Saturday, February 27, 2010

First of all, I want to apologize to my fellow orcas, my trainers and all the people at Sea World who have been so supportive through all this. I realize that I cannot undo the damage that I have done to all the great things they have worked for so many years to achieve, and I am very sorry.

I also want to apologize to Dawn and to her family and friends. We had worked together for several years and I had no intention of doing anything to harm her or the relationship we had built. She was very special to me and will be impossible to ever replace, although I understand there are applications in the back of the room.

And I'd like to thank the ownership of Sea World for being so understanding throughout this ordeal and for supporting me at a very difficult time. They have gone out of their way to help me to do everything I can to make amends for this tragic event by filling the seats of Shamu Stadium as often as I possibly can in the weeks, months and, I hope, years to come.

However, before I resume my work here, I need to take some time to reassess my responses to certain stimuli and to undergo some impulse control therapy, and I hope that my fans will understand if it is a week or two before I am able to perform for them again.

Finally, I'd like to thank my wives and 14 children for standing by me. I want to apologize to them for the hurt that I have caused them through my own thoughtless actions, and I'd like to ask the press to please respect the privacy of my family throughout this difficult process, except when they are performing, at which time I hope you will take many photographs that can be licensed for promotional uses.

Thank you all for coming and, again, I am very sorry for everything that has happened and very eager to put this behind me and get back to work making Sea World the most exciting display of captive marine mammals anywhere in the world. Don't forget to stop in the gift shop on your way out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

And now, this message ...

Okay, it's a commercial. But it's a pretty interesting commercial from a guy who, until a couple of years ago, never did interviews or talked about his work. I know this because I did a series of interviews with cartoonists who were carried in the paper where I was then working, and he was the only one who turned me down, though he did so very politely.

Which means that I look at things like this and think, "If I'd only done that series about three years later, I'd have had the complete set of artists ..."

In any case, it's a commercial for something my handful of readers might actually want.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Moderate schools of Islam face pressure

It's worth remembering that not all of Islam is militant. In fact, most Muslims are not. In this report, students at a Sufi school in Yemen talk about their studies, and about the pressure their schools face under the eye of a critical Western world that sees the growth of al Qaeda in the area and does not understand or differentiate between types of Islam.

Here's a graphic I did just after 9/11 as part of my educational work at the Post-Star in Glens Falls, NY. We offered it to other papers and several published it in the days following that disaster. I don't know if it will blow up enough in a new window to be legible, but, if you click on it, you'll at least have a better chance of reading it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

 Your Time Will Come

Johnny Clegg and Savuka (1993)

[you were lying, do not tell lies]
[You told lies, trying to mislead me,
so that I would give up my faith and hope.]
[that is what you said -- you said that our future is hopeless,
our tomorrow is bleak, you were lying,
trying to mislead us]
[No can do! we will never relinquish our faith]

[Everything will be all right --
It's just when this will be, we cannot know]
[Everything will come right, I tell you friend]]
[Do not throw away your hope]
[Me holding on one side, you holding on the other side
together we will pull through]
[you and me, you and me]

[my spirits are down]
[I say to you child of my aunt, you have caused me great fear]
[You told lies, trying to mislead me,
so that I would give up my faith and hope.]
[that is what you said -- you said that our future is hopeless,
our tomorrow is bleak, you were lying,
trying to mislead us]
[No can do! we will never relinquish our faith]

[Everything will be all right --
It's just when this will be, we cannot know]
[Everything will come right, I tell you friend]
[It will be all right my friend, I'm telling you]
[come true courage, for it is you who gives
life and takes it away
[me on this side, you on the other,
we will hold it together]
[don't listen to the lies of my compatriot]
[we will be victorious in the end, just you and me]
[just you and me]

I saw the Berlin Wall fall
I saw Mandela walk free
I saw a dream whose time has come
Change my history -- so keep on dreaming
Dream on dreamer, dreamer
In the best of times and in the worst of times
gotta keep looking at the skyline
not at a hole in the road
Your time will come, sister, your time will come
nobody's gonna rush history, we have to ease it along
-- just ease it along

Monday, February 08, 2010

Soft opening

I'm still tinkering around with this new website, but I'm at the stage where I could use a little feedback before I try to promote it to a larger world.

It's a pretty simple idea -- just put up a strip each day, provide a little entertainment and maybe point two or three people a year to some of the collections that are available out there.

Comic strips, and their creators, are in an odd kind of bind. People like comics. They clip them out and put them on their refrigerators or tape them to their cash registers or pin them on their cubicle walls, but not enough people make the next step and actually support the artists by visiting their web sites or buying their collections.

So how do you try to raise that consciousness? It is a puzzlement. If they pursued comics more rabidly, they would find the collections on their own. But people tend to be passive. They see what is in the paper and they often like what is in the paper. They'll even bombard the editor with complaints if the cartoon is left out of the paper or, lord help us, dropped from the line-up.

But they don't see what is not in the paper, nor do they think much about it. And I don't know that this will help. But it will make me feel like I'm doing something, and, after all, isn't that what it's all about? The appearance of action?

Anyway, come visit and let me know what you think.

(We will now commence a stretch of 10 consecutive days during which there will be no funny or remarkable comic strips at all.)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Remembering a neighbor

Not me. I just got here, and I live about 25 miles too far away anyhow. But plenty of people down the road a bit lost a good neighbor recently.

Here's how they'd help him out.

Here's how they remember him.

Folks around here make good neighbors. And, yes, sometimes good fences come into it, to reference another New Englander. I think even Frost must have known, as Jerry clearly did, that you can always reach over, even climb over, a good fence.

Monday, February 01, 2010

If you throw a tantrum and nobody notices, does it count?

There is a lively and worthwhile discussion going on this week about CBS's decision to accept a Super Bowl advertisement from Focus on the Family that is reputed to carry a strong anti-abortion message. The issue isn't over the actual message of the ad so much as it is that networks have, in the past, rejected advocacy ads for the Super Bowl.

Specifically, CBS turned down an advertisement from the United Church of Christ in 2004 that showed minorities and gay couples being turned away at some churches but being welcomed to services at a UCC church.  According to this article, the reason given was a policy against any advertisement which "touches on and/or takes a position on one side of a current controversial issue."

CBS apparently has admitted to loosening the restrictions in light of the current economy, but still rejected an advertisement for a gay dating site, reportedly because the ad showed a gay couple celebrating a touchdown by kissing.

So the question is, has CBS decided to accept controversial ads, or just the ones somebody in their power structure doesn't consider controversial?

And, to be fair, the other question is, does the Focus on the Family ad say the things its critics claim? I add all the "reportedlys" to this because I happened to be working at an NBC affiliate when Donald Wildmon, a conservative clergyman noted for protesting indecency and blasphemy in the media, launched a campaign against a planned miniseries on the life of Christ, threatening sponsors with a boycott because the story was blasphemous, based on wild and baseless rumors of what the script contained. Today, Zeffirelli's "Jesus of Nazareth" is a staple of Christian broadcasting around Easter.

But let's assume the advertisement is what it is said to be: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother saying how glad they are that she didn't choose to have an abortion when she was pregnant with him. I don't see how this ad is less controversial than an ad from the UCC saying, "All people are welcome here" or an ad for a dating service that suggests that gay couples kiss when they are happy. No more controversial, but also no less. And thus the question of why CBS is airing the ad deserves to be asked, and the question of fairness answered.

I would go farther and say that I approve of boycotts as a way of expressing displeasure, and, if people want to write to other Super Bowl sponsors and express their anger, individually or collectively, I would encourage them to do so.


The comments section of the above-linked article on HuffPost contains threats by a number of outraged readers to not watch the game. I strongly dislike reading these comments because I kind of like to cherish the notion that  liberals enjoy some intellectual advantage over conservatives. This "that'll show'em" response makes it impossible for me to hold onto an attractive idea which I already knew wasn't true.

Yeah, don't watch their damn Super Bowl. That'll show'em!

But ... that'll show who?

Small gestures matter, even if they are only personal ones. But they have to carry some weight, however light. I carry on my own personal boycott of Arizona Iced Tea and its affiliated products, because they had proposed bringing out "Crazy Horse Malt Liquor" over the protests of his family, who asked them not to use the name, noting the damage alcohol has done to Indians, and, in particular, the staunch temperance views that their famous ancestor had held. The proposal fizzled anyway, but I'm not buying their damned drinks. Now, I don't think that's going to cause any comment in the board room at Arizona Iced Tea because (A) I haven't told them and (B) my dollar a month canned beverage habit isn't going to nudge their P/L by a whole lot one way or t'other. Still, it's money they aren't getting from me and to hell with'em.

That said, how on earth does not watching the Super Bowl show anybody anything? There is, in these outraged statements, a sense that, if we don't watch, their ratings will fall. Now, unless you happen to be a Neilsen family this week and are keeping a ratings diary, the only way this will happen will be if it turns out that television ratings are the result of magical spy satellites that track all our viewing habits.

Let me just say that nobody who believes that is in any position to make jokes about tin foil hats.

If you don't want to watch the game, don't watch. But don't claim you're making a statement, because you are not costing CBS a single ratings point or a single penny of revenue. You are not having an impact on Focus on the Family. You are not advancing the cause of women's right to privacy or to control of their bodies.

You are simply having a very private, very quiet hissy fit that will have no possible effect on anyone except, perhaps, those who have to hear about it at the office. Either do something or do nothing, but don't be silly.

And, finally, for those who wonder where God stands on all this, I submit this Owen Dunne cartoon, which ran in January, 2000, after the Rams won the Super Bowl over the Titans in a squeaker. (Click on it for a more readable size.) Of course, we all know that, if God doesn't give the New Orleans Saints a victory, it means He really did strike down the city as divine punishment for the pro-choice policies of America, just like Pat Robertson said.