Tuesday "When in doubt, click on the cartoon" Sept. 28, 2004          
Email Jimmy Johnson

Reader Greg writes: After visiting your site and reading about the various hurricanes (and) seeing the links to...the devastation left in the wake of those storms, I was wondering, how can we donate cleaning supplies and essentials to the folks down there who need them?

That's a wonderful impulse, Greg. I don't feel particularly qualified to coordinate your generosity, but I suspect relief agencies would prefer money. I do know The Pensacola News Journal has initiated a program called Lend-A-Hand, which is raising money for Red Cross-related hurricane relief, or you can donate directly to the Red Cross.

Now, on to areas where I am qualified. Ellen of Lowell, MA, writes: What color is Ludwig the cat? In the daily strips I always think he is white, but then in yesterday's
Sunday comic he appears sort of gray in color. What color do you consider him to be?

That's easy, Ellen! Ludwig is white during the week and purple on Sunday. When I first had to decide what Ludwig would look like, the decision was easy for the black-and-white cartoons. He would be black or white. If he were black, he'd be just a blob. I suppose he could've been a tabby, but tabby cats are difficult to depict, although some cartoonists do manage it. That left white.

Sunday was more of a challenge. Ludwig could have been orange, but there already are enough orange cats in the comics. That left... what, gray? I agonized over it for about two minutes and made an executive decision: I'll make him purple! After all, it's a comic strip. I think it was a good choice. Turns out, though, there is a breed of cat something like Ludwig, the Russian blue. For the literal-minded among you, I suppose that's what Ludwig is. Today, here are four cartoons from 2002 and the daily newspaper offering.

(EXTRA! EXTRA! Our Senior Red Sox Correspondent in Scituate, MA, writes to inform us the Bosox have clinched at least the wildcard spot in the American League playoffs. They haven't been eliminated from the division race, yet, either.)

We're still trying to reason with hurricane season around these parts. Today, the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne are caressing my area with a gentle rain and semi-tropical breezes. Again, I have been lucky.

This photograph was taken by Katie King of The Pensacola News Journal. I hope they will forgive me for lifting it from their site, because I'm about to praise them big time.

I can't be sure, but I think I rented the right-hand side of the duplex on the left in 1998. It is on Perdido Key, the barrier island between Pensacola, FL, and Gulf Shores, AL. I remember sitting on the lower deck, the one that is torn away in the photograph, and watching the sun rise. In fact, it inspired this cartoon.

If you're still interested in seeing what Hurricane Ivan did to the Pensacola area, go to The Pensacola News Journal Web site. The reporters and photographers have made a Herculean effort to cover this disaster. Folks, this is why we need newspapers. The day after the hurricane, the TV-news ninnies were in Gulf Shores, blathering about Chucky, the alligator that had escaped from a private zoo, while reporters from the local newspapers were commandeering helicopters, boats, anything they could find to get out there and see what happened. A week later, the TV people have returned to bemoaning the fact there will not be a Kobe Bryant criminal trial after all, and the newspaper reporters and photographers are still hustling to bring people the news. Today, I'm proud to be associated with newspapers.

Oh, heck. I might as well go ahead and post the entire, week-long series that included the beach house cartoon above. It's kind of unusual in its own right. And don't forget the newspaper cartoon! (9/27/2004)

It's Friday, Crunch Day for me. I don't have much time. I present, without comment, Mall Walking from 1998, and of course the newspaper cartoon. Have a safe and enjoyable weekend. (9/24/2004)

What I'm dealing with at arloandjanis.com today is storm damage, of a sort. I was very lucky to have only been brushed by Hurricane Ivan last week, but all that sitting in front of the TV watching The Weather Channel did take its toll. This week, I'm behind, and I don't have a lot of time to spend with you today.

I do want to relay something that concerns Whit, who wrote:

Would you consider plugging Michael Jantze? He had to bail on King Features Syndicate, I assume because it didn't work out. His excellent character comedy, not too dissimilar from your own but with very different characters and a very different sensibility, is at risk at http://www.thenorm.com. People need to subscribe, or it will go away. It's like clapping for Tinkerbelle but with PayPal.

I don't have any problem at all plugging Michael and his excellent strip, The Norm.  I met Michael when he was an aspiring cartoonist, and I told him then he could make it as a professional. Trust me: cartoonists do not meet many aspirants to whom they feel comfortable saying that. I must point out, I haven't talked to Michael about his current problems, but I know The Norm will cease to be syndicated in newspapers, presumably because his highly-crafted work simply wasn't paying for Michael.

Apparently, Michael isn't ready to quit. He is soliciting subscriptions. Members will pay to see new episodes of The Norm, available on the Web. There is a lot of buzz about this sort of thing among cartoonists, those with no recourse seeing it as a viable alternative and those making a living from traditional syndication viewing it as less viable.

At the heart of this is a big problem. Even if a young cartoonist manages, against all odds, to become syndicated, he or she still faces a decidedly uphill struggle to survive. Old strips that have been around for years (ahem) often get blamed for taking up space in the funny papers, but the real problem is that today there are fewer newspapers, and they are buying fewer comic strips. It's as simple as that. Anyway, I'm interested in what you think.

By the way, thanks for all the mail. You know who you are. Today, I have three dinghy, little strips and the newspaper cartoon. Darn! Look at the time! You people have kept me here too long, after all. (9/23/2004)

I get a lot of nice letters, a tiny fraction of which I'm able to share with you here. However, I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm ignoring viewpoints I might not want to hear. Yesterday, Ron wrote:

I thought yours was an Arlo and Janis  site? Seems like all you talk about is your emails and their likes and dislikes. You have so many side trips on your site that does not involve A & J, that I've become totally disinterrested. Today did not  have any old clips. Todays clip I get in my local paper. I'm thinking good bye,  Jimmy.

If I were inclined to argue with Ron, I'd say he's hard to please. Every day, with the exception of yesterday, I have at least four reprints--and there was one yesterday. However, I didn't post Ron's letter to argue, because he is making a point. He would like the site more directly related to Arlo and Janis.

I have made much of the fact that arloandjanis.com is a personal Web site, a site created early every morning by the guy who writes and draws A&J--me. Every morning, I have to come up with something to talk about, and--I'm sorry--it just can't be "about" the characters Arlo, Janis and Gene every day. The truth is, they don't exist  outside the strips, which speak for themselves. I suppose I'm operating on the assumption interested persons can learn the most about what goes into Arlo and Janis  by getting to know my mind, as unsettling as that can be.

Having said that, perhaps I do wander off topic to extreme on occasion. I'll keep that in mind. If anyone has any ideas, I would like to hear them. Don't expect wholesale changes, though, because I've got to talk about something here. Besides, many people like the current format.

OK, here are six--count 'em, six--cartoons from yesteryear, and today's newspaper cartoon. (Sorry, Ron, but not everyone gets A&J in the local newspaper. It's a vicious world!) (9/22/2004)

Some unfinished business. I, in effect, recently posed the question, "Where is Sugar Land?" I received several answers, including this one from the original correspondent, Phil:

    When you in Houston, boy, you better walk right.
    You better not spit, and you better not fight.
    Sheriff Benson will arrest you, Lord, he’ll take you down,
    And the next thing you know, you’re Sugar Land bound.
    Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me…

       --From "The Midnight Special," by Huddie Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly

The legend was that if the Midnight Special, which ran on the tracks near the prison, shined its light on your cell, you would go free soon. 

Sugar Land is about 25 miles southwest of Houston. My backyard looks into what was prison farm land but is about to become 5000 houses, a shopping center, ad nauseum. Another song about the area was “Ain't No More Cane,” which was a prison work song collected by Alan Lomax (Cartoonist's note: you need to visit this link!) in his musicological career. It was done by Bob Dylan, the Chad Mitchell Trio and others. But it was foreign sugar that ran Imperial Sugar out of (town,) not the convicts cutting it all.

Thank you, Phil. Many of you will recall Creedence Clearwater Revival's cover of the great, old Leadbelly standard. I confess, I'm a cartoonist only because I don't have the nerve or the talent to get up in front of an audience and sing. I so admire stage performers, especially songwriters and acoustic artists.

Speaking of being a cartoonist, I've had so much fun with Phil's letter, I've time this morning to fill only one request, from Anna in Ipswich, MA. Then, there's the newspaper cartoon. And I didn't even address the issues raised by Phil of suburban sprawl and foreign competition! (9/21/2004)

Then, we had a hurricane or two, and the question got lost. Paul of Scituate, MA, is a little subdued this morning. He writes: most of the sports radio talk is about the Pats. The Bosox dropped two of three games to the Hated Yankees over the weekend. The outlook in the division race has dimmed, but the wildcard race looks good. I'm thinking there will be post-season baseball in Boston. I'm with you, Paul: The Boston Globe has subscribed to "Arlo and Janis" since it began, but no New York City newspaper has ever subscribed.

The air is cool here, today. A change of season definitely is in the air. Since we're already on sports today, maybe some football cartoons are in order. And, as always, there's a newspaper cartoon. (9/20/2004)

(Update: Nicki of Jackson, MS, sent a link to a story in The Mobile Register, about the fate of the famed Flora-Bama. Did it, indeed, survive? You be the judge. I want to thank Nicki for providing a link to al.com, a good source of hurricane news. John wrote: Oh no! Hope this isn't Arlo's car featured in yesterday's blog entry.
Are they ok?

I'm OK; thanks for asking. Hurricane Ivan brushed past my tiny part of the world Thursday, causing as little fuss as possible for a category 4 hurricane the size of Texas. I had to endure a couple of tornado warnings and most of a day without power, but that was it. As you know, many weren't so lucky. This is a link to the site of The Pensacola News Journal (which carries Arlo and Janis, I'm proud to say). It was slow to load for me, but I expect it is a very busy site. It contains the most complete coverage of Ivan's landfall you're likely to find this morning.

I have heard the Flora-Bama is no more. I know a lot of Jimmy Buffett fans pass through arloandjanis.com, and they will be interested in the fate of this venerable home of live music and laid-back living. On the beach at the Alabama-Florida state line, it was at the epicenter of the storm's fury. Much of the destruction on the
25-mile Alabama coast east of the mouth of Mobile Bay has yet to be revealed.

Well, I'm not here to report the news: I'm here to offer you second-hand cartoons. Here are four from March of 2001. And the day's newspaper cartoon. (9/17/2004)



This is a photograph of a time warp swirling above the high-rise headquarters of Arlo and Janis Industries Wednesday evening. Ha ha! Just kidding. Actually, it's the "Astronomy Picture of the Day," grabbed from a super cool Web site recommended to us by Phil in Sugar Land--wherever that is. The photograph is of Hurricane Ivan, and it was taken by the Expedition 9 crew of the International Space Station.

Speaking of Ivan, there's a good chance I will lose power within the next few hours, so I'm updating the Web site a little early. Here are three cartoons I hope you will find appropriate. And it takes more than a category 4 hurricane to stop the daily newspaper cartoon. Good luck to those who wrote saying they're also battening down for the storm. (9/16/2004)

There's an old joke about how you know it's going to be a bad day: you find Mike Wallace and a 60 Minutes crew on your doorstep. An alternate version of that would be finding Mike Seidel and a Weather Channel crew on your front doorstep. Well, guess who's on my front doorstep today? (Hint: it's not Mike Wallace.) I do want to thank everyone who has written to wish Arlo and Janis Industries well in the face of Hurricane Ivan.

Speaking of Mike Seidel, Jay of Pittsville, MD, wrote to say he used to watch Mike on TV when he was a podunk weatherman somewhere up in the Chesapeake area.

Let's get off the weather for now. I feel compelled, yet again, to thank everyone who writes and to apologize for not being able to answer or include on the Web site every letter. This site has been way more fun than I ever imagined it would be, and I don't want you to think I don't appreciate your participation. So, since many of those letters I receive have questions, I thought I'd include today a week-long series that ran in 2002, addressing "frequently asked questions." And you know what? In all the excitement, I forgot to link to yesterday's newspaper cartoon. Well, that won't happen again; here is today's newspaper cartoon. (9/15/2004)

The weather is on my mind, today, so I thought I'd do a tribute to the indefatigable people at The Weather Channel. Oh, sure, it's easy to make fun of them, as anyone knows who caught Stephanie Abrams' harrowing, on-camera encounter with a rogue piece of aluminum. However, I think this cartoon says it all.

In the spirit of honest journalism, I must report that I cannot be totally objective about this subject: I was paid by The Weather Channel for this cartoon. It provoked a flurry of email about the best-looking weather person, but I'm sure we're above that here.

I have always been a weather junkie and a news junkie. Technology has improved the former greatly but not so much the latter. I'll be the first to admit, while I make fun of weathermen, I'm the first one to tune in when the barometer falls and the wind rises. Here's to The Weather Channel and to weathermen everywhere. (9/14/2004)

Rebecca writes: What does Gene supposedly do to earn money, or is this family like so many today that just give kids everything that is asked for?

Rebecca is not alone in her snarky attitude. Others have written, implying that Gene is a lazy, no-good loafer. In reality, Gene is a cartoon character; he really doesn't need a lot of spending money. However, Gene has, indeed, been known to do chores around the house for remuneration. In fact, this series depicting Gene as a creative and socially conscious entrepreneur has already been rerun here at arloandjanis.com. I have thought about letting Gene get a job, as he is now that age, but then I'd be committing myself to following him off into a different strip, essentially  "Lucky Cow". I suspect he'll get a job outside the home soon, but it'll be mostly off camera. You never know.

Hurricane Ivan is becoming problematic for the sprawling enterprises of "Arlo and Janis," so I've been a little distracted. I'm going to post a few cartoons and today's newspaper cartoon and go watch the Weather Channel. (9/13/2004)

Glenn writes: Okay, who is James Naismith? I would like to request a cartoon. On May 23, 2002, Arlo got a pizza, and in the pizza box was a pizza box within a pizza box within a pizza box. He says, "Regular readers know, on slow days we do a pizza joke." Although I try, I must not be a regular reader, because I don't remember any other pizza jokes. Can you run any and all pizza jokes?

Well, Glenn, first, James Naismith is credited with the invention of basketball. Byron of Ottawa wrote to mention Naismith was born in Canada.

Furthermore, Glenn, you obviously are not a regular reader. I assure you, it is not possible to rerun "any and all" pizza jokes. There have been so many, there is within A&J a running gag about the running pizza gag. It gets confusing, I know. And there's today's newspaper cartoon. Have a wonderful weekend! (9/10/2004)

The ol' home page is getting a little lengthy, again. It'll be time to prune it back, soon. This morning, it's my turn. I'm including five cartoons from a week in 2002 that I thought was uncommonly strong. It has something for everyone: a cat cartoon, a cartoon featuring Gene, a cartoon with Janis in her nightie and--as George Carlin would say--a sugg-JESS-tive cartoon.

Paul in Scituate, MA, will be proud to tell you the Boston Red Sox  are only two games back of the Hated Yankees. They've steadily been gaining ground since I suggested a few weeks ago that perhaps they were a tad disappointing this year. Paul will (and did) tell you they were surging before that; I just wasn't paying attention. He's right, of course! I'm not about to try to take credit for their good fortune; if something goes wrong now, I don't want to join Steve Bartman in the witness protection program. Chris of Washington, DC, already has warned me about baiting Bosox fans, especially this time of year.

Speaking of sports, golf continues in the daily newspaper cartoon. ("Speaking of Sports." What, Dear Boomers, is the significance of that phrase?) (9/9/2004)

Kim writes: My favorite A&J comic sequence has to be when they blew up the chimenea.  It's why I secretly snicker at every couple I know who has one in their backyard. It's also why I won't have one. That, by the way, is my sneaky, underhanded way of making a comic request. Thanks for the daily laughter! Well, Kim, fortunately for you, sneaky and underhanded are always rewarded here at arloandjanis.com. Here's the four-cartoon sequence you prize.

Speaking of prizes, you know what might be fun? What if we gave away an A&J  t-shirt to a lucky reader every week? Or a coffee mug? Wouldn't that be neat? I know some of you people still think I'm up to something here, but--I swear--that idea just popped in my head. You sit here and try to think of something to write first thing every morning!

Some of you may have noticed that the cartoons running in the daily newspaper lately have been about golf. What's that all about? Well, I don't play golf, but during a lively conversation at a local... um, cafe, I committed myself to play in a small charity tournament. I had a month to learn how to play. That was in July. The tournament has been rained out twice, and I'm still trying to learn how to play! Hence, the golf cartoons. It's something different for me, but don't worry. Like you, I think there generally have been enough golf cartoons over the years. Having said that, H. T. Webster did some of the best. Speaking of the daily newspaper cartoon... (9/8/2004)

How was your Labor Day? Where I live, we were dealing with the blustery remnants of Hurricane Frances, although it was nothing like the sort of disaster our friends in Florida have been forced to cope with this summer.

I may have implied last week that I was abandoning your requests in order to rerun the series of cartoons from Cuba that first appeared in 2001. Actually, this series was requested by several readers. I realize it is a drastic departure from my normal fare, and this always annoys some. That is why I'm rushing through the three-week series in three days.

For example, Cindi writes: I must be the only person who doesn't give a hootin' holler about the Cuba series.  I didn't like it when it ran originally, either. I am not interested in my favorite cartoons trying to interject politics into themselves. That's what Doonsebury is for, which I no longer read and haven't for years.

I consider the Cuba cartoons to be mostly travel log, an accurate reporting of things I experienced and observed. I did take aim at this country's policy toward Cuba, a policy inaugurated by a Democratic administration and perpetuated, more or less, by administrations of both parties for more than 40 years. She is too polite to come out and say it, but I suspect Cindi really thinks I'm a bed-wetting, pinko, Commie symp. What I am is an American who doesn't appreciate having his freedom to travel curtailed in the name of freedom.

Nevertheless, I was in Cuba legally, thanks to you guys. Generally, journalists are free to go there. I counted on no one arguing that a cartoonist with a journalism degree, reporting facts daily in hundreds of newspapers with millions of readers, isn't really a journalist.

Anyway, take heart, Cindi; I wrap up the Cuba sequence today. And here is today's newspaper cartoon. (9/7/2004)

I'm very busy this morning trying to finish up my cartooning for this week. There were a few questions about the Cuba series, and  I'll try to get to them Monday. Without further ado, here is the second week in that series. And today's newspaper cartoon. Have a rejuvenating Labor Day! (9/3/2004)

The request thing has been fun. Keep 'em coming, and I'll pick it up again next week, but today I'm starting a series of cartoons unique in the 20-year run of A&J. Some of you may remember that in the winter of 2001, Arlo and Janis visited Cuba. Aside from the adventures there, I think this series is noteworthy, because my own voice and experiences were overtly transposed onto the character Arlo. I did not agonize over this technique; it just happened. I think it worked well.

The series from Cuba ran almost three weeks, not including a week-long, preliminary visit to Key West or a week-long synopsis during which Arlo and Janis answered mail about the trip.

The visit to Cuba generated, by far, more direct response than anything I've ever drawn, except for the occasional contest. I had done all I could to steel myself for criticism and controversy, but they never came. Well over 90 percent of the mail I received was from people who enjoyed the Cuba cartoons, many expressing frustration that Americans aren't free to visit one of our closer neighbors. That's all I'm going to say here. I'll let the cartoons speak. Here is the first week. And here is today's newspaper cartoon. (9/2/2004)

It seems I stay embroiled in controversy lately. Gene wrote: Jimmy, While I appreciate the quote, I'm pretty darn sure it was Abe Lincoln who said it. Gene was referring to the quote I attributed to Mark Twain in yesterday's arloandjanis.com, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

Gene probably thinks just because I'm a cartoonist the material here is not meticulously researched. He's right, of course, but it is superficially researched. Before using the quote, I determined that it is, indeed, attributed to Mark Twain. However, after receiving Gene's message, I researched the matter further and found that--as usual--the answer isn't simple. Versions of that quote have been attributed to Twain, Lincoln, Albert Einstein and even the Author of The Bible, among others. Since Lincoln would have said it before Twain, I yield to Gene.

Oh, you may be wondering about the picture of the ship. That's the USNS Sioux, where Gene works. Cool, huh? He is a third mate on board, a civilian employee working for Military Sealift Command, a department of the Navy. The Sioux is an ocean-going fleet tug that keeps naval vessels supplied with just about everything.

I think we have some good requests today, starting with this one from Leslie, in Paris. And there's the newspaper cartoon. It's Hump Day! Please come back tomorrow. (9/1/2004)

It's worth mentioning that newspaper editors do listen; they  can be surprisingly attuned to readers' suggestions. If you really would like to see A&J added to your local newspaper--or taken out--don't hesitate to write or call someone. And never pass up the opportunity to contribute to any comics poll your paper might conduct. This sort of grease is what turns the wheels of newspapers, albeit slowly. If all else fails, 24-hour picketing has been known to be effective.

Mark Twain said, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." Yesterday, Jim wrote to comment on the double bass clefs in the "Linus and Lucy" cartoon (see below). I can't blame this on Jim. He started by saying he doesn't really read music. However, I readily accepted his suggestion that I'd flubbed up. But Norm from Seattle wrote in response: No, you had it right. The... double bass clef is merely a part where both hands are playing below middle C.  This is reasonably common in piano composition, as well as both hands playing in the treble clef. I don't care if Vince Guaraldi sends an email from beyond the Pale, that's the end of this subject.

You may be curious what cartoon Rod of Provo requested, along with others. Well, wonder no longer. And of course, there's always the newspaper cartoon. (8/31/2004)

My readers do love a challenge, even a small one of little consequence. Many of you wrote to identify correctly the music in the Schroeder series as the Vince Guaraldi composition "Linus and Lucy."

I'll let Jim explain: I don't really read music anymore, but from the first bar it has to be the "da-da-da-DA" bit from the Charlie Brown theme song (I think it's officially titled "Linus and Lucy", but we all know what it really is.  The interesting part is the second panel; you go from the traditional piano music approach of treble clef (right hand) on the top staff and bass clef (left hand) on the bottom to two staffs with bass clef.  Also the music doesn't seem to be the next part after the part above.  So I'm guessing you copied this music from a transcript for multiple instruments, and you're actually showing a bass (or bass guitar) part for the same bar as the first panel.

Jim was the first to call attention to the treble clef/bass clef situation. I think one other person mentioned it.  No one I know about caught it the first time around in the newspapers. It's been so long ago since I drew the original, I don't recall much myself. I know I did, indeed, slavishly copy it from sheet music in an attempt to get it right. Either I still managed to make a boneheaded mistake copying, or I copied it unaware from a score for multiple instruments, as Jim suggested. Many of you may have begun to wonder, and now you know: I like music, but I am hardly a musician.  Here's today's newspaper cartoon.

(Technical difficulties slowed me down considerably this morning, which is why I didn't get to post any old cartoons.  I really am doing this in my spare time, but I know the cartoons are why you're here. I'll make it up to you. --JJ) (8/30/2004)

Jeremy from Cincinnati wrote me on behalf of himself and Lisa to request this unusual sequence. It was fun to do. Such theft is often called "crossover" by comics buffs and is often construed as a tribute to the cartoonist from whom the material is swiped. While I stand behind no one in my appreciation of "Peanuts," I thought of this as less a tribute to a colleague than bold exploitation for a desperately needed idea. I think Sparky understood this.

Jeremy apparently is a fan of crossover. He mentioned the great April Fools Day swap of 1997, when many cartoonists conspired to "swap" strips for the day, each drawing another's strip in his own style. A friend and fellow cartoonist, Jerry Scott, was the chief organizer, but I did not participate. Not because I didn't approve but because I'm simply too disorganized to coordinate my work with another human being.  Here is today's cartoon. We have much to talk about. Please come back next week. (8/27/2004)

You know what's frustrating about all this? I'm being serious here. All day long, nice people email me to ask questions, make observations and generally get into the spirit of arloandjanis.com. It really bugs me that there's no way I can include more than a few here, much less answer them all. All I can do is apologize and assure you, once again, that I read all the mail and appreciate it. Most of it.

It is gratifying to realize I have readers who have been with me many years and remember specific cartoons from long ago. I mention that, because my digital archives go back only so far, to about mid-year,1994. For now, for the sake of convenience, I'm drawing requests from this stash. Many of you have written wanting to see repeats of memorable cartoons that appeared in the 80s or early 90s. I do have some hard copy of early work to be scanned eventually, but for now I'll have to say, "Maybe someday." Many have requested not specific cartoons but series of cartoons. I will try to get to some of those soon.

Having spent all my space and time today complaining about lack thereof, I'll begin the cartoons with a request from Adam in the Motor City.  And the cartoon du jour. I'll see you tomorrow! (8/26/2004)

You people are slipping. Alan from Sapulpa, OK, was the only person yesterday to point out the mistake in my phrase, "...the length an oxen can plow before being allowed to rest." Of course, "ox" is the singular form of the reputedly dumb, bovine mammal. I should add, the mistake was mine. The original letter from Mike on the subject (see below) was phrased, "... the length of a furrow that could be plowed by oxen before they had  to rest." I think that's enough about my mistakes, don't you?

The request thing went rather well yesterday. Some of you may have noticed a dearth of cat cartoons. Well, I'm going to make up for that, starting with this request from Dave in Knoxville, TN. And there is the newspaper today. (8/25/2004)

First this morning, some old business. Several of you wrote Friday to inform that a "furlong" is an eighth of a mile. I checked, and you are correct. Mike from Marina del Rey added that it is based upon the length an oxen can plow before being allowed to rest. I didn't know that! No wonder my oxen look at me the way they do.

I know I said I would only identify correspondents by their first name, but that just doesn't seem quite enough. As you will have noticed, I often include a location. I hope no one minds. In fact, one of the greatest thrills I get from this Web site is being reminded that  my work is seen by people all over the country, even the world. I encourage anyone who writes to include a location if they wish. If they don't, that's fine, too.

OK, about those requests. Let me start by saying to Jeannine of Germantown, TN, that I appreciate her request, one in which an exasperated Arlo says, "Being a parent is like sitting in the movie audience and screaming, 'Don't go in the basement!'" I appreciate it, because that's one of my all-time favorites, too. However, I have looked everywhere for that cartoon and cannot find it! I'll keep my eyes open, Jeannine, and if I find it, I'll post it.

So, how are we going to do this? Well, today, let's do it like this. I'll start with one request; as always, click on the cartoon to proceed to the next. We're starting with Trudy, from Naples, FL. And never forget the newspaper cartoon. (8/24/2004)

This request thing is going to take some wrestling. I have one recent cartoon that was mentioned by Brian. I apologize for inaugurating the Grand Request Experiment with such a small sample, but I'll work on it today and have more for you tomorrow, along with some details. Of course, there's always the newspaper. (8/23/2004)

This might be a mistake, but we're going to begin a little experiment today. I'm going to start taking requests. I know, many of you have written already about a favorite cartoon, but I haven't really been able to find anything specific. Now, I'm ready to try. Of course, a date makes finding a cartoon easy. If you don't know the date, describe the situation and the dialog as closely as you can recall. I probably won't be able to honor but a small fraction of requests, so it'll be kind of like a lottery. I won't be able to transmit copies, but I will show the cartoons here on the Web. Let's give it a try, shall we? Well, it's Friday, and that means not much time. Here are three cartoons from 1995 and the A&J cartoon running in newspapers today. (8/20/2004)

Things are a little slow around the Web site this week and a little not-slow everywhere else. So, I hope you'll forgive me if I just drop off the cartoons and run. These seven cartoons are the first of an unusual series that ran back in 1997. It was unusual, because it ran off-and-on over several weeks, taking several directions, and because it involved extended family, albeit offstage. And there's always a newspaper cartoon. (8/19/2004)

An obviously bitter and covetous Jonathan writes about yesterday's cartoon in the newspaper: Your record player must have been better than mine. Mine only held six records! True, there were only 40 songs then, but they were better songs. If it makes you feel any better, Jonathan, I really don't remember how many 45 rpm platters my old turntable could accommodate; ten was just a guess. That's one thing that makes being a cartoonist easier than being a pharmacist.

He's right, of course, about the songs being better. I have this theory about music, though: I think a person's favorite type of music is the type of music that was playing the first time that person made out, a neurological imprint sort of thing.

The above cartoon provoked a minor discussion of iPods and similar devices. John wrote: I still find people who have no idea about computers, the internet and them iPods. And the most stunning thing is when it is somebody who looks young enough to be hip to that sort of thing! I'm really just happy there's another iPod sighting. Well, John, I'm glad I made you happy, but honesty compels me to admit that the cartoon contains the sum of my knowledge about them portable digital music players. (You'll just have to believe me when I tell you I look young enough to be hip to that sort of thing.)

As are most old goats, I'm very ambivalent about a lot of what I see in the world today. I think one of the most significant changes in my lifetime has been a philosophical one, a drift away from the idea that thrift and material discipline are worthy ideals toward the opposite, that spending money like water is good and necessary and almost a patriotic duty. Having said that, there's a lot of cool stuff out there! And the portable digital music player just might be included. Maybe we'll have more on this tomorrow. I've gone on way too long, already.

Today's cartoons are from the summer of 1997. And there is the newspaper cartoon, which doubles today as the cat cartoon. (8/18/2004)

Donnie from Tennessee writes, I just wanted to tell you to keep up the good work. I enjoy Arlo and Janis. It is funny how art imitates life sometimes! You must really connect with the characters. I know I do. I do have a quick question. Has Arlo ever had a delivery from UPS? I work for Big Brown, and everyone always cuts any comics that involve the company and sends them to me. Weird hobby, huh? Thanks for taking the time to read this. Well, my pleasure, Donnie, but I'm not sure you're going to like this. The only cartoon I remember drawing that specifically mentions a delivery service would be this one.

Today, I have for you a weeklong series featuring Gene and his girlfriend at the time, reader-favorite Ruth, and the newspaper cartoon du jour, of course. (8/18/2004)

The week is off to a bad start, already. There's no time to chat this morning, but I'll try to make it up to you tomorrow. Here are four cartoons, vintage 1999, and today's newspaper offering. (8/17/2004)

It's Friday the 13th, and as luck would have it, I don't have much time. Here are three cartoons from sometime back,  and I'm going to wrap up "The Mermaid and the Simple Fisherman" with the last two cartoons in that series. And here is today's newspaper cartoon. This past week's been fun! Have a great weekend, everyone. (8/13/2004)

Remember yesterday? And the challenge to name that 'toon? Well, dozens of you rose to that challenge and correctly identified Arlo's whistling as "Ode to Joy," by the man himself, Ludwig van Beethoven. For the specifics, I think this Web page suits our purposes quite well. This page also includes the lyrics, in German and in English, by Friedrich Schiller. Several of you observed that the music was appropriated for the hymn "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," but no one mentioned the piece was adopted by the European Union as the European Anthem. (This tidbit from Beethoven's own Web site!) Good choice.

Many of you pointed out that the challenge wasn't much of a challenge. You still don't believe me, do you? I come up with this stuff every morning over my first cup of coffee. You don't know how lucky you are to have anything here at all!

It was more of a challenge for some than others, however. The tune was not "Whistle while You Work," from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," and it was not "Bang on the Drum All Day" by Todd Rundgren, and it was not "Volunteered Slavery" by Rahsaan Roland Kirk.  "Ode to Joy" was not written by J. S. Bach. OK, so I've gone overboard with the links; this is fun!

All of you took the challenge with great humor, and many of you took the time to write nice things about "Arlo and Janis." It really isn't necessary to gush, but I do want you to know your comments make me feel good and are very much appreciated.

Today, I have three cartoons from 2001, the climactic episode of "The Mermaid and the Simple Fisherman" and today's newspaper cartoon. (8/12/2004)

OK, so you like music, huh? Well, I'm increasing the degree of difficulty a bit. Run to your Steinway or your ocarina and belt out this little ditty, then hurry back here and name that 'toon. For bonus points, who wrote it? (There is a hint contained in the punch line.)

Remember Rob? The Air Force pilot in Kuwait? Well, I got some really good news from him, yesterday: Thanks again for all the strips on your Web site!  It made life a lot more enjoyable over here.  I get to go home to Minnesota tomorrow, where I can read Arlo & Janis in a real newspaper. Then I'm taking my kids to Florida to stay with my mom and dad, and my wife and I are headed for a tropical beach, where I'm going to see if I can't sweet-talk her into wearing an itty-bitty little bikini.  Just because. Good luck with all your endeavors, Rob. I'm glad you're going home.

Here are a couple more strips for you, the next mermaid strip and today's newspaper cartoon. (Sorry I'm late today, Jim!) (8/11/2004)

Rebecca wrote: C'mon, do you honestly think that no one would recognize the Mamas and Papas' "Monday, Monday?"  I'm not old enough to remember the release of the song, as I was born in the disco era, but that song has been played enough so that most people should recognize it. Love the site, I visit daily.  Keep up the great strips!

Honestly, Rebecca, I didn't think much of anything. It was early in the morning, my mind was the usual blank, and I was thinking, "Hmm, it's Monday; gotta write something. Monday... Monday... ." There you have it. How I get my ideas. So, all day long, I'm getting dozens of emails from my music-loving readers. It was great! Of course, it was easy, and most of you did know the song. No, Perry, it wasn't "California Dreaming." And no, Ginger, John Denver did not write it. Papa John Phillips did. Many younger fans wrote in to say they fondly remember growing up listening to their parents' Mamas and Papas albums. Anyway, it was a stimulating way to start the week. Here are four cartoons from not so long ago. And the next cartoon in the continuing saga of "The Mermaid and the Simple Fisherman." And today's newspaper cartoon. (8/10/2004)

"Baah daah, bah da da dah... Baah daah, bah da da dah... ." My dear, ancient readers, what Mamas and Papas song is that from? Here is an entire week of cartoons from late July, 2000. And today's A&J. (8/9/2004)

Hi, everyone! I'm sorry, but I don't have much time, today. I'll try to make it up in a small way by giving you the next two episodes of "The Mermaid and the Simple Fisherman." Plus, here's today's cartoon. By the way, the weather here is gorgeous this morning! Most un-Augustlike. I hope it is where you are, too. (My spell check tells me un-Augustlike is not a word.) (8/6/2004)

You will recall, we were discussing physics and Einstein's theories yesterday. Several of you wrote to inform that the "c" in the equation E=mc² represents "a very large number," in the words of Richard from Huntsville. Specifically, it is the speed of light squared. In Richard's own words:

The deep connection Einstein discovered between energy and mass is expressed in the equation E=mc² . Here E represents energy, m represents mass, and c² is a very large number, the square of the speed of light. Full confirmation was slow in coming. In Paris in 1933, Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie took a photograph showing the conversion of energy into mass. A quantum of light, invisible here, carries energy up from beneath. In the middle it changes into mass--two freshly created particles which curve away from each other. The following website actually has Einstein's voice explaining his equation. http://www.aip.org/history/einstein/voice1.htm

Cool, huh? Thanks to Richard and the others who wrote. (By the way, genius, you spelled my name wrong: it's "Jimmy," not "Jimmie.") For what it's worth, only guys wrote about the equation; however, several women expressed fascination with the word "ephemeral" that appeared in yesterday's strip. Mary wrote:

I loved today's strip. I brought my children up to have large vocabularies and to love unusual words, but I actually had to look up the word "ephemeral". Great stuff!

Several others wrote thanking me for sending them running to their dictionary. Do I have great readers, or what?

Here is a quirky, little series from 1999, about Laura Petrie. And here's the next installment of "The Mermaid and the Simple Fisherman." Oh, heck--and here's a cat cartoon. I love spoiling you guys. And here is today's "Arlo and Janis." Where has the week gone? (8/5/2004)

OK, enough about bedspreads. I said on Monday that I would discuss "Arlo and Janis" books. Constantly, I am asked by readers about the availability of A&J reprint books, and I thank you for your interest. I hope you will forgive me if I have appeared reticent on the subject, for it is one that is painful and embarrassing to me. You see, there aren't any A&J books available, because no book publisher till now has wanted to have anything to do with "Arlo and Janis." I'm not going to speculate on why this is, because I'm not hosting a pity party here. Besides, I said, "till now." A publisher enthusiastic about producing an "Arlo and Janis" retrospective has stepped forward. A contract has not yet been signed, so I'd best spare you the details for now, but I hope before the summer is out, I can tell you more for certain. Again, thank you to the many who have asked; your interest was a significant help in getting this far.

Today, we have the third in the mermaid series, and two cartoons from 2002. And, as usual, the current A&J, running in newspapers. (8/4/2004)

I had planned to discuss books today, but a raging debate broke out yesterday on the nature of a "duvet," as I should have known it would. This is exactly what happened when the strip first ran in newspapers. I've decided to devote today to settling this matter.

Attorney Anne pointed out, the French word "duvet" means "down," as in fuzzy, fowl feathers. Beyond that, it gets more complicated.

Doug wrote, "The duvet is basically a bed-sized fabric envelope with an opening on one of the four sides.  The guts can be taken out of it in the summer, then put back in during the winter when more warmth is needed." Doug and others who wrote are half right, it will be seen.

Myself, I always thought the quilt thing was a duvet, and the sack Doug described was the "duvet cover." Seems I was half right, also.

Brandy got much closer: "A duvet is not just a comforter. The ones here in Germany (where I am studying  right now) are thin, white, comforter things. What distinguishes them is that they are not used alone but have a cover. The cover is made out of the material we normally use for sheets in the U.S., thus eliminating the need for a top sheet. You can take the cover off and wash it, and then you have fresh sheets and a fresh duvet, all in one washing. So, a duvet is like a comforter with a pillowcase." The American Heritage Dictionary agrees with Brandy, and that's good enough for me.

Arguments such as this are what I like about being a cartoonist. Speaking of, we have the second episode of "The Mermaid and the Simple Fisherman," three cartoons from 1999 and a spanking-new A&J from today's newspaper. (8/3/2004)

Today, I'm beginning a series that is a personal favorite, "The Mermaid and the Simple Fisherman." Tomorrow, I'll address the question asked by many of you, "Where are all the Arlo and Janis books?" Also today, four A&J cartoons from the turn of the century. And to comics.com for the latest A&J. Be careful out there! (8/2/2004)

Yesterday, in a message under the subject line "I see the sales pitch," Rich wrote: So, as soon as you said you did a search on the United Media Web site for “Van Gogh,” I decided to do the same search. I guess you have to be a “gold” member to do a search--which is funny since I’m watching the third Austin Powers movie right now. I’m guessing you comic-artist types get the search function for free; I may have to sign up. Thanks for pointing out that search function. Do we get a discount if we mention “Jimmy sent me?"

Rich is referring to United Media's premium Comics Extra Gold service. Those of you who've visited this Web site since the beginning may remember me mentioning this once before. I did not know anything about this myself until it was announced to the world at large a couple of months ago, and--alas--I don't get it for free. As you guessed, Rich, neither do you. And I wouldn't mention my name around the offices at all on Fridays.

I'm not shilling for United Media here, nor am I hiding the fact that I--in effect--work for United Media and want to see it do well. Having said all that, Comics Extra Gold is a pretty cool service, especially the extended, searchable archive feature, which is what we're talking about here.

This all ties in to our earlier conversations, about where publishing is going on the Web. I don't think I'm talking out of school when I say such syndicate subscription services are experimental and fall ludicrously short of traditional  sources of revenue: that is, newspapers.

Speaking of tradition, it is the end of the week, and I'm busy with cartoon deadlines. Gotta go! Here are four cartoons from 2000. And speaking of United Media, visit comics.com for today's strip. (Hey, Rich! I just got the Austin Powers thing!) ((7/30/2004)

I recently received a letter from Steve, and he made an interesting point about humor. Steve observed:

Looking at today's strips, it struck me that a lot of the best bits are those we don't see. In "chicken box", that high five wouldn't have been half as funny if we'd actually seen it. It's a device you've used frequently and always to good effect. You may be interested to know that here in the UK we have a radio soap called "The Archers" that's been going since 1950. It's much better than a TV soap, because the pictures are better on the radio. And the best bits, of course, are the bits we don't get to hear: a build-up, a cliff-hanger, then... "The high five was totally uncalled for!"

Of course he's absolutely right about the power of imagination, and I'm proud Steve thinks I evoke it well. Radio drama and comedy are a prime example indeed. Although most of us here grew up with television, we are aware of Yank radio classics such as the closet of "Fibber Mcgee and Molly." Actually, that might not be the best example of what Steve is saying, because the running closet gag wasn't subtle and was about as visual as radio can be. It occurred "on camera," even though there was no camera.  An example closer to home would be the interior of Snoopy's doghouse, with its pool table and priceless art.

I have always believed the humor in a situation is more often not the action, but the reaction. Darn! We're just getting started, and already I see it's late. OK, let me throw out a few cartoons for you today. How about some cartoons from 1995? I'll try to do more mail tomorrow. And in today's papers... (7/29/2004)








Dennis from Mobile writes: I recently visited your Web site and read that some of your inspiration came from visiting your grandfather in Mobile. I have attached some photos of Dauphin Island.
I hope they bring pleasant memories.

Actually, Dennis, it was my uncle, but you're absolutely right about your photos of Dauphin Island bringing back pleasant memories. As Dennis would tell you, Mobile is situated in the northwestern reaches of Mobile Bay, miles from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Dauphin Island, a barrier island south of Mobile about 30 miles, is the nearest beach worthy of the name. I have included two of the several pictures he sent. Thanks, Dennis! We'll do more mail tomorrow.

Here are four cartoons from July of 2001. And in case you're wondering what Arlo and Janis are doing today.

P.S. Several of you were kind enough to inquire about my visit to the doctor's office, which I mentioned a few days ago. It was just a check-up, and I'm in frighteningly good health for one of my age and habits. Thanks for asking. (Posted 7/28/2004)

The man came into my office without knocking. I was working at my desk and didn't look up until I had finished snipping an "Arlo and Janis" from The Globe to post on Susan's refrigerator door. When I did look up, the man had closed the door behind him and was pointing a gun at my head.

"'Arlo and Janis' is one of my favorites," I said.

--From Chapter 19 of "Back Story," by Robert B. Parker (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2003)

How great is that? The hard-boiled detective doing the talking is none other than Spenser, the popular creation of Robert B. Parker, "the dean of American crime fiction." I wish I were that cool every time I looked up from my drawing board to find some torpedo pointing a gun at me.  I confess, I usually say something along the lines of, "Please don't shoot me! I'll get my cartoons in on time in the future, I promise!! Just don't shoot me!!!" The syndicate can be very demanding.

But that's not all! From Chapter 38 of "Back Story:"

So far it was a good day. No one had attempted to murder me. The weather was bright and pleasant. I had finished "Tank McNamara" and was reading "Arlo and Janis." There were two-thirds of a large coffee and a second corn muffin beside me on my desk. Hawk, with a sawed-off, doubled-barreled shotgun next to him on the couch, was reading a book about evolution by Ernst Mayr. I had the window open behind me, and the bright summer air smelled clean coming in.

When I finished "Arlo and Janis," I called Rita Fiore at her office.

"I need a favor," I said.

"Your place or mine," Rita said.

That settles it. If I weren't a cartoonist, I'd want to be a private detective. Thank you, Mr. Parker!

Speaking of being a cartoonist. I have three cartoons here from 1994. Oh--you've probably noticed that I finally got around to shortening the page. You can get to the old page just by clicking here.
(Posted 7/27/2004)