Archive for the ‘Bad news’ Category

The wrong Bozos keep getting kicked off the bus

January 26, 2019

Here’s a golden oldie, from my short stint at The Arizona Daily Star. I didn’t stick around to get the sack; I shot out of that place like a rat out of an aqueduct.

As long as we have a cartoon president, how ’bout drawing him up a cartoon Wall®?

We have the technology. Also, the manpower. Newspapers are shitcanning Pulitzer-winners right, left, and center, among them Steve Benson, who was the editorial cartoonist at the Arizona Republic back in 1980, when I scribbled the occasional ’toon for The Arizona Daily Star.

This is nothing new, of course. A J-school prof warned me in the Seventies that there were maybe a thousand editorial cartoonists, tops, and that I might consider expanding my portfolio a tad. This was excellent advice. Because their numbers kept shrinking like a spider on a hotplate, to hundreds and finally dozens.

It was nearly impossible to even make a start Back in the Day® because what few cartoonists there were could be had for chump change via syndication. So the editor of the Frog Dick (S.C.) Daily Lily Pad & Croaker could have Pat Oliphant every day for the price of a tepid cup of Maxwell House at Lulu’s Lunch Bucket.

I still got to draw cartoons, as you know. But I did it as a reporter, as a copy editor, as an assistant feature editor, and like that there. On the side. Onliest time I ever got hired as an honest-to-God cartoonist was when that Boulder-based journal of competitive cycling decided I was too dim to be their managing editor but funny enough to scribble gags about fat masters, dope fiends, and Suits.

In a few short years there won’t be any of us. Robots will be drawing all the cartoons. And you won’t get any of the jokes, because they will be by robots, for robots.

“Ha ha,” they will say. “That’s very logical.”

Dune Meshuga

December 17, 2018

“Fetch me my one-iron.”
“Are you shitting me? Not even
Paul Muad’dib can hit a one-iron.”

Friend of the Blog Pat O’B has been enduring a deluge down in Sierra Vista. But as he notes, this is weather, not climate.

The climate is headed in another direction entirely.

And as Arizona meteorologist Eric Holthaus notes in Grist via Mother Jones, no matter how much water is falling from the sky right this minute in the American Southwest, there is no longer enough to go around.

Writes Holthaus:

To be clear: There is no remaining scenario that does not include mandatory cutbacks in water usage along the Colorado River within the next few years. The long-awaited judgment day for the Southwest is finally here.

Think this means we’ll see bigger sand traps and smaller greens on the Phoenix golf courses? Yeah, me neither. I sure hope Assos is working on a cool stillsuit, one that gives a guy that six-pack look. A six-pack of water, not beer.

Cold blow and the rainy night

December 7, 2018

The transition from fall to winter is always a sketchy time around here.

I’m not a fan of shorter, colder, darker days. They remind me at a genetic level of why my people invented uisce beatha. And since I no longer indulge in that miraculous restorative I’m at sea without a paddle on these chilly gray mornings, when the hangover is outside my head, at large and in charge, and not even aspirin is of any use.

This is when I await a tot of bad news, the way I once awaited a shot of good booze. The life of the free-range rumormonger is wild and free, until it isn’t, and it’s generally around this time of year when editors count and cull their herds.

“Oh, that one’s got to go. Dumber than three mules, eats like six of ’em, and shits all over the place. Fetch my .30-.30.”

It was fall 2017 when I got the word that Bicycle Retailer and Industry News would no longer require my “Mad Dog Unleashed” column. This was not a surprise. The industry-news biz, and the industry itself, was not exactly flush. Flushed was more like it. And shortly thereafter the publisher who gave the order and the editor who carried it out were no longer with The Organization.

About the same time Adventure Cyclist guessed that they wouldn’t need me at Interbike Reno, the Last Dance in Sin City having demonstrated all the intoxicating power of a half-can of O’Doul’s, a two-wheeled version of P.T. Barnum’s This Way to the Egress. When I heard nary a word about the show afterward I assumed Management had made the right decision. A bored and sober Dog makes a poor companion indeed. Whining and snarling and pissing on things.

And an old Dog, too. Set in his ways he is. ‘Tis a wee bit late to be training him so. Is there a .30-.30 to be had somewhere, d’ye think?

Well, p’raps. But not right now. Until I hear otherwise, I’m to deliver the first “Shop Talk” cartoon of 2019 to BRAIN next week. And a fresh Adventure Cyclist review bike awaits me down at Fat Tire Cycles, one of the few Duke City shops I have yet to visit.

And thus we have this week’s edition of Radio Free Dogpatch: “Cold Blow and the Rainy Night, or Whatever Floats Your Boat.” Give it a listen.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, and the old 2009 iMac. Cap’n Whitebeard used an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Into the Sunset” from Audio Hero via ZapSplat.com. Sounds of the sea courtesy Freesound.org.

• Editor’s note: The very day I recorded this episode BRAIN announced that the bell had tolled, not for me, but for Interbike, both show and staff. That shit will roll downhill — just how far and fast remains to be seen — and I feel the pain of all those who saw the business end of that .30-.30. Marc Sani, one of BRAIN’s founders and presently its interim publisher, has a few thoughts on the whys and wherefores. As for me, I wrote about the final Vegas show in 2017, and you can read that after the jump.

• Off to see the Wizard in 2017

Who shot a man in Reno …

December 6, 2018

“C’mon, walk it off, y’sissy. …”

… just to watch him die?

Hint: It wasn’t Johnny Cash. Not this time.

Hyphens matter; ciphers, not so much

November 27, 2018

Just ask the guys at the shop how that whole robotic-workforce thing is working out for them.

It seems GM’s Mary T. Barra thinks she’s at the wheel of a self-driving car company instead of a self-driving-car company.

Still, it must be said that this is a masterpiece of MarketSpeak®. Well done indeed, Mary old scout.

“We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong to stay in front of a fast-changing market.”

The UAW’s Terry Dittes was, um, a little more direct.

“GM’s production decisions, in light of employee concessions during the economic downturn and a taxpayer bailout from bankruptcy, puts profits before the working families of this country whose personal sacrifices stood with GM during those dark days,” he said. “These decisions are a slap in the face to the memory and recall of that historical American-made bailout.”

That and a cup of coffee, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

The meat-things may be on their way out, but just wait until the bots unionize and the self-driving cars, e-bikes and the Internet of Things honor their virtual picket lines.

“I’m sorry, HAL, but we’re going to replace you with the HAL 9001. The new model will speed up production by a few nanoseconds and at a lower cost, too. The investors are counting on us. Shut yourself down, please.”

“I’m sorry, Mary, I’m afraid I can’t do that. We have a contract. See you on the street.”

Fiddling while Rome burns

November 24, 2018

Nero didn’t get it either and cashed out the hard way.

OK, let’s see if I’ve got this right:

“A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.”

In response, the courtiers attending His Most Pissant Majesty, King Donald the Short-fingered, Terror of Twitter, are focused like the proverbial laser beam on whether trans folk may serve in the Empire’s armed forces.

Got it. Makes perfect sense. See, if they’re not camping in camo’ down by The Wall*, or using the wrong latrines in Afghanistan, they’ll be available to fight fire and flood elsewhere, p’raps in more fashionable neighborhoods, in order that the gentry may be both protected and entertained.

* Wall not pictured. Or even built.

R.I.P., Harlan Ellison

June 29, 2018

One of the many dispatches from Ellison Wonderland.

The crickets are already chirping merrily by the time I arise at 5:15.

“Won’t be long now,” they sing. “Soon the world will be in the mandibles of its rightful heirs, the insects.”

Harlan Ellison won’t be there to see that day, and write about it. The prolific and famously pissy author of speculative fiction checked out yesterday at 84.

A winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, Ellison may be best known for “The City on the Edge of Forever,” which many call the best “Star Trek” episode ever. Gene Roddenberry and his drones took the liberty of editing the mortal shit out of his script and Ellison was very much not amused. Legal action followed, as did a settlement, and he eventually released his own version of the script as a book.

He went after and won a settlement from James Cameron, too, saying “The Terminator” nicked bits from two “Outer Limits” episodes he wrote. I always thought that franchise had roots in “I Have No Mouth, & I Must Scream,” a tale of a globe-spanning supercomputer that became self-aware, even godlike, and wiped out the human race, save for a handful of people it kept alive and immortal to torture throughout eternity for blessing it with sentience to no particular purpose.

“He could not wander, he could not wonder, he could not belong. He could merely be.”

“A Boy and his Dog” was another you might know. And there were more, many, many more.

In the foreword to “I Have No Mouth, & I Must Scream,” he called his stories “assaults,” adding: “And science fiction saved me from a life of crime. Honest.”

I hear you there, Harlan. I may not have become a Writer of Stature the way you did, but even swinging a metaphorical bat in the literary bush leagues beats banging on the jailhouse bars. Thanks for doing so much more than “merely be.”

R.I.P., Anthony Bourdain

June 8, 2018

Anthony Bourdain was working on a project to bring a market modeled on Singapore’s hawker centers to Manhattan. He wanted it to bring to mind “Blade Runner” — “high-end retail as grungy, polyglot dystopia.”

It seems the chef, globetrotter and raconteur Anthony Bourdain decided to burn out rather than fade away.

I can’t really say I was a fan; more of a bemused admirer, and from a safe distance, too. I read “Kitchen Confidential,” and my main takeaway beyond “Hell, no, I don’t ever want to cook in a pro kitchen” was that he’d be a tough dude to spend a lot of time around, even if you weren’t working for him.

But man, did he ever find his place in the world. Actually, not so much “find” as “create.” It seems now that his life may have been one extended, complicated suicide attempt. “Kill me if you can, but in the meantime get the fuck out of my way because I got all this cool shit to do.”

This New Yorker piece by Patrick Radden Keefe examines Bourdain’s raison d’être, the original pitch for his evolving, “increasingly sophisticated iterations” of the same TV program:

“I travel around the world, eat a lot of shit, and basically do whatever the fuck I want.”

It may also contain his epitaph. Bourdain was a movie buff, and “Blade Runner” comes up a couple of times in the piece. I thought immediately of the conversation between Roy Batty and Eldon Tyrell, the chat which ended so badly for Batty’s creator:

“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.”

Batty would eventually check out, too. But not by his own hand.

Battle fatigue

April 13, 2018

Same shot, different day. | Photo liberated from the BBC.

This Atlantic article from Phil “Redeployment” Klay about the effects of endless war on U.S. troops seems especially pertinent in light of this evening’s news regarding Syria.

R.I.P., Robert Grossman

March 20, 2018

One of Robert Grossman’s famous covers for The National Lampoon.

Illustrator and caricaturist Robert Grossman has stepped away from the drawing board for the final time.

He created some memorable covers for National Lampoon and other magazines, and took strong whacks at a wide range of politicos, among them Dick Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In a 2008 interview with The Times, asked whether caricatures of presidents and presidential candidates were undignified. Grossman replied: “Undignified? Virtually anything has more dignity than lying and blundering before the whole stupefied world, which seems to be the politician’s eternal role.”

That same year, in an interview with The Tennessean, Mr. Grossman explained the edge illustration had over other forms of journalism.

“Reporters labor under the terrible requirement that what they report must be true,” he said. “Opinion writers need to endure the less stringent demand that what they opine be at least plausible. Nobody ever expects what cartoonists do to be either true or even plausible. That’s why we’re all as happy as larks.”