CSotD: Between Holidays

I was surprised at how many cartoons were about Christmas this morning. I’d expected some Boxing Day gags and Returning Things gags, but not so many actual Christmas gags.

Maybe I compartmentalize too much, or maybe I’m dreading the dead space between now and New Years, when everyone takes off and there’s nothing to comment on.

But the Barn (Creators) hits a nice morning-after theme and it actually reminds me of Christmas because of the times I worked in the newsroom Christmas night, in vain hope of news for the next day’s paper, which invariably meant doing the dreadful-but-required story “Who’s working on Christmas?”

Besides me.

And doctors and nurses and cops and firefighters and Amy Zhang at the local Chinese place. I included Amy in a story one year and ran into a conflict between Chinese hospitality and journalistic ethics, because after that, she’d always slip a free springroll into my order. Which I accepted, since it would have been impossible, and impossibly rude, to explain why I couldn’t.

But there goes my statue in the Journalists Hall of Fame.

My favorite story was the one about the diner where they let their staff off, figuring nobody would be coming in anyway, but got totally swamped. One of the families that came for dinner just got up and became staff instead, letting the owners cook and run the till while they became waiters and bus-boys.

Close second was the guy who decided to burn the wrapping paper, but found the wind kept blowing out his matches, so he moved the pile to a sheltered place near the house where it promptly lit the vinyl siding ablaze. The best part of that story was getting the information from the volunteer chief, who — without quite saying so — made it clear that all the firefighters knew this guy well and none of them were surprised.

Every small town has one.

Somehow, I managed to get through a few years of working the holiday without having to cover any bad news, but I’d already served my time there, thanks.


So now we slide into “Best of” season, which is wonderful fun when cartoonists like Ann Telnaes feature their favorites from the past year. (And DD Degg has linked to Bruce MacKinnon’s collection.)

But going through your own files and putting together the Year in Review news features was dreary work for reporters, with the reason for doing it being that (A) people enjoy reading them and (B) all the decisionmakers are on vacation, so you won’t find any live news to write about and we’re got to fill the damn pages somehow.

It’s a time of year when having a cartoonist on staff becomes a major benefit. Their files are actually fun to revisit.


And having a cartoonist on staff pays off anyway. The Arizona Daily Star could never have bought a syndicated Christmas cartoon as great and topical and local as David Fitzsimmons’ salute to desert weather and dark skies, featuring a pair of familiar local characters.


In fact, Fitzsimmons is having a very good week at a time of year when a lot of people are just phoning it in. I hope his paper has the sense to print his work in color.


Speaking of cartoonists stepping up, Samson (Samuli Lintula) cracked me up with this Dark Side of the Horse (AMS) combined tribute to Don Martin and commentary on sequels. The artwork is first rate and he chose the perfect film to not make a sequel to.

He’s playful and imaginative and it’s always fun to poke around inside his head, even on the days when he leaves you scratching your own.


Meanwhile, over on the relentlessly sane portion of the comics page, Betty (AMS) solves a seemingly insoluble problem, and, BTW, offers a hint as to how you might spend the next week if you’re not skiing in Aspen or lying on a beach in Montego Bay. Those closets aren’t going to clean out themselves.

And none of that hoo-hah about things sparking you joy. Get a grip: This isn’t philosophy. It’s housecleaning.

I might have kept the bowl, but, then, I’d have just filled it up again. She’s a wise woman.


Shifting our emphasis to pointless mental clutter, Mannequin on the Moon (AMS) hits a sore point for this former editor of young writers, because we’d set up interviews with people who should have been interesting, only to have them fob the kid off with some crap about “following your dreams.”

I finally put in the instructions for interviewing people that, if someone told you to follow your dreams, your next question should be “Give me an example of how you did that.” It occasionally turned things interesting.

Some people have detailed plans, some stumble into something and then plan around it. Either way, there’s nothing wrong with having a dream but it isn’t going to develop itself.

We used to talk to kids about “career ladders,” and I hope people still do. But, however it happens, the kids are getting some kind of message, because, while Millennials got themselves sucked into the college game and student loans, Gen-Z’s seem to be following more practical paths.

Several states still have to figure out how to integrate their Voc-Techs into a regular high school curriculum, but at least the superintendents have largely quit bragging at graduation about how many kids are headed for four-year colleges.

A fair number of whom will be home again by Easter, if not Thanksgiving.

A dream is a wish your heart makes, but you should probably get your brain involved at some point.


Though, as Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereals suggests, you could get lucky and end up working at a place where employees are treated like family.

Better interview the family first.


2 thoughts on “CSotD: Between Holidays

  1. I don’t know why our local Lamar Community College stopped doing VoTech and evening one semester training classes in that kind of life skill. I took a semester of auto maintenance where I learned to change my own oil and stuff. You could also make appointments to have the real Auto class do you a tune-up by the students. I wish they would start it again. Though modern cars might not be as easy to work on, since so much is proprietary computer stuff.

  2. There are two issues in VocTech in high schools. One is that some places, it’s more introductory than in-depth, so you can take a year of something, but not three years of true mastery instruction.

    But even where it’s offered as a full course, we don’t have the system in every other developed nation where academics are coordinated with that technical, vocational approach. Kids here do voctech half the day, but go back to “regular” academics at their home schools the rest of the day.

    We need twin-track schooling like everyone else has, where the Shakespeare-lovers are in one track and the kids who work with their hands are in another, and the curriculum is integrated to give each group not just the approach they “need” but the approach that allows them to learn and succeed.

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