Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #240 (May 9th, 2007)


Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.


Goodbye, Columbus!

(For 2007, anyway)

Wrapping up the last of my Cerebus Archive additions picked up over the SPACE weekend (and before and beyond):

A note from Jeff Seiler came inside of a copy of The Thurber Letters (The Wit, Wisdom and Surprising Life of James Thurber):

Dave –

I hope that you will enjoy this volume of collected letters. You can consider it my reciprocation for your upcoming second Collected Letters (which I am anticipating greatly) or you can consider it a "thank you" for your kind and gracious assistance with Cerebus Readers in Crisis.

Or you can just think of it as a birthday present.

Happy 51st!


So, I decided to call it an early birthday present. Then I said to Jeff something along the lines of: so you've been out to the Thurber House? He had no idea what I was talking about. What Thurber House? Once more, Dave's mind boggles. He had just picked up the volume as an example of collected letters by another cartoonist, not realizing that James Thurber was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State University alumnus, etc. and that his childhood home is preserved as a unique repository of Thurber memorabilia and arcana. On my first visit to Columbus I had gone out there and picked up a first printing of The Thurber Carnival in the gift shop and I had assumed that was where Jeff had gotten the collected letters book.

This is the fourth year for several of you Yahoos coming out to Columbus for SPACE and you haven't been out to the Thurber House , yet!

Unbelievable: by rights I could be charged with failing to provide the necessities of life to cartooning devotees.

I think this calls for planning a field trip for the Friday before the show next year and a dramatic reading by yours truly of something from Thurber's writings (in the beautifully maintained living room if we can get away with it or on the front steps, weather permitting, if the custodians take a dim view of comic-book people) (and, hey! Who doesn't?) (or perhaps I can just whip out my copy of The Thurber Carnival on the second floor next to the door leading up to the attic and do a quick read of "The Night the Ghost Got In". The quicker you read it, the funnier it is and I bet I could be through it before anyone downstairs was any the wiser).

I had purposely not brought my Malcolm X book with me so that I would spend all of my limited free time planning how to promote my secret project and only just cracked the front cover late on Saturday. "I'll just read the Acknowledgements and introductory material," I lied to myself (knowing I was doing so). By the time I got home I was on page 113. He's a wonderful raconteur and although Milt Caniff and Jeff Smith give him a run for his money, I'm pretty sure he'll always be known as Columbus, Ohio's foremost cartoonist which, considering the simplicity of his line and that his cartooning career was largely an afterthought of his journalism is really saying something in so luminous a trio (He was co-editor of the OSU student newspaper, The Lantern where, a couple of generations later, Jeff's Bone first appeared). His cartooning career wasn't even his own afterthought but that of E.B. White who shared an office with him at the New Yorker and took a liking to his doodles, promoting them to Harold Ross. This many years later on, it's hard to appreciate exactly how influential and radically different the early Harold Ross New Yorker was and how much a core component of it Thurber was (he was the first proprietor of the "Talk of the Town" column). The Thurber Carnival is one of my favourite retreats whenever I want to read something completely innocuous but totally engaging. Of course, at the time, far from being seen as innocuous Thurber was dogged his entire professional life with the charge that he was (ahem) a misogynist and, today, some of his best material which hinges on negro dialect is too politically incorrect to be acknowledged let alone applauded publicly. Except, of course, by Dave Sim the Evil Misogynist and Yr. Obedient Pariah King of Comics. As a dialect technician, I can tell you that he does a dazzling job as he does in his letters. He does a great rustic Midwestern farmer voice, twang and all ("nature's noblemen" as Gore Vidal once described them) that he just launches into at various points in his correspondence.

The thing that struck me the most on the tour of the Thurber House is how much he looks like Robert Crumb—another Buckeye State cartoonist!—in some of his photographs.

So, yes. Someone remind me: field trip to the Thurber House next year.

And that just leaves the field trip to Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio and Jason Trimmer's new job as one of the curators at the Allen Memorial Art Museum on the Monday after SPACE. It was about a three-hour drive and well worth the trip. The Museum is closed to the public on Monday but Bob and I got a free tour from the curator his own self. You really can't do better than that, can you? Beautiful premises and a very nice selection of art starting with the Italian Renaissance (which was just like being back in Italy) and almost exclusively religious subjects. So we had a lot of fun with guessing games about imagery, who represents whom, etc.

There was a singularly arresting piece entitled Saint Sebastian Tended by Irene and a Companion by Hendrik Ter Brugghen. And when I say arresting, I mean I stopped dead in my tracks the moment that I rounded the corner. Jason said that that isn't an unusual happening and mentioned that a book had come out recently called Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections…

[I really had to wonder about that. Had it been a European idea or an American idea? Presumably whoever's idea it had been it was a reaction to the over-the-top European anti-Americanism post-9/11 that tarred all Americans with the same "brainless cowboys" brush. Hey, guess what? Those brainless cowboys have some of the finest examples of the finest art anywhere in the world. You can only overdo a stereotyped clichÈ so many times and eventually someone is going to call you on it]

…and Ter Brugghen's Saint Sebastian was the image they used on the cover. Top THAT, y'all! Among other paintings they have the best Turner I've ever seen, a Venice painting that's all brilliant daylight and it still isn't a patch on the Ter Brugghen, so that gives you an idea of how much of an impact that it had. I scouted the entryway on the way out to see if they had a postcard of it and that was when Jason presented Bob and I each with a copy of Only in America with the painting right there on the cover (and on page 83)!

Went out for lunch with Jason to discuss "whither Ye Bookes of Cerebus" among other subjects. VERY nice restaurant and Jason's treat. One of those great "sure beats working for a living" Mondays.

I left the book sealed in plastic for the trip home in case Canada Customs wanted to give me some grief about it since the price was nowhere marked on the cover. You know, hey, you want to charge me customs on it, you take the plastic off and go snooping around for a price tag. It was a gift, for crying out loud. As it turned out, I just got waved through.

Last night, I finally stripped the plastic off when I had finished the first "hit the ground running" post-Columbus Blog & Mails and figured 10:00 pm was a sensible cut-off time. "I'll just do a quick flip through," I said, lying to myself and again knowing that I was doing so. Mighty impressive collection, I must say. Even amputating the Modern Art end of the book which is outside of my personal range of preferences, the U.S. has got one of the best Toulouse-Lautrec's I've ever seen At the Moulin Rouge (Chicago Institute of Art), Georges Seurat's La Grande Jatte (ditto—and how they ever let that one out of France is probably a novel-length story in itself), Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party (The Phillips Collection, Washington), Degas' Mademoiselle Fiocre in the Ballet of "La Source" (The Brooklyn Museum), Monet's Garden at Sainte-Adresse (MOMA, New York), Manet's Christ with Angels (ditto), Turner's Slave Ship (Boston Museum of Fine Arts) Lawrence's "Pinkie" (THAT's in America?! You betchum, Red Ryder! The Huntington Library in San Marino), Gainsborough's "The Blue Boy" (ditto—lucky San Marinoites), de La Tour's Portrait of the President Gabriel-Bernard de Rieux,(J. Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles) (Seriously: Los Angeles) Coypel's The Rape of Europa (Philadelphia Museum of Art), Rembrandt Self-Portrait (Frick Collection, New York) van Dyck's Rinaldo and Armida (Baltimore Museum of Art) (Hey, Diamond Folk! Next lunch hour go and check it out!).

By the time I came up for air, it was considerably later than 10 pm. Quite apart from definitively refuting the American-as-Philistine charge, I thought, this isn't a bad primer for anyone wanting to have an Art Through History for Dummies just to see whose work you want to see more of if nothing else. It was first published in Milan last year by Skira Editore S.p.A. and they have a website address: Fortunately I'm not on the Internet or I bet it would be some hours later before I came up for air again.

Thanks, again, to Jason for the time and trouble and generosity.

The last entry into the SPACE 2007 ephemera is a brochure from the Transportation Security Administration that I found in my bag when I got home informing me that my bag had been selected to be opened and physically inspected.

If the TSA screener was unable to open your bag for inspection because it was locked, the screener may have been forced to break the locks on your bag. TSA sincerely regrets having to do this, however TSA is not liable for damage to your locks resulting from this necessary security precaution.

The brochure includes a toll free number where I imagine they get an earful from irate Louis Vuitton customers on a regular basis. It seems to me that the obvious moral of the story is: unlock your damn bags when you're checking them although I'm sure an ardent liberal would draw a different inference.

Tomorrow: What I was up to before SPACE

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