There won't be an update for several days. Please try back the first of next week. -- JJ
For as good an update as you're going to get today from along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, go to the Web site of the daily newspaper in Harrison County, The Sun-Herald. Be sure not to miss the blogging entries. The situation is not good.
It's 2003, in our look back at A&J, and it's the mother of all Mondays for my friends and neighbors on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. You know what I'm talking about. This morning, Hurricane Katrina came ashore in extreme southeastern Louisiana, and what they're calling a "third landfall" was imminent on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, north of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Thank all of you who wrote to ask about me and wish me well, but don't worry. I'm well inland and snug as a bug. I'm sorry I can't say that for everyone.
Our retrospective to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the debut of A&J is drawing to a close. We're already up to 2003, and looking back at the cartoons from that year, it seems I just drew them last week. In fact, I get the nagging suspicion that I did draw some of them last week.
It's 2002 today in our 20-year A&J retrospective, and it's Friday. I often don't update on Friday, but you people have been such a good audience all week, I just couldn't stop. However, the commentary today will be sparse; I'll attempt to make that up by throwing in an extra cartoon or two.
I try to be straight with you here at arloandjanis.com. Looking back through the files, 2002 wasn't a particularly noteworthy year for A&J. It seems I was teaching myself to write shorter, punchier jokes, and there were a lot of clinkers. In any given time period, there will be good cartoons and not-so-good cartoons. I tend to judge periods of work by the number and quality of the latter. If the cartoons of which I'm not particularly proud aren't so bad or so numerous, I'm doing OK. I didn't do as well in '02 as I'd have liked.
It's 2001 of our Arlo and Janis odyssey. You know you're getting old when you've outlived all the famous futurist literature, like 1984 and 2001, A Space Odyssey. By the way, I think the above1984 site includes a complete, online version of George Orwell's classic novel.
The characters are looking very familiar by 2001, and I'm beginning to drift away from realistic storylines. The A&J from here until the end of our retrospective will be essentially the A&J of today.
One notable exception to the rule that year was the visit of Arlo and Janis to Cuba. It was the only series of comic strips I've ever done that was based on travel, and it was the only time I've so blatantly blurred the line between myself and the characters, particularly Arlo. I think it was obvious that Arlo's adventures were direct depictions of the artist's adventures, and for some crazy reason it worked.
Yay! Whoopeee!! It's here! The Year 2000! Am I the only one still with a hangover from New Year's Eve, 1999? It seems to me that, in some tiny way, things just haven't been the same since then. I attribute it to being a part of what was--for the Western world--an event that comes once in maybe 25 lifetimes. True, the only "event" was just another tick of the clock, but one that will never come again. I suppose it's worth reminding ourselves that no single tick of the clock ever comes again.
Concerning Y2K, Ken from Grand Rapids wrote: I had thought I was over the pain, but apparently not. I am a mainframe COBOL programmer (a Dilbert dinosaur who can still proudly wield a slide rule) who spent many hours fixing programs for the Y2K bug. If we had not modified these programs (I work for a bank.), there would have been massive problems with customer statements. I agree that there was hype, and civilization would not have shut down, but do not minimize the effort spent on Y2K. I remember sitting in our computer room on December 31, 1999, and hearing the collective sigh of relief when the clock hit midnight, and nothing happened.
I received other letters similar to Ken's. We all appreciate those who labored to keep the bank statements straight and the airport control towers online. It is true that their effort was the main reason the Y2K bug came to nothing. I'm sorry I caused you pain, Ken! I was referring to the lamentations of the doom-sayers, the pitch and volume of which are difficult to appreciate today.
Boy, the 90s just flew by, didn't they? Our 20-year A&J retrospective already is up to 1999.
Many of you wrote yesterday to mention the appearance of Arlo and Janis in the comic strip Blondie. Some of you implied that I was dissembling several weeks ago when I denied any knowledge of Dean Young's guest list for the Bumstead's big anniversary party that is playing out in the comics pages these days. Well, I wasn't being coy with you when I said I had no idea what would happen. In fact, I didn't know about the participation of Arlo and Janis until some of you wrote and told me about it early Monday morning! Nobody tells me anything. Needless to say, we were delighted to participate. (Say, who were all those other cartoon characters?)
Where were you in
1998? Here at Arlo and Janis, it was much like
1997. I continued playing with storylines, some fanciful,
such as "Puss 'n Boots,"
and others skirting bona fide human drama, such as
"Hey, Hey, It's Faye!" The latter explores intra-office
attraction between co-workers, in this case a friendship
between Arlo and a female coworker named Faye. I'm not going
to rerun the
In case you're wondering, I don't really give comic strips or sequences of comic strips a title at the time I draw them. The "titles" I'm referring to here are pulled out of thin air when they're needed. Like now!
Ah, 1997! That was quite a year here at Arlo and Janis. It was a year of fast change and experimentation. Many readers, particularly fans of story lines, feel the strip reached a zenith about this time, and I wouldn't necessarily argue with them.
There was a most unusual blend of the zany and the serious in my work then. It was the year of "The Squirrel Family" (re-rerun here for your convenience) and the year of "Mary Lou's Baby." I know I was having a lot of fun writing that stuff, but I also remember a sense that the whole thing was going to fly apart in several directions. We'll revisit 1997, after our retrospective, because there're a lot of interesting strips from that year, particularly story lines, that we haven't yet seen here. So, to 1997, and back to the newspaper. (8/18/2005)
We're all the way up to 1996, which means we're on the verge of entering the modern era of A&J. The retrospective is going by almost as fast as the original 20 years did.
I have always tried to be up front about what this Web
site is: it is a personal
While it's always gratifying and exciting when a reader writes to tell me, for example, that he or she has written a letter to the local newspaper on my behalf, I'm always reticent to ask you directly to do something for me. However, I don't think I'm violating our understanding here to suggest one thing that has occurred to me. If you enjoy this Web site, tell some friends about it. You'll know which ones. I think that would be great.
And just to show you it's not all take, take, take here at arloandjanis.com, I'm posting ten cartoons from 1996. I don't know what came over me; I just couldn't stop. And let's hope there's always the newspaper cartoon. (8/17/2005)
It's Tuesday, August 16, 1995. Well, it is here at arloandjanis.com, anyway.
I shouldn't talk about this yet, but I never could keep a secret. Big changes are on the way here at arloandjanis.com. No, now wait! You're going to like this, I think. I am currently grappling with blogging software. I know, I know, every junior-high student in the world has a blog, almost. It's going to take me a little time, however.
Eventually, I expect the page will appear a little different. It will function much the same, however. The big change will be that readers would be able to post and read comments. This will be a great relief to me, because every day I get interesting and thoughtful mail that is seen only by me, and I feel that's a waste. Now, those who wish will be able to truly discuss the things that come up here.
Now, I know I've solicited technical advice in the past, and I've received much valuable counsel. The senders, however, must think I ignore them, because nothing every changes around here. Well, that's just because I haven't had time to do much extra. This blogging thing is going to happen, though, so if anyone has any thoughts or tips on establishing a true blog, I'd be happy to hear them.
Welcome to 1994! We're almost halfway through our review of Arlo and Janis over the first 20 years. The characters have lost their way-back look, but their appearance still is different from today. We're also about to put behind us the large body of earlier work that is mostly untapped here at arloandjanis.com. All the cartoons from 1995 on are stored on CD, and those of you who pay attention know those are the cartoons I choose from every morning when making up the day's Web site. We've seen a lot of those by now! Still, we'll plow ahead until we've reached the present.
As is often the case, I couldn't take time Friday for an update, so to make it up to you I'm posting seven cartoons from 1994. Also, never forget that the newspaper cartoon makes it all possible! (8/15/2005)
It's Thursday, and it's 1993.
This year is memorable in A&J history, because it was the year Ludwig the cat was introduced, as you shall see. Now, regular readers will want to skip over this next link, because you've heard the story ad nauseum, but I'm happily welcoming new readers to the Web site every day, and--believe it or not--they've never heard the story of how Ludwig got his name. Someone wrote the other day and referred to him as "Helmut."
Mary from Virginia Beach, VA, was kind enough to write and remind us of the Perseid Meteor Shower, which science assures us will climax tonight and in the early morning Friday.
Well, we're already up to 1992, and we're not halfway finished.
That was a memorable year behind the scenes; 1992 was
when I acquired my first computer. I was living in rural Tennessee
at the time, and I drove 80-odd miles to Memphis and checked
into a motel just ahead of a tremendous ice storm. The next
morning, I walked into a powerless computer store on Poplar
Since that time, I've scanned my artwork and transmitted it digitally to United Media in New York. Prior to that, I would ship the originals themselves, and personnel in a traditional print shop at UM would prepare reproductions to be mailed to client newspapers. It was a time of great transition for everyone.
We're already up to 1991. Remember the folderol at the turn of the century? What year is really the first year of the new century? Is it 2000? Or 2001? It occurred to me yesterday as I was preparing the Web site that you don't hear much of that argument when merely the decade changes. For example, in 1990, no one seriously argued that the 90s wouldn't begin until 1991. It would have been a reasonable argument, in the same sense as the argument for 2001 was reasonable, but no one seriously would have made it. It would have seemed pointless to stand and posit that in 1990, the 90s had not yet arrived.
Yet, such an argument raged for months and years when the century turned. For most of us, the century began with 2000. That's when they had the big parties. That's when old folks in the nursing home statistically forestalled death itself to make it to the new millennium. Now, why did I bring it up? It was so behind us!
Today, it's 1990! We're into a new decade with our 20-year retrospective, which continues with five more cartoons from a long time ago.
After seeing Thursday's link to the Web pages about Robert Manry and his record-setting Atlantic voyage in his tiny sailboat Tinkerbelle, Margaret from Minneapolis sent me a link to another excellent Web site that tells the incredible story of Robert Asp, another ordinary human with an extraordinary ambition. His dream of building a replica of a Viking ship and sailing it from the upper Midwest to Norway was realized, although Asp did not live to see it. Well, view the ship and read the story for yourself. I've always loved this kind of stuff, you betcha.
Bridgette from Garfield Heights, OH, sent me a link to a page on a wonderful Web site. Not only does this one section of the Web site tell the amazing story of the voyage of Robert Manry, the site itself--the Cleveland Memory Project--is a perfect example of the Web's potential.
Back to Mr. Manry. You may remember him. I do. In 1965, he sailed his 13.5-ft. sailboat, Tinkerbelle, from Falmouth, MA, to Falmouth, England. At the time, it was the smallest boat ever to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Well, cousin, if you want to know more, this is the place. Not only are there dozens of images in this well-planned exhibit, there is a complete, online version of Manry's book about his adventure, Tinkerbelle.
I recall his exploit received a lot of media attention at the time, and given my impressionable age then, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Mr. Manry didn't have something to do with my own inexplicable fascination with sailboats and far horizons.
Our retrospective continues today, with 1989. I still think of the cartoons from that year as very formative work, having more in common with the earliest A&J comic strips than with those of today. Judge for yourself; here are five cartoons from 1989. Plus, never, ever forget the newspaper cartoon. (8/4/2005)
If it's Wednesday, it must be 1988. Today, I'm going to continue our look back at Arlo and Janis with five more strips featuring a young Gene.
We've talked a lot about the comic strip the past couple of weeks, and we've hardly even begun our 20-year, 100-cartoon retrospective, but regular visitors know we like to talk about all kinds of things here at arloandjanis.com. I hope most of you will stick around after we've finished our trip down Memory Lane and see what comes up next.
A lot of you have written during the course of the past few days with questions about the strip, and I'll try to get to some of them later this week. For now, here are five cartoons from 1988 and--as always--today's newspaper cartoon. (8/3/2005)
Today it's 1987 in our 20-year A&J retrospective. Since there's been a lot of discussion here in the past about the diminishing onscreen role of the older Gene in the strip, I thought I'd feature five strips focused on a very young Gene. The artwork in the 1987 strips still is very much of my early period. I think I detect a tightening of the dialog and timing, however, that already gives these strips the same timbre as much later work.
A&J would never have survived the early years if there hadn't been a spark of originality there all along, but I was very fortunate. The strip was given a chance to get its legs, to catch on over time, which particularly was invaluable to a character-driven comic strip such as mine. The opportunity for a young feature to develop after launch has diminished greatly in recent years, as the syndication business has continued to tighten.
As advertised, today's strips are from 1986, the first full year of A&J. I want to thank everyone who wrote to congratulate me on the 20th anniversary of the strip's premiere. Your messages really did make the occasion special, and I wish I could thank each of you individually.
As lovers of newspaper comics know, successful comic
strips can have a very long lifespan. To produce a comic
strip for 20 years hardly is unusual. It is a big deal for
me, though, and I like to think that the characters are at
the height of their popularity and that I am at the height
of my skills as a cartoonist. It is exciting
It was July 29, 1985, that Arlo and Janis premiered in newspapers, and today I'm going to introduce a retrospective of the subsequent 20 years of A&J. Every day here at arloandjanis.com, I'm going to post five cartoons from each successive year, beginning today with 1985 and wrapping it up somewhere down the road in another century.
No one is more aware than I how much A&J has changed, but even I am amazed every time I root through the piles of old strips. For an obvious example, click on the art at left to see the first A&J comic strip that ran 20 years ago, and then click on the art at right to see the strip that is running in newspapers today. I'll be the first to admit that as inadequate as I may be as an artist now, I've improved greatly.
It's been a privilege to do this for 20 years. The money's pretty good, although not as good as most imagine, and the work isn't exactly strenuous. The best part, however, is knowing there are people reading what I do and deriving a moment of pleasure from it. I hope we'll still be having this conversation 20 years hence.
Before I get all choked up, let's get on with the show. Here are five cartoons from 1985, to be followed Monday with five from 1986, and so on. Although you've already seen it, I always include a link here to the strip that's running in today's newspaper. Happy A&J Day! (Well, I think it has a nice ring.) (7/29/2005)
All the talk this week about selling comic strips to a major newspaper syndicate brought back memories of when I sold A&J to United Media. I had sent two other submissions that already had been rejected, the first about a society of talking dogs and the other about the antics of an ensemble cast of what were then known popularly as Yuppies.
The dog strip got no takers, because it was an axiom at the time that newspaper editors didn't want talking-animal strips. Since then, wisecracking animals have undergone a huge resurgence, but such is the nature of the "wisdom" in this business.
From this first effort, I learned that everyone wanted a strip about humans. So, my second strip featured humans, although the concept was vague and the characters undefined. Included among those characters, though, was a married couple. The strip was roundly rejected and rightly so, but Sarah Gillespie, then the comics editor at United Media, did include a personal note asking if I had more material featuring the married couple. Ah hah! I was onto something.
From that exchange came Arlo and Janis. I drew up a month of strips featuring a young married couple and their son and sent it on the rounds. I will never forget the day Sarah called my home in Jackson, MS, and told me United Media was interested in taking on the strip. It was a great day. She told me later that she did not remember sending me the earlier note. Anyway, that's the way it happened for me. Speaking of all this, you'll want to be here tomorrow. (7/28/2005)
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. So the old joke goes. That's also how you get a comic strip in the newspaper. To have a hope of attracting the attention of a major newspaper syndicate, a cartoonist must be the best he or she can be, and that will have to be better than the rest.
Don't submit roughs. Don't submit sketches. For Heaven's sake, don't submit "concepts." Submit copies of your very best finished work. Other cartoonists can tell you what pens they use; other cartoonists can look at your work and tell you how they would do it differently; other people can give you the address of the syndicates and even the names of the editors. However, it ultimately is up to you--the aspiring cartoonist--to be good enough, and that's the hard part.
Now, I know what you're thinking: a lot of the new comic strips launched aren't so hot. Maybe, but a lot of those strips aren't around very long, either. I think that fact illustrates my point of the past three days: as overwhelmed as they can be by submissions, the syndicates really are almost always desperate for a good, new comic strip, but such a thing is rare.
I know there are many facets to the subject of "becoming" a cartoonist, but the original question pertained to newspaper syndication, and I hope I've addressed it. My final advice to aspiring cartoonists is always, save yourself the aggravation, unless you truly enjoy drawing cartoons, because that enjoyment likely will be your only reward.
Yesterday, we were talking about would-be cartoonists and how they might impress the companies that distribute newspaper comics. Anyone remotely interested in the subject has heard the figures: thousands of such would-be cartoonists submit ideas for comic strips to the "syndicates" every year. Pretty long odds, you say? Well, there's more to the story.
As I told you yesterday, anyone can submit material to the syndicates, and it will be reviewed, however briefly. This means they get a lot of unusable submissions. I've looked through the submissions file at United Media on several occasions while visiting the New York office. It is safe to say, nine out of ten features are so amateurish and so bad as to be dismissed literally without a second glance.
Of the remaining 10 percent, another nine out of ten can be dismissed upon further scrutiny as being simply not good enough to warrant an investment of the syndicate's time and money. Among the few cartoons remaining after our hypothetical winnowing process, there likely will not be a single slam-dunk, not one cartoon a year that appears to be a sure-fire winner. A majority of the few new strips that are launched are launched with secret trepidation. So, if you've a genuine talent for cartooning, you can see the odds aren't as fearsome as you might have thought. A talent for cartooning. Aye, there's the rub! I hadn't meant to spend so long on this subject, but we'll have to talk about that tomorrow.
Richard from Huntsville, AL, wrote: You may have said something on the subject in the past, but do you have advice for someone's daughter who might be interested in submitting a strip to United Media?
I don't recall if we've talked about this here or not, but it would surprise me if we hadn't. Cartoonists are asked this sort of thing regularly.
You might be interested to learn that United Media and the other companies that distribute newspaper comics are constantly open to newcomers whose work is funny and entertaining. Plus, submitting material for their consideration is easy, unlike most other areas of publishing; all a prospective cartoonist must do is drop two dozen photocopied samples of an idea into an envelope and send it to the syndicates. They will open it and review the work. If they pass it around and laugh like hyenas, they'll probably sign up the cartoonist.
Simple, huh? Well, there's a catch, of course. It isn't easy authoring a comic strip, although Heaven knows it looks easy. Anyone realistically hoping to sell a new comic feature must be able to produce work of professional quality from the get-go, and that is more true today than ever as the field tightens. We'll talk a little more about this tomorrow.
Many, many of you wrote about "spam," and unlike our discussion of DVD players last week, there is a near-unanimous consensus: Spam is so super cheap to produce that only a few idiots have to respond to make it profitable. The truth gets sadder. In more than a few cases, there are enough idiots to make it very profitable.
Now, I know that no one reading this would attempt to increase the size of their body parts by forking over money to some stranger from an e-mail message. However, let me say this: no credit card company, no bank, no ISP, not e-Bay nor Pay Pal, would ever contact you about an "error" in your account and ask you for sensitive information. This is called "phishing." It is a very simple thing for anyone to swipe an official-looking logo from the Web or disguise an e-mail address. Otherwise intelligent but unsuspecting people fall for this, especially people (How shall I say this?) "our age." Don't be among them!
A lot of people took the time to write yesterday, and I'll try to post a few of the messages in a day or so. Meanwhile, here are three cartoons from this week in 2003 and the daily newspaper cartoon. (7/21/2005)
This cartoon yesterday prompted several letters inquiring about the surname of Arlo and Janis. Supposedly, it's Day, as in Doris--whose birth name was von Kappelhoff. When United Media agreed to syndicate A&J, the strip did not really have a name. Some wag at UM suggested naming the family "Day" and calling the strip something horribly clever like "Day by Day" or "Day to Day." It would have happened, but it turned out there already was a column (a "text feature" in syndicate parlance) with a similar name. That situation gives the UM lawyers hives, so the idea was abandoned. The name remained in a vestigial sense, sort of like our tailbone. I think the idea to call the strip simply "Arlo and Janis" was mine.
Left to my own devices, I would have called them the "Boomershines." I know, it sounds campy now, but when I came up with the strip, the baby-boom generation was hot stuff. The name itself came from an Atlanta car dealership, a Pontiac dealer if memory serves.
A lot of people have written me to ask if Arlo and Janis will appear in the 75th anniversary festivities for Blondie and Dagwood. If I were privy to the plans of Dean Young or King Features Syndicate, I would not go spilling the beans, but I can truthfully say I am not.
Anyone who knows me, however, knows that I like to get things accomplished with plenty of time to spare. (That just may be the funniest thing I've ever written.) For example, I did my anniversary tribute to Blondie and Dagwood five years ago.
A reader who doesn't sign a name wrote: Do you have curbside trash pick up where you live? If you throw away drawings of A&J that arenít working out, are there a bunch of folks at your curb on trash-pickup day sorting through your trash for those drawings?
I think this is an odd question, but the correspondent has written twice, so I'll tackle it. Persistence pays off here at arloandjanis.com. Yes, we do have curbside trash pick up. In fact, we're so uptown, we have trash pick up and garbage pick up. Without sorting through which would be most appropriate in this context, the answer to your other questions is, "No."
People don't dig through the detritus of my work, because there is none. I don't do any preliminary sketching at all. I pencil directly onto the finished paper and ink from there, and the drawings that aren't working out I use anyway. Just yesterday, however, I was cleaning out my attic and put a perfectly good microwave on the curb; it was gone within the hour.
So, the would-be chicken farmer buys some baby chicks and takes them home and plants them in the ground head first and covers them up. Of course, nothing happens. He buys a second batch of chicks and plants them feet first and covers them up. Again, nothing happens.
Frustrated, he calls his County Extension Agent and explains his failure at raising chickens.
"You idiot," says the disbelieving agent, "we can't solve a problem like that without a soil test first!"
There. For those of you who wrote in yesterday wanting to know the gardening joke, that was it. I want to commend Joseph, who--not being familiar with the joke--Googled it up, although the resulting version wasn't as good as mine, if I say so myself. Joseph allowed that he, indeed, attended a Land Grant University. Smart man. He also included a link to the joke page he found, but I don't think all the jokes are appropriate for a general audience. Those of you too young to read them won't have any trouble finding the site on your own, I'm sure.
By the way, it's just a joke. Those of you disturbed by the image of planting fuzzy, little chicks should just try not to think about it anymore. Today, I have three cartoons from 2001 and the newspaper cartoon. The remodeling continues.
I made the probable mistake of mentioning "daylight savings time" and received a terse note from "fulton1" that only said: It's daylight saving time, not daylight savings time.
Now, anyone who follows this site knows I correct my more glaring mistakes when caught, but I refer this one to the dictionary. "Daylight-savings time" is an accepted variation. Also, the dictionaries insist on hyphenating both spellings, although--cutting you some slack here, fulton1--you almost never see this anywhere. For more on this, read the "Spelling & Grammar" section of this excellent DST site. I am among those cited who think daylight savings time flows "more mellifluously off the tongue."
Speaking of DST, I heard an excellent suggestion Saturday morning on the radio program Car Talk. Ray Magliozzi, the one who sounds like the short one, came up with the idea for what he calls "double dog daylight savings time." (Yes, he said, "savings.") The idea is, during the longest months of the year, to have two hours of DST. Well, read it for yourself, Ray's own words. I think it makes sense. It isn't exactly a new idea. It was done in World War II in several countries, and Alaska has some weird variation of it today. (Why would you need DST in Alaska?! It's light almost continuously in the summer.)
My comments about DVD zones--or "regions" as they apparently are known officially--very quickly became a convoluted discussion, sort of like an analysis of daylight savings time. I received lengthy and earnest explanations of why I can't view DVD's purchased in Europe on my player back home. Not all the explanations were the same, either.
I don't have time to research the issue as I might normally, but I did "Ask Jeeves," and the most direct answer I could find quickly was this one. This explanation, that it's all about movie distribution, agrees with one sent in by Dan, of Whitehouse Station, NJ. It makes sense that the studios would want to control the timing of film releases, but I have to point out that one of the movies I purchased in France that wouldn't play back home was Casablanca, for cryin' out loud. (The fact that Dan sent me a coffee cup with pictures of pirate flags on it has nothing to do with my favoring his explanation.)
Many of the explanations were of a more technical nature; if anyone wants to rebut Jeeves and Dan, I'm listening. Meanwhile, here are three cartoons from yesteryear and the newspaper cartoon from today. (7/12/2005)
There are going to be a lot of people without electricity for what will seem like a terribly long time, and there are people whose property was badly damaged, but Dennis was about as well-behaved as a hurricane of its strength can be.
I didn't hear it mentioned on the television, but the worst of Hurricane Dennis came ashore along the deserted stretch of beach and dunes between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach that is the Santa Rosa Island section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It also was a fast-moving storm--which has been mentioned on television--and that always helps. Don't believe for a moment, however, that this storm was somehow a dud. The folks around Pensacola and Gulf Shores, AL, simply got the break they needed after Hurricane Ivan just 10 months ago.
OK, a late and abbreviated post today, but I said I'd deliver the rest of the beach series that began yesterday, and here it is. Pensacola is one edgy town this weekend, according to the grapevine. That's because of Hurricane Dennis, coming ashore in Cuba as I write this. Pensacola still is recovering from Hurricane Ivan, which we discussed at some length last September. (Seems like yesterday!) You may recall, we relied heavily upon the excellent coverage of The Pensacola News Journal, and if you follow the link you can get the latest from what could, again, be Ground Zero for a major hurricane. Well, have a good weekend, but before you go, here's the newspaper cartoon. (7/8/2005)
Remember where you heard it first! We were talking just last week about the movie Airplane. Well, it turns out this year is the 25th anniversary of the comedy's release, and the radio news program All Things Considered will be talking later today with Jim Abrahams and David Zucker, who broke into the movie game in a big way back in 1980, when they co-directed and co-wrote what many consider one of the funniest movies ever made.
I want to thank the many of you who've written to share your tales of woe concerning home renovation. I've read all the letters and perversely enjoyed them every one. The common theme is inescapable: it always costs more and involves more than originally conceived. That certainly corresponds with my own current experience.
I have the first three cartoons in a week-long series that ran this week in 2003. I'll present the final three tomorrow. And never, ever forget the newspaper cartoon. (More about vinyl records later.) (7/7/2005
Hurd wrote to comment on lightning, which came up in conversation here yesterday. Hurd was nice enough to provide a cool link to a NOAA site about the subject. I learned that lightning is the second leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. most years. I was a little surprised to learn floods and flash floods kill the most. Hurd is from Mobile, AL, so he's having some interesting weather of his own today. All that rain is, of course, courtesy of Tropical Storm Cindy. I have a feeling we're not finished talking about hurricanes and tropical storms this year; it's not shaping up very well for the southeastern U.S. so far.
Bruce, from Danforth, IL, wrote: I have been a long-time fan of A&J and have
written you in the past about a series I read online several years ago when Gene saved Arlo from some kind of heart problem in the bathroom. I think it ran in December.
The month-long series to which Bruce refers did run in December, I think in 1996. NEA, the division of United Media that syndicates A&J, has a tradition of offering its clients an additional, special Christmas story drawn by one of the NEA cartoonists. That year, I drew the Christmas series. I don't think I have a copy in my files, but I've wanted to present it here, because not all the NEA newspaper clients use the Christmas series, so many A&J readers have never seen it. I'll keep looking for it.
I'm back! I hope your holiday weekend was a humdinger. I lot of people wrote yesterday with their own horror stories about remodeling and renovation. (Thanks! I really needed that.)
I'm trying very hard to deliver a full and entertaining update for you today, but I must admit, my thoughts still are on the unfinished upstairs. How am I ever going to get that tub spigot to line up with the drain?
This is the first time I've tackled a project of this magnitude since the general rise of the Internet and the Worldwide Web. I must admit, the 'net has been an invaluable source for brushing up on technique and finding products.
Thank you to all the people who've written wanting to know if I'm alright. Really. I mean that. The answer is yes and no. No, I'm not sick, but I'm in the middle of remodeling the upstairs of my house, where I normally have my studio. Anyone who's been through something like this knows I'm not exactly alright. By the latter half of last week--at the time of the missing updates--a crisis point had been reached, but progress is being made now. Maybe I'll post pictures when I'm done. As for those who wrote speculating I'm on an extended 4th of July vacation, Hah! I expect to post a normal update Tuesday. Have a great Independence Day! (7/4/2005)
Well, James, the Sunday cartoons are, indeed, drawn just as the dailies, with India ink on paper. In the old days, the original cartoon physically was shipped to a huge printing company that specializes in producing Sunday comics, American Color. A marginally paid individual there, working with overlays and following instructions provided by the artist, would produce the plates necessary to print full-color comics. (Excuse me if I don't go into the technical details.)
With the advent of powerful personal computers, however, artwork is stored and transmitted digitally. The same companies still must produce printing plates for newspaper production, but the coloring mostly is done directly by the cartoonists, working from their digital "originals." These digital, colorized versions--produced wholly by the artist--are used by the marginally paid individuals at the printing plant. Put another way, most cartoonists today do what they once instructed a technician to do. Artists have assumed a "job" once done by another, but we don't mind so much, because it gives us more creative control.
This is a little embarrassing to talk about. Several wrote to say they enjoyed the Sunday cartoons which I reran Monday. I thought, "That's easy. I'll just give 'em some more Sunday cartoons!" So, I was searching through some recent Sundays, from 2004, and talk about reruns.
Also yesterday, I indirectly mentioned imported fruits and vegetables. Phil, in Sugar Land, TX, sent a link to an article that reminds us there are at least two sides to every story. I've things to attend out of the ordinary this morning, so I'm going to leave you now with the newspaper cartoon. (6/28/2005)
Presumably from southern California, Tom writes:
Remember the old Airplane! movies? There were tons of stuff going on in the background most of the time. Sometimes, it was funnier than the foreground action. I have to admit that I only discovered A&J about a year ago. It isn't in The Los Angeles Times. I really appreciate seeing the old strips.
Tsk, tsk! What's the matter with those folks at The LA Times? No matter, Tom, I'm very glad you discovered the Web site. Yes! Of course I remember Airplane! It's one of my favorite comedies, and you've given me an excuse to link to one of my favorite Web sites, imdb.com.
I haven't seen "Robots," but I think an excellent example
of what Peter is talking about is "Shrek 2," one of my
favorite movies to come out in a long time. Donkey (the
voice of Eddie Murphy) is in the back of a carriage
traversing the fairy tale version of Rodeo Drive in
Hollywood, when he shouts to woman, "Hey,
I don't have a lot of time today, so I'm going to post a longish letter from Dan about "marital relations" in A&J then give him a short answer. (I believe in full disclosure here at arloandjanis.com.)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think
A&J is pretty much unique in this on the modern comics
page. Where other strips skirt the nature of married
couples, A&J boldly goes.
Paragraph 1: I think A&J has broken a lot of ground in this area. I've made an effort to be honest yet presentable; I'm not responsible for the efforts of imitators. Paragraph 2: It definitely is a selling point, but it also is "the nature of the work." My ideas are not calculated, mainly because it just can't work that way. Paragraph 3: I don't think it's much of a liability, although sometimes I think this area receives unwarranted attention (like now?). I would hate for A&J to be unfairly pigeonholed as an "adult" strip. And thank you, Dan!
Controversy rages here at arloandjanis.com. There has been much discussion about yesterday's comic, to wit, would Gene's obviously nefarious motive be served best by lowering or raising the wheels of the lawn mower?
For example, Bill wrote: You would need to lower the wheels to cut less grass, thereby raising the cutting deck. Itís a small item, however you seem to be very particular about getting everything just right. Then, you probably need to; otherwise, guys like me will e-mail you pointing out your errors.
Au contraire, Bill! If it weren't for guys like you, what would I write about here every day? I remember thinking about the matter when I drew the cartoon, but I don't remember my conclusions. It was three weeks ago, for cryin' out loud! The whole debate reminds me of the old joke: "How long do a man's legs have to be? Long enough to touch the ground!"
After making an off-hand remark about microwave ovens, I was mildly astonished to learn the depth and the breadth of general antipathy toward them. For example, Doug, from Broken Arrow, OK, wrote:
I knew there was something that I really liked about A&J when I stumbled across it on the 'net. Thank you for expressing your thoughts about microwaves. My wife thinks Iím nuts when I say food doesnít taste the same out of them. I donít think things even warmed in them stay as hot as long as things reheated on the stove. The only thing a microwave is good for is melting the butter to put on the popcorn you just popped on the stove.
You know, Doug, even the coffee I reheat in my microwave doesn't taste "right." I try not to stand too close to it, either. The whole concept is a little spooky.
Well, the pirate thing is about to play out, and I suppose it's time. I can't complain. It got us through another week.
Mike from Mesa, AZ, wrote:
I have meant to write about this for some time, so your comment today about repeating was finally the right catalyst. As far as I am concerned, the part I enjoy the most about the retrospective cartoons is not the cartoon itself but (your) comments. They usually offer an interesting insight into your thoughts about that particular sequence. So, I don't really mind you repeating a strip, because usually the comments are different.
Well, I appreciate the letter, Mike, and the vote of confidence. Others have written to say much the same thing. It isn't necessary, but I encourage correspondents to include their location. I think it's interesting.
That reminds me: Laetitia from Brisbane, Australia, wrote earlier this week about the cartoon that appeared in newspapers Monday: I found your cartoon for Monday 13 June particularly amusing. In most states of Australia it was a holiday! It was the Queen's Birthday holiday. (Western Australia [WA] celebrates it in September.) Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Now, see? Isn't that interesting? (I've heard Western Australians can be different.)
I've been getting a lot of interesting mail on the subject of pirates. Trudy in Naples, FL, was the only one to make the observation, which--now that she mentions it--is obvious: the logo of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team is very similar to the flag of pirate Jack Rackham, whom we were discussing yesterday.
Lee of Harrisonburg, VA, wrote to point out that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the right to make any of us a legal pirate. All they have to do is decree that you can be a pirate, and the law can't touch you. It's Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 11. Why do I suspect this seemingly arcane provision might not be as irrelevant today as one might initially assume? Incidentally, the link takes you to a highly useful Constitutional reference site.
Several people wrote regarding Sunday's A&J. Dan, from Whitehouse Station, NJ, wrote:
Some trivia for the website: do you know which historical pirate actually sailed under that flag? Bonnie Jack Rackham--actually not much of a pirate by most accounts. He's probably best remembered for having sailed with two women pirates. Here's a great short history.
Bonnie Jack sounds like my kind of pirate. At arloandjanis.com, we favor those comical, bumbling, romantic pirates that have been amusing us since Gilbert & Sullivan. All of us--well, most of us--deplore what pirates actually did and still do. No one in his right mind would sanction murder and kidnapping and rape. So, why do so many of us think pirates are neat? Jon sent along a link to an article that addresses this ambivalence. I, myself, have spent a lot of time in a part of the world where the pirate Jean Lafitte is an official public hero, sanctioned by no less than the National Park Service.
I'm back! I apologize for missing the Friday update. I've done better lately, but those of you who've been coming to arloandjanis.com for months know service can be spotty on Fridays. That's the day I'm wrapping up my regular work (You know: the work that pays.), and sometimes I am pressed for time--as I was the past Friday.
Since there's no new business yet this week, I think this might be a good time to repeat my standard, nonetheless sincere, caveat regarding mail from you. I personally read all your messages. I answer some in a mostly random fashion, but I simply cannot personally answer all my mail. I'm very sorry about this, because a lot of you write with questions or requests or worthwhile observations that, in a perfect world, would warrant attention. So, I hope it somehow makes you feel a little better knowing your messages do get through even if you don't get an answer. Without further ado, here are three cartoons from 1998 and today's Arlo and Janis. (6/13/2005)
I told you Tuesday that I didn't want to get into this listing of female cartoonists. Now, we've got issues.
First, for all of you who wrote yesterday telling me Brooke McEldowney is a man, I know. That's why I wrote, "I guarantee, this United Media bio page will tell you a lot about Brooke that you might not already know." (Nudge nudge, wink wink.)
The second problem is more embarrassing. Someone (You know who you are!) wrote to list Leigh Rubin among female cartoonists. Without checking, I included "her" name. Well, guess what. I'd met Brooke, but I've never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Rubin, so I didn't know. I realize arloandjanis.com isn't journalism of the highest order, but I do like to be accurate. The mistake is mine, and I'm happy to correct it. Now, we're finished talking about cartoonists' gender.
Regarding our conversation about female cartoonists, several of you wrote to mention how much you enjoy the work of Brooke McEldowney, author of the newspaper comic 9 Chickweed Lane and the fanciful Web-based strip Pibgorn. I guarantee, this United Media bio page will tell you a lot about Brooke that you might not already know.
I should already have mentioned Nicole Hollander, author of Sylvia. Nicole and Sylvia have been gracious enough to furnish us with a really first-rate cartoon Web site, and I hope you'll take the time to visit it. Another well-known comic strip drawn by a woman is Rhymes with Orange by Hilary Price. And let us not forget Preteena by Allison Barrows,
Several of you wrote yesterday to say that I "forgot" to mention your favorite cartoonist who's also a female. Most of those messages mentioned Lynn Johnston and For Better or For Worse.
I want to point out, I did not forget. I did not mention any working female cartoonists, because most of us know the big names, and I didn't want to get into listing everyone. But what th' heck. Of course, there's Cathy Guisewite, author of Cathy. Then, there's the feature Six Chix, drawn by no less than six female cartoonists. (Obviously, there aren't so many women cartoonists that the syndicates aren't tempted to launch a feature that screams, "Hey! We've got a half-dozen babes drawing this one!") And there's the popular Stone Soup, by Jan Eliot.
I know I've left out some female cartoonists worthy of note. Your job will be to name them. Meanwhile, we wrap up the jaybird sequence today, and--hopefully--there will always be the newspaper cartoon. (6/7/2005)
Joe from Romeoville, IL, writes (coincidentally, I assume): Do you know of any comics written and drawn by women?
You don't have to be a student of comic strips to know several well-known cartoonists are women, but there aren't so many overall as you might imagine. I'm glad Joe asked that question, though, because it gives me a chance to mention the passing of Dale Messick, the creator of Brenda Starr, Reporter, and a woman conceded to be the distaff trailblazer in what had been an overtly male profession. Dale died last April just one week shy of her 99th birthday. I remember reading the adventures of Brenda Starr in The Atlanta Journal ("Covers Dixie like the Dew") when I was a boy.
There is a Web site called Friends of Lulu, "whose purpose is to promote and encourage female readership and participation in the comic book industry." FOL has a page dedicated to keeping track of all women employed in any phase of comics production, including comic strips. You're welcome, Joe.
In connection with the current jaybird series, more than one of you wrote to relay an experience with killdeers, a type of plover, nesting in the middle of a dirt road. I'm sorry to report not all of the experiences ended happily. I might add for the playful among us, "killdeers" is an accepted plural form of "killdeer." I looked it up.
Fridays usually are a busy time for me, as I struggle to wrap up the week's cartooning chores. This week is no exception, and I'm a little strapped for time, so that's about it for today.
Concerning the advent of hurricane season, Hurd in Mobile sent along a favorite new link. It's a hurricane-related page from NASA, packed with all kinds of neat weather science and some eye-popping graphics and images from space.
Did you hear about what happened out in LA? A whole bunch of houses just up and slid down the hill! (I can't keep up the pretense of being literate constantly, you know.) I'm reluctant to run the risk of making someone in a horrible situation feel worse: I sympathize with anyone who loses their home. However, I can't help recalling one of the first things I remember learning, a little song about construction technology.
There was so much misery and devastation associated with the hurricane season of 2004 that I could never bring myself to address the basic wisdom of building on barrier islands (or cliffs), and I'm not now. After every major storm, the TV news guys always find some unfortunate resident who can be counted upon to sum it up: "Of course we'll rebuild--living here is worth it." I suppose so.
The weather focus returns to the southeast today, as the Atlantic hurricane season officially opens. Readers from last summer remember that events were quite lively. Speaking of the weather, M.A. in Virginia Beach wrote:
BTW, the mid-Atlantic states are experiencing some outstanding weather this spring, too. I've only had my air conditioning on four days, since I turned the heat off two months ago. (Last year, I think I had only four days of respite between heating and cooling.) Two of those four days were for company's sake and not mine. Having lived in San Diego before, you hit it on the nail head: it IS just the same!
Well, I hope you accept now that arloandjanis.com is the place to come for climatological interpretation. The link in the first paragraph, incidentally, is for the National Hurricane Center. I hate to say this, but some of you might want to bookmark it; another brisk hurricane season is forecast for 2005. (Are you battened down, Trudy?)
Finding worthy cartoons to present here on arloandjanis.com is becoming problematic. My digital archives go back to sometime in 1994, and it already seems as if every cartoon I consider for presentation here has already been used.
I do have paper copies of cartoons going back considerably further, but scanning them in requires another step of time and labor. So far, I've resisted taking that step, because the Web page already takes up its share of my time and creativity every day. Oh, I enjoy doing it; still, there're limits. I may have to sit down soon, however, and scan some of the older stuff. You've all been very nice about the repetition, but it could get out of hand.
One of these days, I'm going to show you some of the lesser cartoons, cartoons of which I'm not overly proud but which inevitably find their way into print when one has to produce every day. That'll be fun for a couple of days.
The weeklong series that I'm going to show you today has run on this Web site before. However, I am fortunate enough to have picked up a lot of new visitors since then, and I'm hoping they will want to see it as well.
As I told some of you the last time this ran, my own father served in the European theater in World War II, but the memories and the conversation depicted in the following cartoons are wholly fictitious. I do remember, as a small boy, naively asking my father if he'd killed any enemy soldiers in the war. "Oh, yeah! Hundreds," was all he'd ever say.
I've had a lot of interesting mail about authors and libraries and bookstores, etc., but I really don't have much time today. So, I thought I'd mention the weather.
It's been an unusually pleasant spring in the southeast. Oh, April is always nice, but by now the temperature usually is around 90 degrees, and the humidity is stifling. Not this year. You'd think this was San Diego or somewhere else famous for meteorological perfection. Most mornings are crisp and cool, the days breezy and relatively dry and the evenings simply gorgeous.
Unfortunately, the northeast isn't having such a wonderful spring. They've been deluged with rain. Kathy from Nova Scotia wrote yesterday to report they've had over 11 inches of rain on the south shore since Sunday, and "it's still coming down." Paul in Scituate, MA, our erstwhile Red Sox correspondent, reported that his house was "an island" earlier this week and that the tide had pushed a foot of water into his lower floor. He said the Weather Channel actually had a live report from Scituate, which harkens back to our discussion of the hurricanes last summer: you know it's going to be a bad day when you find the Weather Channel reporter outside your house. Hang in there, guys.
I've had a lot of fun reading your letters about John D. MacDonald and other detective writers this week. Doug, from Broken Arrow, OK, (How's that for straight out of Zane Grey?) wrote:
Why not the library? Librarians need lovin', too, you know. Seriously, why buy two books just to try them to see if theyíve improved since the last time, when you can go to the library and try them for free? Surely you have libraries down there.
Yes, Doug, we have libraries down here. The reason I said I would go to the bookstore is because that's what I would have done. That's not to say I would have been correct, necessarily. Doug makes a good point, and just to show you what an open-minded guy I am, I'll go to the library to get those two Travis McGee books that I promised Shawn I would read.
Of course, if John MacDonald hadn't sold over 30 million books and were still alive, I might be tempted to go to the bookstore, because authors need remuneration, too. (Sheesh! I feel as if my life is being run by a committee all of a sudden!) (5/26/2005)
Regarding my list of Florida writers yesterday, Shawn in Birmingham wrote:
I can't believe that you didn't mention John MacDonald's great series of Travis McGee books when you mentioned Florida-centric writers. Those wonderful detective novels were lamenting the decline of Florida as far back as the 1960's.
I can understand your consternation, Shawn. Indeed, John MacDonald is the father of that peculiar brand of Florida crime fiction that I was writing about yesterday. I guarantee every author I mentioned was greatly influenced by MacDonald and his hero, Travis McGee.
All my adult life, people have been recommending MacDonald to me, I guess because McGee lived on a boat, and I dig boats. However, I found the books a little too formulaic, a la Sam Spade. (There's a phrase you don't see every day: "...a la Sam Spade.") I appreciate the lighter, more satirical approach of MacDonald's literary descendants.
Having said that, MacDonald, who died in 1986, still is read by millions and is highly regarded. You can check out a sample of MacDonald's work for yourself, including, in its entirety, an intro by none other than the afore-mentioned Mr. Hiaasen. And I tell you what I'll do, Shawn. It's been a while since I've read a Travis McGee book. Just to show you what an open-minded guy I am, I'm going to hie myself down to the bookstore and pick up a couple of TM books and give 'em another try. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood before.
Lara, presumably from Florida although she doesn't say, saved me some trouble by providing lots of links to some of the many things Trudy referenced in her letter printed here yesterday.
If all this is a little prosaic for you, I recommend that
peculiar genre of Florida
Trudy, our regular correspondent in Naples, FL, has written:
As a native-plant gardener, I absolutely loved your Sunday strip! I am always sending links to your comics and your Web site to friends, and this one will go to a number of Florida Master Naturalists. ( I am one, also.) The program is similar to Master Gardeners but ...we look at entire systems and the complexities of the urban interface with natural environments. (Recently) my presentation partner and I did a multimedia project on invasive exotic species. We deputized the class to become WIG agents (not Men In Black, but Women In Green!). Florida has been invaded by a number of seemingly lovely landscape plants that have crowded out native plants and changed natural systems. (There are) many plants I detest that are still sold in garden centers. Japanese honeysuckle is one of them as well as Mexican petunia. Sadly, the pristine swamp where the ghost orchid lives (Fakahatchee Strand) has been invaded by Mexican petunia.
I'm not entirely sure of everything Trudy's going on about, but it sounds as if she means well, indeed. And I didn't have to write much today. (Thanks, Trudy!) I don't have a lot of time this morning, but I'll see if I can't dig up some links to some things she mentions, if not later today then tomorrow.
Help! I've fallen into the clutches of a "Dermoterrorist!" That's according to Greg, who wrote: I am sorry to see you are so misinformed about the indoor tanning industry by the Dermoterrorist. If you want something informative, here is an article for you to read. Greg goes on to post a link to a .pdf version of an article from "New Scientist" magazine.
Well, we are nothing if not fair here at arloandjanis.com. However, I have read three times the article to which Greg refers. Essentially, it says a little sunshine is good for you, and if it addresses the wisdom of turning over the largest organ of your body, your skin, to an underpaid, overworked clerk at the video store/tanning salon, I missed it all three times. Maybe it's just me, so without further comment, I'll let you read "Why Sunshine Is Good for You, and Why Doctors Don't Want You to Know," and you can judge for yourself.
Dr. Teresa from Tampa writes:
As a dermatologist for 21 years and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, I have to commend you for your strip today! Thanks for letting the public know about the damaging rays from UVA bulbs in tanning beds. There was a study out last year that indicated women who used tanning beds have 50 to 100% more risk of melanoma, which is a deadly skin cancer. Love your strip every day--thanks!
Thank you, Doc! I didn't set out to tackle the tanning industry with this week's strips. I just wanted Arlo to nag Janis a little about her artificial tanning, so I went online for some background. I learned that, as I suspected, tanning beds aren't so hot. Personally, I began wondering about the business of tanning when tanning booths went up in the back of our local video-rental store.
As a rule, I operate on the assumption that if something natural is bad for you, it probably isn't as bad for you as the artificial thing created to take its place.
Matthew writes: (The) artist for a cartoon I read recently hurt his drawing hand and is now drawing with his off hand until his good hand heals. (Sluggy Freelance by Peter Abrams) The quality of his artwork clearly is much poorer (yet still better than what I could draw). So, instead of emailing him and wishing that his hand gets better, I decided I would ask if you have ever had to draw with your off hand and if we could see what your artwork looks like when drawn with the wrong hand. I know it might sound strange, but I've always been of the opinion we should all try new things. New things don't have to be big like jumping out of airplanes or running in a race but just small things that make you say "Well, that was different."
Well, no, Matthew, I've never been forced to draw with my "off hand," which in my case would be my left, but I'm so grateful you didn't ask me to jump out of an airplane that I'm going to go along with you on this one. It's a slow day here, so don't think this is going to escalate into "Stupid Cartoonist Tricks." (By the way, Sluggy Freelance is a well-known Web comic that has been around since 1997.)
I promised I'd talk a little today about one of my favorite authors, Henri de la Barbe. Actually, that's not his real name. His name is Henry Beard, and he's a humor writer. The Frenchified version of his name comes from a small book he authored, "French for Cats." This book is in my bathroom!
He also is author of a book I'll bet you have in your home if you are a sailor or you've purchased if you are married to a sailor: "Sailing: (n) the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense." His name came up here, because he's also written no less than five humor books about Latin, which apparently lends itself to much more hilarity than one might initially imagine. I think it started with "Latin for All Occasions."
You now get the idea Henry writes cute, little humor books. He does, and he's very good at it. Henry is a funny man. His career started, however, as a founder of National Lampoon, famous for edgier material. This guy has to be interesting.
I hope you enjoyed Friday's Latin brainteaser, because that's the last one we're going to have! All weekend, readers have been emailing me their favorite clever sayings in Latin--sans translation, of course. Well, as many, many of you guessed, knew or Googled up, the English translation of "Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?" is: "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck would chuck wood?"
The good, ol' BBC has an entertaining site entitled "Handy Latin Phrases," where you can indulge in this kind of whimsy until the IT guys rat you out. In my Latin studies, I ran across an interesting author, Henri de la Barbe, whom we will discuss tomorrow. (I've got to learn to stretch this stuff out!)
Geoff wrote me a heartwarming, soul-searching, intellectually provocative message about talking like a pirate, but what really caught my attention was the "sig" below his message:
"Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?"
I asked myself, "Does that say what I think it says?" I wrote Geoff and asked him, and he confirmed that, verily, it did. So, I'm going to leave you this week with a brain teaser. What does Geoff's saying say? You don't have to be a Latin scholar. (There's a hint: it's Latin!) They didn't even teach Spanish in my high school, and I figured it out. Sure, you can look up anything on the Internet these days, but what fun would that be? All will be revealed Monday. Dead language, my hind foot!
In today's strip (5/11/2005) Janis confuses "lubber/lover." Not to teach Grandma to suck eggs here, but there's really no confusion. "Lubber" is short for "landlubber" which is a pirate-like pronunciation of "land lover," someone who doesn't like being at sea. Arr, matey. Arr.
You know, Doug, I would have agreed with you 100% before yesterday, but it seems there's a question about that. Apparently, the term is an old word for "clumsy oaf," as explained in this online etymology dictionary. I'm delighted to receive your message, however, because it gives me another chance to plug my favorite holiday, Talk Like a Pirate Day, Sept. 19. ("Teach Grandma to suck eggs?")
I get dozens of messages every week from readers telling me how much they enjoy my work. I won't kid you: I love it! Wouldn't you like getting mail from strangers telling you how much enjoyment your work brings to them? Rarely, someone will write to tell me they do not enjoy my work. This is good, too--that such mail is rare, I mean. I try not to let the ratio go to my head, though, because it's realistic to assume most of the people who don't like my work don't bother to read it and hence don't write.
As a rule, I do not reprint letters of general praise. I'm trying to develop a following here, of course, but at the same time I don't want to encourage a sycophantic following. (Mind you, I'm not discouraging it!) Ergo, I don't print many letters of general criticism, either. I suppose that's why sometimes it seems I go out of my way not to talk about A&J. And, Judy, if I reprinted what you said about cat cartoons, I'd get nothing for a week but letters from people who like the cat cartoons. Thanks for the message, but--suffice to say--I'm not going to stop doing cat cartoons.
I was thinking we'd spent enough time on collective nouns, but apparently I was wrong. I received several good additions to the subject yesterday, some genuine and some suggested, like the one from Tom:
When I was in high school (in a suburb of Los Angeles), I coined and tried to popularize the collective noun a "giggle" of girls. It didn't catch on.
And Leroy suggested that I'd left off a "slick" of attorneys. Dr. John from Nashville wrote:
One of my favorites was penned by Colin Dexter in one of his Inspector Morse books. Morse and another character were waiting at the murder scene for the pathologist who was coming from a convention. They ruminated on the collective noun for pathologists, and Morse came up withĖa body of pathologists.
An apparently serious Bruce wrote to add his favorite, which was not on our list: a "sprinkle" of fireflies. Bill wrote:
I think my favorite was a "parcel" of penguins. I can picture an office conversation: What did UPS deliver today? Oh, just a parcel of penguins. Got to love the English language!
There ensued over the weekend a quite lively email dialog about collective nouns, generated by Friday's A&J cartoon that mentioned a "murder" of crows. (There is a link to the cartoon in the entry below.) A collective noun is a noun that, in general, means "group," as in "a group of grouper." For some reason, collective nouns get particularly inventive and promiscuous when applied to animals.
Jeanne wrote to point out that "clowder, clutter, glaring, pounce, dout and nuisance" (good one!) all mean a "bunch" of housecats. Oh, there are so many other weird collective nouns I won't go further. I will, however, let you look for yourself. It is pretty fascinating.
I suppose I should mention that several wrote to say the collective noun for parrots is "company." This appears to be true, but my original source for the cartoon said "flock or company," so I went with flock, because it better suited my artistic purposes. Artistic purposes. Ha!
Today, I have four cartoons from 'way back in 1994, which is as far back as the digital archives go. They all relate to work or the office. And there's the newspaper cartoon, which made all this possible. (5/9/2005)
Rick, a reader, wrote about today's A&J:
I loved today's strip. It sent me scurrying back to my closet to change shirts before I came to work, changing, of course, into my Margaritaville shirt with parrots in coconut bras on the front. Then, I'm carrying along the strip to show to anyone who comments on the shirt.
He's talking about the strip in
Friday's newspapers. (I'd say the shirt described by Rick
falls somewhere in between.) I don't normally discuss the
current A&J material, but I used Rick's letter, because I
like that particular strip myself and because I didn't have
anything else to talk about today. The strip is the kind of
nonsense I enjoy. Occasionally, a reader who prefers the more
in-depth stuff will
A lot of you wrote a couple of
days ago to say that you, too, appreciate and miss the comic
strip Pogo. For example, Ruth from Washington State
I agree, Ruth, that it's unfortunate there aren't more extensive archives on the Web of old cartoon material. I do know of at least one good site off the top of my head, Coconino Classics, but even their wonderful "museum" is hardly exhaustive. If anyone else knows of links to a significant comic-strip archive, pass it along. There is, by the way, an official Pogo Web site, with a sample of Pogo strips, information about Walt Kelly and links to fan pages.
I think I have something special for you this morning. I ran across the site of a young man in Hawaii named Eric Agena, a comics fan and a collector of comic art. Eric professes to be especially fond of the newspaper comic strip.
Eric has an extensive collection of original comic art. He has a lot of art in its original form and a lot in the form of autographed sketches and signed prints. Two things struck me about Eric and his site: he apparently does this solely for the love of the art form, and he's gone to a lot of trouble to share his personal collection with the world, via the Web. Check it out!
Eric has some big cartoon names in his collection of original panels, but I think equally impressive is his array of "the other cartoons" we've seen on the comics pages for decades--including an original A&J. By the way, Eric, if you ever wrote me and asked for an autograph and didn't receive one, I'm sorry about that. Here are four cartoons from 1997 and the newspaper cartoon du jour. (5/4/2005)
Eve from the left coast writes: with all the talk of comics and Web comics, you never told us if you are a faithful reader of comics. So, what are your favorite comics and why? And do you read any Web comics? Also, are there any comics you used to read that are no longer in print that you wish were still around? Before I forget, I never did thank you for all the comics links you posted on the site; I found several new favorites among them. So, thank you!
Well, Eve, you're welcome! So many questions. Actually, I get Eve's basic question a lot. What comics do I like? As you might imagine, I do like comics, and I read a lot of them. These days, I take something of a smorgasbord approach, jumping around among syndicate Web sites, sites of individual cartoonists and comics-related newsgroups. Of course, I read the comics in the newspaper as well. There, I tend to read them all.
Doing anything for a living changes one's perspective on that thing. I don't enjoy cartoons the way I did as a younger person. Now, I tend to cast an appraising eye, to check out what my competitors are doing.
I think I most miss the old Pogo. Pogo still was around and doing quite well when I was a boy, but I'm afraid a lot of the subtlety was lost on me at that age. Now, I would have to say it was the best comic strip ever. Pogo had the best of everything that goes into a comic strip.
"Arrrgh!" When I saw that subject line on a message this morning, I thought, "Oh, boy! Mail from a pirate!" However, it turned out to be Geoff, who wrote:
I have realized that I am personally
enslaved by arloandjanis.com. I went to see what your entry for
today was, and I was paralyzed with angst when I saw that you
had not yet updated! Such is my life :-) So do you actually get
to take a day off occasionally? Or are you strapped to the
drawing board doomed to pour out your creativity? Or are
Geoff's message arrived at 6:51 a.m. today. Welcome, Geoff! You're obviously one of the new people here. New material usually goes up on the site somewhere between 7 and 9 a.m. CDT. That's when I get my first cup of coffee and sit down to pick out some old cartoons and write this stuff.
When I first started, I really worried about having the material available first thing in the morning, but then I quit worrying, and now I enjoy my coffee and my mornings a lot more. As for your other questions, Geoff, yes. I am strapped to a drawing board to pour out my creativity. I am not sailing. There's nothing that says I can't be strapped to a drawing board and sailing at the same time, but I've tried that. It doesn't work very well. So, I hope you'll come back every morning, Geoff, just a little later. (Hey! Maybe Geoff IS a pirate!)
Many of my Web readers inform me the newspaper where they live does not subscribe to A&J, and sometimes they are thoughtful enough to ask if there's something they can do about it. Picketing helps sometimes, but I've always been reluctant to sic my readers upon newspaper editors. The poor guys have enough trouble these days.
I simply recommend you never pass up a chance to participate when your newspaper runs a comics survey. If you feel strongly enough, a friendly email is appropriate. Perhaps you might even hitch up the ol' horse and buggy and take a letter to the post office. I'm not proselytizing, mind you. I'm just answering your questions. But thanks for asking!
I'm beginning to understand my readers. It's been a while since any topic elicited so many letters as yesterday's discussion of "nanny-nanny boo-boo." A lot of you wrote to share your favorite expression of childish derision.
Marita, from Chicago, grew up in New England and remembers the expression, "Neener, neener, neener, Oscar Myer wiener!" I must admit, that's a new one on me. Also, she says New Englanders commonly use the word "wicked" to mean "very." Her example was "wicked cold." She says she gets funny looks in Chicago when she says that. The reason you're getting funny looks, Marita, is because your friends in Chicago are thinking, "Well, DUH...!"
The following is for adults only. You will want to send your children away before reading the graphic material I'm about to present, but we never shrink from the controversial here at arloandjanis.com. Several people wrote in with the entire expression: "Nanny-nanny boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo!" It's true. If you don't believe it, call your children back in and ask them.
Apparently, there are, indeed, regional variations. Eric from Ottawa writes that the phrase concludes with "Stick you head in poo-poo." He adds: Try it; you'll like it! OK, maybe I don't understand my readers.
Burns, who didn't mention where he's from, wrote to discuss cultural and regional differences: The cat cartoon today reminded me of a thought I occasionally have had: despite attempts to keep regional differences from cartoons, it is difficult to avoid when it comes to things like "nanny-nanny boo-boo." To me, for example, the phrase that means the same as sticking your tongue out and poking your thumbs in your ears while making a spit-like sound is "neener-neener." I've also heard "nah-na-nah" and similar things.
When I was a boy, I assure you I never taunted any of my friends--and certainly not my enemies--with the words "nanny-nanny boo-boo." That would have been courting disaster. As I recall, the preferred wording was "nyaah nyaah nyahh!" I was an adult when I first encountered the phrase "nanny-nanny boo-boo." It was being employed by the young daughter of a friend to torment her sister when she thought the grown-ups weren't listening. I adopted the phrase for the cartoon because of its obvious literary merit. I have, in my research, run across the term "neener-neener," but I am unable to expound upon it further. Perhaps regional difference is a factor. I do know where I lived in Tennessee the verbal taunt often was omitted altogether in favor of hitting the antagonist with a stool.
In response to this cartoon, Rich wrote to inform us there are cat-related objects in the heavens, and he referred us to a spectacular image of the Cat's Eye Nebula, taken by the Hubble Telescope. He also reminded us of the constellation Leo, the Lion, which is a feature of the spring sky, by the way.
I hope you will poke around on the Hubble site, truly one of the more fantastic on the Web. Like the Saturn V rocket, I think the Hubble Telescope stands as one of humanity's most amazing achievements. It's getting old in technological terms, and its future is uncertain, but what a show it has been.
I knew if I mentioned Windows XP yesterday, someone would write to tell us how things should be done, and Kirk obliged. He sent along instructions for Mac users wanting to email cartoons from this Web site. Skipping over some snide comments about the unwashed masses of Windows zombies, Kirk wrote: I thought I'd pass on a tip for easily emailing... cartoons for readers who use Macs with OS X using Safari and Mail. It works like this: select cartoon (A quick drag over it will do.), go to Safari menu and select Services->Mail->Send Selection. The cartoon will appear in a new mail document ready for addressing.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the new link on the cartoon pages, "Invite someone to view this cartoon." I also should mention that for many of you, there's an equally easy way to send someone an A&J cartoon. I run Internet Explorer with Windows XP, and I know that if I mouse over a cartoon (or other image), I see a tool bar appear in the upper, left corner. I simply click on the picture of the little envelope, type an email address in the window that appears, and that's it. Also, you can accomplish the same task by right-clicking over the image and following the "Email picture" command.
This method allows someone to send a cartoon from any of the Web pages here, whereas the new, in-house link obviously works only for the pages where it appears. I don't want you ever to feel used when you visit arloandjanis.com, but I would never discourage you from passing along a favorite cartoon, either. I'd be proud!