that the cartoon strip appears every day and Capra worked in an era in which most movies were self-contained and had finite endings.

There was no “It’s Still A Wonderful Life” or “Mr. Smith Goes Back to Washington” and so, unlike “Barney & Clyde,” it was necessary and sufficient to have the miser learn his lesson, or, at least, be permanently foiled by goodness.

As it happens, today’s reminds me more of “My Man Godfrey,” which was not Capra and which deserves a remake. Despite a sterling cast and some very memorable lines, it has enough of a “Taming of the Shrew” undertone — more “taming of the brat” but equally not-okay — that the central message of airy condescension gets a bit muddled.

But another non-Capra, Sullivan’s Travels, holds up very well indeed and is another case of a condescending know-it-all getting some ground-level lessons.

The cartooning firm of Weingarten, Weingarten and Clark et cie manage to keep Barney cluelessly self-interested without making him a heartless villain, which is as close as you can come to having him learn lessons from Clyde without bringing the whole strip to a crashing halt.

Though you’d think he’d find a little generosity in his heart this time of year, not because of the holidays, but because of the need to fiddle his tax bracket before Dec 31.

Though I guess under the new regime, slipping into a lower bracket might raise the taxes of someone in his income range.

To which I can only quote Abbie Hoffman’s favorite bit of citizen feedback: “Wait’ll Jesus Christ gets his hands on you, you little bastard.”


Meanwhile, Matt Davies finds it easy enough to mock the medical bureaucracy by the simple, time-tested journalist expedient of quoting them accurately.

That particular case attracted enough attention that the Go Fund Me was successful, but that’s about one step above recommending lottery tickets, since most people will only be touching up their friends and won’t get that massive level of viral support.

Whether you believe we could go to a single-payer system — which requires that you accept that tax payments would about equal the premiums and copays of your current coverage — it’s telling that the opponents of the ACA have worked so diligently to undermine it, since they can’t quite seem to overturn it entirely.

Anyway, they’re at least cancelling letting people know that they have until Dec 15 to sign up. 

A reminder that, while we speak of Scrooge at Christmas, he was a miserable shit all year long.


On a lighter note, Edison Lee gave me a smile today because “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” always reminds me of an evening when I was asked to entertain a contingent of about two dozen timber executives from the Soviet Union, whose 1991 visit to the US I had been covering.

I sang them the only Irish song I knew that included Russia, a comic story of a Gomer Pyle type sent off to the Crimean War, and learned that there are no comic songs about war in Russia. They were genuinely appalled.

So I regrouped and sang “Old MacDonald,” with Russian animal noises. The translator only had to run through the opening once for them to get it. I’d sing up to the name of the animal, she’d translate that and they’d call out the noise it made.

I cheated and started with the dog, which I knew was “gub gub,” and — bearing in mind that I had to remember and repeat each sound as the song progressed — threw in some that had them in hysterics knowing that I’d never be able to.

(Okay, I knew that “on his farm he had a rooster” was deliberately asking for trouble.)

Anyway, to Edison’s point, I have known farmers who sold out and it wasn’t because they wanted to be millionaires but because the pressure on family farms and ranches is intense.

It’s hard work that, first of all, the kids may not want to continue, and, second, even if they do, that pays a great deal less than the developers are willing to offer for the land.

Plus the hassles: I don’t know if a “Right To Farm” law would have protected this woman from being charged when her peacock pooped at a school built out on a road of small farms, but that sort of thing reminds me of people who buy houses near airports and then complain about the noise.


So one of the places I throw a little money each year is the American Farmland Trust, which uses conservation easements to help farmers keep their land protected.

Not saying everyone should do that. But everyone should do something about something.


Keith Knight is right in decrying the impossibility even of conversations in a land so harshly divided by fear and hate (hate being a subset of fear).

If you have nothing to do the rest of the day, you might want to read this depressing but waaaaaay too long piece from the editor of Mother Jones about what Facebook has done to destroy responsible news coverage.

Or this considerably more compact explanation from Jim Hightower of why newspapers, and therefore local civic engagement, are dying (h/t to Dwane Powell).

Bottom line is that we’ve created a system in which, as noted yesterday, my opinion is valid, not because it’s backed by facts, experience or knowledge, but because it’s mine.

And screw you for trying to tell me otherwise. Shut up shut up shut up.


Tom the Dancing Bug lays it out, and I’m running the whole thing instead of a snippet-and-link because he included a funding request at the bottom and this is another excellent place to toss a few coins.


Do Not Despair

All is not sorrow in this season of hope, and Ann Telnaes offers what I consider a sort of Advent Calendar, with Tidings of Good News.


Meanwhile, you gotta serve somebody.


3 thoughts on “CSotD: A Season of Giving

  1. Matthew Arnold’s poem “West London” describes the author’s witnessing of a beggar woman who ignores the wealthy and only begs from those less fortunate. He sticks on an anodyne moral that seems off the point, but his observation is dead on.

  2. It really is. I can’t remember how many times I’ve linked it or pointed to it or quoted it.

    It would be nice if it did point to a better time. I saw it differently than he did, but it’s still his poem, his observation.

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