CSotD: Naughty but Occasionally Nice

Might as well get my annual fruitcake rant out of the way. There will be a kabillion cartoons twixt now and Dec 25 about how awful fruitcake is, but in this Off The Mark (AMS), Mark Parisi gives us a close-up that explains the problem.

Traditional fruitcake is a dense, dark loaf full of brown sugar and spices, with a generous dollop of brandy or rum. King Arthur suggests you use a better grade of dried fruit than is usually found, and, as it happens, I was in there the other day and noted that they sell bags of a superior grade of dried fruit at the store, so they live up to their advice.

I don’t argue with King Arthur about baking. Here’s Charles Robinson‘s drawing of him making a bag-pudding well stuffed with plums, but I’m sure he made fruitcake as well, else how could I have linked to that recipe?

The point being that people who like fruitcake like it to be dark, dense, rummy and yummy, but at some point the fact that there are people who don’t like fruitcake drove commercial bakers to switch to a light yellow fruitcake which doesn’t please anybody.

So I’m not faulting Parisi, because he has drawn a yellow fruitcake, which may or may not be tough and indestructible but is certainly inedible, which is much the same thing.

I got an extra laugh out of this Barney and Clyde (Counterpoint), because it reminded me of a favorite story from my days visiting schools. As one superintendent told me, every administrator keeps a mental list of sourballs and foot-draggers and their retirement dates, looking forward to the time when fun and innovation will no longer be moaned over and resisted.

One such teacher hit her sell-by date and, as in the cartoon above, the staff gave her a joyous party, though she didn’t realize why they were all so happy.

This was in the days before cell phones, so she drove home with all her classroom stuff and the remains of her sheet cake and saw the light on her answering machine blinking. It was the district business office.

Seems they had miscalculated and she had to teach one more year before she could retire.

No such problem for Maeve’s assistant, Helen, in Between Friends (KFS). Canada does have laws about constructive dismissal, but I think the company has a solid defense, since they managed to get rid of a long-time (thus expensive) employee without actually harassing her or changing the terms of her job. They just failed to give her a temporary raise.

Having been constructively dismissed myself, I’m sure Steve is right. The open question is what the company has planned for Maeve, given that they’re replacing Helen with someone ambitious who already knows how to do Maeve’s job.

She could take that six-month assignment in Paris and quit afterwards, but that assumes they’d give her the opportunity.

It’s a long walk home.

Tough week in business all around, as Alex begins to find a few flaws in his cunning plan. Even if selling out weren’t at the top of his agenda, it represented a pleasant alternative to going broke. I find the amount of money in these acquisitions to be mind-boggling, particularly since there has been such a high demand for what I see as mostly vaporware of one sort or another.

Which, if you’ve been following the strip, you know is all Alex has to sell anyone at this point.

Ah well. It’s still better than what he had before. When I was networking my way out of that aforementioned constructive dismissal, I took my time, telling a few trusted friends, “I’m not looking for a job that sucks. I’ve already got a job that sucks.”

Though, as I also told them, I had the freedom to be choosy. “It’s just me and the dog these days, and he thinks sleeping in the park and eating out of Dumpsters would be a blast!”

When I was taking fiction-writing courses in college — which I mostly did because I’d be writing anyway and might as well get academic credit for it — one my professors spoke of planting time bombs in your prose. Not so much a case of foreshadowing, but, rather, details that didn’t seem important at the moment but became significant later on.

Today’s Arlo & Janis (AMS) is loaded with time bombs: Janis’s comment in the second panel seems perfectly innocent and theoretical until Arlo detonates it, the laff being that she gets pissed. And we’re still left with the question of whether Arlo even realizes why.

Bad Vibes in the Big City

Zachary Kanin

Carolita Johnson

Will McPhail

Paul Noth

You can’t really call this a Juxtaposition, because the New Yorker purchases the rights to a cartoon and then might run it in the next issue or hold it for quite a while before deciding it’s time.

Which means that when whoever is in charge of assembling the past week’s on-line cartoons was looking for material, the theme that emerged was that children are ill-mannered and disgusting and that people with kids would be willing to get rid of them, though at least the mother carrot in Paul Noth’s cartoon expresses regret.

The New Yorker has, in the past few years, made a conscious effort to appeal to a younger, hipper audience than the middle-aged suburbanites who once were its focus, and those who follow the humor selections have also noted more women cartoonists and a far more female perspective. It’s not surprising, since the current humor editor, Emma Allen, is the first woman and the youngest person in the position.

The most visible change is more humor about dating and clubbing, a major change from the days when the magazine advertised with a cartoon of a tanker full of Chardonnay making a delivery to the suburbs.

But when four of the 18 cartoons in the weekly on-line rotation are so hostile to kids, it makes me wonder, as we say out here in the unpaved territories beyond Yonkers, who pissed in somebody’s corn flakes?

The mood, thank goodness, appears to have passed, as this week’s selection includes this Ellis Rosen piece that does, indeed, reflect what parents who cherish their kids nonetheless experience.

11 thoughts on “CSotD: Naughty but Occasionally Nice

  1. All my life, at this time of year, my mom would craft a batch of fruitcakes (albeit loaded with raisins, walnuts, applesauce, brown sugar, various spices and gumdrops, so they might not qualify as fruitcakes by your definition, but they’re three or four pounds a loaf and dark brown, so I don’t know why not) from a delicious family recipe (which I only learned recently may die out with me since my mom’s recipe card which preserves it seems to be the sole place it’s written down, and relatives who request a copy always forget to ask me for it when they visit). Anyway, she’d make eight or ten of them each Christmas to either hand out to relatives, or we’d eat three or four of them, and then she’d freeze the remainder for sporadic taste treats throughout the year till the whole thing started over during the following year’s Yuletide. Mom’s been gone almost a decade now, my sense of taste has been sabotaged by my stroke, and I only have use of one hand to mix the batter, which I learned is a recipe only for disaster, but at this time of year I still hunger for them. So in years when my younger brother visits from Texas, I guilt him into mixing up a batch for the both of us. (Now that I think of it, it could be why he hasn’t come up north for the last three years…) Anyway, no booze (it was for kids, after all) but I’m a fellow unapologetic lover of homemade fruitcake. None of that yellow stuff for me!

    1. If Mr. Peterson doesn’t mind, why not post the recipe here? Then when the relatives ask for the recipe you can direct them to CSotD.

    2. Gumdrops? Sounds better than that syrup-coated crap they sell these days for candied fruit. Wish I could find the old candied fruit made with sugar.

  2. Arlo & Janis have done a number of strips over the years showing that Arlo and Janis’s parents did not like each other much.

    As for the kid cartoons, as 1/2 of a DINK, I heartily approve.

  3. IMO that the biggest change to /New Yorker/ comics came in 1992, when Tina Brown took over as editor. Material that previously would have been considered in poor taste or too suggestive began to appear shortly thereafter. Any contemporary emphasis on clubbing would be a return to the magazine’s 1920’s roots.

    As to in-laws Ellen and I were always in agreement: good to have her parent(s) within a one-day (day-and-a half with children) drive; *great* to have my mother on the other side of the continent.

  4. So, the 2020 election was really stollen! (oooh, sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Nuttier than a fruitcake? That saying doesn’t make much sense; sounds like a mixed metaphor.)
    And, we always wondered which were the in-laws and which were the out-laws.

  5. I like a good fruitcake, myself, and I agree with your take on them, Mike. I have always contended baseball has been ruined by those changing the game to appease and appeal to those who don’t like baseball. Or to make it more profitable. Amounts to the same thing.

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