CSotD: Quips and quibbles quaint

Having outlined a major problem yesterday, I’m going to retreat into personal matters today, starting with this cartoon from Adam Zyglis’s forthcoming book, “You Know You’re from Buffalo If …” 

It’s hardly a new concept — there have long been Internet jokes about local identity and other cartoonists have turned the idea into books — but that’s like saying there’s nothing new about cookbooks. So what?

I’m not from Buffalo, but my folks and baby sisters lived in Tonawanda for about a decade after I’d left home, so I know about wings and beef-on-weck and Wide Right, which, I would note, would not have been nearly so tragic if they hadn’t been playing a team from New Jersey.

However, having grown up in the Adirondacks where there aren’t a lot of dairy farms, I’m sure familiar with Eustace Tilly and his progeny at the Center of the Known Universe.


Saul Steinberg famously spoofed their self-absorption in 1976, but he was a little late: His cover came four years after Johnny Carson moved the Tonight Show to Burbank, driving yet another nail into the coffin of Gotham Supremacy, which had begun dying a decade earlier when the Dodgers and Giants decamped for the West Coast.

Perhaps Steinberg was mocking their stubborn refusal to let it go: The Center of the Known Universe persists in thinking that way, and much of the country joins in the conspiracy.

Anything in New York State north of Yonkers is dismissed as “Upstate,” which provides no useful information except that they think we don’t count, which we already knew.

It can be amusing to read NYTimes articles about the rest of the state, which they venture into as if they were Henry Morton Stanley on safari.

I recall one such expedition to a Phish concert in Plattsburgh, in which Lake Champlain was described as a river and 1-87 dubbed “The Thruway,” but my favorite was a trip into deepest, darkest Speculator, which our intrepid explorer described as a town “so small it doesn’t have an ATM.”

How’d you find that out, hotshot?

I suspect Zyglis will do well with this book.


Juxtaposition of the Day #1

(Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

(The Argyle Sweater – AMS)

Still on the topic of people who think they dwell at the center of the universe, here’s a pair of cartoons that adequately cover the change in parenting over the past few decades.

SMBC is a good explanation of the difference between a plan and an accident, and, with (sincerely) all respect to those who try valiantly to conceive, my guess is that a preponderance of babies in the world are wanted, but not planned.

The joke being that parents don’t explain it to their children with quite that much frankness, though, when people expressed wonder at the six kids in our family, my father would say, with a completely straight face, “We found out what was causing it.”

We who procreated in the 1970s thought babies were pretty cool, but it quickly started getting out of control. I had to fight my way into the delivery room for Son #1 in 1972; by the time #2 came along four years later, fathers needed a good excuse not to be present.

Which would have been a good stopping point, but then grandparents and older kids and best friends got into the act, to the point where hospitals nearly had to put up bleachers in the delivery room.

My own rule remains that, if you weren’t present at the beginning, you don’t get to be there for the result, but I don’t say it often for fear of touching off yet another intrusive fad.

Which brings us to gender reveal parties, which raise so many questions that I can’t begin to list them all. Granted, absent some reason to do an invasive amniocentesis, our reveal came in that not-yet-crowded delivery room.

But being able to know ahead of time doesn’t not change whether anyone but you really cares: The days when the queen’s future depended on her being able to produce a male heir to the throne are well past.

And the neighbors would rather you didn’t blow things up.


Which provides a segue to this Reply All (WPWG), because we’ve got little bits of metal confetti strewn all over the park where we walk our dogs, thanks to some gender-revealing litterbugs.

Though what I was actually going to comment on is Lizzie’s absurd idea that sniffing grass and shrubs is a substitute for sniffing other dogs.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a dog in possession of a good nose must be in want of another dog to sniff.


And if that segue isn’t too smart for the room, today’s Macanudo (KFS) certainly is. I know there were Brontë sisters, but I didn’t major in English and I don’t remember which was which, except that I did know there was a third. And a brother.

But I still get them mixed up with the Alcotts and Beechers.


In any case, that sneaky segue was from someone else entirely, whose work I have now read and whom I hope has since been included in the list for our seminar, because nobody ever told me how wickedly funny she was.


Finally today, I was glad to see Real Life Adventures (AMS) bring up the Mystery of the Disappearing Jack.

Back in the Olden Days, we had Bumper Jacks and we also had tires that blew out or went flat fairly regularly. Not as regularly as a century ago, when people carried patch kits and tire pumps, but regularly enough that changing a tire was no big deal.

Tires have since become far more dependable, but god help you if you do get a flat, because that sturdy Bumper Jack has disappeared, perhaps because sturdy bumpers have done likewise.

Cars now come with a Silly Jack, a scissors jack combined with a crank which is simple to use if you don’t mind turning it 150 times for each centimeter you wish to raise the car.

I think it was designed by the people at Triple-A, so you’d call them instead.


(I doubt that the car raising itself helps you change the tires.)

7 thoughts on “CSotD: Quips and quibbles quaint

  1. I’m sure that Mike knows, but for those who don’t: the NYS Thruway *is* I-87 all the way from NYC to Albany; what happens after it turns left there toward Buffalo [it becomes I-90] is obviously of no interest to City residents.

    But even denizens of NYC know better than to locate dairy farms in the Adirondacks – they’re *mountains*, so there’s no flat land on which the cows could stand.

  2. As a native of flyover country, I can’t begin to explain how mad it makes us out here that every year there’s the presumption of not playing the games, just give the Yankees the World Series Trophy. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it still exists.

    Around here Lizzie’s dog would find plenty of evidence of other dogs to sniff even if no dog-butts were present at the moment.

    Cows can stand perfectly well on hillsides. They do it all the time in Switzerland. And no, that does not make the legs on one side shorter than the other.

  3. I confess I thought the comic was referring to a hidden USB jack. The scissors jacks work better than the old-style jacks in my opinion, since I don’t have to worry about the bumper falling off. Also, the cool kids carry a cordless impact driver so they can zuuuuzzzzz the car right up.

    Of course, I’ve only used a jack once in the last fifteen years (except for my lawn tractor…) and that time I had to kneel in the slush to change a tire for a pregnant neighbor lady and her mom. So it wouldn’t have been much better unless there had been a “change tire” button on the dash and since it was a Mopar that wouldn’t have worked anyway…

  4. Isn’t the assumption that people from New York City know nothing about the rest of the country the same sort of thing being criticized, just from the other side? Negative and false assumptions about a place you aren’t part of?

    I do not know a person from New York City who is unaware that Buffalo is also a city, or who would think it’s a bunch of dairy farms.

    And I have never heard a New Yorker use the term “flyover country” in my life. The only times I’ve heard the term are from people in the Midwest, complaining that New Yorkers call it that. So I suspect that it came from some gasbag on the radio, like Rush Limbaugh, TELLING them that New Yorkers called it that, as a way of stoking rural resentment of people on the coasts.

    (And as an aside, have you noticed that Fox News loves to stoke rural resentment of NYC when they’re in Rockefeller Center? Or Donnie claiming to support people in the Midwest, even though Trump Tower Kansas doesn’t exist, and everything with his name on it is either on a coast or in a foreign country?)

  5. Though famous, the Steinberg New Yorker cover was a redrawing of a concept that had been around for at least fifty years.

    The earliest example I’ve come across was by John McCutcheon in 1922. It can be seen on the front page of the Jul/31/1922 Omaha Morning Bee, at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024326/1922-07-31/ed-1/seq-1

    I’d be interested to know if earlier examples exist.

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