CSotD: While we await Bull Run

Man Overboard provides our only semi-political observation of the day, and I’m sure there will be more to come after Trump has faced Cannon fire. But let’s have a day of silly things while we wait.

Though silly is as silly does (or something) and Mr Boffo reminds me of the lessons I learned at 16 when I waited tables at Camp Lord O’ The Flies and made friends with the younger contingent of the Black kitchen workers.

They were southern college students who specifically recounted the passive resistance going on in the Movement — as seen in John Lewis’s March — but also demonstrated the passive resistance that had gone on in the Black community for ages.

In particular, the owner of the camp was quite a short man and he had long microfibers, so one day he was giving some instructions to the chef, who was forced to maintain a straight face while Oscar stood behind the boss, blowing on his microfibers so that they danced out in front of him.

A small moment among many that taught me how contempt could be made humorous as part of a larger system.

Alex is similarly on the topic of how those at the bottom of the pile deal with those at the top. The pandemic provided a chance for everyone to step back and take a look at what they’d been doing more or less on automatic pilot.

The result was a lot of early retirements of people who might have held out for another decade, and complete career changes for young folks, but, as with these women, it also brought some small things to light that were previously assumed.

Many companies, having done work-from-home during the pandemic, are now ordering free-range workers back into their cages but people have learned that they can be just as productive, perhaps even moreso, without being directly under the boss’s eye.

Watch for microfibers floating in the breeze.

And speaking of restarts, Maeve has hit a reflective moment over in Between Friends (KFS). I’ve often commented here about her ability to screw up promising relationships, which is much more amusing in a comic strip than it would be in real life.

In fact, it is one of those things that makes office work less productive than work-at-home, because, if you like the person who constantly falls into such traps, hearing about it is a genuine distraction and concern, while, if you don’t, it’s simply an ongoing annoyance.

In this case, I like Maeve and wish her the best and hope she finally gets herself straightened out, but, then again, I don’t know what Sandra Bell-Lundy would do with the character if that actually happened.

In any case, you can always count on Joe Dator to add a discouraging word. In this case, the humor is derived by the fact that kids don’t give up, but we too often reach a point in life where we look back and try to figure out when we did.

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack, or, then again, you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife, and, either way, you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

It’s a helluva question.

You’d better have a helluvan answer.

I thought you were going to be silly

Well, okay, here’s something silly from Matt Golding, and it doesn’t make me think any deep thoughts whatsoever.

It simply reminds me of coming home from last year’s CXC/AAEC convention where I happened to be on a flight with Keith Knight, which made for pleasant company and was then extended because some nitwit tried to jam an oversized carryon into the luggage bin.

It got jammed so it wouldn’t go in and they couldn’t get it out and so they couldn’t close the bin and so we couldn’t take off until some maintenance people could be summoned to pry it out in about 90 seconds once they showed up, which took about an hour.

I hate people who bring steamer trunks onto the plane, and I hate gate attendants who let them do that.

However, there are worse things in life than being forced to spend additional time with a Gentleman Cartoonist.

I suppose spending too much time with a philosopher might not be much fun, but I suspect Emily Flake may have been forced to take a course she didn’t much enjoy, because Socrates is about as harmless and amusing as they come, and, if he had asked a question this way, it would have provoked an interesting conversation.

The gag is more like Plato, who managed to turn interesting questions into deep, complex, uninteresting explorations, which is on my mind because I just read an Atlantic story yesterday under the headline “Philosophy Could Have Been a Lot More Fun: Two recent biographies, of Plato and Diogenes, show the divergent path Western thought could have taken.”

Which you can’t read without a subscription because Atlantic doesn’t let subscribers share a few pieces the way smart marketers do, but trust me. It’s largely about how Diogenes (and Socrates) were accessible and interesting while Plato turned everything into homework.

I enjoyed Plato’s reminiscences of Socrates and I liked the Republic, but after that, yikes. The article also points out that while Diogenes spawned Stoicism, by the time it got to Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, they’d managed to beat the fun and life out of that, too.

Diogenes could be a pretty objectionable person, but at least he wasn’t a pedant.

Speaking of people who could be pretty objectionable when they wanted to, both Mike Lynch and Michael Maslin have posted their memories of Sam Gross‘s funeral, which was apparently just as predictably fun and occasionally outrageous as you might have expected.

Maslin sums up the occasion:

He also provides a link to a video of the funeral, which he warns will not be up there forever. I’d feature it as today’s video but it’s a little over an hour long, so I’ll leave it to you to decide when to watch. When the obituary says a viewing is scheduled, this generally is not what they mean.

Diogenes would approve. Plato would want to analyze it.

8 thoughts on “CSotD: While we await Bull Run

  1. There’s also a link to download the video. The service starts about 23 minutes in. Sound quality isn’t great, but you can hear the speakers.

  2. I know you’re joking about Maeve getting herself straightened out, because I know that you (and Sandra Bell-Lundy) understand how storytelling works, but I’m often amazed by the griping I see from people who (metaphorically) really want Charlie Brown to kick the football and don’t comprehend why he keeps falling for Lucy’s deceit. They sit next to the people who demand to know the solution to the mystery before the detective reveals it and want their cliffhangers resolved immediately. “If they just sat down and talked out their misunderstanding, everyone would be happy and healthy!” Yes, and then the TV show or movie would be over in 10 minutes. Audiences used to be patient and able to live with dramatic tension; now it seems like everyone needs immediate gratification. We don’t understand stories anymore.

    I didn’t even like Plato’s Republic, possibly because I knew too many sophomore philosophy majors who took Plato as a roadmap to becoming the philosopher-kings they knew they deserved to be. Arrogant little turds. As bad as Ayn Randians. Although I had my frustrations with philosophy classes–why are we debating how the universe works when I, a Physics major, can explain how it actually does?–I am grateful that the ancient Greeks offer an answer to Christians who think “How can you live a moral life without God?” is a real gotcha question. Gee, I don’t know, why don’t you pore over the ancient Greeks’ deep thinking on that question a few centuries before Jesus and get back to me. How can you live a moral life without Zeus?

    Thanks for the links to Lynch and Maslin. Mike Lynch is a personal friend as well as an enormous friend to cartoonists and cartooning, and he deserves all the clicks we can send him.

    1. Brian, I don’t think that it is at all an attack on storytelling to want Charlie Brown to kick the ball. This isn’t like wanting to immediately know the solution to the mystery; it’s more like wanting the detective to explain the mystery eventually. One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes sequences is when Calvin’s babysitter, Rosalyn, finally figures out how to handle him, even winning a game of Calvinball. A real story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The trouble with comic strips, when considered as stories, is that they go on indefinitely and do not necessarily have an end or other resolution. The Rosalyn sequence was presented after Watterson had decided to end the strip.

      The writers of comic strips, like the writers of sitcoms, are understandably reluctant to make major changes with their characters. If Maeve figures out how to navigate her love life, Bell-Lundy will have to come up with something else to write about. And maybe the audience wouldn’t like that something else as well.

      1. Good thoughts, Usual John. I think we’re more on the same page than not.

        I wouldn’t call it an attack on storytelling to want Charlie Brown to kick the ball–we ALL want Charlie Brown to kick the ball!–but it would have been a misunderstanding of storytelling (especially comic strip storytelling) to lean on Schulz to do it. To pick a more contemporary example, I remember critics of “Breaking Bad” griping that if Walter White had just swallowed his pride and approached his rich start-up friends for help, he wouldn’t have gotten trapped in the meth business. They really wanted to fix Walter White! But the moment Walter White starts making good decisions, or Batman catches all the bad guys, or Gilligan gets off the island, the story is over.

        That said, in the later years of “Peanuts,” Schulz himself let Charlie Brown hit a home run and implied that he even kicked the football. I wouldn’t have dared tell Schulz he didn’t understand storytelling and his own characters! But that’s an endgame decision, and it only works if Charlie Brown serves purposes other than being “the kid who never kicks the ball.” Otherwise, once he kicks the ball, the strip wouldn’t need him anymore and he’d fade away like Shermy. Luckily, CB served a ton of other storytelling purposes.

        Likewise, Ms. Bell-Lundy may certainly decide to straighten out Maeve’s love life, but I expect she’ll only do that if she creates other bits of business for Maeve to do and, as you said, comes up with something else to write about. Until Sandra gets bored or figures she’s told all the bad romance stories she can, I’m afraid Maeve is stuck with her flawed, occasionally miserable, and often funny love life.

        (For completion’s sake, there are comic strips like “Gasoline Alley” and “FBOFW” that age characters in something like real time and make changes that stick. I don’t think “Between Friends” is that kind of strip. And actually, I quite like that characters like Maeve keep falling back into the same patterns and making the same mistakes. That’s a lot like real life!

  3. “The Rosalyn sequence was presented after Watterson had decided to end the strip.” That pretty well tells it.

    There used to be a website, now abandoned, called “Jump the Shark” which gave birth to the term and provided a variety of ways a TV show could destroy itself. Some were silly, like adding Ted Bissell to the cast, but one was “They did it” that detailed examples of shows in which sexual tension was relieved and the show lost a great deal of its appeal, the main example being Sam and Diane in “Cheers.”

    There are certain tensions in an ongoing story that must be preserved unless you have some fantabulous alternative. It’s very dangerous to mess around with something that is working unless, as you say in the Calvin/Rosalyn sequence, you’ve decided to shut things down anyway. The last Mary Tyler Moore Show was a great example of blowing up the place. But you don’t do it to something that is working and that you intend to keep in production.

    1. Wrong Ted. It was Ted McGinley, and the idea wasn’t even true; he did 60 episodes of HAPPY DAYS, 60 of THE LOVE BOAT and 34 DYNASTYs, so unless you consider an actor to be an albatross who allows only three more seasons of a series to be made. you’re just wrong on the face of it.

      1. Right you are, though Bessell made a few appearances on the site. But you can’t accuse him of making “Me and the Chimp” jump the shark because it began on the wrong side of the shark.

  4. ‘You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack, or, then again, you may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife, and, either way, you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”’

    I love that Talking Heads song. I loved it even more when I had a regular job with BigPharma. But not as much as I loved Radiohead’s ‘No Suprises” where Thom Yorke sang,

    “A heart that’s full up like a landfill
    A job that slowly kills you
    Bruises that won’t heal
    You look so tired, unhappy
    Bring down the government
    They don’t, they don’t speak for us
    I’ll take a quiet life
    A handshake of carbon monoxide”

    I don’t feel that way now I’m a cartoonist.

    But I might if I did editorial cartoons.

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