CSotD: Free Space

Easter Monday is a bit slack, but that gives me a free space in which to indulge in picking up some things yesterday’s Georgia rant distracted me from, like Sunday’s Non Sequitur (AMS).

And I’ll disagree with Wiley’s take, but only because our situations seem reversed: If my pup gets out without her cable attached, she dances around and dares me to catch her, but then is readily lured inside with the promise of a cookie, which is scored a win for me.

If I had a fenced yard, I’d leave her out there until she surrendered, but that’s not to say she doesn’t own me on several other matters. Perhaps most.


And Dan Piraro turned in a masterful Bizarro (KFS) yesterday. It’s good he gave away the key, because it would be easy to shrug and not get it and move on. Even with the instructions, it was a battle to say the names of the letters rather than use their sounds.

Nothing wrong with making readers work for the gag, except for the short time you have to grab them.

And, besides, it reminds me of



Silly has its place, and Mike Baldwin tickled me with this Cornered (AMS), in small part because it had been a few decades since I’d heard that prayer, but mostly because I’m sick of hearing Amazing Grace played on the warpipes.

I respect the hymn and I love the pipes, but the blend is problematic, starting with the fact that the hymn is neither Irish or Scottish nor Welsh nor Breton.

Nor are pipes called for at every funeral, though if somebody wants a panda on a unicycle at their funeral, that’s okay with me, and if you want him playing the pipes, it’ll likely have to be Amazing Grace, as I’ll explain.

Pipers traditionally play at police and fire department funerals because so many of those deceased were Irish back in the 19th Century.

The dominance of micks started with the street-level politics of the Good Old Days, in which ward heelers gained votes by handing out jobs, and then it grew because insiders could pull in their relatives as they got off the boat.

The bond is long and well established by now, and if some Italian firefighter or Jewish cop dies and wants a piper at his funeral, hey, you’re part of the family.

Howsoever, there are all sorts of good Irish and Scottish dirges with which to pipe someone to the grave, and the appeal of Amazing Grace is that warpipes have a very limited range and an even more limited ability to play sharps and flats, and that particular song is easy to play.

Which is to say that Amazing Grace is to the warpipes what Chopsticks is to the piano.

I guess you could also say that Amazing Grace is to good piping what “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub” is to thoughtful prayer.


Candorville (WPWG), meanwhile, highlighted something a great deal more important, and this strip should be downloaded and mailed to every elected official in the country.

The pandemic has made it a little harder to schedule appointments, but lack of universal health care is a much greater villain in the inequity of care, a blight that hits the poor harder, including the working poor and the lower middle class, which, in turn, hits minority communities.

Personal example: Once I was on Obamacare, I could afford to go visit my doctor for minor things without worrying about the cost. That’s why I was in his office for something that turned out to be insignificant and happened to add, “Oh, and I had a little blood in my urine …”

Which is how I wound up going to see a urologist and then an oncologist, who told me that, if I did nothing, I’d be dead in six months.

So I did something and here I am, five years later.

Conservatives like to point out that the emergency room will give you care even if you can’t pay, but that’s too often too late, and, even when it isn’t, it’s more expensive than catching a problem when it can be solved with a prescription instead of an admission.

Smarten up, America.


And smarten up about this, too: It’s possible to care about two things at once, and Clay Jones nails that fact.

I grew up with community policing in a very Mayberry-like setting, and I’ve known some good cops, then and since.

But I’ve also known some bullies and racists and bad, bad people, and I would think the system would be self-correcting, but obviously it isn’t.

And part of the problem is because the unions that once helped cousin Paddy get a job when he came to America have morphed into a system that shelters bad cops and intimidates the good ones from coming forward. “Serpico” may not have been a documentary, but it was based on fact.

Which has made the testimony at the Derek Chauvin trial fascinating and infuriating. The good cops know how their job is supposed to be done.

There is some ambiguity in the fact that the people who defend bad cops have adopted as their symbol an American flag with a thin blue line across it, the “thin blue line” being slang both for the need to defend society against evil and for the way bad cops cover for each other.

In any case, it’s as wrong to hate all cops as it is to hate all minorities, but it’s okay to hate hypocrisy and corruption.

It just takes a little more investigation and a little more thought.


Finally, speaking of putting things into their proper perspective, here’s a bit of Easter by Andy Marlette (Creators), which brought back a memory of a column I wrote when Abbie Hoffman died.



15 thoughts on “CSotD: Free Space

  1. Yup. Had you gone to the ER for blood in the urine the extent of the care you’d get would be 1)looking for easily fixable diagnoses like a stone or a UTI and treating those and 2) decide if you’re sick enough to warrant a hospital admission. Anything outside of those two categories would be told to “follow up with your PCP”.

    The “go to the ER for free healthcare” people are criminally clueless about what ERs are actually for.

  2. I think Wonderful World might work — it’s within the nine-note range, but there are a couple of flats in there that might not come out so well.

    Though if you have a lot of musicians in the crowd, it would simply look like they were weeping for you.

    (And on a more serious note, you’re right about the ERs and given how stressed they are now, perhaps moreso. Hope you know some pipers, because you might need them.)

  3. I lived for years on the “hope I die quickly and painlessly” health care plan, and I must say that it’s a lot easier having actual health insurance. “Free care in the ED” means they’ll stabilize you, but nothing further. Kidney transplant? Long-term care? No.

    I strongly suspect that the people making those claims haven’t actually been in those situations.

  4. Excellent column today, Mike.

    My late brother-in-law was Italian (Marangi) and had a piper playing Amazing Grace at his funeral. But he had been a Marine during the Korean police action and also rated a small honor guard from Camp Pendleton.

    And while a panda on a unicycle would be interesting, for whimsy it would be hard to top the funeral of a friend some years ago which featured, among other things, one of his children carrying in the cremains in a Doctor Who Tardis cookie jar while another rang a bell and chanted “Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!”

  5. Funny, I got the Bizarro straightaway. But then I never have a problem with a rebus.

    Or a Romulus.

  6. Mark, I’m speechless, but that sets the bar awfully high. Almost makes me wish I were planning something that involved more than a coffee can and a post hole digger in the cemetery at night.

  7. I expected all hell to break loose over that column, but I don’t think the people who would have been offended got it. It’s still one of my favorites though.

    As for Romulus and rebus, now I’m thinking of creating a strip about a genial old man singing “Zip a dee doo dah,” with a talking equilateral parallelogram on his shoulder.

  8. Where I come from (or rather – my ancestors ) folks wearing plaid kilts and playing bagpipes are Scots. And they play at the funerals of Scottish Rite masons.

  9. Right you are, Mary. The warpipes were originally from Scotland, and, while they’re very much a part of Irish culture today, it’s acknowledged among Irish musicians — even the most nationalist — that the Orangies (who are also of Scottish origin) are the best pipers.

    The Irish have also adopted plaids, but that reminds me of the uproar over Braveheart because nobody was wearing plaid back then. It wasn’t the most egregious historical nonsense in the film, but it was somewhat like making a film about the Pilgrims and having them all in cowboy hats and chaps.

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