CSotD: Ol’ Man Ribber and similar laffs

I’d sworn off cartoons based on Emma Lazarus, but Steve Artley took me by surprise with this “New Yorker in Hell” offering.

The standard New Yorker cartoon offers an affectionate look at the upper middleclass foibles of its readers, with a smile and a bit of a whachagonnado shrug.

I remember one — can’t recall the artist — from decades ago, in which a group of wealthy suburbanites sit around a stylish living room with their martini glasses, singing “Ol’ Man Ribber, dat ol’ man ribber …”

And I remember thinking “Does nobody get this? ”

Artley deals something of the same hand, only it’s not couched in a setting where we chuckle at a foible, and my only quibble is the label on the servant’s back, because I doubt she is and I doubt they care.

The standard New Yorker cartoon is “My Man Godfrey” while this is “Sullivan’s Travels.”

For those who missed them, both movies are ostensibly comedies, though “Godfrey” keeps the laffs coming and “Sullivan” does not.

In “My Man Godfrey,” (1936) a young, spoiled socialite finds a “Forgotten Man,” a homeless bum, as part of a scavenger hunt, and hires him as the family butler, only to discover that he’s more sophisticated and wise than anyone in her nutty, upper-crust family.

It’s full of brilliant performances and clever writing, but it doesn’t hold up terribly well, in large part because of that “New Yorker” element where we’re supposed to see the rich folks as endearingly silly rather than vulgarly detached from the real world.

And — spoiler here — finding out that Godfrey “isn’t really a bum” is a cop-out on the level of finding out — sorry, another spoiler — that Rudolf Valentino’s character in “The Sheik” isn’t really an Ay-Rab.

We’re all off the hook! Let’s sing another chorus of “Ol’ Man Ribber”!

By contrast, in “Sullivan’s Travels,” (1941) a successful film director decides to go see how the other half lives, and it’s hilarious at the start, as his Hollywood crew tags along to keep him out of any real danger.

However, the comedy fades as he slips away from their doting, protective supervision and, about the time he is finally on his own, he gets mugged, losing his ability to buy his way out of situations or even prove who he is, at which point, to use a modern expression, shit gets real.

I suppose it’s mostly a matter of what you bring to either, and, similarly, what you bring to Artley’s cartoon.

Which I hated. And admire.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Jeff Boyer)


(Adam Zyglis)

From opposite ends of the Empire State — Jeff Boyer in the Cap District and Adam Zyglis on the Niagara Frontier — come these commentaries on New York’s granting of a year-long waiver of the statute of limitations, during which victims of pedophiles may file civil suits against their abusers.

Zyglis has addressed this before and I commented then on the fact that kids know a lot more than adults, because they’re in the trenches.

Boyer’s “loss of faith” brings up the fact that they assume adults know what kids know, so that, when nothing is done about a situation, that must mean it’s okay. Or, at least, that it’s normal.

A college friend used to tell of a Brother at his Catholic school nicknamed “The Fly” because he’d come watch the boys shower in the locker room, rubbing his hands together like that insect.

Nobody else saw that? Nobody over 17?

Only with an effort.

The uproar at Newfoundland’s Mount Cashel Orphanage began when a former inmate saw a 60 Minutes program about how a diocese in this country played “pass the trash” with pedophile priests, re-assigning them to new parishes where nobody knew what they were getting.

As the reporter who broke the story explains, getting that young man to come forward was part of the challenge.

As with many victims, he felt responsible for what took place during the theft of his childhood at Mount Cashel. He felt guilty “ratting out” the Brothers, some of whom had shown him occasional acts of kindness. Shame, the handmaiden of guilt in these matters, had done its work.

In that essay, he compares the Mt. Cashel story to a #MeToo case involving a popular CBC personality and women within that organization.

It’s all intertwined.

I don’t know what relationship there is between the boys of Mt. Cashel coming forward and the explosion of lawsuits over physical and sexual abuse at Canada’s residential schools for Indian students.

Or for lawsuits over a form of slavery at girls’ orphanages in Quebec.

Or physical and sexual abuse at Ireland’s “Magdalen Laundries.”

I do know that, when I looked up the Boy Scouts’ end of things, I got a laugh out of the fact that the Baden Powell Council’s sensible rules to try to prevent abuse include a ban on skinny dipping, given Lord Baden Powell’s reported fondness for watching young scouts do just that.

However, it’s crucial to note that religion and scouting are only two of several places where adults with bad intentions can prey upon kids.

We’re out fingerprinting our kids to save them from Stranger Danger — and make us all more amenable to life in a police state — when the real threat is from teachers and religious leaders and coaches and scout leaders and relatives.

Not all of them.

Not most of them.

Not even (by percentage) that many of them.

But how many does it take?

Anyway, the victims’ loss of faith is not in the church or the scouts, but in the adults who were supposed to keep them safe.

Smarten up. It’s your job.


Gahan Wilson Update

Gahan Wilson’s stepson reports that the family has shut down the GoFundMe intended to provide for his care as he slips into dementia.

They reportedly have enough, and Paul Winters passes along this update:

He still draws a little. His drawings have become smaller and smaller, but they still are filled with his great genius to give ink lines life.

Genius indeed.

3 thoughts on “CSotD: Ol’ Man Ribber and similar laffs

  1. I have to confess a bit of disappointment today in your mention of the Ghomeshi case by citing an article from 2014. Since then, his case has gone to trial and the three accusers were found to have colluded on evidence, with one of them lying on the stand while under oath. Nevertheless, his career is still in tatters — despite his innocence — while one of his accuser is, inexplicably, a go-to speaker for the metoo movement.

    Let me repeat that: a woman who lied on the stand about her supposed assault is now a spokeswoman for the metoo movement.

    As you note, Ghomeshi’s sexual practices were hardly a secret. However, when it was all said and done, the general public slam on him was not that he was a supposed sexual predator so much as it was his type of sexuality was… weird… and maybe a bit… icky. Im sorry, but if you continue to date the guy after the first BDSM session, then — marks and all — you’re enjoying it. There’s no shame in that… until, of course, there somewhat conveniently is.

    So why did she show the marks as some kind of proof that he raped her? Because, as we later found out, he’d moved on from the relationship, and she didnt like being dumped. This isnt speculation, Mike: it was one of those things that came out after the trial was over and the media had itself moved on to other outrages. But it’s just the first half of the story that we remember… because the second half isnt as interesting.

    So why didnt the CBC hire him back? Because now their star personality was a full-bore fetish player, and they were afraid of the public backlash. So… she lies, the network gets scared, and it doesnt matter that he was innocent. Appearances must be maintained.

  2. Homer nods, and I had actually been looking at the Mt Cashel stuff rather than the Ghomesi material that followed — you’ll note I only mentioned his case in passing.

    By the time he became news, I was a dozen years out of range of Canadian TV and radio. I heard very small bits and snatches, but didn’t even know who he was, much less what he’d done. (Checking now, I see he was not an on-air person until I’d moved away.)

    By contrast, for the Mt Cashel business, I was 45 minutes from Montreal and soaked in The National and W5 and Radio Canada. Read the book and even saw the movie, we being just outside the Maritimes where it was forbidden to be seen until after the trials.

    Both the Duplessis issues and the residential school scandals also burst while I was still there.

    I’m surprised I didn’t hear the outcome of that trial, given the explosive dismissal, but I think the link Kevin posted is instructive, since it hesitates to be terribly certain about how things fell apart. Or it’s at least well-crafted, since I pinged on some “uh-ohs” in reading that, later on, were brought up again.

    To which I would add that we haven’t heard the last of Mr. Epstein and that his pals had better all hope they don’t have any distinguishing characteristics, because those trials, absent the Dungeonmaster himself, are gonna get uuuuugly.

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