CSotD: Everything Old Is New Again

Happy New Year, 1915, from this little feller.  Since New Year’s cartoons are interchangeable, I thought instead I’d dip into my files of favorites from before I launched this venture nine years ago.


So let’s start with my first posting in rec.arts.comics.strips, nearly 20 years ago, which didn’t keep my numbskull boss from selling off the poster for less than the frame was worth, but did introduce me to the world of comic strip enthusiasts and a few actual perpetrators of cartoons.

Here’s a gem from 1923, artist, alas, illegible. Newspapers had been full of “how to” articles for people building radio receivers in their garages, then switched to geeks building radios for people who wanted them and were now transitioning to ads for stores selling fully-assembled radio sets.

Which should sound familiar to those old enough to remember computers in the latter 20th Century. Those early-adapters were not the first to feel the pinch of an insider medium becoming a commercial enterprise.

Here’s what General David Sarnoff, founder of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), had to say about it.


Speaking of generating income, this 1979 Shoe was on the wall by my desk for years while I tried to figure out the puzzle of becoming taxable.

I still contend that most of life is deductible, but fortunately have never earned enough, deductible or otherwise, that the IRS chose to contest the theory. (If you are with the IRS, don’t read this.)


Phantom Menace was 1999, and Michael Jantze had a great, extended camping-out story arc in the Norm, leading up to the release, of which this is my very favorite episode.

One factor in pop culture is that age matters, and, as it happens, I was the Dad not the little kid for those first three movies.

The first was a mindblower, the second was quite good, but we weren’t far into the third before I realized I had just brought my boys to a two-hour-eleven-minute toy commercial.

I’m with Boy Norm on this one.


I was never able to sit through any of the prequels, but Aaron McGruder apparently did, because he did a post-release story arc on the topic.


When this “Life in Hell” came out in 1987, I did not yet know that I’d spend several decades working with kids and schools, but I was watching my own kids go through what I’d been through, and this struck home.

Things have changed over the generations and are better today, in part because schools have reformed, but, I think, in larger part because kids feel more empowered than we did.

All we could do with a teacher who wasn’t teaching us was to tease and prank him until he resigned, but my grandkids’ generation will put their objections into a convincingly reasoned report and go before the school board.

American schools remain very far from perfect, but the Parkland kids are only the tip of a very large iceberg.


One of my granddaughters has had the good fortune to get into a voc-tec program that has completely turned her opinion of school around.

Not every community offers that option, and this 2007 Speed Bump is a good reminder that kids should have more than one academic goal.

(Foot-draggers here object to the dual-track education offered in most other countries, saying it locks kids into a track they may regret. I posed that to two dozen exchange students from Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, all of whom agreed, “You just go to your guidance counselor and say you want to change.” One added that, if you kept doing that, they might get annoyed after a while, and the other kids laughed.)


Seems funny to offer a Calvin & Hobbes (1994) that doesn’t include Calvin or Hobbes, but one of the glories of that strip was that sometimes it didn’t, and that also, with or without them, it wasn’t always funny.

A lot of the reason why horrible things happen to kids is that they assume the adults are in control, so that, if something is allowed to continue, it must be what is intended.

Many a truth is told in jest.

For instance, we’re still working out this one, as drawn by Herblock, a problem which you’d think a nation full of competent grown-ups would have solved years ago.

And you’d be right, but that doesn’t mean we’ve solved it, as exemplified in our

Juxtaposition of the Century

(Ollie Harrington)

(Paul Conrad)

There’s nothing new about this, and there damn well should be.

And, while Herblock drew a slant-browed peckerwood as the barrier to civil rights, we’ve since learned to cast the blame more widely.

In fact, he himself had done just that in 1964, criticizing Barry Goldwater for a lack of empathy that could just as well apply to those who, today, can’t see why black people object to being singled out and occasionally shot down.


The saving grace, to the extent to which there can be one, is that the results of our inability to face problems are pretty universal, as seen in this Elderberries from 2006.

To the specific issue, I’ve joked that I retired at the start of my career, pissing away 15 years trying to become J.D. Salinger (turns out there already was one.).

But I did have the great fortune to hit the Sixties in my youth, since I’d have probably been a scruffy artiste anyway and it happened to be socially advantageous at the time.

Anyway, living on old orange peels and used coffee grounds has always been part of the writer’s lifestyle, but I still resent AARP shoving those hard-workin’ gaffers and mountain-climbing grannies down our throats, as if arthritis and other slow-downs were simply caused by lack of character.

I knew a guy in college who liked money and made a pile of it selling coupon books for 20% off here and two-for-one there, which are generally better deals than you get with an AARP membership.

And he wasn’t trying to fool anyone into buying insurance from companies that paid him for his approval.


Finally, though cartoonists prefer the B.Kliban with people being kicked out of the way for a passing cartoonist, I’m afraid this Frank Reynolds classic is closer to the mark.


7 thoughts on “CSotD: Everything Old Is New Again

  1. Happy New Year, Mike
    I look forward to another 364 days of nodding agreement and chuckling at your much appreciated daily postings.
    One of your Canadian fans, Bill in Victoria BC

  2. I went to a Vo-Tech school for 3 years (during my sophomore, junior & senior years in high school) I’d go to Vo-Tech school a half day. I took Commercial Art classes at that school and it helped put me ahead of most students when I attended Art Schoo after graduation. I’m sure it helped me build a 30+ year career.

  3. I went to Vo-Tech for a couple of years the same way, taking radio-TV repair for half a day in Junior and Senior years. During Senior year, I even got work after school at a Magnavox place, where I learned that all my electronics knowledge was useless in understanding electric motors. I excelled, however, at setting up color TVs on the sales floor to look their best, picture-wise.

    I learned a good deal at Magnavox, where I put in many hours of overtime one pay period and was told that there was a strict limit to that… so they simply wouldn’t pay me the difference. Then they laid me off, which is a term of art for “no severance pay for you.”

    Much later, after many years of secretarial work (the fate of poor kiddies who type 100 wpm), I got an AA in commercial art at a community college and was hired before I graduated.

  4. My personal favorites among the Geezer ads (and I am one) are the mattress ads where everyone raves about sleeping through the night. Mattress ? Sounds more like a Foley catheter.

  5. Mark, there aren’t many racsters who were there in the Good Old Days. Watch for a review of a new book by an old racster, coming up soon.

    And, Mary, I’ve got to say that, if you’re gonna have cancer, bladder cancer rocks. When it’s all over — assuming you live — having gotten rid of the damn thing and sleeping through the night is a great improvement in life. I highly recommend it!

  6. I only started reading your pieces this year, not long before you moved sites. I’ve found them very informative and insightful and I look forward to reading every day in 2019! You give me hope that there may be a sane and decent majority in the USA. Happy new year from Australia!

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