CSotD: Conceptual Cleanup

Andy Marlette provides a most depressing, but accurate, State of the Union to darken the upcoming holiday.

I would add, by the way, that, while everyone draws the “tiny hands” that have become emblematic of Trump, the real key to a good caricature is that fatuous, self-satisfied smile.

“Often in error, but never in doubt” and if Marlette’s cartoon isn’t depressing enough, try this extensive listing of things Dear Leader doesn’t know, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Yes, it would have been considerably shorter if they’d simply listed the things he gets right.

The latest exercise in wretched excess and utter ignorance is his apparently last-minute desire to turn the Fourth of July celebration in Washington into a celebration of military hardware.

The Second and Third Amendments — 20% of our Bill of Rights — are testimony to the fear and hatred the Founders had of standing armies.

In the War of 1812, we learned, nearly the hard way, that you can’t really defend a nation with local militias, but the fact remains that we formed an army and navy reluctantly and purely from necessity.

In any case, we used to celebrate freedom on the Fourth of July, with hot dogs and fireworks and music, not hot air and bravado.


But, as Pat Bagley points out, we’ve changed the meaning of “freedom,” too.

I suppose you could say that Trump has changed it, but, then again, I suppose you could say that little red dots cause measles or that winter is cold because of all the snow.

If you think Trump is some freak, start the search for a perfect Democratic candidate and then stay home in 2020 if your horse doesn’t win the race.

Like hitting your thumb with the hammer again to see if that’s really why it’s all swollen and sore.


The discussion of editorial cartooning continues on social media, much of it generating more heat than light, but Nick Anderson points out part of the threat.

But Ted Rall is perhaps the only one rude enough to strictly outline all the ways the medium has not simply been attacked but also failed to survive.

Ted’s built a career out of saying things you shouldn’t say and pissing off people, so he doesn’t take the diplomatic path, but brings in, for instance,

Scab syndication services undercut the market. A few discount syndication companies, one in particular, sold bulk packages of heavily discounted hackwork, undercutting professionally-drawn cartoons.

Which is something cartoonists have talked about amongst themselves but not said publicly.

But I had an editorial page editor come to me with a sheaf of genuinely mediocre cartoons, delightedly saying that he’d found a source that cost about a third of what we’d been paying.

This reminds me of a particularly apt quote from John Ruskin:

There is absolutely nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper; and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.

Which is particularly apt because Ruskin apparently never said it, which makes it a cheap, phony quote.

Anyway, the cartoons he showed me were crap, but, since editors don’t understand metaphor, it hardly mattered to him.

And the syndicate in question later started fundraising because they weren’t making enough money to keep going, which I guess explained how they were able to undercut the prices of the viable syndicates.

Who knew?

The other day, the kids next door set up little tables and were selling snacks that I didn’t want but I went and bought something anyway, because they were cute.

Being cute is not, however, a sustainable business model.

Rall also says

Publishers killed the farm system. The early 1990s marked the start of a vibrant new wave of “altie” political art by Generation Xers. Urban free weeklies carried our work but deep-pocketed dailies and magazines refused to hire us. Gifted young cartoonists realized they’d never be hired and abandoned the profession.

I agree with his premise while gasping at his timeline, since I seem to recall the LA Free Press, Berkeley Barb, Chicago Seed, EVO et al, and a whole raft of cartoonists who thrived– or at least survived — in their pages.

Until Rolling Stone — the leading edge of the “Over The Counter Culture” — came along and sucked up the record company ads that had kept a lot of underground papers running, after which corporations bought the rest and then shut them down.

But, yes, the Indy market has faded.

One point that has been repeatedly made is that memes are replacing editorial cartoons, but there’s a limit to that.

Garage bands have had their influence, but they’re hardly the only type of music left, and there is still work for people like Carlos Santana and Mark Knopfler.

Memes are fun, though, and the AAEC has talked about the need to persuade meme-makers and other young graphic wiseasses that they are, in fact, political cartoonists.

That talk needs to be translated into something more.

I haven’t seen a lineup yet for the AAEC convention, which will be held during the Cartoon Crossroads gathering in Columbus in September, but it’s an opportunity to connect.

In the meantime, I don’t think anyone will ever stop drawing opinions. The issue is whether they also have to flip some burgers.

Which leads us to


I started yesterday with a Brewster Rockit on the topic and wouldn’t continue the story arc except that I don’t think his backup plan is very well chosen.

The closing of our local dry cleaners means that the closest place to get a jacket done is 20 miles away, though there is a drop off only 8 miles from here.

Or maybe we’ll go back to the old washerwoman model, where people take in laundry to make ends meet.

Then, while they wait for the clothes to dry, they can draw some editorial cartoons.


(Or maybe Dear Leader will start up the coal mines.)