Mar 25, 2015
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.- Charles Darwin
Chris Borland will survive because he was the most responsive to change. The NFL, only time will tell.
Chris Borland, San Francisco 49er linebacker retires after his rookie year in the NFL....one 'n' done....at the age of 24. Was the surprise retirement out of fear of brain damage or common sense about the obvious risks of playing the game.
SO - how responsive is the NFL as it finds itself on the path of suicide....? The game of football is no longer a game, it is now a contest ala the Roman coliseum of long ago. For years the NFL was in denial about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) now the league is just in shock...deer in the headlights kind of shock. Not knowing what to do, just standing there, looking right into the light. Or trying to make the game safer with penalties and coaching to keep the head up when tackling. All the while ignoring the object behind the bright light is the fact that the players have out grown the ability of the protective gear to protect it's players who are the NFL.
The popularity, hype and competitive nature of pro sports leads to an Icarrus affect. Icarrus the young kid who thought he could fly to the sun with wings of wax. I'm sure you know how that ended. For pro sports to survive the governing bodies of each sports has to control the integrity of their respective sports. Competition, costs and the contest itself are the three high wires each plays on.
The Black Sox scandal, Paul Hornung and Pete Rose and sports gambling were easy to deal with. Drug doping not so much by the fact that McGwire, Barry Bonds and others were allowed to continue to play, and not to mention Lance Armstrong. Corked bats, under-inflated balls and spit balls can also be dealt with with little disruption of the respective games.
Since most pro-sports arrived on the scene generations ago the human body has outgrown the original dimensions of the game. Case in point, basketball was a game of passing and shooting a ball to a hoop set ten feet up in the air. As players became more athletic AND taller the game changed.
As the sure thing dunking for two points replaced the higher risk of shooting the ball, the action of the game was replaced with boredom. College basketball banned dunking (1967-1976) as taller players who were now playing didn't even have to jump or shoot to put the ball through the hoop. With competition from the ABA for exciting play the NBA adopted the three point line shot. They couldn't change the height of the basket, a 10ft high basket WAS the game....but they could reward a play that required more skill than standing underneath and dunking the ball. Hence the game is much more exciting for fans AND the bottom line. Basketball will survive because they were responsive to growing players who were dropping the ball in instead of shooting the ball.
Football is another question ....the sport over the past 50 years has literally exploded. Children have started playing organized tackle football at a younger and younger age. This allows for younger brains to experience more years of constant brain bashing. At the other end, football players even in high school are bigger, stronger and faster. Which is causing obvious brain injuries and fatalities, suicides, class action lawsuits and now top flight rookies retiring just as their careers are starting. Back at the other end, parents just aren't allowing their children to participate in organized tackle football programs......and those parents are former NFL players.
Those bigger players have changed the game itself. Football used to be a game of strategy to get the ball in the end zone. Today, it's a legal opportunity to ring somebody's bell.
Come back tomorrow and I'll share how football should adapt and overcome itself.
Mar 24, 2015
AND they're OFF...!
Ted Cruz is the first one out of the gates for the 2016 Presidential Race...!! And this is looking like it's really going to be something special of an election season. I mean the Tea Bagger who is dead last in the GOP popularity poll, decided that if he was ever going to be in the lead he better launch before anybody else did. SO- there's Ted Cruz the only declared candidate for the GOP nomination to run for the highest office in the land. Technically, leading the pack
Amazing isn't it...? You ask yourself, how can that be....wasn't Ted Cruz a Canadian citizen since he was born in Calgary, Alberta. Yes, Ted was a Canadian citizen, he had dual citizenship his entire life until May 14th of last year when he realized it conflicted with his Tea Party credentials. So now Ted is ALL American, and I'm sure I heard a huge sigh of relief coming from the north that they would no longer be associated with the smartest crazy man from Harvard.
You may also ask yourself, how can he run for president if his Dad was a Cuban AND he was born in Canada....? An Hispanic Canadian running for the presidency...?!...I know what yer thinking....I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK!!! Secure the borders! Stop these illegals from sneaking in our country just to take our jobs....and now they want our presidency!?? Send them back to the great white north where all those Hispanics belong any ways....!
Sane, competent citizens who understand the laws of our land already know that Ted Cruz is perfectly legal to run, win and serve. Does this all sound a bit familiar...?...of course it does. We already know this because we already have gone over this easily understood, cut 'n' dry, black 'n' white issue seven, six, five, four. three and two years ago.
This all sounds familiar because President Obama was born not in a foreign country, but in Hawaii. Sad that I have to say that Hawaii is part of the United States by being our 50th state. In addition his mother was an America citizen. Sounds pretty black 'n' white, doesn't it...? That's because it is... Obama is the black and Cruz is the white.
It's just another flash point event that will reveal how deeply racist our country is. There are people to this day who are still questioning President Obama's qualification to run and serve as president of the U.S. These same strange people don't care about the law or even that Hawaii is one of our states. All that maters to them is that President Obama is half black....and they can't stand it. These racists are the base of the GOP. These past 7 years or so the GOP has been surfing this racist wave.
Now Ted Cruz has revealed how hypocritical republicans truly are. I have heard 'n' read more than a couple of pundits and people point out .....oh my, I never questioned Obama's birth certificate. It was all Donald Trump. The republicans are now claiming to be a Senator McCain, when he corrected that crazy lady in the town hall audience who called Obama a Muslim, etc... McCain just couldn't swallow or have anything to do with this crazy racist mentality. Now conservatives are saying we're not birthers, that's Donald Trump, not us! Republicans are more of a racist Donald Trump than of a Senator John McCain.
Buckle up for a few months or less of people questioning Cruz's presidential birth qualification. Just don't expect years of crazy people claiming a Cuban Canadian can't be our president.
Mar 23, 2015
This week's Media Monday brings sad news. Many of the cartoonists I followed as I grew up are now passing from this newsprint world. The above link will take you to The National Cartoonists Society's page that covers the passing of Jim Berry, Roy Doty, Jack Jurden and Irwin Hasen.
Jurden was the editorial cartoonist for The Evening Journal in Wilmington Delaware. Doty was a advertising cartoonist/illustrator while Hasen was a bullpen artist for DC Comics and the artist for the comic strip Dondi.
Jim Berry creator of Berry's World was something special to me. I met him at my first AAEC (Association of American Editorial Cartoonists) convention back in 1981. I remember him being very happy to meet me, especially when he found out I was ALSO a protege' of John Fischetti. He said welcome to the club and then explained that it was John Fischetti who helped him get his comic panel Berry's World syndicated with NEA. Jim and his wife Heather made me feel extra special and welcome at my first cartoonist convention. I was surprised to read in Jim's obit how popular his comic panel Berry's World was. I knew it was popular but I didn't know it was 1000 newspaper client popular. It should've been 2,000 newspaper popular, it was that good. Below is (I believe) a self-caricature of Jim.
Mar 22, 2015
Well, did anybody seriously believe Starbuck baristas writing 'Race Together' on a coffee cup were going to improve race relations in this country? Especially now that CEO Howard Schultz has quit asking his employees to start coffee line hot button discussions. Is the campaign over before it started? Or is this just the beginning? Today Starbucks said this 'phase' of the campaign was always 'scheduled' to end yesterday.
Schultz as a CEO of the second largest chain in America is maturing as a leader. A decade ago he sold his expensive NBA Seattle Sonics toy. Now he's tackling race relations in America. Starbucks 'race together' wasn't just a twitter hash tag, it's a full fledged public relations campaign. It's a two-fer, it's a way of expanding, growing your company on the social conscience of the America.
Starbucks is planning on expanding into urban neighborhoods and over the next three years hiring 10,000 'opportunity youth'. All of this documented or should I say promoted via advertising with USA Today.
A strange Race Together coffee line discussion campaign wasn't going to change race relationships in America....or will it? Maybe not in the few minutes while waiting for your coffee but because of the campaign it is being debated everywhere else. Everywhere else is where it needs to be discussed. Every time the phrase 'race relations' is mentioned people will also being hearing the name Starbucks.
Social media derided the Race Together coffee cup campaign. Remember we're talking publicity here, I don't care what you say about me, just as long as you keep saying it.
Mar 17, 2015
Yesterday, I shared that newspapers didn't understand comic strips. I should be more specific, I should say editors, managers and publishers of newspapers don't understand...newspapers, their customers or their market....or really not much of anything.
Case in point...the strip Garfield by Jim Davis was launched in June 1978 in only 41 American newspapers. The Chicago Sun-Times was one of those 41 papers. Even though I've worked at newspapers and syndicates, both as a staffer and freelancer....I really don't understand the decision making process that goes through an editor's brain when he or she decides to subscribe to a certain comic strip.
Whatever that decision is ....the editor should live with their decision.... for several reasons. Your newspaper is going to be spending hundreds, thousands and eventually tens of thousands of dollars publishing that certain comic strip.(of course depending on circulation) The word spending also means INVESTING...investing money to the syndicate...and investing building time with this strip in your readers time 'n' lives. You are building a relationship with your customers with this comic strip.
If the editor of the newspaper changes their mind and drops the strip- they're playin' a little bait 'n' switch with their loyal customers. The editor risks upsetting loyal customers and having to deal with community heat. SO- if you are going to drop a strip ...make sure it's going to be worth the headache.
Back to the Chicago Sun-Times investing the new comic strip Garfield with their readers. For a reason, I'll never understand they decided to drop Garfield just months after their readers were enjoying getting to know the furry little guy. Immediately after the dropping of Garfield, the Sun-Times received about 1300 angry letters from readers demanding that Garfield be reinstated.
A perfect example of a newspaper not understanding comic strips, their readers or the market. The Sun-Times was in shell-shock after receiving that many angry responses and quickly did reinstate Garfield. Jim Davis' syndicate used that news of the 1300 angry readers that proved to new newspaper editors how popular Garfield was.
That was the best sales tool for any syndicate salesman....ever. The salesman just had to share the news of the 1300 and ask, Do you want a piece of that intense reader loyalty or should I go to the other newspaper in town...? Garfield is now in over 2100 newspapers, read by 200 million people. Garfield is now in the Guinness Book of World Records as The Most Widely Syndicated Comic Strip in the World.
I wonder if Davis ever called up that Chicago Sun-Times editor to thank him for dropping Garfield.
Mar 16, 2015
Newspapers have a love/hate relationship with comic strips....they used to love 'em but now they love to hate 'em. Most newspapers don't understand them, where they came from or why they are even in their newspapers. The largest newspapers in America don't hate comic strips but that is because they don't publish them. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today have decided they can write about comic strips just not publish them.
Comic strips started in American newspapers at the end of the 19th century. The media landscape back in the day was very different than it is today. Media meant one thing and one thing only- newsprint. Electronic anything was still generations away from society.
Joseph Pulitzer's New York World published the first full-color cartoon which was intended to entertain instead of editorialize. It was created by Richard Outcault and it was popular, very popular, it was lightning in a bottle. People were buying the World newspaper just to read this new cartoon that would eventually become our modern day 'comic strip'. This Outcault bottled lightning cartoon was making Mr. Pulitzer a lot of money. Pulitzer's rival newspaper was the the New York Journal owned by Mr. Hearst. and he liked money, too. So he bought Mr. Outcault and his talents to his newspaper and he started selling more newspapers. These were smart publishers, they knew to make money you needed to spend money... on the bottled lightning.
These entertaining cartoons were so popular newspapers quickly started running all kinds entertaining cartoons. America's appetite for graphic entertainment was insaisissable which led newspapers to increase the number of comic strips. There was a media war for readers attention and the comic strip was their super high tech drones. Comic strips were published full page in a broad sheet format.
Soon syndicates started appearing making these popular comic strips even more valuable because now a newspaper didn't have to develop their own bottled lightning. They could buy the rights to reprint the entertaining graphics in their newspaper. TV was still decades away and most cities had more than two competing newspapers. So, the most popular comic strips went to the highest bidder newspaper in each market... exclusivity being the heart of competition.
When WWII started, American newspapers did their bit for the war effort by downsizing their Sunday comic strips from full page to a fraction of a page. This war effort of rationing of commodities saved newsprint, ink and printing costs for newspapers. Once the war was over the smaller size of Sunday comic strips had become the new norm and the full page Sunday comic strip never regained what it once was. The great shrinking was on for newspapers and comic strips.
As soldiers returned home from the war the suburbs were there to greet them with a television set. As the daily commute times grew the number of daily newspapers shrank. Electronic media was creating new habits of news gathering....and it didn't have anything to do with newsprint.....other than the TV guide. The newspapers that remained were now competing in reverse by continuing to eliminate quantity and quality of the features they offered their customers.
For generations the Sunday comic strip section was the bait that used to draw young people into the newspaper habit. As electronic media continued it's societal expanse from a passive to an interactive platform the newspaper comic strip became an anchor for the older generation's newspaper habit. The people who run newspapers realized their loyal customers were aging and their eyesight was starting to fade so they made their comic strips even smaller so it was harder for their customers to read them. Go figure. Other consumer products (phones, cards, etc.) enlarge the type for their aging customers newspapers make their's smaller.
After awhile shrinking the strips wasn't enough....newspapers decided to shrink the entire comic strip section. Sometimes they just dropped a strip or two and just hoped nobody would notice. That would usually generate hate mail and a lot of pissed off readers. In addition the editors didn't know a good strip from a not so good strip...so this is what gave birth to the reader's comics poll. This way editor's could blame the readers themselves for a certain strip being dropped. Still, the polling of comic strips results didn't ensure no hate mail from disappointed fans of a certain feature.
This shrinking of the art form came to a head in the 90's after Calvin and Hobbs creator Bill Watterson came back from a sabbatical and stated that his comic strip would not be run any smaller than a certain size. Newspaper editors went crazy with the new size restrictions that would stop them from shrinking his popular strip. How dare an artist dictate to them how they'll run their operations. Nearly every comic strip section in the country had to be redesigned. The new size requirements were NOT obsessive, Watterson wasn't demanding his strip take an entire page as in pre-war days. He was just trying to ensure a minimum work area to create his magic. Watterson told newspaper editors, this is my strip, this is the size....take it or leave it. Calvin and Hobbs was so popular with the American public he had the power to stop newspapers from shrinking his strip. He didn't need the money but the editor's needed the Calvin and Hobbs strip back in their papers. Watterson was doing the strip because of his love 'n' passion for the art form.....and where it was published.
The general public is surprised to learn how much newspapers hate comic strips. Besides the shrinking, dropping and inability of understanding the art form...you just have to look at it from the newspaper's point of view. Space in a print newspaper is valuable and it doesn't matter how popular a strip is to it's readers. A print newspaper is a advertising medium and if that space is not generating income it represents lost income. So, comic strips do not represent money coming in....since papers have to pay for the rights to run comic strips, that comic strips space means money going out.
Money talks, everything else walks, even if it's a thing that contributes to the product that makes the money.
Mar 4, 2015
A cartoonist friend of mine from the early 80's, Gary Huck, was written up in a great article by Christopher Borrelli in the Chicago Tribune. Gary is a labor union cartoonist, talk about a niche market cartoonist. Gary has been creating cartoons, illustrations and posters for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America for the last 29 years.
Gary created one of my all-time favorite cartoons when General Electric workers were faced with having to take drug tests. Gary drew the face of Jack Welch, the CEO of GE at the bottom of a urine-sample cup. The headline caption read..."How GE can promote drug testing..." The cartoon ran in the UE News and as you can imagine was very popular and widely circulated at GE. The cartoon even got the attention of Welch who called to complain.
An editorial cartoon is a graphic protest. Cartoonists don't aim to please, they just aim.
Below is the link for the entire article about Gary's labor union cartoon career.
Feb 17, 2015
Last January I was at Lindaman's on Spokane's South Hill as part of Humanities Washington's Think and Drink speaker series. The topic of discussion was the attack on the Charlie Hebdo's office in Paris, France. I used to draw editorial cartoons for the Spokesman-Review newspaper from 1987 to 2000. For me, going back to eastern Washington was like a HS reunion.
The first face a recognized was Elaine Forrester, executive assistant to the publisher of the S-R. Then, also from my newsprint days, I got hugs from top-flight S-R writers Jamie Tobias Neely and Karen Dorn Steele. I kinda thought some former co-workers might show up but I was also pleasantly surprised to reconnect with Floyd Lee, Sacagawea JR HS teacher whose classes and school I used to visit every year. Another good friend who arrived with a big smile was Gordon Jackson, a college professor from Whitworth College.
Lindaman's quickly filled up to standing room only...mainly because the bistro was cozy venue not an auditorium. Along with the familiar faces of friends I like to think there were a few fans of my Spokane cartoons from the last century.
The moderator, Shann Ray, Gonzaga professor, was going to be introducing David Fenner, my T'n'D discussion partner and I. Shann arrived in Spokane in 1995- eight years after I started slinging ink at the S-R.
Along with some of my favorite cartoons I also brought the 'I heart Priggee' and 'I don't heart Priggee' bumper stickers the newspaper produced to piggyback on the community buzz my cartoons generated when I first arrived in Spokane over a quarter of a century ago. I wasn't sure where I was going to use them during the discussion about editorial cartooning but I had them tucked into my shirt pocket, ready, whenever the time was right.
My HW speaker intro lists all the different platforms and products my cartoons have appeared in and on. The list does not mention the bumper stickers. So I was caught slightly off guard that Shann even knew about the bumper stickers ....but when he did remind the audience about the bumper stickers- I whipped them out and raised them above my head as if we had rehearsed it. The place went wild with laughter and cheering, remembering when my cartoons generated quite a bit of discussion in the letters section of the S-R. The Lindaman's crowd made me feel like I was home...yes, I could feel the love.
I've professionally drawn cartoons in Chicago, Dayton, Wichita, Spokane and now for the past 15 years NW of Seattle in Oak Harbor, WA. Spokane was special, the readers were special, all my co-workers at that newspaper were special. My time there was a perfect storm of special.....special friends and co-workers who believed in producing a special kind of first draft of history.
There's an old adage that applause never get's old and neither does cheering and laughter, in fact I'd say all three are pretty damn addictive.
Feb 9, 2015
I've been a speaker with the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau for the last 2 plus years.
I'll be speaking tonight at the Burlington, WA Public Library, 6:30 pm for about an hour or so. It's my first solo speech since the Charlie Hebdo attack. So- it's going to be a lot of new info, images and discussion. I'm VERY happy to answer any AND all questions concerning editorial cartooning, the profession, the art and it's purpose in American journalism and democracy.
I have some slides where I share some historical, favorite, edited and yes, some rejected cartoons.
All the above plus a little drawing adds up to a lot of fun. So, if you can make it, SUPER, if not- we'll get together next time.
Jan 28, 2015
If you're in the Spokane area I'll be speaking at Lindaman's on the South Hill tonight at 7:30pm about the Charlie Hebdo attack. I'll be showing a few cartoons that will make for nice exclamation points about freedom of speech, press and expression. My discussion partner David Fenner will be sharing his insight and background about the Islamic culture, faith and history. We're both looking forward to answering any questions and enjoying an interesting discussion about faith 'n' freedom.n See ya there...!