Funny Times, June 2010

They haven’t posted the cover for this month’s Funny Times online yet, so I’ve put up this Keith Knight cartoon with a link to the magazine’s homepage. 

Jon Winokur’s “Curmudgeon” quotes Emile Capouya on the high school teacher’s mission: “A high school teacher, after all, is a person deputized by the rest of us to explain to the young what sort of world they are living in, and to defend, if possible, the part their elders are playing in it.”  That’s one of many reasons I rejoice in not being a high school teacher. 

Matt Bors wonders what people really mean when they say “teach the controversy.” 

Zippy the Pinhead wishes he could to travel back in time to the year 1885.  He changes his mind when a disembodied head with a neatly waxed mustache announces that in that year, “schoolchildren were routinely flogged, pigs ran loose in th’ streets, and heroin was sold over the counter as ‘cough medicine.'”  In related news, I now wish I could travel back in time to 1885.   

Click on the image to the left to see a genuinely funny installment of This Modern World from April.   

Lloyd Dangle’s Troubletown calls on the state of Virginia to “Let Confederate History Month be the festival of self-loathing it should be.”  I hold no brief for the Confederate States of America or for Virginia’s official commemoration of it, but I’m decidedly against all festivals of self-loathing.  For one thing, self-loathing usually seems to be a form of narcissism.  That same cartoon shows how that is.  Dangle depicts a bunch of yahoos waving Confederate flags and exclaiming “We used to own human slaves.”  Well, they didn’t, did they.  Perhaps their great-great-great-grandparents owned human slaves, but a great-great-great-grandparent is after all a very distant relative.  Beating yourself up over the misdeeds of someone so remote is merely a way of keeping attention focused on oneself rather than others.  If your ancestors created a system that continues to privilege you and to do injustice to groups of which you are not a member, staging a festival of self-loathing may be the very worst thing you can do.  Your privilege puts you in the spotlight, your self-loathing just keeps you there.

Funny Times, May 2010

It’s always been my habit to go to ground during the summers, so it isn’t much of a surprise that I’ve fallen behind in my “Periodicals Notes.”  Not that anyone has complained, but I’ll be catching up a bit over the next few days.  First up is May’s Funny Times

There’s an installment of Lloyd Dangle’s Troubletown that I thought was hilarious when it first appeared back in February.  It’s about the political movement known as the “teabaggers,” Americans of a rightward bent who have been vocal about their opposition to the Obama administration.  Dangle is mystified that the teabaggers have been the object of so much publicity.  My favorite line from the comic is “600 people showed up for their convention.  That’s almost as many as the Sheboygan High School science fair!” 

Matt Bors has a good comic about privacy, I was reminded of it by this recent xkcd

Jon Winokur’s “Curmudgeon” compiles quotes about money, including this from Brigid Brophy: “Whenever people say, ‘We mustn’t be sentimental,’ you can take it they are about to do something cruel.  And if they add, ‘We must be realistic,’ they mean they are going to make money out of it.”  Not exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but she does have a point.  So did Mary Gordon, when she wrote: “The use of money is the purest act of faith; no anchorite who has followed a vision into the desert has acted on an idea as far-fetched as our belief that if we put a dollar in a machine we will be drinking a Diet Coke in a minute.”  Andrea Dworkin is a name you don’t expect to encounter in a humor column, but she’s here: “Money talks, but it speaks with a male voice.”  Given Dworkin’s personal history as a woman who was once forced into sex work to escape an abusive partner, I can’t imagine laughing at that line, but I can certainly take it seriously.

Some would say that laughter is the ultimate form of seriousness.  If so, Dave Maleckar’s “Hundred Word Rant” may have hit on a way to take sex work seriously.  Arguing that people who like to cook should not open restaurants, he concludes thus: “You probably like sex, too.  You may be very good at it.  That doesn’t mean you should start doing it for money.”

Funny Times, January 2010

Jon Winokur’s “Curmudgeon” this month collects quotes on the theme of Washington, DC.  Ada Louise Huxtable’s line, “Washington is an endless series of mock palaces clearly built for clerks” catches a point I’ve often wanted to make.  The official part of Washington isn’t really a city at all, but something more like a theme park.  “Governmentland,” you might call it.  It isn’t particularly dignified for a country like the USA to have such an inherently silly place as its capital city.  I’ve often thought they should have left the capital in New York.  That way the federal government would be just one of many big enterprises in town, not the dominant thing as it is in DC.  Officials would be reminded that their doings are not in fact the center of the uiniverse.  Another quote in the column, Richard Goodwin’s remark that “People come to Washington believing it’s the center of power.  I know I did.  It was only much later that I learned that Washington is a steering wheel that’s not connected to the engine,” can’t have applied to New York when George Washington was sworn in as president there, or to Philadelphia earlier.  There was too much else going on for the political classes to delude themselves into a grossly exaggerated idea of their own importance.   

Many of the quotes Winokur collects are surprising.  For example, I would never have guessed that the remark “Washington isn’t a city, it’s an abstraction” came from Dylan Thomas.  It’s a good line, Thomas just isn’t someone I think of as a commentator on the US political scene.  Nor would I have thought of Peggy Noonan if you’d asked me to guess who came up with the line “The voters think Washington is a whorehouse and every four years they get a chance to elect a new piano player.”  It sounds like something Clare Booth Luce would have said when memories of this photo were still fresh in the public’s mind.  Elliott Richardson was sufficiently full of himself that he couldn’t come up with an effective response when Massachusetts State Senate president Billy Bulger mocked his campaign for governor with the line “Vote for Elliott Richardson.  He’s better than you.”  Still, it did take me aback to see that he had such a superior attitude that he would allow himself to say that “Washington is a city of cocker spaniels.  It’s a city of people who are more interested in being petted and admired, loved, than rendering the exercise of power.”  Personally, I’d choose love over “rendering the exercise of power” any day, but I guess that just shows that I’m not up to Elliott Richardson’s standards.  One line that I would have been able to identify is from Gore Vidal: “I date the end of the old republic and the birth of the empire to the invention, in the late 1930s, of air conditioning.  Before air conditioning, Washington was deserted from mid-June to September.  But after air conditioning and the Second World War arrived, more or less at the same time, Congress sits and sits while the presidents- or at least their staffs- never stop making mischief.”    

Elsewhere in the issue, there is a column of excerpts from Aaron Karo’s Ruminations.com; my favorite of these is “No, Microsoft Word, my name is not spelled wrong.”  There are a couple of good cartoons about the health care debate, including this one from Tom Tomorrow and this one from Lloyd Dangle’s Troubletown.