Click image to enlarge. This cartoon tip originally appeared in the January-February 2016 issue of The Cartoon!st, the newsletter of the National Cartoonists Society. All series images and texts are copyright © 2016 by the artist.
THEY’RE BAAAAAAAAK . . .
. . . and this time The Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters has a huge 3-D blow-up cartoon image of a wage-choked carpenter, being throttled by a corporate fat-cat! Meanwhile, you can check out the earlier post (August 21, 2015) by scrolling down a bit. At that time, the workers had only a large banner and a small take-home flyer explaining their position. (Click on the flyer, below, to read it now.)
Now, WOW! — visual dynamics!
By Florence Newman
One summer when my friend Ellie and I were ten years old, we had a secret hiding place behind the trunk of a big oak tree that bordered Tom’s Creek Road, the street where I’d lived all my life. At the time, the road was a rural lane running out from the Blacksburg town limits into the countryside. On the vine-covered embankment beneath the tree, we had cleared a patch of dirt amid the weeds, an elevated alcove where we could crouch, invisible to passersby. If being the sole possessors of a private hide-away were not enough, we were thrilled that our spot lay only a hundred yards or so down from a small family cemetery and that it was backed by a wrought iron fence surrounding the overgrown gardens of the undoubtedly haunted Victorian house at the corner of Tom’s Creek and Price’s Fork Road.
As we explored our diminutive domain on hands and knees, Ellie and I soon began finding bones: rib bones, vertebrae, even two or three skulls. They belonged to cats, which had long since shed their fur and flesh. We arranged the bones skeleton-style in rough approximation of cat anatomy and gradually added to our collection: fragile leg bones and tiny crania with pointed snouts that must have been mice, bird wings with bits of tendon and feather still attached, big soup bones sawed off at one end. Like good scientists (we fancied ourselves archeologists), we categorized and curated our discoveries on the dusty ground and conferred seriously, in whispers, about what we would do with them.
(Click images for larger versions.)
The fate of the collection was decided for us, and our secret world shattered, one morning when I awoke to the sound of heavy equipment on the road outside. The street was being widened and bulldozers were already gnawing away at the bank where the oak tree stood. I grabbed as many cardboard boxes as I could carry and ran down to the ruin of turned earth and broken branches, no doubt astonishing the county workers who weren’t expecting a small girl to scramble up and disappear into the bushes they were about to uproot. I threw handfuls of bones into my cardboard boxes, heedless of genus, species, or physiology, and hauled them back to my house. By the end of the day, the huge oak had been felled and chopped into pieces, the embankment had been leveled, and the verge had been cleared for a wider expanse of asphalt and, eventually, an actual cement sidewalk.
Throughout my pre-teen and teenage years, the bones remained in boxes in my basement. I’m not sure why Ellie and I never spread them out for display again. Perhaps the mystique was gone (especially after the old lady in the corner Victorian died and Animal Control came to empty her house and yard of dozens of feral and half-feral cats); perhaps my mother forbade it—although it’s a testimony to her tolerance that she let me keep them as long as she did. Even if I didn’t go through the boxes, however, I couldn’t throw the bones away, because I knew their provenance. Not, of course, the precise location where we had found each of them (we weren’t that good scientists), but their origin in that special place under that particular tree during a specific year of my childhood.
“Provenance” is a term usually associated with works of art or bottles of wine. Establishing the provenance of a painting—the artist, the time and place of production—often enhances its monetary value. For oenophiles, provenance has recently become associated with terroir, the idea that the soil, climate, periods of sun and shade, and other indefinable characteristics of the place the grapes were grown gives a wine its unique essence: the wine made from grapes grown on one side of a hill in Bordeaux tastes slightly different from a wine made from grapes grown on the other side. We don’t necessarily need to know the provenance of a painting or a Pinot Noir in order to appreciate them for the pleasure they bring us. But we also don’t doubt that the origin of a thing matters—or that everything comes from somewhere. Nihil ex nihilo, “nothing comes from nothing,” according to the ancient Greek philosophers (and more memorably, Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music). Every being on earth, living and non-living, came from some preexisting time, place, and substance. Provenance. Terroir. Whether red blood still throbs in its veins (or ever did), whether it has been reduced to bleached bones (or was always inorganic material), each terrestrial creature emerged on and from the earth.
Celestial bodies like the moon, on the other hand, seem suspended outside of time and place, ungrounded, lacking provenance. So we invent stories to explain where they came from. The Chomoru people of Guam, for instance, believed that the sun and moon came into being when Putan, the first man—who dwelt in the ether of space and happened to be omnipotent—felt he was about to die and instructed his sister, Fu’una, on the disposal of his corpse. When the time came, Fu’una, having inherited her brother’s limitless powers, carried out Putan’s last wishes:
With his body, she made the earth;
With his breast, she made the sky;
With his right eye, she made the sun;
With his left eye, she made the moon;
And with his eyebrows, she made the rainbows.
One Aztec creation myth holds that Coyolxauhqui, daughter of the earth goddess, Coatlique, conspired with her four hundred sisters and brothers to kill her mother, but at the last moment Coatlique gave birth to a fully armed warrior, Huitsopochtli, who saved her from her attackers, then cut off Coyolxauhqui’s head and flung it into the sky, where it became the moon. In another tale from Aztec mythology (there can never be too many), the gods held a council at which it was decided that two of their number should sacrifice themselves in order to resurrect as the sun and the moon. Two towers were constructed, fires were lit at their bases, and the chosen ones, wearing crowns and feathered robes, ascended to the platforms. After four days, they cast themselves into the flames and were consumed. The other gods waited beside the towers for another four days, until the sky filled with a terrifying red glow: the blinding sun appeared on one side of the sky, and the moon, equally bright, appeared on the other. To dim the moon’s brightness, one of the gods seized a rabbit and threw it onto the face of the moon, etching its shadow on the luminous sphere.
Modern astronomers and physicists tell their own stories: the moon was blasted from the Earth by the impact of a giant protoplanet; long before that, stars and galaxies were formed when atoms of hydrogen, helium, and lithium coalesced under the force of gravity; some 14 billion years ago, a single point contained all the matter in the universe, until a sudden, violent expansion—the Big Bang—sent primordial bits and pieces spinning into the void.
We have no stories for non-being, for what existed prior to the Beginning: we literally cannot imagine it. In our minds, one body inevitably begets another. Nihil ex nihilo. To everything its provenance. Scientific American recently reported that one of Saturn’s rings has apparently spawned a “moonlet,” as particles on the ring’s outer edge, drawn together by gravitational pull, have congealed into the seed-pearl of a future moon. The moonlet may grow large enough to migrate out of the ring and become a separate satellite of Saturn. Or it may be pulverized by asteroids plowing their oblivious course through the cosmos. Or it may disintegrate on its own into ice crystals that drift slowly apart, like disembodied vertebrae relinquishing their bonds.
Copyright © 2014, Florence Newman
Florence Newman is professor emerita at Towson University, where she taught in the English Department for 27 years. A specialist in Middle English literature, she has published and delivered conference papers on Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, and medieval women writers. She grew up in Blacksburg, Va., reading books in her parents’ library and eating strawberries from her grandfather’s garden. She currently lives with her husband in Towson, Md., escapes occasionally to their farm on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and travels farther afield when time, energy, and finances permit.
Doodlemeister is looking for first-person observations up to 1,500 words on any subject for this series. If need be, we’ll help you to edit and/or cut your piece. If you’d like to submit a story about something interesting you experienced, or simply thought about, please contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Zen photography thought for the day: Inside the vertical there may be a better horizontal. When it comes to photographic composition, I prefer the “arty” method — that is, I carefully arrange the image in the view finder of the camera before the shutter is tripped, then exhibit the result full-frame. But I’m no stickler. I know that sometimes a well planned composition is simply not possible, and a crop or two may save the day.
My idea of a good photograph is one that elicits an emotion in the viewer, either positive or negative. The crop above was selected with the idea of pure “joy” in mind; and to intensify that feeling I “zoomed” in on the original (see below) to eliminate unnecessary details and emphasize the dynamic lateral movement of the woman’s head out of the top left side of the frame. Whenever possible I like to have important elements “bleed” off the edges, which adds to the drama.The extreme crop keeps the eye of the viewer where it needs to be, focused on the expressions of both the young lady and the cat; it prevents the eye from wandering up or down, right or left, forces it to remain close on the interesting blur of the woman’s head and the sharper head and body of the animal.
The original image was one of those “just shoot and hope for the best” deals that happen so fast you’re happy if you get anything at all. With animals and kids you can forget about careful composition or re-staging an action, so the crop becomes a useful salvage tool. This image makes me smile each time I see it — and the way I decided to crop it, I think, enhances the playful feeling. The idea is simple: Make it easier for the viewer to share the joy that I felt the first time I saw the image come to life in the developing fluid.
This is an edited re-post from 7/23/08
Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.
Catwoman Vs. Antwoman
By Susan Middaugh
In her movie, Catwoman, Halle Berry looks Amazonian fabulous. Her performance is a working endorsement of kick boxing, tight-fitting leather pants and halter tops.The story line supports the idea that felines are not only her friends, but they also possess magical powers to transform Halle’s timid character into a powerful woman.
My experience as Antwoman was different. Unlike Halle’s feline friend, Midnight, who rescues her from drowning, the small brown ants in my kitchen and bathroom may only be described as pests.
Alone and in groups, the ants crawled across my counters, floor and dining room table. Crawl suggests subservience. These ants were bold. If I sprayed them, many stopped dead in their tracks, but others returned another day. Some have traveled down my arm and up my leg. I felt invaded.
My sister, Tricia, would probably say it was my fault. You could eat off Tricia’s floors. Housekeeping is further down my list of priorities. Once a week is fine, sometimes every two. The occasional dish in the sink, a quick swipe of a sponge tends to be my MO. When I asked Scott, my neighbor, a single dad raising three daughters, if he had ants at his house, he said yes, but they went away after he cleaned up the kitchen after every meal. Oh, I thought. Personal responsibility. If he could do it… A change of habits was in order. Out came the bleach, ammonia, and another can of Raid to spray the back door and yard. Not exactly a 12-step program, but I felt I was making progress. The house was cleaner, but the invasion continued. Where were my weapons of mass destruction?
In Catwoman, Halle fights with her feet. She jumps over rooftops, slides down drain pipes and generally kicks butt. Halle also uses a whip with dramatic effect.To get rid of ants, it’s best to use your fingers to squish the critters one by one, a defensive technique when they stroll across the bathroom sink. After awhile, though, this method had limited effect. The body count was piling up. It was embarrassing to see stacks of what looked like raisins in the corners of my kitchen and on the bathroom shelves. I could sweep them away with a broom, but the ants had cousins.
It was time for desperate measures. I went to the public library, then to a local hardware store in Paradise, a section of Catonsville, Maryland, for my new weapon of choice: boric acid. Halle would have snipped the container with her sharp nails. But I used a scissor and started sprinkling the white powder on the floor of the kitchen, on a ledge above the sink, and in the bathroom. It seems to be working.
I’d like to say Halle was my inspiration to get tough with these intruders. But it was really the ant that hiked across my toothbrush.
Copyright © 2012 Susan Middaugh.
Susan Middaugh is a self-employed business writer in Baltimore who also writes the occasional personal essay. Her essays have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Baltimore Sun and on the website New-Works.org. Susan is also a playwright with short and full length works produced in the United States, Canada and England. The One Act Play Depot in Canada has published her short play, Such Good Neighbors. Several of her personal essays have appeared on this blog. To find them, simply type her name in the little search window, or check out the archives in the sidebar, beginning in April of 2009. Also in the sidebar under the Blogroll, Business and Writing labels, there are links to Susan’s website, Have Pen Will Travel.
Doodlemeister is looking for short memory pieces up to 500 words, on any subject, in any style — as long as it happened to you. Whatever the subject, we have a bias for the lighthearted tone. If need be, we’ll help you to edit and/or cut your piece. If you’d like to submit a story, please contact us at email@example.com
By Chad Fathering
(Click images for larger views.)
The “Hip Shots” series of Doodlemeister.com photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method the more frames exposed, the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting—a related series that can be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own pictures, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below. Meanwhile, click the “Hip Shots” tag above for more examples. And for another post in the series, check in next Friday.