Like there’s no Tom Tomorrow

Yes, I’m a 55-year-old man who still loves reading comic strips. And I’m not ashamed of that at all. (Mainly because I don’t read the crappy strips like Marmaduke. I have more discerning tastes.)

If you think comics are for kids, I suggest you read the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

This Modern World, a weekly political comic strip by Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins), is consistently funny and thought-provoking — a tough combo to pull off.

I used to read This Modern World in the local alternative weekly until budget cuts caused the paper to drop it. Now I subscribe to Sparky’s List, Tom Tomorrow’s subscription-based weekly email that includes the weekly strip as well as some notes about the work and other musings on life. It’s $10 for six months – a bargain at twice the price. If you don’t care to spare the ten spot, you can check out each week’s strip Mondays on the Daily Kos or Tuesdays on The Nib.

Make fun of me all you want for reading the funny papers. I don’t care, I’m still gonna read ’em. You may think it’s a waste of time, but I sure don’t.

The Old Man Olympics

Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve done a kayak/bike ride combo. I lock up my bike near my kayak destination (#1 below), then drive upriver, launch my kayak (#2), paddle down the river about 4 miles, lock up my kayak and pedal back to get my car. (Actually, it’s my son’s SUV, because his has a roof rack and plenty of room to stow the bike.)

The fact that the starting and ending points are near breweries is merely coincidental.

The launch point and the destination are both along the same bike path, so I don’t have to dodge cars on my bike ride. And the bike path extends far beyond the kayak launch point, so I can tack on more bike miles if I want. It’s a nice way to spend a weekend morning.

I also bought a $20 waterproof speaker, so the past couple of kayak rides, I’ve been able to listen to music as I paddle along.

If you count the steps I take hauling the kayak to/from the river, it’s basically the same as the Ironman Triathlon. Or the old man equivalent.

This ad is a bit too lively

OK, time for a guessing game – if you saw this photo in the Sunday newspaper (anyone under 40: you’ll have to Google “newspaper” first), what sort of business or service do you think it would be advertising?

Airline perhaps? Vacation destination? Megachurch? Political ad?

If you guessed “cemetery” go to the head of the class… and then walk out of the class and immediately schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist, because clearly you have issues if you see a family jumping for joy on a sunshine-drenched beach and think of death.

But yes, it’s true, that photo was part of an ad for a “burial package” at a couple of Cincinnati-area cemeteries.

Help me understand how you can make a connection between that happy family and a burial package.

The “WE STAND WITH YOU!” line is creating some cognitive dissonance too… no one in the photo is actually standing.

I guess they’re going with the “sell the sizzle” approach. It reminds me of those old print ads for Newport cigarettes.

The headline was “Alive with pleasure!” because that sounds so much more appealing than “Dying of Lung Cancer.”

The cemetery ad has ruined things for me. I love the beach, but now when my kids ask if they can bury me in the sand, I’ll get scared that they really want to bury me.

An old soul

Chuck Cleaver is one of the best songwriters in the known universe. He’s also a funny dude, in his own unique, gruff-yet-lovable way.

Chuck’s in a band called Wussy, and he and the other lead singer/songwriter in that band, Lisa Walker, do a live set of songs every other Friday night on Facebook. (On the alternate Fridays, their bandmate Mark Messerly plays a set. All the videos are here and are well worth checking out.)

The songs are brilliant. The between-song banter is the icing on the cake. It’s funnier than most network sitcoms. Here’s Chuck from a few weeks ago, going on a rant about old folks. (At age 62, he counts himself among that number). I can relate. My daughter drags me up to St. Vincent de Paul nearly every Sunday because if you’re 50 or older, you get a 25% discount:

Preach on, Brother Chuck! This old man loves it!

Here’s to late bloomers

I don’t watch much TV (even during lockdown), but I’ve enjoyed the heck out of Schitt’s Creek, which recently wrapped up its sixth and final season. It’s a comedy about a family that goes from fabulously rich to terribly poor overnight, and is forced to leave their pampered lifestyle behind and move to a rundown hotel in a tiny town that the patriarch of the family bought as a joke.

(Netflix promo photo)

The mom and dad are played by Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy. ‘Nuff said. They’ve been cracking me up since their SCTV days, and of course they were great in the Christopher Guest mockumentaries (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind).

Separately, they are great character actors… together, they are pure comedy gold!

The actors who portray the family (O’Hara, Levy, his real-life son Daniel and Annie Murphy) all were nominated for Emmys this year.

The show was a slow burn, and Catherine O’Hara thinks that contributed to its success:

We got to build the show and develop the characters without worrying about expectations, from anyone. We got to make the show the best we could make it. CBC did a great job of building an audience in Canada and then Pop TV picked it up and it wasn’t a big audience but it was a nice, loyal audience, and then Netflix brought it out to the rest of the world. There’s so many projects that get a ton of attention right at the beginning, maybe before they’re even quite ready for it, and then it’s kind of downhill attention-wise from there. We’re so lucky to do the show we wanted and, apparently, leaving people wanting more.

From this Hollywood Reporter article

Catherine O’Hara’s character, Moira Rose, has developed quite the fan following. This excellent Yahoo article describes her as the “the self-dramatizing, language-massaging, ultimately touching mother.”

Moira is hilarious (her ‘wall of wigs’ alone is worth the price of admission) but there’s plenty of heart underneath all the character’s histrionics.

O’Hara, who is 66, is also talks about her own late-career recognition, and I think it’s sound advice for anyone in the 50+ age bracket:

I’m happy to be a late bloomer, I always have been in my life and I’m grateful for it. You have to have a bit of patience in life or just don’t have any big expectations, just carry along and do the best you can and maybe someone will notice, maybe they won’t but if you enjoy the work itself, then that’s enough of a gift.

From the same Hollywood reporter article

Do your best. Be patient. Don’t worry about what others think of you. Enjoy the journey. I’ll drink to that!

That time I scooped the New York Times

Faithful readers of this blog (all three of them) will recall that more than a week ago, I wrote about colleges that are announcing they’ll be open this fall, and surmised that it was driven by dollars, not sense.

Lo and behold, check out the lead story in the New York Times “The Morning” daily briefing today:

Colleges have come rushing forth to announce that they will be inviting students back to campus this fall. But as I’ve spoken to college officials over the past few weeks — usually not for quotation — I’ve been struck by the difference between their public optimism and their private uncertainty.

Many university leaders aren’t sure how well on-campus living and in-person classes will work during this pandemic. Some acknowledge it may not work at all.

It will require radical changes to the normal campus experience, like canceling many activities, rotating which students can return (to keep dorms from being too full) and continuing to hold classes online (to protect professors).

This approach is likely to frustrate students — and it still might not prevent new coronavirus outbreaks. Nearly all distinctive parts of a campus experience, including parties, meals and extracurriculars, revolve around close social contact, often indoors.

So what explains the surge of “We’re open!” announcements? Competitive pressure, in part. Many colleges will face serious financial problems if they lose a year of tuition and other revenue.

Now professors and administrators have begun publicly criticizing reopening plans:

  • “My suspicion,” Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan economist, wrote on Twitter, is that “colleges are holding out hope of in-person classes in order to keep up enrollments.” She added: “If they tell the difficult truth now, many students will decide to take a year off,” which “will send college finances into a tailspin.”
  • Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, noted that the new class of Army recruits at Fort Benning recently suffered a major outbreak, despite universal testing there.

There are no easy answers. Telling students to stay home in the fall also has big downsides. And it’s possible that students will do a better job wearing masks and remaining socially distant than skeptics like Steinberg expect.

But the path that colleges are choosing comes with big risks. American higher education is about to embark on a highly uncertain experiment.

Geez, they even cribbed their final sentence “experiment” language from my blog post header:

Maybe the Giant Cheeto in D.C. is telling the truth for the first time ever… the Times must be “failing” if they are getting story ideas from this blog. Sad!

Looks like it’s time to sic my law firm on the Old Gray Lady…

And we’re adding a tagline to the Dubbatrubba masthead: All the news you’ll find elsewhere a week later.

(To be fair, while all the other articles and tweets linked in the NYT briefing were published after my post, the Atlantic piece, by Michael J. Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, was published in mid-May. So he really scooped the rest of us.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the hard-hitting, insightful, industry-leading journalism for which this blog is now known.

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