Friday, April 30, 2010

Wedding Invitation Warning Signs

"The bride and groom have written their own slam poetry."

"Be prepared for vigorous political discourse."

"As lifelong fans of “Space: 1999,” the couple…"

"Once the blaze has been extinguished, the ceremony will commence."

"Please, Daniel, don’t make a scene."

"Furries will be seated to the left, non-furries to the right."

"We invite each of you to bring a carousel of slides."

"While we have nothing against the Jews per se…"

"If anyone sees Janet tell her to meet me at the altar by 4."

"Arrive early with work boots, a hammer and a can-do spirit!"

"And on the mouth-harp…"

"Okay, we totally spaced on the food."

"Do not directly address the druids."

"The following event may be too intense for the young and easily frightened."

"We’re not in the mood for any shit, got it?"

"Please abstain from liquor or dancing."

"Do not block the skeeball machines."

"This time we mean it."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Hardy Men Mystery Novels

We all grew up with the Hardy Boys. Isn’t it time they grew up with us? Introducing a new series of mystery novels written specifically for an older—if not particularly wiser—generation. Each edition in the new Hardy Men library details the exciting adventures of our now middle-aged but still intrepid heroes, including:

“The Hardy Men and the Case of What's-His-Face, Y'know, That Guy...I Think It Begins with an M.”
Yep, Frank and Joe are off on their latest escapade, only to suddenly forget who they were pursuing. Frank is certain he wrote it on the back of his shopping list while Joe yells at his kids to keep quiet for just one goddamn minute so he can think straight. Eventually the two go back to the couch and watch SportsCenter.

“The Hardy Men and the Missed Financial Opportunity That Really Could Have Gotten Them Back on Their Feet.”
Recently downsized from their jobs and trying to make ends meet, Frank and Joe are let in on a sure-fire investment by Chet, only to be held back by a now complete lack of self-confidence. The two then spend the next several months dreaming about how they could have flaunted their wealth in front of their so-called friends.

“The Hardy Men and the Case of Those Thieving Bastards Down at the Car Dealership.”
When Frank and Joe go to lease some previously owned family vans, little do they know that they'll be the ones taken for a ride. But six hours and seven charges for "undercoating" later, the brothers feel horribly violated and not all too certain about how their wives will react to matching Serbian-manufactured Yugos.

“The Hardy Men Inadvertently Kill Most of Their Day at Home Depot Buying the Wrong Drill Bit before Going to Brewster’s Pub to Watch Their Local Team Not Win Enough to Cover the Spread and Hear that Hot New Piece of Ass behind the Bar Call Them “Old Timers” and then Driving Home to Each Find Their Home’s Foundation Cracking, Their Boiler Dying and Their Youngest Son Being Encouraged to Consider Only Trade Schools or Food Service Training Programs at the Tender Age of Five.”
Frank and Joe go back to Brewster’s and drink themselves blind.

“The Hardy Men Grow Eerily Silent While Flipping through Their High School Yearbook.”
While looking for the DVD manual to see how to remove a Dragon Ball Z figure out of the disc tray, Frank stumbles across his old high school yearbook. The brothers then spend the next three hours in quiet reflection, reliving long-forgotten accomplishments, recalling all-too-fleeting glory and imagining having sex with every single girl in their 12th grade class.

So whether you want to relive a childhood classic or just have something to hide your face behind while your kids scream at each other at the dinner table, the Hardy Men Mystery Novels will let you experience true adventure without the usual shortness of breath and aching joints that now seem to accompany everything you do.

Previously Unpublished Pat Robertson Quotes

"Man and monkey did not evolve from the same species. They didn't! You know how I know? Because I have eaten both and the tastes are remarkably dissimilar."

"Sure, the Constitution states 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' People say a lot of things. I once told me wife I was going to get the brakes fixed on our car. Didn't get around to it. Wanted some 'me' time. Two days later she drove right through a special ed school. Killed some kids. Big ones, too. That's what happens when you take prayer out of the classroom."

"Terrorism is happening because we as a nation have turned our back on God. Some of you might say, 'But if God is everywhere how can we turn our backs on Him? That doesn't make any sense.' Well, sometimes God steps away to do some filing. He's very organized. You have to be when you're the Almighty Creator. Otherwise, you have birds piloting aircraft and that simply wouldn't work."

"Halloween is an abomination, a dark temptation. It encourages young Irish boys and girls to cut school, consume alcohol, get into fights and fornicate right on the parade route. Now, you might be thinking I've confused Halloween with St. Patrick's Day but let me tell you, those Micks will use any holiday as an excuse to get drunk."

"Termites don't build things. Christians do. Termites only destroy. Have you ever met a Christian termite? I know I haven't. Sure, maybe a few that were Methodist, but that's like mistaking fishstick for lobster. I think I've made my point."

"Our strategy against the radical American left should be one of guerilla warfare. We have to remain undetected, use stealth, operate under cover of night, always alternating between our bedroom and bathroom windows as we fire off as many rounds of ammo as possible. If you accidentally shoot a dog, so be it. Man is the master of all beasts and no lawsuit is going to convince me otherwise."

"Call me old-fashioned but I think non-believers should be manacled, publicly flayed and set afire by the Council of Elders with the assistance of the town smithy."

"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights. It's an anti-family movement that results in wives getting jobs and me ending up home alone burning Gino's Pizza Rolls for dinner. Really, if I wanted to learn to work a convection oven I would have turned gay."

"Guess how many quarters I can fit in my mouth. Go on, take a wild guess. 15! 15 quarters in my mouth! Now, a Jew would have just taken that money. A Catholic would have wasted it on candles or incense or an eighth child. But I shoved 'em all in there, cheek to cheek."

"The Rapture is fast approaching and it's going to hit the atheists like a hurricane. Sure, they can try to board up their souls with excuses or try to escape to higher ground with their sinful drugs, but there will be no avoiding this righteous hurricane. Unless, of course, water temperatures cool off in the Gulf, causing the winds to die down. Then we might just get some light rain. But the weekend looks good so start planning those picnics now."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Future of Celebrity Endorsements?

Why You Might Have Been Right To Make the Wrong Career Choice

NOTE: Please excuse the re-post but given certain recent experiences (both mine and my friends) I thought it couldn't hurt to revisit a previous column.

Why do we do it? What compels artists, writers, actors, musicians to dedicate so much of their energy—so much of their very existence—to pursuits that more often then not result in frustration, pessimism, self-doubt and poor credit ratings? What can possibly be the upside to feeling down so often and sometimes so deep? What’s with the miserable, spectacularly disheartening tone of this introductory paragraph? Why don’t I just pour salt in your wounds? Huh? Why don’t I just stop typing right now, open up a big can of Morton whoop-ass and pour it into the gaping chasm that is your soul as I sit back and watch you writhe in incalculable, interminable pain?

Because believe it or not, I’m hopefully going somewhere with this and the result just may very well be encouraging. I can’t say it definitely will be so because, well, I’m also crippled by diffidence. But the mere fact that someone as hobbled with apprehension and irresolution as myself could think even just for one sentence that this might all end on a happy note has got be seen as somewhat encouraging, right? Right? Come on, people. Give me some positive feedback. I’m dying here.

Anyway, why do we do it? I’ve thought about this long and hard for several minutes and I’ve come up with the following three possible reasons, all which I believe ultimately support artists’ career choices (just not in the crucial financial way that involves being able to purchase food minus such cooking directions as “stir in seasons from flavor packet” or “can also be used to make a mock apple pie”):

1. To Know We Exist
At the risk of sounding like Neo struggling with the Monarch Notes to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” when you get right down to it reality is but a shared illusion. We don’t feel as if we truly exist unless someone, at some point, turns to us and says, “Hey, glad you could make it! Oh and you just gotta try the dip. I don’t know what Jenny put in it but it’s just freakin’ awesome! Maybe she added chickpeas. Hey, Jenny? Jenny! Did you put chickpeas in the dip? The dip! Did you put chickpeas in the dip?! You did?! I knew it! Awesome, man. Just freakin’ awesome!”

Consequently, most artists only feel truly alive when someone takes note of their work, of their efforts, of their goals. Now many of you might be thinking, “But I know plenty of artists who are loners, who seem to actively shun social interaction, who can’t go five damn minutes in a group without making some fucked-up comment that alienates everyone, even after I went out of my way to vouch that he was cool and wouldn’t bring down the party.” But being unable to cope with people is not quite the same as not wanting to be recognized by people. What we can’t say in public without causing people to dismiss us or stare at the table in awkward silence, quietly peeling the labels off their beer bottles and making one feel about as welcomed as a pandemic, we can say in our performance, our drawings, our self-produced EP. Now that might come across as high-falutin’ talk from a guy whose professional responsibilities consist of no more than attaching word balloons to doodles anywhere from one to four panels a day. But my comic strip allows me to connect with people that I would in no other way get to meet or be able to say “Hello” to without freezing up or immediately apologizing. What I’m trying to say is that we all need to find our own way to achieve recognition. I don’t mean at a pecuniary or even professional level but in a manner that lets us have our identity confirmed. You are an artist. Through your art you substantiate such to others. You go from a concept to someone many will love, many will like, many will detest and many will wonder what the hell you’re doing at age 55 still buying all your clothes from a consignment shop in Williamsburg. You’ve joined the party, you’ve got your name tag, now enjoy the dip.

2. To Know We Are Free
As far as subtitles go, “To Know We Are Free” is about as down-to-earth and humble as “To Know We Duly Possess the Inevitable Facet Crucial to Soul and Sapience” or some other quote I’m certainly misstating and surely misinterpreting from Rousseau. But nonetheless, I’m going to stick with it. Why? Because who among us, even those not in the arts, has longed not to have to work for others? How many of us here today have wanted to say, “You know what? Screw this. And screw you, Mr. Big-and-Mighty Company President! Just who the hell do you think you are, Mr. I’m-All-That-And-Oh-So-Much-More CEO?! Not everyone was lucky—oh, I’m saying lucky, you no-talent, empty suit—to have your economic and educational advantages! Some of us didn’t graduate from the Ivy League. Some of us graduated from The School of Hard Knocks…otherwise known as DeVry. Of course, ‘graduated’ may be putting to fine a point on it. Classes were chosen. Teachers were challenged. Security was alerted. Apparently knowledge is only for those who fill out an application form and are formally accepted by the institution. But that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it made me the man I am today! After all, some people learn best in a structured environment from accredited professors, others on a slowly sinking oil derrick at knifepoint. I don’t quite remember the particulars of those fateful three days at sea but I do recall being rescued just prior to drowning—not from the oil company who thought it best to cut their losses—but from a tuna ship, which was oddly named considering the sheer number of dolphin the crew regularly hauled aboard. But when I brought up the subject of their ‘additional captures’ they—like the teachers at my unofficial alma mater or the guy from the gas company who checks my meter—seemed uncomfortable with having their actions challenged. And so without concern for my well-being or how I would survive in a foreign environment they dumped me off at their very next port…which, fortunately, was San Francisco. Eventually I made my way back across country, taking odd jobs that mostly involved delivering unmarked packages, collecting ‘dues’ and stuffing envelopes. But with each employment opportunity I learned something about myself. I also received more bruises than a melon repeatedly struck with a ball peen hammer. Sure, I left each position minus any la-de-da ‘benefits package.’ And sure, that means I now have nothing in savings, nothing in checking and no income coming in with the exception of rebates from Crest and Disney DVD purchases. But I’m a survivor. Or at the very least, a breather. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Boss Man!”

Clearly we’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the desire not to have to report to people we don’t particularly like or respect, fulfilling tasks that often fail to satisfy us. Your art is your key to accomplishing that goal. Sure, that may sound like a specious argument at best, especially given that most artists have to work for someone else because their craft cannot pay their bills, their college loans or even their parents back. But just knowing that you are in charge of something outside of some manager’s grasp is in itself liberating. Just knowing that you are the key decision maker in a project, a dream, that is not beholden to countless approvals and being dragged through endless meetings or having everyone input their thoughts and objections through some sort of corporate wiki has got to make you feel emancipated from others’ whims and rules. Working on your art is the very moment in your day that you are, in fact, free. That you are speaking for yourself, fulfilling your mandates. True, to achieve your dream of working full-time in art you will actually have to work with others, but at least they will be working on your project, the way YOU conceived it. Unless, of course, they have notes. And, oh boy, do they always have notes.

3. To Know That You Can Just Plain Deal with It All
Every decision we make says in some small way how we’ve chosen to cope with this little riddle we call life. Accept a job you don’t particularly like but may prove financially advantageous? You’re saying, “I put the greatest value in personal security.” Opt for an “everything bagel” for breakfast? You’re saying, “To hell with carbs and halitosis, I deserve a little personal pleasure.” Decide in childhood to dedicate your life to becoming a professional cartoonist? You’re saying. “I’m through with sports. Oh, and forget girls until college. Just forget them. But at least I’m not one of the AD&D kids. Oh God, tell me I’m better off than the AD&D kids.”

I’ve known cartooning was my calling since junior high school. Alas, that was way back in 1981, when Quarterflash topped the charts and mustaches were the tonsorial choice of more than just undercover narcotics officers, so you know it was an era rife with poor decision-making skills. I mean, come on, who bases their entire life on a career selected in a decade that opened with the question "Who shot J.R.?" and closed with the query "Who the fuck is The Escape Club?"

So why did I stick with it? Because cartooning—and writing—are the only ways I know how to cope with the world and my place in it. It’s a means through which I can address problems both personal and public, organize my thoughts and ultimately offer some response (or, when I’m feeling snide, retort). That’s not to say I’m coming up with any great solutions to mankind’s problems. I’m not. I can’t. Hell, you’ve read this article. It’s a discursive nightmare! If this were a high school report I’d get an “F” for effort. And what the in the world was that nonsense about DeVry and oil derricks a few paragraphs back? I actually graduated from college and the closest I’ve ever gotten to the oil industry is when driving past the refineries off the New Jersey Turnpike. Seriously, that’s the sort of circuitous logic that’s supposed to crack open the mysteries of the universe?!

Well, no. But life isn’t about breaking the code. It’s about putting two and two together and finding out what you believe in and what you need for a happy existence. Through cartooning and humor I’ve been able to draw my own conclusions about politics, relationships, religion, death and 70’s TV programming. Every artist uses his or her talents as a prism through which to see the world. And every artist is fortunate for that gift. Not every person has a means through which to determine what is right, what is wrong, what is true and what are talking points. True, you may never achieve conventional success. You may never even be able to live solely off your art. But if you keep at it you’ll be recognized as an artist, you’ll enjoy the freedom that can only come from pursuing your own dreams and you can find not only a voice but also a belief as you go through life.

Well, what do you know? I ended on a hopeful note after all. Somebody beer me.

Burger King Wrapper Copy Revised

Over the past few years Burger King has managed to stand out from its rivals with a marketing campaign consisting of subservient chickens, a Michael Myers-reinterpretation of their own king character and a singular take on sandwich wrappers featuring such copy as:

The wrapper copy is clearly intended to enhance the overall fun and excitement of eating a Whopper, a Tendergrill or a breakfast sandwich one ingredient shy of being a buffet dinner. Only problem is, people are never at their best, never in the right frame of mind, when purchasing fast food. Unlike children, who equate visiting a place like Burger King with annexing DisneyWorld, adults see it as a more mundane, even depressing experience. It’s a place to go eat when you don’t have the time to eat or any good place to go. And so with that in mind allow me to share some revised Burger King wrapper copy that truly captures the their customers’ dining experience.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mrs. Montesano's Third-Grade Class Thanks CBS Films for Inviting Them to the Premier of Jennifer Lopez's "The Back-Up Plan"

How to Cope with Artistic Failure

Rule One: Avoid Successful People
Nothing breeds contempt like another person’s good fortune. Especially when your comic strip submission was just recently passed over in favor of a family feature titled With Three You Get Triplets. You see, I used to keep company with countless successful doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs. Prosperous, triumphant people who get to tool around in cars with four good tires while I have a $200 credit limit and had to give up carbs for financial reasons. Do you know how that made me feel? Do you know what it’s like to be the only black sheep in a pasture where everyone else shits gold?! Do you know what it’s like to attend your own college reunion dinner as the cater-waiter?!? I don’t care what my dad says, that wasn’t fucking funny!

But rather than allow myself to be swallowed whole by bitterness and jealousy, I now make sure to hang out exclusively with people who are far, far worse off than I could ever fear to be. People who make me look like Sam Walton by comparison. People who can’t tell you their life story without using the words “insolvent” or “incontinent.” People who burst into tears of joy whenever they stumble upon a nickel on the sidewalk. People who base all their career decisions on Bazooka Joe fortunes with predictable results. People who consider underwear “church clothes.” People who refer to restrooms as “indoor outhouses.” People who join religious cults for the networking opportunities. People who lose a tooth when they bite into soup. People who when told that I managed to cheat my way into a senior discount at the movies because of my prematurely ravaged looks treat me with the respect I not only always craved but also richly deserve.

Rule Two: Set Short-Term, Attainable Goals
What better way to dismiss the discouraging absence of artistic success than by having a few, smaller accomplishments to celebrate? Instead of focusing solely on the ultimate objective of landing a comic strip deal, a music contract or an acting gig, concentrate on a series of more manageable, less heartbreaking tasks. Like getting out of bed before dusk. Remembering to eat, if not meals than at least mints. Closing your bathrobe before you run errands. Stopping before you enter your fifth straight hour of video poker. Watching the news rather than watching that cobweb get progressively bigger from the vantage point of your kitchen floor. Channeling your frustration into yoga instead of yelling non-stop at your neighbor’s dog through the apartment wall. Taking a walk that doesn’t turn into a mad dash and then eventually a swan dive off an overpass. Selling something other than your hair or platelets on eBay. With just a few little achievements each month, you’ll not only stay motivated during your artistic endeavors but unlike me you’ll also avoid spending your day seeing how fast you can shave off all your body hair, and then six months later trying to break that record.

Rule Three: Know When to Call It Quits
Eventually no matter how much you truly believe in your talent and goals, mounting bills may unfortunately force you to pack it in and seek employment elsewhere. Some may wind up writing copy in marketing departments. Others may end up as the new sommelier of an over-reaching Denny’s. But most of you will find a home in the exciting world of public school teaching. Why teaching? Because today’s schools are so desperate for people willing to toil for a disgustingly low $16,000 a year that they’re more than happy to overlook the fact that you think “Marbury v. Madison” was a title bout. In fact, a few years back I myself taught a third-grade class and it was without a doubt one of the most fulfilling times in my life. We played games. We watched videos. We bet Danny Larkin couldn’t eat all the paste in his jar but then he did but then he couldn’t open his mouth so he got real scared but then it was lunch time and I had two big helpings of tater tots and a Hydrox cookie. Yes, we did it all. Except for any actual studying. But the kids didn’t seem to mind one bit. They would spend the day on the swing set or the slide or any of the other numerous outdoor activities at the McDonalds across the street while the gym teacher and I would take turns seeing who could hit the other the softest (only for it to always end with him laying a roundhouse into my jaw and shouting, “You win!”). All was going so well until the close of the school year when every single one of my students failed the state exam so spectacularly that they were not only denied moving up to the fourth grade but immediately placed in sweatshops, factories and loading docks. I still run into some of them at a local bar from time to time. We laugh and recall the old days but then the lunch hour ends and they have to drag their weary, 11-year-old bodies back to the pork rendering plant. Wow, 11-years-old and already fully employed. So you see, there’s hope for us all.

How to Deliver a Eulogy for a Fallen or Pushed Coworker

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Listen for the Interviews! Stay to Hear How Much I Can Inadvertently Impersonate Ray Romano!

The great Josh Fruhlinger of Comics Curmudgeon and the mild irritant Francesco Marciulianionionia...lio of this very blog chat up with the mellifluous Tom Racine of Tall Tale Radio to discuss comic strips, strips of comics, comic pages with strips and stripped pages of comics (as well as Mark Trail's ability to punch a hole through both time and space...and maybe some beavers).

Check out the all the tasty auditory goodness here!

PS: "Tasty auditory"? What the hell kind of writing is that?!?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Craptacular Chinese Fortune

"But if you're old and not much to look at--like you, happy customer--then you shall have all the wisdom necessary to recall 70's TV shows and R.E.M. B-sides for, alas, no real purpose."

Oh, and the Chinese word for "1,000" is "yi-qian."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Live Blogging the Easter Family Party at My Parents' House

One elderly aunt began her greeting to me with "I'm sorry" but never followed it up with any sort of explanation. Sorry for something she did? Sorry for me? Sorry about me overall? What? What?!?

Dad's Comment to Mom--"I've only had four pigs in blankets...not counting those other six."

Note to Elderly Relative--"The thing about Puerto Ricans..." is no way to start a pleasant dialogue at the table.

Old family Friend, without Prompting--"I hate cruises. Cruises and the Dutch."

Dad--"I was looking at myself in the mirror and you know something? I am one beautiful man."

Dad--"Everyone calls me a Renaissance man. I think they're right."

Elderly Relative--"All the bathrooms are occupied. Is there anywhere else I can go?"