When I was a kid I was addicted to Mad magazine. Which tells you something about my age. We used to have to get our satire at the newsstand before getting that paper copy of the Onion at the student center. I loved everything about Mad. I loved the writing, the irreverence, the detail- but what I loved most of all was the art. I was especially enamored of Mort Drucker, whose insanely intricate cross hatched masterpieces were right up there with anything John Tenniel ever did for Lewis Carrol’s books and it was every bit as iconographic.
Mad doesn’t hold the same audience it used to anymore. I think it’s at about a tenth of the size it was at the height of its circulation. The Onion is more known as a website than a newspaper, the same way Cracked is known for its online presence instead of the Mad magazine knockoff I grew up with back in the day. Bill Watterson took Calvin and Hobbes out at the height of their dominance at least in part due to the declining influence of the funny pages. Aaron McGruder left the Boondocks after a few years for television pastures on animation late night.
But there is one place where I think the best of cartoonists are still practicing their art at the height of their game. No, I’m not talking about the Family Circus, though I will admit that circular frame is pretty groundbreaking for a feature so square. I’m talking about the political cartoonists. These are the guys you see on the editorial page that aren’t Doonesbury and don’t have names even though they have recurring characters. There it is just smack dab on the page, that’s ART.
These troops in the trenches come in at varying skill levels just like any other genre of cartooning out there (and if you have thoughts to share on my level- be kind. I’m new) and the one I’ve been most entranced by is David Horsey. He has been cartooning longer than I’ve been alive- and it shows. His art is every bit as detailed and exaggerated as Mort Drucker’s work and the nuance and insight with which he illustrates make for immediate poignancy. He’s a columnist too (and a darned good one), but the words are almost unnecessary as his pictures are worth about 3156 words.
In the works of Horsey I see the best of both worlds. He is an obvious master with a pen and his lines are confident, flowing and varied. I don’t know his method for color, but it’s obviously done digitally and right skillfully as well. It’s easy in these rapidly changing times to try to cling to rules that no longer make sense, but I admire artists like Horsey who see the evolution of art and hang ten on that wave, holding for dear life. That’s inspirational.
I look forward to David Horsey and other eagle eyed Americans looking out for our interests for the next four years (more or less). I hope someday to be within telescope distance of these great satirists someday. In the meantime, I leave you with this cartoon which I swear is political. Think about it.
People have been saying it for years but I’ve been reluctant (refusing?) to believe it. I am an irrational creature. And so are you. And that guy over there. And that woman… well it’s possible she’s a robot. But us flesh and blood humans are off the deep end.
I had this hammered home to me in a dash of insight while I was playing video games. That’s when all the best insights happen. I realized that as I was trying to turn a tight corner I found myself leaning to the right. Like the balance of my weight was going to be that one crucial factor that put me over the top to victory.
I am not new to video games. I’ve been playing them since 1982. This was not a wii or a PS4 with gyroscopic controls or motion detectors. No Kinect with a camera mapping my every move. I was playing a PlayStation 2 game and leaning as hard as I ever yanked on an Atari 2600 controller trying to make things go faster. Remember how bad your hand hurt using a 2600 joystick? How you were afraid you would snap the stick right off? No? Then you weren’t gaming in the 80s.
So what’s the point, you ask? You’re irrational. Big deal. The big deal is that I realized I was functionally irrational. That that is a constant human state of being. That no amount of knowledge or education can counter my most tightly held beliefs. It used to be that we would all employ rationalism as best we could to come up with a common consensus of what is real and what is not and make that the world in which we live. That was before King Rhetoric came to town. FDR once famously said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself and we believed him. Because we are dumb. And irrational.
There are plenty of things to fear besides fear. I won’t list any because I’m trying not to be overly a bummer and I’m sure you can think of 40 or 50 on your own. What I will say is it might be helpful if we redeployed our common rationality to separate the irrational fears (say, the boogeyman) from the rational (spiders- it’s true, you know it, shut up). If we can see reality, we can fix reality.
p.s. Sometimes Admiral Ackbar is right and it’s a trap. Sometimes it’s just a house. Or a cigar. <.<
Catchin’ up, catchin’ up, catchin’ up… Hope you all had a great holiday weekend and that all family get togethers ceased screaming long enough for pie. Pie should bring everyone together and everyone should have at least 3.14 slices of it per get together. Too stuffed to be racist. It’s my message of healing, yo.
As for me, I spent most of the weekend arting. I got quite a few cartoons done for your viewing pleasure. I was consistently terrorized by tub spiders who accommodate me when I want to suffer for my art. I drew these (with a few more in the pipes):
Soon to be merchandized at a web near you
But I also took some time off because it’s a holiday, why not? I saw a lot of things online about DAPL and Black Friday and I get it. The holidays are stressful. It’s not just you. You don’t think Martha Stewart is freaking out right now? You think she doesn’t know that if she doesn’t have those hand carved compostable centerpieces then she’s going to hostess hell? She can smell Gwyneth Paltrow nipping at her heels. She gets it.
I just want to say there’s no wrong way to be thankful and that gratitude doesn’t need to built into a holiday. I was lucky enough to spend the day with my best friend and she’s all kinds of amazing. If you don’t have someone that amazing in your life, maybe get involved with something you’re passionate about because we sorely need amazing people to be amazing together.
Finally, the best reason I can think of to be grateful for the things you have is that it highlights all the things you don’t have. I don’t mean that in an envious my neighbor has a 90 inch tv and all I have is this 60 inch piece of crap way. I mean by contextualizing who we are in the world, it imposes on us humility. By assessing what we’re missing, it defines the path of where we need to go. Gratitude is a way of accepting our imperfections.
I’m grateful for this chance to move forward with you all.