CSotD: Making a point, getting in the groove

(Kevin Siers)

(Clay Jones)

Here is a Juxtaposition that might have been two panels of the same cartoon: “Defund the Police” is a lousy slogan that plays into Republican hands.

It’s a great idea, to shift funding in order to ease the burden on police and let them focus on actual law enforcement while other public institutions take on the tasks of making streets safer.


That’s not a new idea: Over a century ago, people like Jacob Riis, Josephine Shaw Lowell, Jane Addams and Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt were arguing in favor of making the streets less toxic — closing unlicensed beer halls, adding open park space and ministering to the needs of the poor — in order to reduce crime.

But we’re already seeing cartoons in which the phrase “Defund the Police” is purposely — whether “stupidly” or “hatefully” doesn’t matter — misrepresented to stoke fear, misunderstanding and resistance to change.

And citing a few mooncalves who genuinely think we can get along with no police at all is no more a defense than it is to point out that some police officers belong to the Ku Klux Klan.

Citing extremists is a smokescreen. The dog didn’t eat your homework and the fact that evil and stupidity exist doesn’t excuse your use of either, or of both.

Nor, by the way, is there any justification in the idea that you were simply making a joke.

I’ve seen a couple of cartoons mocking the phrase, not to oppose the movement but simply to get a quick laugh.

If you’re for it, defend it. If you’re against it, attack it. But this isn’t a time for cheap jokes.

Siers injects humor into his commentary, but he makes a coherent point that the phrase doesn’t work, which should inspire readers to want to know more.

And Jones adds gallows humor to his point that the clumsy phrase plays into opposition hands, but his point is clear, even without the scathing column he attaches to it.

Simple mockery — including the “but I mock both sides” approach — is not only pointless but advances the idea that “they’re all the same,” which in turn advances the idea that people might as well not bother to vote.

Advancing both sides represents neither side.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. — Rev 13:16

Mockery in a time of crisis seems a bit inhumane and out of touch.

People in Georgia stood in line for 10 hours to vote last night, despite official attempts to suppress their voices by limiting polling places.

If you can’t see the divide between issues and between candidates that those people saw, perhaps you need to look inward.


And this isn’t a bad time for pondering values, as Candorville suggests.

Lemont is right: A large part of why the George Floyd story caught fire is that we’re all laidback and positioned to ponder things more than usual.


Gary Markstein points out the number of times we might have been outraged but somehow weren’t, and I’d note, too, that the NFL Superstars in that great video added names beyond George Floyd’s, emphasizing the point that it’s nothing new and that it’s gone on far too long.

The iron is hot and there’s a much bigger task at hand than honoring George Floyd.

Whatever the phrase, our approach to public safety needs to shift away from pure enforcement to a broader sense of making our communities whole.

It’s bad enough to let those who oppose the concept kill it before it has a chance.

Worse to let it die because of lukewarm “both sides” jokes or a simple unwillingness to get off the couch.


Let’s talk about Carlos Santana and James Joyce

Last night’s conversation between Kal Kallaugher and Steve Brodner on “Satire Can Save Us All” made me think of Carlos Santana and James Joyce.

I can play the guitar, but not very well, and in my years of playing in coffeehouses and bars, I learned to be entertaining without being much of a musician.

I came to peace with it when I was listening to Santana and realized that he has a connection to music most people don’t, that he feels and understands his guitar on a level the rest of us can’t approach.

The anatomical reference is “being in the groove.”

Which came to mind listening to Kal talk to Steve Brodner because they, too, get in the groove when they are drawing, and it was interesting hearing them put into words a thing that exists beyond words.

The James Joyce part is that, while I find my groove in writing, I can’t get there as deeply as Joyce did.

We had a spirited debate in college over his short story, “Araby,” in which the narrator speaks of finding, among the left-behind effects of a dead priest, a rusty bicycle pump.

As freshmen, we recognized it as a phallic symbol, rusty because of celibacy. The argument was whether Joyce placed it purposely or whether it arose from his unconscious.

The third argument being that nothing in Joyce is accidental and that, if it was unconscious at first, it remained because he wanted it there.

“Satire Can Save Us All” is always interesting, but this is a particularly challenging segment for anyone who cares about art, because Kallaugher and Brodner bat around issues of framing and placement that are both instinctive and carefully planned.

There aren’t many accidents in their work, either.

I suspect that, like Joyce and the bicycle pump, you couldn’t plan it if it weren’t instinctive to begin with, and that the answer is that there aren’t a lot of idiots savants who achieve prominence because the key is being able to discipline those internal instincts and to blend them with conscious planning, to somehow be able to recognize and emphasize and extend them.

Perhaps purposefully. Perhaps instinctively.

Everyone should have a groove, whether it’s in art or music or writing or working with engines or cabinetmaking or whatever.

But you rarely get to hear it laid out the way these two masters do:


6 thoughts on “CSotD: Making a point, getting in the groove

  1. You said, ‘ The anatomical reference is “being in the groove.”’

    I’ll bite, what is anatomical about it? I’ve heard the phrase my whole life and had the notion it was something metaphorical, but no vivid or faint image. I find nothing helpful on das intertubes except a just-so story about record players that feels very folk-etymological.

  2. Most slang around jazz has to do with bicycle pumps or their equivalents.

  3. _Everything_ can plausibly be folk-etymologized to be a reference to the old humpadoodle, but it is enough that people think that’s what it means to make your reference clear—and apparently I’m the only one walking up on the sidewalk on this one. Another part of my treasured childhood ruined for all time…

    Keep up the good work. Every morning I check the obituaries to be sure I’m not list, then I read your column/blog/groove.

  4. My understanding of the term: Horse-drawn wagons traveling over dirt (and even ancient cobbled) road would wear grooves into the road, and usually average out to whatever the standard vehicle-width of the day was. (check out pics of The Appian Way)

    Knowing this, it would be possible for the driver to drop the reins once “in the groove” heading in the chosen direction, the grooves essentially acting like train tracks.

    I suspect the term about bring “in a rut” might be related; staying in a groove despite it not being headed in the right direction.

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