CSotD: What’s so funny?

I’m blaming Rico Schacherl for inspiring today’s blend of comedy and serious thought, which is pretty much his brand anyway. But I wasn’t sure whether to put this one under humor or politics, because it’s funny but no, it’s not, which goes way beyond Homer Simpson’s “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.”

There’s a difference between wit and humor, and, while political cartoons must contain an element of wit to function, they’re not required to be funny. There are times when laughter is part of the weaponry at work, and times when going for a laugh detracts from the intended point.

The fact that Schacherl is in South Africa adds an unmistakable bite to this cartoon, and he ramps it up by not only having them all white, middleaged men, but having them all perfectly identical. He makes it nearly impossible to miss the point, whether you fit in the mold of that board or shake your head because — for any of a number of reasons — you don’t.

Actual laughter is not mandatory.


By contrast, Lalo Alcaraz tries to mix humor and social commentary in today’s La Cucaracha (AMS), and, while I like his work most times, I’d rate this one as a misfire.

The Pope’s visit to First Nations people was difficult, because, while he was invited to come attempt reconciliation over the Church’s role in the horrors of the residential schools, it was inevitable that not everybody involved was prepared to make peace.

And if trying to make amends for a system that extended into our lifetimes wasn’t difficult enough — there are plenty of living First Nation, Metis and Inuit people who were victims of the residential schools — some also demanded an apology for Pope Alexander’s 1493 Bull that gave Spain and Portugal the green light to colonize the New World, because it placed native people on a lower scale than Europeans.

It’s a little late to fix any of it, but, in particular, I don’t know what you do about something that happened 500 years ago.

However, these things must be acknowledged, and Alcaraz begins on the right foot: The enslavement of native people in the Southwest missions was also a horror to which we’ve barely admitted.

However, he slips in going for the laugh: Comparing what happened in the residential schools with nuns smacking kids with rulers is not only not funny but is gravely insulting.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Man Overboard)


(Matt Wuerker — Politico)

As long as we’re discussing church and God and stuff, here are two approaches that take different tones but are both effective. Note that, while they are quite distinct — Man Overboard’s reworking of the parable being far more gentle than Wuerker’s withering sarcasm — they both employ wit without reaching for laughter.

The distinction between them is not simply in tone but in target. Man Overboard is preaching to those who don’t live up to the faith they profess, in effect branding them as the “lost sheep” who should be returned to the fold.

Wuerker seems more to be targeting them than trying to re-convert them, and his audience is their victims. He offers the excluded a reminder that their tormenters and critics are hypocrites, and, while both cartoonists express frustration with those who will not hear, Man Overboard does so in a spirit of hope while Wuerker’s message seems more akin to Beto O’Rourke’s angry, righteous lashout at unacceptable cruelty.

The danger in Wuerker and O’Rourke’s direct approach is that it will be brushed off as partisan and confrontational.

The danger in Man Overboard’s pastoral approach is that its quiet message will not be heard.

Good craftsmen know the strengths and accept the limitations of the tools chosen for a specific task.


Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(On the Fastrack — KFS)


(Zits — KFS)


(Bob Englehart)

Education is in my wheelhouse: I spent half my career working with schools and kids, and, as school starts up in the next week or so, these three touched off differing reactions, based on the issue of what the goal of education should be and how we can get there.

I’m a great believer in the two-tiered approach prevalent in schools around the world and all but absent in the American system.

While other nations build entire schools around separate integrated curricula that either cater to the liberal-arts University bound or to the more hands-on technical mind, we set the skill-building courses aside as Voc-Tech education — often in half-day programs on a separate campus — and continue to teach both types of students identically in other subject areas.

We can start my discontent with Jeremy, who has AP Lunch because he’s headed for college. Now, Jeremy probably belongs in college, and maybe he belongs in AP courses, but I’ve been around education long enough to have seen Advanced Placement fade from a specialized, demanding program for highly motivated students to a far less strenuous course for those whose parents insist they belong there.

They might as well add AP Lunch, for all the university-level rigor that remains in the program.

Which brings us to Patina, and it’s good that she’s found a job in which she can hyperfocus on her highest, best skills.

But a more integrated technical curriculum would not only have emphasized an engineering approach to math and science courses, but would have also provided a broad-based arts and letters element geared for people like her and aimed at providing them with the communication and critical thinking skills that would enhance their overall career prospects.

And my personal life is awash with healthcare workers. Englehart is right that nursing is stressful and demanding, and nurses take genuine abuse: My RN son has taught “Management of Aggressive Behavior” classes to nurses, using passive compliance techniques he learned in the navy doing shipboardings in the Gulf.

But the pay is actually quite good, particularly, at the moment, for travelers.

However, most of the nurses in my family got standard high school diplomas and had to pick up their nursing credentials afterwards, starting at the beginning.

By contrast, one granddaughter took health care science at the regional Voc-Tech and stepped right into a hospital job. She’s currently working at the Mayo Clinic while she pursues her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

All our kids deserve that kind of launch.


3 thoughts on “CSotD: What’s so funny?

  1. According to Neil Postman’s “Teaching as a Subversive Activity,” the purpose of education is BS detection.

  2. Doug – This is precisely why Republicans have been slashing at it since Reagan. And now we are living among people without BS detection.

  3. Many times over the past few years I’ve had a talk with a failing student who exclaims “But I got all A’s in my high school AP classes!” (SIGH)

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