Damn You, World Leaders!

I used to have a pretty good corner on the local cynicism market when I worked behind a retail counter. I could size up a customer in four seconds and predict what would come out of their mouth…And make the rest of the staff laugh until they were ill into their paper lunch bags or the till.

Now you have blown this to pieces. No longer can I shock or amuse when you have topped nearly everything I ever did, and continue to do even worse each day. I cannot possibly compete with Trump and Trudeau, and now even Boris Johnson is doing it in his retirement.

Boris. A man burdened with the name of a cartoon Russian spy name, plus a body and  head of hair that was God’s gift to cartoonists, thinks the moslem burqua is a bad look. You couldn’t write this stuff and sell it to the Three Stooges – they’d turn it down as too slapstick.

I’m not in favour of the garment as such but then my objection is that it is too much confined to the one sex – if the males of the tribe were similarly swathed and hidden I would say fine. Or ditch the black lump look and substitute exotic and bright colours and designer patterns. If they must make themselves look like a bolt of cloth at least make it the fancy stuff.

But back to the world leaders. I think we miss out on a lot of good stuff by being Euro and American-centric in the news coverage. I’ll bet there are some wise and wonderful statesmen ( oops, statespeople. Sorry, Justin. ) in the various dictators, theocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and kleptocrats of the other continents. We just need to have them on the telly regularly. And not just when they are being tried – before that, when they are reviewing the troops or beating the recalcitrants.

 

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Entertaining Sweet Poison

I have been reading a well-known web comic strip for a number of years – it is delightfully drawn with a number of quirky characters. The Sunday colour is magnificently done – Disney or Pixar at their best could do no better. The story lines some years have been as much fun as a Ghibli movie.

But every strip is attached to the artist’s personal life in some way – and some people’s personal lives take roads that I do not wish to walk. The case of Al Capp and Lil’ Abner is one such. I loved the strip, and still do when I see old repro books of it. So many of its characters are standard figures in my life – I knew the doubles for Mammy Yokum and Marryin’ Sam. I know the double for Joe Blftsxk right now – and I steer clear of him. I am still looking for Moonbeam McSwine…

Pogo by Walt Kelly was another. I collect such examples of his books and strips as I can find as they have a real echo of my childhood and youth about them. Kelly may have had his foibles, but he drew them into delightful creatures and amusing story lines without being crude or derivative. I don’t think anyone pulled or pushed Kelly in the political arena.

The current web comic artist has adopted political attitudes that are being pushed. I don’t think it’s affected his image work, but I do think he has set up a series of straw men and paper tigers to destroy for the benefit of other people’s opinions. In doing so he has lost mine.

I’m a mollusc when it comes to running away – a veritable bivalve. I shall not pull his plug until the end of the year. But if he continues in the way he has trended to…I’ll need to find another strip to replace him.

Breaking news: I have just canned the strip. And searched extensively for another to replace it – webcomics can be a very minimal artistic experience. But I’ve found one. It has a different world in it, but isn’t preachy. It is a funny comic strip.

When You Have To Be Honest…

When you have to be honest about some particular thing, you might just as well surrender yourself to the whole vile experience and be honest about everything. You’ll be cleaning up a damned mess, of course, but the thing won’t be any different than if you just told a little bit of the truth and clammed up about the other things you know.

Not that honesty is required all the time, mind. If you are dealing with magistrates and police officers and coroners and such you’ll have to be completely truthful, of course. Likewise you are going to want to be open and forthright with your physician, dentist, optometrist, etc – otherwise your own body will betray you. But there are other places in society where you can get a rest from being honest:

a. Facebook. No-one really expects to see a 100% honest day on Facebook. There are so many political, religious, and social memes out there just waiting for shares, and most of them are either too good to be true or too true to be good – the former ones outnumber the latter…

b. Instagram. You are encouraged to make things look better than they really are to attract the interest of people who want to attract your interest with their visual lies. Fortunately it makes a nice change from Pokemon and people are less likely to step into traffic while looking at Instagram. Unless it makes them really depressed.

c. The pub. Well, if you can’t tell lies in a place that serves diluted alcohol, what’s the point of going there?

d. Political rallies. Whichever side you are on and whomever you are against, you are never expected to be unbiased and fair at a political rally. You are there to root for your side and howl the rest down. You are often allowed to hold up offensive signs. You are never required to dress well. You are permitted to espouse the foulest creeds and howl the vilest insults. If it had nap time, it would be like kindergarten.

e. Religious meetings. You are required to be honest to God and honest to yourself, but everyone else there can be played like a harmonica. Profess anything that they want you to profess and damn anything that they demand you to damn. Recite creeds, prayers, anthems, and shopping lists if that is the custom of the place. Bob, weave, dance, sing, and perform any gestures that seem to be required.

It’ll all be the same thing. Would I lie to you?

 

 

 

 

It Must Be True – Because I Read It

A. And if it wasn’t true they wouldn’t have printed it…

B. Because I read it. Me. Not some other unimportant person. Me.

C. And anyway, if it wasn’t true, it ought to be true.

D. Because I want it to be true.

F. No, I don’t remember where I read it. I just did. Somewhere.

G. And why are you asking all these questions? Are you a communist? You sound like a communist…

H. Because you’re asking all these questions, that’s why.

I. Go on – prove you’re not a communist.

J. That’s not proof. Anyone can belong to the Republican party and be a Catholic and a Knight of Columbus. You probably have DAS KAPITAL in your bookcase.

K. I’ll bet you voted for Trump. Or Putin. Or Clinton. Go-on. Try to weasel out of that one.

L. Well you would have if you were a citizen. That just goes to show you.

 

 

 

 

Morality Plays Upon The Phosphor Screen

The medieval morality play was a religious exhortation tricked up into a theatrical form. Most European nations did not have television in the 1200’s ( Though apparently it was invented by the Russians in 1068 according to the late Soviet regime…) and the peasants did not understand the words of the Latin Mass. So travelling shows and church festivals used plays to entertain and instruct.

The various kings, dukes, earls, barons, and sheriffs used the axe and the rope to instruct, as well. It was not until the late 1700’s that a French doctor was able to return the compliment with a mechanical device.

But we are straying from the topic; morality played out or taught on the computer screen. It’s not just done by means of Hollywood crime dramas – sometimes it is in simpler form. Sometimes all that is required is  a crusading cartoonist or someone who likes to put memes onto Facebook. I see both of these daily – and while they do not form or reform my mind, I can see that they might do so for others.

Take the case of ” Sinfest ” – a rather well-drawn daily strip by a chap in America that has been going for over a decade. It features very stylish art and some quite novel concepts of God, the devil, supernatural beings, Time, etc. It sounds moralistic, and it is moralistic, but the longevity of it shows that there is a market for its biased view of the world. If you are a bad person it castigates you and if you are good one it praises you…but the thought eventually must arise in the mind of the viewer that the artist is putting himself forward as  the sole judge of good and bad. If his pronouncements are a little puerile they are at least redeemed by the pretty drawings.

” Least I can Do ” is also successful and enjoyable…and equally as plonking in some cases, though there is a different form of puerility evident – the writer delights in shocking the viewer if he can. At least the artist is a brilliant illustrator. Still, when the tenor of the strip gets political and snarky with it…you wonder whether the fun is worth the scolding.

If you go off and google the strips and follow them for a while you’ll probably see what I mean. In a way, they are no worse than Lil’ Abner was when Al Capp decided to beat his political drum.

The Facebook meme is the one that has me reaching for the mouse most times. I do understand that people like to score points by appearing smart and trendy, but I would be more likely to award them this opinion if the things they had to say were from their own mind, instead of being a parrot squawk of someone else’s prepared smarminess. But that would expose them to criticism of themselves, rather than of the anonymous source… Now that we have 30-day ” rest ” periods for the worst offenders, I can read the social media with more pleasure.

 

Possible Is Not The Same As Probable

And neither of them are proven. All three terms are separate in the language and the law. Time to separate them in social media.

Let us take the case of a public figure: Ronald Gump, the President of the Republic of North Mexico. Mr. Gump has the problem that his election angered his political opponents to such an extent that they have never let him be in peace to actually act as president.

They’ve found that the astute use of the social media can keep the man in the firing line of constant abuse and ridicule – even if there is no basis upon which to found this. All they need is people who are of the same mind* as they to keep passing and re-passing the memes – to keep suggesting and sneering and accusing and hinting. Once they start these things off, all they have to do is put in some suggestive headline – no matter how trivial  – to keep the ball rolling.

Mr. Gump would have been wise at the start of his presidency to ignore the social media entirely – as notice taken or anything said merely serves to fuel more hatred. The quick internet response can be a very damaging phenomenon.

The gravest casualty of this whole affair has been the faith which sane people used to put in the media – a credulity that has been largely destroyed. The term ” fake news ” has supplanted the older ones of ” propaganda ” and ” lies ” and makes things seem somehow more amusing and less harmful. ” fake ” is fake, and fake is never good.

*  I may have used the wrong word there. It probably should have been ” mindless “.

It’s Like Funny In The Bank

If you can tell a joke that no-one expects, you can sell it for more money than they’d normally pay.

I know – I do this daily. Not here – you get this stuff for the price of the electricity to open your computer – but over on the column I write for the Perth camera store. They pay me to stay away from the place and write good things about stock and events they sell. If I ever stop writing they’ll just pay me to stay away…

Every daily post contains a product or service that is being touted – and I do so on a fair and honest basis – but every post equally contains one unexpected yock. Mostly I make fun of myself, as being the safest target. Of course, if I suspiciously look and sound like someone else and it puts the readers in mind of another figure in the photo trade…well that must just be a trick of the light. So far no rocks through the editorial window – from either inside or outside.

Some trades would be notoriously difficult to write humorous pieces for. I should not attempt the funeral trade, nor any crisis service or legal business.  I did poke fun at dentistry while I was a dentist, but have left it alone since retiring. This way I cannot be accused of dated humour.

Likewise, some topics bear little laughter from outside the fold – religions and political movements are a good example. People involved deeply in any of those fields are not inclined to laugh at themselves nor at anyone else. Laughter invites relaxation and friendliness and few religious or political figures want to be tainted with that sort of accusation.

As for writing jokes for other people to present…well, bring it on. But be warned that if I am going to get other people to laugh with you, I will also be providing them with an opportunity to laugh at you. Are you stalwart enough to join with them on both occasions?