Thursday, October 04, 2007

First Farley, and Now This ...

Lisa Moore died today.

If you read the comic strip Funky Winkerbean, you already know what I'm talking about. Lisa, one of the main characters in the strip since its inception, had been dying from breast cancer for several months. We knew it was coming; we just didn't know when, or how the strip was going to handle it. But today, Lisa was led into the great beyond by a tuxedo-clad Death. (It was handled much more tastefully than I've just made it sound, trust me.)

Tom Batiuk, the cartoonist behind Funky, has caught a lot of flak for bringing such a depressing subject as terminal cancer onto the "funny pages". I can't identify with such criticism. I mean, it's not as though Mary Worth or Rex Morgan or Dick Tracy or (for heaven's sake) Prince Valiant ever had any pretenses toward humor. (Or, for that matter, B.C. But I digress ...)

Funky is just the latest funny comic strip to adopt the concept of the Very Special Episode. Heck, the recent story arc has included the discovery of an adopted teen's birth mother (the late Ms. Moore), the loss of virginity, and the theft of an old gym locker door (don't ask). I'll take those over evangelical cavemen any day.

Still, I'm personally glad that Mr. Batiuk did what he did. For you see, Lisa Moore is not a fictional character who lives on the comics page. Sadly, there are thousands of Lisa Moores who live in real houses, with real husbands and real children, who really die from real breast cancer. In our celebrity- and politics-obsessed culture, it's a good thing to remind everyone that there are people whom we know who have their own personal tragedies to deal with every day.

It has been no secret that Lisa was going to die today; for months there have been news stories reporting that this morning, she would "breathe" her last. Which brings me to something that I don't applaud ...

I find it ironic that the person who introduced the concept of killing off a major character in a "funny" strip, Lynn Johnston, would apparently seize the opportunity to upstage the heck out of Lisa's final day. Ms. Johnston, you'll remember, executed the Patterson family dog Farley a few years ago in the For Better or For Worse strip. Yesterday, as Lisa was shown about to take Death's hand for her final journey, Ms. Johnston's Grandpa Jim suffered another stroke. We didn't know it was a stroke yesterday, of course. We just knew that Jim's wife was screaming his name in shock. Were we going to lose two beloved comic strip characters on the same day?

And why would Ms. Johnston pick NOW to insert this significant plot point?

Cartoonists strike me as a rather clubby lot (don't we all look forward to the annual Swapping Of The Strips on April 1st?), and you couldn't argue that Ms. Johnston didn't know that today was going to be Lisa Moore's swan song, given that Mr. Batiuk famously creates his strips ONE FULL YEAR ahead of schedule. So what's the deal, Lynn? Why would you (apparently intentionally) try to steal Tom's thunder by having a calamity befall the Patterson patriarch? Could it be that she feels she has a monopoly on death in the funny pages, and scheduled Jim's stroke opposite Lisa's passing out of spite? One can only wonder ...

This should have been a day to celebrate Lisa's (and Mr. Batiuk's) bravery in the face of some very devastating odds. It hasn't quite worked out that way, has it?

posted by Gary @ 7:09 PM 5 comments links to this post

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Back From The Great Beyond

I stopped posting to this blog well over a year ago, for one very simple reason. It wasn't fun anymore.

For a year, I had written all the satire I could muster up. Some of it was good, some not so good (hey, I've never been a professional funnyman), but it was all pretty clearly tongue-in-cheek.

I was shocked and amazed at the number of people who took not only offense, but nasty offense at some of the things I wrote. My last post, which had to do with the World Cup soccer final last year (and the infamous Zidane head-butt), got me branded a "racist" (I believe the word they were looking for was "xenophobe", but the point was made).

All this abuse, for nothing but a small sense of accomplishment and a few complimentary comments? No thanks.

Well, the whip marks have faded and the bruises have healed, and I'm back. I don't have nearly the time to devote to this as I once did (and I'm through with that whole trolling-for-traffic-on-the-blog-promotion-sites thing), but you'll get my best ... when I feel like it.

And the fun starts up again tomorrow. But it won't be a humorous post, I'll warn you now.

posted by Gary @ 6:34 PM 0 comments links to this post

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posted by Gary @ 6:29 PM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Spread of American Culture

I have never been a soccer fan. Not until today, that is.

World Cup final match, Italy vs. France. Two teams kicking the ball all over the place and having practically nothing to show for it after 90 minutes of "action" and 30 minutes of overtime: boring. Italy winning the match on penalty kicks because someone on the French side screwed up: yawn.

France's Zinedane Zidane smashing his bald head into the solar plexus of Italian Marco Materazzi, intentionally and for no good reason? Now, that's a tackle that an American sports fan can get into!

I'm not proud of my bloodlust, but let's be completely honest here. When it comes to the pageantry of sports, Americans are about as refined in their choices as the Romans were when feeding gladiators to the lions. Football needs no explanation: it's really all about bodies slamming against each other. Basketball these days is about "in-your-face" stuffs and over-the-back flagrant fouls. NASCAR is sitting through an afternoon of left turns, hoping that one car becomes airborne long enough to smash about a half-dozen vehicles into twisted, flaming metal. Even hockey is dominated by players who, long ago, lost their front teeth to flying chunks of hard rubber.

Of the more "placid" sports, baseball today is all about raw displays of power: hitting for distance, spitting sunflower seeds for distance, scratching for distance ... oh, and pitching. The elegant game of tennis has been taken over by musclebound, grunting, screaming bundles of testosterone (and the men's game has fared no better). And in a country where Mike Tyson can still draw a crowd (despite the fact that Iron Mike will threaten to eat its children), do I need to say anything about boxing at all?

I figured that any soccer match in which two countries, representing the weakest European armies of the 20th century, would try to overcome their legacy of mediocrity would be a worthy investment of time.

But not until the game's 110th minute (do we really need to honor a sport that requires a timeline?) did Zidane sprint ahead of Materazzi, then turn around and ram his head directly into the Italian's sternum. Predictably, Materazzi dropped to the turf like ... well, like the Italian army. Zidane was ejected by the referee (actually, they said he was "sent off", presumably without any supper).

And the greatest French athlete since Jean-Claude Killy ended his career, not in triumph, but in disgrace.

What a quintessentially American thing to do.

posted by Gary @ 5:52 PM 14 comments links to this post

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Bravest Man in America

You don't have to be politically liberal. You don't have to be conservative. Why, you don't even have to be politically MODERATE to know the truth. And the truth, folks, is utterly unassailable.

On Saturday evening, April 29th, Stephen Colbert proved that he is the bravest man in America.

Colbert (pronounced col-BEAR) hosts an "O'Reilly Factor" send-up on Comedy Central called "The Colbert Report" (pronounced re-PORE). Full disclosure: I don't have cable TV, since I rarely watch TV, because it's just too depressing. But Colbert (who used to be a writer and performer on "The Daily Show") has been getting rave reviews for his program.

Last Saturday evening, at the White House Correspondents' dinner, Colbert was the featured speaker. It appears the organizers were anticipating some light political satire a la Mark Russell or Molly Ivins. What they got far exceeded their expectations.

Colbert stood at a podium less than ten feet from El Presidente and, frequency glancing over to make eye contact with the most powerful man in the world, proceeded to verbally disembowel him ... TO HIS FACE.

(Transcript courtesy of Daily Kos:)

I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.

Now, there may be an energy crisis. This president has a very forward-thinking energy policy. Why do you think he's down on the ranch cutting that brush all the time? He's trying to create an alternative energy source. By 2008 we will have a mesquite-powered car!
One might expect the assembled audience of reporters and celebrities to be thinking: "Wow, that takes guts. But it's high time somebody said it to Dubya's face. Good on ya, Mr. Colbert."

But then Colbert began skewering the reporters:

As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side.

But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!
And then he took on everybody else:

Mayor Nagin! Mayor Nagin is here from New Orleans, the chocolate city! Yeah, give it up. Mayor Nagin, I'd like to welcome you to Washington, D.C., the chocolate city with a marshmallow center. And a graham cracker crust of corruption. It's a Mallomar, I guess is what I'm describing, a seasonal cookie.

Joe Wilson is here, Joe Wilson right down here in front, the most famous husband since Desi Arnaz. And of course he brought along his lovely wife Valerie Plame. Oh, my god! Oh, what have I said? (looks horrified) I am sorry, Mr. President, I meant to say he brought along his lovely wife, Joe Wilson's wife. Patrick Fitzgerald is not here tonight? OK. Dodged a bullet.

And, of course, we can't forget the man of the hour, new press secretary, Tony Snow. Secret Service name, "Snow Job." Toughest job. What a hero! Took the second toughest job in government, next to, of course, the ambassador to Iraq.

Got some big shoes to fill, Tony. Big shoes to fill. Scott McClellan could say nothing like nobody else. McClellan, of course, eager to retire. Really felt like he needed to spend more time with Andrew Card's children.
You may not think Colbert's remarks were particularly funny; certainly, at various times during the half-hour monologue (complete with video clip of "Press Secretary" Colbert being stalked by columnist Helen Thomas), a substantial number of the people in attendance were extremely uncomfortable, including the Big Guy on the dais.

But what nobody can question is that while making fun of the president and the press is easy, doing it to their face is NOT. And roasting everybody in the room, so that NOBODY is left unskewered to defend you, takes balls the size of the Liberty Bell.

Well done, Mr. Colbert. You'll be getting a certified letter from the IRS any day now.

(Video of the C-SPAN broadcast, including the Colbert/Thomas video, can be found here.)

* * * * *

On the subject of politics, I have to share this with you, because it's rare that anything politically-oriented makes me laugh out loud. But I howled when I stumbled across this blog comment (scroll to the bottom) ...

But! But! You commie libbos don't understand nothing, not at all! We ace news reporter like myself and Tony Snow have strong , compassionate feelings for Rush Limpbag who is a silent sufferer of the very painful giant anal cyst condition that kept him from going to Nam and fighting Commies!
Thank you, Wayne. You had me at "anal cyst" ...

posted by Gary @ 2:38 PM 12 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The REAL Evil Genius

Ladies and gentlemen, we have been wrong from the very beginning. George W. Bush is proving himself to be, not the dumbest, but the smartest President our country has ever had. But as Maxwell Smart used to say, "If only he had used his powers for niceness, instead of evil ..."

While Karl Rove is a very shrewd political mastermind who has guided Dubya to victories over Ann Richards (who, at the time she lost, had the highest popularity rating of any governor in Texas history), Al Gore (by orchestrating the hostile takeover of the Florida vote count) and John Kerry (who, let's be totally honest here, imploded under pressure), Dubya turns out to be the brains of the Dubya Administration after all.

(And make no mistake. Dubya IS evil. But that's only my opinion. Let's get back to the hard facts.)

It was Dubya who nurtured his own image as a stumbling, bumbling country fool to disarm his enemies. (Does anyone really think that a Yale-educated man whose father was a career diplomat before becoming President, is honestly incapable of pronouncing the word "nuclear"?)

It was Dubya (with the help of "Dead-Eye Dick" Cheney, who really is evil -- who else could shoot somebody and have the VICTIM apologizing to the shooter?) who entered his first presidential term knowing that he would invade Iraq, and simply needed an excuse to do so. Al-Qaeda provided him with that excuse. The Taliban in Afghanistan rolled over so quickly (suspiciously so, in fact) that America's bloodlust was not sated.

So, when Dubya set the table for his attack on Iraq, We The People were only too eager to create the justification for him: Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. Dubya NEVER said this publicly. Nobody in his administration said it publicly. WE (meaning a majority of polled Americans) convinced ourselves of it, and Dubya did nothing to correct our misinterpretation.

It was Dubya who, once elected for his first term, surrounded himself with all of his dad's minions and sycophants from 41's administration. But -- and this was overlooked at the time -- he froze his dad out of the administration. Now, before he was Reagan's vice-president, George H.W. Bush was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He was arguably the most powerful man in the world. Certainly the elder Bush knew more about the state of the world, and what was going on in it, than anyone else did.

When Dubya was elected, he was smart enough to let in all of his dad's influential friends, but kept out the one man with the knowledge to discourage Dubya from doing what he wanted to do all along. Why?

Because the elder Bush would NEVER have kissed Dubya's ass. He would only have interfered in Dubya's plans. And Dubya was smart enough to recognize this, and banish his father to live out his days hosting hurricane-relief fundraisers and sitting in "Diamond Club" seats behind home plate at Astros games.

And now ... it is Dubya, we find out, who approved the declassification and leaking of sensitive intelligence information that indirectly led to the "outing" of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the media, in order to punish her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson (an ambassador, it bears mentioning, appointed to the post by ... George H.W. Bush). This is the revelation that caused me to realize just how clever Dubya really is.

Comparison has been made of Dubya's activities to those crimes authorized by the Nixon Administration (including having former Nixon staffer John Dean go to Capitol Hill and essentially say, "What Dubya is doing is MUCH worse than what Nixon did, and we kicked Nixon out of office"). But there is one significant difference between what Tricky Dick did and what King George has been doing.

Nixon broke the law. There's no proof that Dubya has done so.

What Dubya HAS done is exploit every single loophole in the system of "executive orders" that the president is authorized to make, and to further exploit his "war powers" (during a war with no clearly-identified enemy, in no specific location, and of no certain duration -- in other words, a "war" against somebody, somewhere, indefinitely) to get things done that no previous tenant of the White House would have ever had the balls to attempt. Dubya has committed all sorts of reprehensible, manipulative, dishonest, and (again, just my opinion) evil acts during his six years in Washington.

But by all appearances, and until the Conservative Media (I have previously debunked the notion of a "Liberal Media" in only three paragraphs) chooses to dig something up, DUBYA HAS DONE NOTHING ILLEGAL ... or at least, nothing "illegal" in a literal, by-the-book sense. There is no proof that he has violated the letter of ANY law (although he has laid waste to the spirit of hundreds of them). And there is almost no question that, if someone can prove illegal activity, Dubya has laid the foundation for somebody else (probably a low-level staffer) to go to jail.

That, folks, takes brilliance.

And even if "Evil Puppeteer Rove" is orchestrating everything, Dubya is smart enough to follow through and make them look like his decisions (which takes the heat off Rove and transfers it onto someone who, thanks to his own executive orders, is nearly above the law).

George W. Bush is actually pretty smart. Who knew? (And is he smart enough to keep us from trading "nucular" warheads with Iran?)

posted by Gary @ 2:40 PM 8 comments links to this post

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ding Dong, DeLay is Dead

This just in from MSNBC and the Houston Chronicle: "Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was touched by a lobbying scandal that ensnared some of his former top aides and cost the Republican his leadership post, won't seek re-election to Congress and intends to resign, Republican officials said today."

(There IS a God. And right now, He is pointing at DeLay and laughing ...)

In the immortal words of Bucky Katt (from Get Fuzzy): "You're going DOWN, Poochy!"

More on this breaking story as it breaks Tommy Boy, one bone at a time ...

posted by Gary @ 11:40 PM 6 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Lost": Everything But Weight

I don't watch "Lost". I sat through a small handful of the first-season episodes with the Wife -- just enough to make me realize where all the former "Twin Peaks" writers were now employed. (Both "Twin Peaks" and "Lost" were ABC productions. Coincidence? I think not ...)

But certain things became alarmingly apparent to me faster than they did to anyone on the show ... like this silly obsession with the number 108. It was very early on that I realized the six numbers printed on the side of some hatch somewhere (or some toilet seat -- I have since lost track) added up to 108, which is the frequency with which the "doomsday device" needs to be reset. And the digits in "108" add up to 9. And the "Dharma Project" has something to do with Jenna Elfman's career, but darned if I can figure out what.

As any loyal fan of "Lost" knows by now, the six numbers on the fortune cookie that led Locke (the bald guy who looks like Rudy from the first season of "Survivor") to get on that plane, because after all, it was his destiny, were also the six numbers that caused big Hurley to win the lottery and promptly crash on a desert island where money is worthless.

Hurley

Hurley?

What we have learned from "Lost" so far is that neither the writers nor the survivors are as smart as they think they are. "Lost" no longer refers to the people on the island; it now refers to the plotline as well. Have we learned nothing from the mistakes of "Twin Peaks"? Have we not learned that once you start writing things into the script merely because they're weirdly cool, and leave the story progression by the side of the road, your audience will also be "Lost"?

And have we not learned that if a 400-pound man is stranded on a desert island, basic nutrition dictates that he would LOSE WEIGHT? Does common sense also dictate that you do not put this 400-pound man in charge of your food supply?

In fact, this reminds me of another overweight island "survivor" whose tropical diet of coconuts and figs suspiciously never resulted in any visible weight loss:

Hurley

Not Hurley

(Yeah, you saw that one driving up the block, didn't you?)

Note that on "Lost", people keep disappearing. One or two appear out of the jungle long enough to speak backwards and confuse everybody, then vanish again. The rest are gone forever. Mind you, I have no proof ... but I suspect that Hurley is eating them.

The same thing happened on "Gilligan's Island", too: an alarming number of people kept landing on the uncharted desert isle, then disappeared, and none of them were ever able to tell the authorities where this island (within a three-hour boat ride of Honolulu, remember) might have been located. Do we know that these visitors made it back to civilization? Or do we only know that they vanished from the island, never to be seen again?

Meanwhile, the Skipper kept gaining weight. You figure it out.

Shows dealing with supernatural phenomena were big hits in the '60s and '70s: "Twilight Zone" and "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" come to mind. How long did the new version of "The Night Stalker" last? An episode and a half? The only shows dealing with the supernatural that have succeeded recently are comedies ("Sabrina, The Teenage Witch"), anthologies ("Outer Limits", "Psi Factor"), and dramas centering around a teenage cheerleader named Buffy. Ooo, scary stuff.

Meanwhile, we're supposed to believe that life for a bunch of plane-crash victims depends upon six arbitrary numbers, and their ability to outwit a bunch of "The Others" who are rather pissed off for no good reason. Although, the Wife and I have deduced a reason ...

The Wife (who watches the show a lot more closely than I do) pointed out that the seating configuration on the crashed plane was five seats across, three-and-two. That means it was either a 727 or an MD-80. On a trans-Pacific flight. That means they were flying on a very cheap airline. And there were apparently no first-class passengers and no first-class cabin.

This can only mean one thing. The "Lost" passengers were flying Southwest.

And when you plug this information in, the reason why "The Others" are so angry becomes obvious. The first group of survivors found a cache of food. "The Others" have to survive on small packs of honey-roasted peanuts.

No wonder they're pissed.

posted by Gary @ 2:48 PM 23 comments links to this post

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