Archive for April, 2006

“Cathy” to Upcoming Cartoonists: Drop Dead

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Via Comixpedia an LA Times article about the impending demise of newspaper cartooning features this quote from “Cathy” creator Cathy Guisewite:

“To me a strip should run forever because it’s a classic. They have meaning to me, and no new newspaper strip is going to earn that place in my heart.

“I love the old strips, I love the old characters, and I know as I say that, that’s what’s preventing new strips from coming in because there’s only so much space and newspapers have to drop a beloved strip to make room for a new one. [My solution] to that would be to devote more space to comic strips.”

Guisewite, whose garbage comic strip has been stinking up the comics page and breeding low self-esteem in working women for thirty years, is apparently hoping that after retirement someone can keep drawing her characters screaming “AAAAACK” for generations to come.

Meanwhile, newspapers keep hiring artists to draw tired old scenarios and keep driving jokes into the ground that were old fifty years ago.

UPDATE: Josh Reads, the Comics Curmudgeon expounds on the awfulness of some selected Cathy strips.

Sketches from the Rain

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

I was at a bar in the Mission. I’d been walking around downtown for the entire day, and my feet were killing me. It was a pretty dreary day, unfortunately. A cold rain had covered San Francisco and the entire area for weeks – an unseasonably wet winter even for the temperate climate of Northern California.

I’d been thinking about networking that day. You know, whose palms you have to grease to get ahead in life. This is something I’ve never been very good at. When it comes to selling myself to strangers, I’m a complete amateur.

I had gone to a class about the “Business Side of Cartooning” earlier that day. To me, the guy that taught it was a total celebrity.

When I’d first concieved my comic strip I was living in Charleston, South Carolina. I was broke (exclusive rice and beans diet broke) but suddenly fascinated by comic books and comic strips, and so I devoured them every chance I could.

Mostly this was through the Internet and public libraries, the bargain shelf at Borders, and the quarter bin at a local comic shop. There was also a City Paper that seemed to like to stir up trouble with the Good ol’ Boys. There was a mild controversy while I was living there over a cartoon that indicated those involved in Civil War reenactments had “backwards thinking.”

They also carried another controversial little cartoon called the K Chronicles.

The strip’s creator, Keith Knight, is fond of pointing out that the only newspapers that have ever censored his strips are right in the Bay area. I heard that first in his class on cartooning that rainy day in San Francisco, and I remembered that rebellious editor in Charleston.

I learned that day that I am a terrible salesman for myself. Case in point: I went to a class taught by a man whose work I admire, a class bound to be exclusively populated by local cartoonists with knowledge and resources for an aspiring artist like myself, and I did not bring one scrap of work with me. Not one measly doodle.

Ironically, selling myself, at least my personality and work ethic, is my job. I’m a waiter, and every day I smile, bow, place, run, laugh, joke and charm my way to bigger tips. But I never want them to know anything about me. And nearly any time I’ve let my guard down and let them know a little bit about me, the relationship cools. People don’t want their servers to be people, and they really don’t want to believe they’re smart.

The reason superheroes always have double identities is because most cartoonists have double identities. They are people that spend years in thankless day jobs, slaving over their drawings late at night hoping to someday carve out a living for themselves. But to keep that roof over their head so their paper doesn’t get all soggy, they have to keep showing up at the Daily Planet.

But now in a restaurant or bar setting I don’t want to be myself. As a server or bartender, I remove myself from the action of parties and view it from the outside with the other employees. Now I don’t speak to others at parties unless spoken to first. As an employee, someone must give you permission before you can speak to them.

So at the bar in the Mission, my friend asked me to go get a round of drinks. The bar was packed and steamy, a dance floor raged on nearby as funk music blared throughout the dimly lit rafters, so getting the bartender’s attention would be difficult. Worse, it would be difficult to maneuver the crowded bar with three drinks balanced between two hands. A round of four is impossible without help or a tray, three is doable but difficult. Of course, as a waiter, I have the skills, so I was elected.

“Here. Put them on this,” my friend said, handing me his credit card. Since he was buying, I felt a little better about taking the trip.

I got to the bar, and three orders later, it was my turn. I held up my friend’s credit card. “Can I run a tab?” I asked.

“Sorry dude,” came the reply, “cash only.”

“Shit!” I said out loud. And the bartender walked away. “Shit!” I said to myself, and pulled out a twenty. The bartender was back almost instantly.

“Okay, I’ll have a Bushmills neat, a gin and tonic and a pomegranate lemonade.” Pomegranate lemonade? What the hell was I ordering?

The whisky, mine, was up instantly. Of course it was the easiest to make and the easiest to carry. The pomegranate lemonade looked like a pain to make. He was muddling exotic looking fruit with vodka and brown sugar. This bartender was so busy, how could I have asked him for something like that?

I got back flustered that I had to pay for the drinks, and because I had one two many brushes with disaster. I have a sixth sense for when someone is about to randomly back up, but a place as packed as that bar was is frequently unnavigable. I didn’t even have a chance to give my friend his credit card back, when he asked me, “do you want to meet my friend Raquel?”

“Uh.. sure,” I said, forgetting that Malcolm (my friend) had once told me that I should meet Raquel, as in, try and hit it off with her.

He tapped a thin blond girl on the shoulder who was dancing nearby. She turned around and he told her who I was and I who she was. She took my hand by both of hers, and her hands were soft and warm. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Raquel. I work with Malcolm.”

“Oh. So you’re a teacher?”

“Yeah, I’m a math teacher.”

“Oh. Well it’s nice to meet you.”

“Umm.. yeah. It’s nice to meet you too,” she said, rolling her eyes a little. We stood there awkwardly for a second, and then she walked off to talk to one of her friends closer to the bar. I looked at Malcolm and his girlfriend, and I instantly knew what he was thinking: Why the hell didn’t you talk to her?

And I had no idea what the answer was. I was suddenly very embarrassed that I’d blown off the conversation like that, not asking any follow up questions, not offering any information about myself, nothing. I used to be a journalist, but I can’t think of a question for a math teacher.

I immediately started thinking of excuses, I mean, I did wake up hung over that morning, and I’d been wandering around San Francisco and Oakland for most of the day. I had a toothache, hence the whisky, and it was making it more and more painful to eat.

Still, here I was, and suddenly I was feeling like a fool that let this potentially pleasant conversation end after twenty words. As if a self-fulfilling prophecy, I spent the whole night muttering to myself about how terrible I was at talking to people.

Toward the end of the night I was standing near the exit. People were starting to file out as the band was winding down. One obviously very drunk girl crashed into me saying, “you have a very nice face. You look very innocent.” She then backed up and looked at me, “thank you,” was all I could think of to say. “Keep it up,” she said, and walked out of the club.

I stared ahead for a moment. Maybe she was right, I thought. What would an asshole do?

The bar was closing and we spilled into the street. It had stopped raining, at least for the moment. The streets of San Francisco are always loudest at 2 AM. The clubs empty and everyone is organizing after-parties, chatting on cell phones, and making their last-minute desperate pleas for someone to spend the night with.

Of course how all this plays out depends heavily on the neighborhood you’re in. That particular night in the Mission, the bar we had just left was piping out Louis Armstrong doing a wild rendition of the Saints Go Marching In. A group of passing bar goers had stopped in the street to form a dance circle. They swung their hips and twisted back and forth, and many of them dressed the part: the men wore rumpled suit jackets and feathered fedoras, and the women wore knee-length skirts and black hats, though they traded in the stiletto heels for Converse.

Raquel, the young lady that Malcolm had introduced me to, had heartily joined into the dance circle. She was wearing high heels with blue jeans, an unusual fashion statement that is apparently quite common at the moment in San Francisco. I was surprised by how effectively one could stomp their feet in high heels, as she pounded the pavement jumping back and forth with excellent rhythm.

Another teacher from Malcolm’s school, this one a biology teacher, noticed Raquel’s excellent Charleston and joined her, picking up the beat instantly. They danced so well that before long a circle of onlookers had formed around them, clapping and cheering the dancing couple. The biologist must have felt like he needed to put on a show, so he stuck his arm out and flipped Raquel over 360 degrees. The crowd went wild. One of the Biologist’s friends walked away shaking his head and smiling.

“I can’t believe he flipped her. Right over the pavement!” he exclaimed to no one in particular.

When we finally left, the Biologist was giving instructions in flips, holds and carries while dancing. “Wow,” I thought, “I wish I could do that.”

A few days after that I had a dentist appointment for my toothache. I didn’t have any insurance, so I had to go to a local clinic that offered credit programs for those who couldn’t afford dental insurance. It had been years since I’d seen a dentist, and my diagnosis reflected that. I listened in horror as the doctor rattled off a list of problems with my mouth that began with the most dreaded thing a dentist can say to you:

“Oooh. That cavity on tooth three is very bad. Very, very bad. It will need a root canal.” After he walked away I put my head in my hand.

“That sounds really expensive,” I said.

The nurse chuckled to herself sympathetically. “ Sorry,” she said, “that root canal alone is probably going to be a couple thousand…”

I groaned so loud I think the whole office heard me. It’s a big office.


Saturday, April 22nd, 2006


Friday, April 21st, 2006

Job Competition in Berkeley

An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

Mr. Jobs:

I am an aspiring cartoonist and freelance graphic designer of limited means, but I needed a computer capable of doing serious graphics work. I’d heard wonderful things about the stability and performance of Apple computers for this kind of work, so I sought out a used 1.8 Ghz G5 iMac with a 20″ display and 2 GB memory upgrade.

For some time the computer worked wonderfully and I was very happy with my purchase. My art and productivity improved considerably and I started gaining traction in my career.

But shortly thereafter I had a problem with the motherboard and power supply covered under an extended warranty. I took it to the Apple Store in Emeryville, CA for repairs. My computer has never worked properly since.

The service I received at the Apple store was terrible. Another problem apparently “cropped up” during the repair, and large numbers were discussed for repairs. I was told I had a problem either with my software or hard drive.

I know my way around a computer, and when I have questions my brother (an engineer at IBM that worked on the PowerPC processor) helps me, so I tried the repairs myself.

Something is very, very wrong with this computer, and frankly I can’t rule out that the repairs were somehow faulty. At the very least, the techs there completely misdiagnosed my problem as I have mostly ruled out any failure by the hard drive or software.

I am not sure what steps I will take from here, but barring any unforeseen circumstances my business with Apple is finished. I sadly regret ever buying this computer, though very pretty and initially excellent for the kind of work I do, my excitement has turned to enormous disappointment. This product has been chronically unreliable and has cost me weeks of productivity.

I am very sorry that this has been my experience with Apple, as I was extremely excited about switching from Windows. There are more details about my problems and the solutions I have tried thus far at this forum post.

I will be sure to tell my friends and colleagues in the graphics industry my experiences, and urge them to reconsider purchasing an Apple computer. As a conscientious businessman, I thought you should be made aware of these kinds of problems so that you may improve your products in the future. But unfortunately, I won’t be there with you for a very long time. Thank you for your time.


Scott J. Morris

…I should know better than to make any grand announcements…

Friday, April 14th, 2006

…I hate computers. But the weekend is upon me so I must go to serve brunch to people who celebrate the ressurection of Christ by poisoning their own bodies with vodka and champagne.

Meanwhile, there’s been an interesting wrinkle in the Muhammad cartoon controversy as South Park attempted to use the Prophet Muhammad in its latest episode, Cartoon Wars Part II. Unfortunately, (well maybe fortunately since nothing’s blowing up this way) Comedy Central “pussed out” and censored the image of Muhammad in the episode.

The really interesting thing to me, however, is that Muhammad was already depicted on South Park several years ago. I had forgotten about this but instantly remembered the episode upon reading this article. It kind of lends credibility to my theory that it’s not that Muhammad was depicted in cartoon, it’s how he was depicted.

Coming Up for Air

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

Gah – this is not what I signed up for. A few weeks ago I got my imac back from the shop for repairs – only it wasn’t fixed. Basically I couldn’t afford for any more repairs and the ones I did get were covered by an extended warranty. There’s more to it than that – but I’m not quite ready to point fingers.

Anyway I’m stuck fixing this myself, knee-deep in software updates and hardware checking and reinstalled operating systems. This fucking sucks. I really like making art on computers – but I really hate that they just fuck up on you.

The most frustrating thing about all this is I’m not really sure what causes my computer to crash or when it’s going to happen. I do know that it often, but not always, happens in Photoshop. Therefore, the best method to determine if my computer is working is to open Photoshop, start working, and wait for it to crash. After a month of being without this thing I start to really get into a groove, and then it crashes. Freezes completely.

Anyway, I’ve been up to some other stuff, too. Like pimping my comic at the Alternative Press Expo and harassing Keith Knight about it. Seriously, lots of nice people there, including Alexis E. Fajardo of Kid Beowulf and Brian Kolm of Atomic Bear Press. I saw some anarchist comics while I was there that were great, but anarchists apparently do not believe in web sites so I have no links. (I know this empirically to be untrue, as I consider myself an anarchist and do have a web site.) But anybody around here that hasn’t checked out the Mission Mini Comics should track some down.

Also, though I didn’t find out about them at the con but from my roommate, everybody check out Action Philosophers! whose newest comic, Action Philosophers Hate the French, is fucking hillarious.

Also, some discussion of my own artwork in this forum thread.

*takes shot*

Alright. I’m goin back in.

Sneak Preview

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006