CSotD: Variety Pack

John Cole on the digital divide, which has been a factor in education for a good 25 or 30 years but is now in sharper focus as schools shift to distance learning.

For those who came in late, the “digital divide” refers to kids who are at a disadvantage because their classmates have computers and Internet access at home and they don’t.

When I was a kid, research happened at a physical library, which meant you needed to compile your notes during business hours.

With the coming of the Web, kids with computers could research projects at home, at night, faster and better than kids who had to trudge to the library and deal with whatever collection of books was there.

In the morning, the “poor kids” would pile into the school library during study halls to type their papers into the computers there so that they, too, could have nicely formatted work to turn in, just like the kids who had word processors and ink jet printers at home.

Now that divide is a chasm, as classrooms are meeting on-line and assignments assume — demand — Internet access.

Cole attacks North East Pennsylvania schools for failure to respond, but response to the issue has been chaotic and individual: Some places have addressed it well (mostly having addressed it partially, before the crisis) but his cartoon could run in any number of other, less responsive school districts around the country.

But here’s a wrinkle that I hadn’t thought of until I was talking to my younger son, a teacher at a reasonably middleclass school: It’s no longer simply a financial issue.

He told me many of his kids’ families had to get Internet now because, while they may have had cable TV, the parents only accessed the Internet through their phones, not only leaving the kids out of the picture but making it clumsy if not impossible to get a laptop online for a Zoom classroom conference.

Which I offer mostly as a curiosity, because it left me scratching my head. It simply hadn’t occurred to me, but made sense once it was pointed out.

Note that I am giving Cole the grace of allowing a slack-line tin-can telephone because, in his cartoon, it’s not supposed to work.

I hate slack lines in cartoons with tin-can telephones.

I also hate this:

I liked today’s Strange Brew, and it isn’t John Deering’s fault that it brings me to a boil.

But speaking of graphic design experts, I wish one of them would tell Creators Syndicate that simply sloshing a light wash over a cartoon does not count as “coloring it.”

It’s cheap, it’s lazy and it makes their comics look worse than if you had simply left them black-and-white.

I know times are tough, but some really good strips have started looking lousy because of this half-assed attempt to save money.

And, speaking of half-assed ideas, here’s our first

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Signe Wilkinson)

(Bill Bramhall)

You may notice Wilkinson appearing here a lot lately — she’s on a helluva hot streak and she’s nailed this one with a very simple piece that I like a lot.

However, I’m giving Bramhall’s grim depiction the nod for this reason: I really like Wilkinson’s depiction of an arrogant, uncaring head waiter, compared to Bramhall’s more thoughtless production line operator.

But, much as we try to keep meat fresh, I suspect the virus won’t make it from packing house to distribution center to grocery shelf to home and through the cooking process.

There may be a public revulsion to it, based on the fear, but I think there’s little reason to worry about health risks in the meat, which will be packed by people who are being murdered at the instigation of the president.

Bramhall shows the real butchery that’s going on.


On an equally stupid but lighter note:

(Matt Wuerker)

(John Darkow)

In this Juxtaposition, Wuerker gets the bigger laugh, but Darkow cuts to the chase.

His dialogue is less elegantly timed and trim than it might be, but, then again, the point is hardly elegant and is best made shaken, not stirred.

Sometimes lack of elegance is a cool hand.


While, at the other end of that scale, Tom Tomorrow demonstrates that a solid dramatist can write a good one-act play in which every line hits home.

Multi-panel cartoons have the ability to expound in detail, but way too often a weak panel derails the whole thing. One clumsy line, one inapt metaphor and you’ve distracted the reader and broken the spell.

I’m not saying he’s Alan Ayckbourn or Edward Albee, but this is some good, tight, on-target dialogue, delivered in a style of cartooning that way too often suffers from drift.

If you can’t be Darkow, be Tom Tomorrow. And vice versa.


Juxtaposition #3

(Rico Schachrel)

(Brewster Rockit)

Some day, we’ll get back to some semblance of normalcy, and I like Rico’s re-entry concept. I hope we follow South Africa’s cautious lead.

Meanwhile, Brewster Rockit gets the chance for a final toilet paper joke, particularly when crowned with the alternative of Christmas wrapping paper, because (A) I’ve got a bunch of that in a closet and (B) I can’t imagine anything less functional.

That second punchline sells the gag. Well played!


Especially this

Pat Bagley speaks for me.

As noted before, I have a son in the frontline of all this, but before he was in the ER treating covid patients, he was doing boarding parties in the Gulf and he’s been a firefighter and in high school, he was keeper on the soccer team.

I have long had the comfort of knowing that, when all hell breaks loose, if he’s not there, he’ll get there as soon as he possibly can.

It’s who he is, and he’s not looking for a medal.

He’s sure as hell not looking for a goddam flyover.

But, if you’d like to spend the money on something that matters, some more masks, gloves and gowns would be nice.



9 thoughts on “CSotD: Variety Pack

  1. I loved Pence’s “ratoinale”, such as it was, that he didnt wear a make because he “wanted to look the patients in the eye”. I gather he thinks… well, honestly, I cant even fathom what he’s thinking there.

  2. That Tom Tomorrow was tight as hell. I never point anyone at him because he usually wanders into what I think of as Michael Moore territory—in my extremely-humble opinion—but that was *perfect*. Also, I made much the same comment as the Pence cartoon the other day, though considerably less family-friendly. It’s got to be hard to walk the line in an actual newspaper…

    I do look forward to Fridays, though. Could we maybe have a mid-week non-political day on the blog too, even if was just occasional?

  3. I have been reading the comics for 75 years and I do not like it when they change things. Heart of he City has been in my newspaper since the 1970s and there is no need to bring in some young and “fresh” person to make changes to something that was great as it was. When will people learn not to mess with things that are working?

  4. Outside of cities, access to libraries could still be a means-based divide, long before the internet.

    In at least one place I lived, the library wasn’t even a reasonable bike ride away, so I only got there if I got a ride from my mother. If your family was large, or neither parent had time to drive to the library, you couldn’t get there. I didn’t suffer from this, but I’m sure many did.

  5. I was fortunate in that we had a pretty good school library, but the “real” library was an hour’s drive away.

    I remember doing some research on the 13th Amendment and Civil Rights as a sophomore and getting Gunnar Myrdal’s “An American Dilemma” — which I most certainly didn’t read cover-to-cover — through interlibrary loan, though, when I did my senior year paper on Joyce, I went into the city to find a copy of “Ulysses,” since I doubt our school librarian would have been comfortable getting me a copy of that.

    I did read that one cover-to-cover, though I’d have piled up several renewals if it had been a library copy.

  6. Of course right now (so far) the libraries are closed. And some of our county’s communities are still served by the bookmobile.

    In Heart of the City, I am having trouble telling Heart from Kat from Dean. At least in the new Nancy, you can tell the characters apart. I guess Tatulli is still doing Lio ? (and seems intent on beating on “The Virus” like a dead horse,)

    Not only should that assembly line switch be on/off, but the bosses can usually speed it up gradually.

  7. In our school district, we are delivering lessons online but 2 weeks before we started, families started receiving loans of a laptop if they needed one. Teachers were tasked with calling families to assess their need and make sure they knew how to borrow one. Bilingual staff called Spanish speaking households and translate lessons. An internet provider here is giving students’ families 2 months of free high speed internet service upon request. Students without internet at all get weekly paper packets of assignments which are delivered to neighborhoods by school buses which carry mandated and continuing free meals. Students are also able to access the schools’ internet by sitting in a car outside their schools.

    Despite this community support, only about 30-50% of my high school students participate in the lessons. The only reason my students would visit a library would be to use their internet for research, I regret to say. (Don’t get me started on their lack of reading skills and inability to comprehend what they read.)

    FYI one can participate in Zoom meetings using a cell phone with internet which I would estimate over 90% of my students have. As an AP teacher, I am disheartened that so few of my students are joining my Zoom AP study sessions but it’s not because they cannot.

    Bramhall captured my despair for the plight of meat packers. Darkow caused a LOL moment while T. Tomorrow caused me to wish I was seeing my students so in my role as science teacher and trusted adult, we could discuss mixing bleach with ammonia and sticking forks into electrical outlets and just why science literacy is important as a life skill.

  8. How could pence be so certain he wasn’t a carrier? Isn’t he the head of the task force . The way him and Trump act invincible make more sense to me that they KNOW they won’t be infected!
    Which draws a line to how could they be so certain unless they are behind it , and pushing the blame to China!
    God knows I hope this is not true!

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