Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who cares?

Mood level: Pinkish red with gray pallor …
Tomorrow is the wedding of Kate Middleton (a commoner! A waif! Plucked from her desultory station to a place of Honor and Endless Attention!) to His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter Master of Arts, but I don't have to tell you that. "News" coverage has super-saturated the planet so that even if you ran screaming for cover (you can probably hear my wails under this washpail) you still could not avoid this occasion. It's fused to your DNA.

It's why I know there's a months-long fuss over the wedding gown, though I don't know who the designer is. It's why I know there are Will-and-Kate action figures and cake toppers (because who doesn't want to commemorate their own weddings by getting hitched the same day as those two?) It's why I know some of the most miscellaneous tidbits about these two, even though I have become ninja-swift at changing TV channels at the uttered opening consonant of their names.

What I don't know is: Why do we care? What possible interest could this be to anybody but the allegedly happy couple and immediate family? Why do we pay attention, and why do they want us to pay them attention?

I sorta understand why Brits would be interested, but many adamantly are not (good for them!), because they have good reason to feel the British royal family has no purpose except symbolic anymore, and British subjects pay for the upkeep of these symbols, which have the nasty habit of eating and living in impossibly lavish palaces and castles, simply by right of birth. One could not aspire to be them, unless one modeled a see-through dress for one of those to-the-manor-born, and inspired His Princedom to propose. (See! It's in my genes to know this, even though I didn't read it anywhere!)

If a loose contingent of Members of Parliament went over and said, "Right, out you go! We need your lodgings for a museum or housing. It doesn't really matter, what, but we're losing money off it as it is, so pack your things. I'm sure you'll find some friends who can board you." The citizens of the United Kingdom would miss the family for about a week, after which they'd realize the money saved would come in handy in these hard times. The last time the royal family seemed important was as comfort during World War II, but even then it was symbol (a more potent symbol, to be sure) not substance.

Why all the strange behavior required of commoners in the presence of the Queen and her Consort? Even the prime minister, the democratic leader of Great Britain, the one guiding real decisions on behalf of British citizens, must defer to royalty, which has no real influence on anything, and is at the top of the heap solely on suspect godly connections centuries ago. Enough!

I love that Friday is an official holiday, and many Brits figured out that with the Easter holiday, they could swing a 10-day holiday for the cost of three days off, and millions have hightailed it out of the country to be away from the wedding.

But why do Americans persist in their interest? Shouldn't wholesale shunning be a perk of our patriot forerunners having won independence from Great Britain? Yet we are chained to the crown again by our own slavish devotion, hanging on every tittle and jot. The guest list! The shoe size! 

The Today Show is parked in London for the week; probably the other morning talk shows too, but I daren't look. Without the wedding and assorted viral YouTube videos of babies laughing at snot bubbles, Fido, and unemployed dads, what would the Today Show have to talk about? What happens when the wedding is over?

But you know what, the wedding will never be over! After the wedding comes the day-by-day scrutiny of the couple's every move, with special devotion to any sign that it will procreate or collapse. We will never be able to stop hearing about them, succeed for fail, and by extension Prince Charles and Diana and whats-her-name, Camilla, forever and ever.

God help all who will rise at 1 a.m. Friday to watch door-to-door coverage. Why do I know that? Aaaahhh! DNA be damned!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Loser's gallery

This was the first and last time I entered art for speculation or contest, in this case for the label and logo for a sake brewing company.

I lost, but I still like the result and the concept, since the sake plant would be brewing from nearby rice yields, where paddies play home to egrets and herons.

Occasionally for projects I'd use a juicy pen on paper towels or napkins, to let the ink bleed and create haphazard texture, which in this case was to be evocative of rice paper and handcrafted drink. Patches and revisions were done with good ol' Wite-Out.®

I think 20 years or so passed before I first tasted sake. Maybe that was my problem.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hope-y Earth Day

I'm following my own advice.

Back then, global warming and melting ice caps (not to mention the loss of glaciers from Glacier National Park and Joshua trees from Joshua Tree National Park), were scarcely contemplated.

Those were the days, my friend.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Joe, we know ye too well

Last week Vice President Joe Biden was caught napping (or at least closing his eyes for a long period) at President Obama's here's-how-we-fix-our-budget-mess news conference. It was much ado about very little, the kind of thing the news media converge on because the real issues are too hard to understand and report.

Joe was sleeping way back when too, when he was caught plagiarizing, word for word, a speech by British Labour politician Neil Kinnock during his run for the presidency; that was the end of Biden's campaign. I drew Joe Biden borrowing from Nixon as his parting shot, thinking that was the last of him. But politicians never do quite go away, do they?

This is one of a bunch of cartoons that I drew in a square format. I must have been shopping the cartoons to a publication with a square hole in its editorial page, but I can't remember which.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

250 days 'til Christmas! (new work)

Meet Super Shopper (for obscene lack of a better name), a Judy-Jetson-meets-Laura-Petrie-meets-Santa-Claus-Conquers-the-Martians creation for, an online Christmas decorations shopping site.
Why articulated metal knees and elbows? Why not?
They're tinselanium!
She's the star of an infographic that commissioned to whet shoppers' appetites for the coming Christmas deals. hipped me to a demand among the blogosphere and personal Web sites for infographics that fans of online businesses can download and share, and which can link back to the source, reinforcing vendor-customer relationships.

This one below is not strictly an infographic, the kind which employ novel uses of icons to show relationships between numbers and spaces and times. Nigel Holmes pioneered the use of "explanation graphics" for Time Magazine, which spawned the nature of infographics most people see today. Informational graphics (bar charts, pie charts, etc.), though, have existed since creation of the circle. And pie.

This one has a bar chart — about as cliché as one can get, my son informs me — but this infographic is really more of a visually realized consumer blurb about online shopping benefits.

Super Shopper, or whatever her name is, is the visual conceit designed to move viewers down the graphic. (By the way, I agree with Ted Forth: Where were the jet packs we were promised about now? Why is the future about typing with your thumbs on a hockey puck?)

Here's the entire graphic below, easily the most vertical illustration I've ever done:

Forever in search of texture, I created a fake barcode and a QR Code (those square pixelated boxes that look like tiny crossword puzzles; the whippersnappers these days swipe their smart phones over these codes and glean information from products and ads, etc.) and set them to repeat in the background (above).

The numbers in the barcode are simply the date for next Christmas. And since all I ever hope to get out of the QR code is to conjure an image amid the arrayed squares, I decided to make a picture of Santa in mine. When you scan these, you find out I'm worth $1.97 and that you can find more of my work at

You can see the barcode in the graphic, too, where Super Shopper is scanning it with her phone. opted for a more straightforward representation of key calendar dates, right, but I originally wanted to make it a 3-D calendar (way below).

My son suggested I give "Cyber Monday" a "Matrix" treatment, which I created with neon-green candy canes and their ghosted images. said it made the information hard to read, and I have to concede its point, but … dang! It's a fun look.

First sketch

In the Gift Ideas section, Santa, Mrs. Claus (does she have a first name? Must she go through eternity known only so formally?) and an Elf stand in for men, women and children. They're images uses on some of its custom stockings for sale.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Only the little people pay taxes … due today!

"'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," said Benjamin Franklin (and many others in many forms). Also, cartoons about taxes, since the core issues never seem to change.

Keep your chin up and stand proud that you can pay taxes. Some, like General Electric, can't afford to pay any taxes …

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How now, Jerry Brown?

Two views of Gov. Jerry Brown, a man with a lengthy and storied past, from the same period for two different newspapers:
What? We worry?!?
The Mustang Daily is Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo's, student-run newspaper, where I got my journalism education (more color in the current paper, yet still gray with a lot of text; hm). I drew this cartoon years after I graduated, having talked the editors into letting me submit cartoons (another weird story for another time).

Memo to George Deukmejian: Don't look back …
This one for The Stockton Record spins a similar message for a different readership.

Brown had served two terms as governor, tried twice to become president, and abruptly dropped out of politics to learn Spanish in Mexico, study Zen meditation in Japan and help Mother Teresa in India. Noble tasks all, and I respect him for it.

Then in 1989 he returned, reputation intact, and even enhanced (Gov. Moonbeam Ultra!). Political players wondered what he was up to. He became state Democratic Party chairman, made another run for president, stumbling and gaffing much of the way; eventually he was elected mayor of Oakland and state attorney general before winning his third term as governor.

I think the fact that he has been there, done that — and then some — served him well by the time he ran against Queen Meg Whitman; back in 1989, his Meander in the Desert made people nervous about his motives. Voters in 2010 perceived he had seen it all and was best suited to solve the state's budget crisis. But even Brown's meditative prowess and miles walked in other poor souls' shoes have been no match for a Republican Legislature that just says "No!" for petty political gain.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hasta la vista, Arnold … please?

I'm rarely above a pun, good or otherwise …
With the post of this illustration for Brew Your Own Magazine (about home brewing dark beers), I declare a moratorium on Arnold Schwarzenegger, because I'm done paying attention to him. I urge the world to follow my lead.

Also, I'm flat out of Schwarzenegger illustrations. God says, "You're welcome."

Arnold did exactly as I predicted, only moreso. He leveraged his pathetic turn as governor into a chance to make even more money, and remake his reputation (which wasn't sullied much to begin with because we weren't minding him very closely) as a shining example of governorship of the Great State of California. Except with an underground lair and bubblegum that changes your facial features; more on that in a bit.

Instead of yanking him back to Sacramento in shackles to help fix California, which broke under the weight of his Superego, we're letting him unleash a "multi-platform" (as the industry calls it) media juggernaut called  "The Governator."

Schwarzenegger announced this cartoon/comic book/3-D movie/video game/diamond-encrusted cufflink project last week while he was in Cannes to earn France's highest honor for arts and letters. Seriously, has France seen his movies?

"The Governator" is the nickname Schwarzenegger was given — with equal scoops scorn and adulation — while governor. Clever guy, Schwarzenegger trademarked the name (you can't use it, no matter how much you might want), and roped Stan Lee of Marvel Comics (who I now realize is in it only for the money) and some other media moguls into helping develop this juggernaut.

Sez Stan Lee: "There are many politicians that could lend themselves to a cartoon, but as far as being a superhero — lucky there’s only one Arnold Schwarzenegger and I got him!" This, according to

Schwarzenegger plays himself in "The Governator," having left the governor's office to return to Brentwood and life as a private citizen. Except he's restless and wants to fight crime, so he builds a secret lair and assembles a team of teenage geniuses (huh?) including a computer whiz named Zeke Muckerberg (yeah, I know).

The team makes gadgets for "The Governator," such as bubble gum that changes facial features once popped on his face, and a throat spray that enables him to speak multiple languages. "The Governator" has a fleet of Hummer-ish vehicles, a Tron-like motorcycle, and armored suits that let him fly. Just like in real life.  The bad guys united under a laborious name whose acronym is G.I.R.L.I.E Men. (Yeah, I know.)

Here's the trailer, if you dare. Even the loose network of facts bears heavy marks of revisionist history, including Larry King as a reporter at Arnold's parting news conference. Naturally, "The Governator" is a big hit already, and major European media markets have already snatched it up for the 2012 season.

Here's how Schwarzenegger described his motivation for putting us through all this alleged entertainment (be careful around the twisting verb tenses):
I was looking for, when I am finished with politics, to come up again with something that will be a big surprise. And so I think this project has been a big surprise. Everyone was kind of like, 'Wow, I didn’t expect that at all. I expected you to go and jump in and do another action movie or something like that, but not to come up with a TV series that is so multifaceted and multimedia and worldwide,' and so on.
Yeah, big surprise. Now we can resume our lives.

Schwarzenegger said it was important that Africa benefit from this new media sensation, for some reason. That oughta end hunger and debilitate all the genocidal dictators there.

"It will not be a violent show," he assured, "but there will be a tremendous amount of  action and comedy."

Have you ever noticed how much Schwarzenegger mentions comedy and the movies in which he was trying to be funny on purpose? It's almost as if he is afraid movie goers won't notice.

At one point in the news conference, Schwarzenegger said he would have loved all "The Governator's" gadgetry while he was governor, as if a governor fights cyborg bad guys for a living. The only foes Schwarzenegger would have been battling were his own Hubris and Arrogance.

It's schlock cartooning, just like so much of what kids watch during afternoon TV. But Schwarzenegger will rake it in, because we can't help ourselves but watch this guy and forgive.
Michael Schneider of TV Guide had the best last word in the whole affair (quoted in  "I hope 'The Governator' is an April Fools joke because, seriously, what kind of superhero leaves things even worse off than he found it?"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring flung

Hell-bent as my team seems to be in letting opponents win their home openers (in other words, the World Champion San Francisco Giants have come out swinging and missing and bobbling and throwing wide), maybe I shouldn't have wished so hard for baseball to resume.

But it has, and despite the Giants' near-daily disasters, I'm glad (and they won soundly yesterday, with 13 Tim Lincecum strikeouts, so life isn't so awful). Which remind me of some baseball-themed editorial cartoons:
Pete Rose woulda fit right in with the Black Sox.

This was for The Stockton Record, which let me draw cartoons for $25 a piece.

Yeah, I know, that's practically nothing, and I would have drawn the cartoons for nothing. Hell, I did, because this was before the wonder of email, when I would have to drive the 115-mile round trip in the night to deliver each cartoon to a back door in the bowels of the Record, itself nestled in the bowels of Stockton. I blew more in gas than I got paid, but it was a foot in the door toward a cartooning job.

Pete Rose bet on baseball. Or he didn't. Because really, who cares? As much as I love baseball, professional baseball is the Great Hypocrite. Arguably the best all-around player of the modern era, Pete Rose not only sits outside the Hall of Fame, he's not even allowed to go to Major League (and probably Minor League) ballparks, because he tainted the game. Enough already! Let Pete Rose in the Hall. Bring him back to baseball. So what if he's not the most honorable player baseball ever saw. Like someone wise once said, if the yardstick for induction to the Hall was honor, the Hall would echo with its emptiness.
Then baseball went on strike, and I broke allegiance with it (until my son, who might have been named for Will Clark before reason prevailed, began to play baseball and I came back to the sport.) This cartoon is flawed (and not just because some would say I can't draw) but because I violated a cardinal rule of how people read cartoons, which is left to right. If you want to sing this song aloud (go ahead, no one's watching), you need to read top to bottom. I like this cartoon very much, except for that stupid error.

Finally, Gov. George Deukmejian didn't seem to want to face a $3.6 billion budget deficit. Isn't that quaint? A cute little $3.6 billion deficit, just a chip off the $26.6 billion deficit California is buried under today. New Gov. Jerry Brown, who may have played a role in setting the table for Deukmejian's budget struggles when the Dukester ended Brown's second term, would think himself a hero if he had to face a trifling $3.6 billion deficit. It's like the $3.6 billion deficit got hold of some steroids and became the Monster that ate California 2011.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shaded is the head that wears the hat

Ghost-white face, lobster legs …
Idealized self-portrait (left) of the artist as a young man, at the helm of the Art Directors and Artists Club, a visual communications organization for Sacramento-area creatives.

They were halcyon, heady days, being part of a group that at the time had a nationwide and even international reputation as a showcase for graphic design. ADAC staged a three-day conference each spring, Envision, and for a long time it was the only such conference west of the Rockies, and somehow the club was able to attract the best among graphic design to do elaborate show-and-tells for us for airfare and a hotel room.

A key example of those halcyon days: ADAC could afford to rent Asilomar, a state-run conference center near Pacific Grove on the coast, and gather the officers to relax and imagine the coming year. I'm dressed (left) for the beach, wearing a shirt Will Suckow designed just for the retreat.

A naif, I had no idea I was merely riding ADAC to its doom as the great curator of what was current in design. How Magazine, among others, eventually took over the conference business and we had no way to compete (I'm not linking to How Magazine; find it on your own).

It was sad watching ADAC transmogrify into a small local group, but I loved every minute of being part of ADAC, from inhaling Spra-Mount fumes with dozens of Envision volunteers as we prepared speakers' work for display, to fuming over a renowned graphic designer who publicly denigrated a volunteer during an Envision presentation. I learned so much from every triumph and tribulation.

As president, I tried but couldn't wield much power: One of my ideas for Envision 21 was to invite as many of the giants of graphic design to speak; people such as Bradbury Thompson and Milton Glaser. I almost had ADAC's board convinced to pursue the idea, until I wrapped up my pitch with, "It'll be a sort of 'Hear Them Before They Die" Tour. It was a joke, but it really cooled ADAC to the idea. Live and learn.

A year after my presidency, invited to Asilomar as the emeritus chief, I rented a cheerleader costume to rally officers.

Things happened, I stepped away from ADAC (though I'm happy to say I'm a member again, and the club has changed focus and operations) and didn't attend an ADAC event for a while. When I did and an old friend introduced me to someone new, her face lit up. Of course, past president, Envision co-chair, who wouldn't recognize me and be delighted for my contributions to graphic design?!

"Awesome," she said. "You're the one who dressed up as a cheerleader!"

I guess I could have a worse reputation.