CSotD: Merry Mirth and Many More

Zits (KFS) made me smile Sunday. Note that it’s not a slam on the Nutcracker itself, and I like classic ballet. But the guys agree that the same ballet every Christmas gets stale, even as a tradition.

My smile came because I’m retired and no longer have the yearly discussion of whether we will send a kid reporter to write about the Nutcracker or else to some dramatization of A Christmas Carol.

Even alternating them left us with stale copy despite highly talented kids, so the last two years, we assigned kids to go behind the scenes. One year, it was to interview the prima ballerina about her career and her preparation for this role, the other it was for a literal behind-the-scenes story about technical stage craft.

However, the boss and I retired in the jolly old saint nick of time, because I was totally burning out on holiday tradition.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Brewster Rockit, Space Guy — Tribune

Moderately Confused — AMS

Speaking of A Christmas Carol, I was struck this year by how many cartoonists, both gag and political, riff on the idea that the three ghosts are frightening a bad man into mending his ways. The story would not have survived for 180 years if Ebenezer Scrooge had simply been evil.

Brewster Rockit makes a worthy comparison, but Stahler’s gag is even more aligned with Dickens, because the Ghost of Christmas Past reminds Scrooge of both the lost joys of his life and how losses made him bitter and isolated. Fezziwig’s Party showed that an employer could be generous and pleasant, while the scene with Fan depicts the heartbreak that caused him to withdraw from humanity.

The term “Scrooge” is used for that sad, crabbed existence, but Alistair Sims’ classic film brilliantly includes both the before and after Scrooge as well as that long, dismal period which, as the two other ghosts warn, was as destructively unpleasant for him as it was for the people around him.

To know all is to forgive all, and, while it’s easy to pity Tiny Tim, we ought, by the end of the story, to pity Scrooge and rejoice in his rebirth.

And another thing …

I’ve already done my annual Fruitcake Rant this year, but Pooch Cafe (AMS) dropped this episode the day after I heard a Milk Street Radio broadcast about holiday traditions, mostly edible, in which the host and a baking expert echoed my dismay over people who judge fruit cake by the wretched commercial version rather than the rich, dark kind that, the baker said, she starts in October so it’s ready by Christmas.

Here’s King Arthur’s recipe, the difference being that the nice lady on the radio spoke of periodically adding more rum or brandy throughout the six-to-eight week tempering period, while King Arthur’s approach is more abstemious.

Actually, according to the transcript, she said “I keep feeding it with booze for months, and it just gets better and better.”

Grand Avenue (AMS) also hit me with a day-after gag. I happened across that radio program yesterday while I was bringing my son’s Christmas presents up to the farm where he and his family live, which is about 10 miles out of town.

On the way, I passed a couple of “cut your own” Christmas tree places, including his landlord’s, which is two miles or so from him but advises people to drive there, cut a tree and leave money in the honesty box. There were three or four bow saws hanging on the barn next to the box.

The going price here is $60 or $70 in town and $40 if you go fetch your own.

My son plans on spreading grass seed on a barren hillside near the house so that, in two years, it will be ready for them to plant trees. Tree farming is like corn farming except it takes at least a dozen years instead of one.

Barney & Clyde (Counterpoint) offers this seasonal exchange. I had an assistant who was Jewish and objected to “Christmas party,” so they changed it to a “Holiday party.” The decor remained the same and it was just a bit of etiquette to make her feel more welcome.

When she left the job, someone said, “Now we can call it a Christmas party again!”

Seemed right in the spirit of the holiday, at least to those like me who grew up in a time when we Catholics weren’t even supposed to go to weddings in Protestant churches nor was anybody but us allowed to receive communion in our churches.

When people exclaim “My God!” use of the possessive is not unintentional.

My great-grandfather, on the other hand, used to go for a walk on Sunday until he came across a church that looked interesting, and would go inside to see what they were all about. Maybe that kept him out of Catholic heaven, but I’ll bet he found a berth in somebody’s paradise.

Might have even had multiple offers.

Not all the comics ping holiday memories. Sunday’s Wallace the Brave (AMS) reminded me of a summer morning when I was about seven and was the first one awake. The dog and I discovered that a flicker, not a chickadee, had come down the chimney and was flying around the house.

The three of us tried to resolve the situation quietly, but, while a chickadee weighs about half an ounce and has a six-inch wing span, a flicker is more like five ounces and 16 inches across. And Wallace was not being assisted by a cocker spaniel.

We woke everybody up, but at least we didn’t step in any ink.

Off The Mark (AMS) offers a good holiday-themed gag, but what I really like is that Mark Parisi doesn’t insult our intelligence by labeling his anteaters, or showing any ants at all. You don’t need to be a hipster to get it, but you do have to possess a modicum of intelligence, and the fact that he lays out the joke without spoilering his own punchline makes it a lot funnier.

But insulting your audience’s intelligence can also be funny, as long as you do it in an inventive way, such as:

How stupid do you think I am, xkcd? Of course I can label all the … hey, wait a minute …

10 thoughts on “CSotD: Merry Mirth and Many More

    1. The mouse hover-over text reads “Even with a blank map, a lot of people can only name 45-50 of the 64 states.” I haven’t verified that count.

  1. On xkcd, if you know about the richness of the ‘pre-corporate-commercial’ original internet, are smart and hover your mouse pointer over the map it says:
    even with a blank map a lot of people can name only 45-50 of the 64 states

  2. Regarding the xkcd comic, I always liked how the eastern states are all tiny and mostly conform to geographical boundaries but by the time we got to the western states we said “screw it, let’s just make a bunch of large squares”

    1. Also, I f-ing love that Brewster Rockit comic. Such a great clash of classic Christmas stories with totally opposite messaging.
      “Ebenezer, this is why you suck.”
      “George, this is why you’re awesome!”

  3. The Wallace the Brave strip spurs my obligatory reminder that the Family Circus didn’t invent the footprints gag. Clare Dwiggins (“Dwig”) was using it at least as early as 1919.

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