Saturday, March 16, 2019

Too Much Information

Tomorrow is officially Saint Patrick's Day. 

March 17 is thought to be the anniversary of the Christian missionary's death. Americans traditionally celebrate this cultural and religious event on the nearest Saturday by engaging in excessive drinking of tinted beer, donning ridiculous outfits, screaming in bars as countless faux-Irish bands play the same handful of songs, and public purging of bodily fluids. Venturing out to dinner on this particular Saturday is nearly as foolhardy as doing it on Valentine's Day.

we remain safe and warm inside Bizarro Studios North, sipping a Guinness as our corned beef & cabbage simmers, we offer a recap of the week's cartoon shenanigans.

McRodent's food isn't just fast, it scurries. They call this one the Unhappy Meal.

Tuesday's gag reveals the origin of the cliche, "so clean, you can eat off the floor."

At least it's organic, and promises a shorter wait till the regurgitation begins.

The word "clement," meaning "mild," is so rarely used that it sounds like a joke.

Thanks, Bill, but we really didn't need to know that.

Saturday's cartoon pictures the newly popular "He's led an otherwise blameless life" defense.

Thanks for reading Bizarro, and for your comments and shares throughout the week. You deserve a gold star for following up with the blog. For even more behind-the-panel analysis, check out my collaborator Dan Piraro's weekly posting, along with his latest Sunday page.

By the way, Dan recently gave his website a makeover, and included a nice little blurb in the FAQs explaining a bit about how we divide up the duties at Bizarro Studios:
Who's Wayno?

Before January 1, 2018, Dan wrote and drew over 95% of the gags for Bizarro. After almost 35 years of writing and drawing a joke every single day, Dan has given himself a much-deserved break, and now only creates the Sunday cartoons. The Monday-through-Saturday cartoons are now all drawn and written by Dan’s good friend and colleague, Wayno, although they collaborate on many of the ideas and discuss how to make each one the best it can be.
Here's Dan's blog post with a detailed explanation.

And, for comparison, my own announcement.

Bonus Track

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, we present the greatest Irish punk record of all time.

NOTE: Some YouTube videos are unavailable outside the U.S.

Don't take my word for it. John Peel, the legendary BBC disc jockey, chose a line from "Teenage Kicks" to serve as his epitaph.

Photo by Peter Tarleton, CC BY-SA 2.0

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Slow Train Coming

This week, I picked up posters and t-shirts I designed for a unique annual event here in Pittsburgh called Hell With the Lid Off. It happens at Kelly's Bar & Lounge, a beloved local watering hole known for its killer jukebox, and fantastic burgers and mac & cheese. HWTLO is a barleyine festival where attendees can taste many dozens of barleywine samples while enjoying Kelly's superb bar food.

The beautiful silkscreen printing was done by CommonWealth Press, a locally-owned company who I've worked with on tons of projects over the years. The crew at CommonWealth always delivers top quality stuff.

The shirts and posters will only be available at the event, so if you're thinking of visiting Pittsburgh, March 23 would be a fine day to swing by. Just don't plan on driving home from Hell With the Lid Off

Now, let's review the week in cartoons.

Thank goodness for innovations that make it easier for local governments to take our money. That updated model does seem to be well-nourished.

When I was a youngster, some unsung genius figured out that city parking meters could be tricked with a penny and the ring from a pop-top beverage can. If these two items were inserted into the nickel and quarter slots, and the handle was turned slowly, the meter would ratchet up to its maximum time. 

I confess that I did that a few times during my school days, so when I pay via a modern parking app for a space that's probably still rented by the previous driver, I figure technology is just balancing my account.

Every year, high school seniors in my community participate in an elaborate game involving sporks. Their school mascot is a blue devil, and I apologize to my locals for making these characters the traditional red variety.

This gag is drawn in part from personal experience. Throughout my adult life, I've dealt with insomnia, in varying degrees of severity. My bouts of sleeplessness are often aggravated by racing thoughts, and anxieties about tasks that need to be done the following day.

I recently discovered a Norwegian television series called Slow TV, and have found the Train Ride from Bergen to Oslo episode to be an effective sleep aid. It's an unedited, real-time documentation of the seven-hour ride. There's no narration or music; just an occasional "ding" when the smooth-running electric train passes under a named tunnel or approaches a station. The visuals are provided by a simple camera or two mounted on the front of the engine. 

In the past, I've tried a white noise phone app, but it didn't work for me. However, hypnotic images of gliding over train tracks amidst snow-covered mountains seems to reset something in my brain, and helps me to shut down for the night. Sometimes it only takes a minute or two. If you're a fellow insomniac, I recommend giving Slow TV a try. I'm not joking.

Hear ye, hear ye! Let it be known throughout the land, that John Hancock XVI has posted his Declaration of Availability. Be sure to scroll through his profile.

I apologize for resorting to a pun on Friday, but thought it was surprising enough to use. Also, the image contains a kernel of truth, as we've all seen performers milk applause by complimenting the audience. 

By the way, that's a full-size guitar in the drawing, so this really is a giant pander. 

Saturday's gag is not meant to disparage food trucks, which I appreciate and enjoy quite often. Rather, it's a comment on know-it-alls who smugly make claims like the avian character in this panel.

If you enjoyed these musings, don't miss Dan Piraro's blog, where he offers his own comments on these gags, and shows off his latest Sunday page.

Bonus Track

The birds in Saturday's gag reminded me of this weird 45 rpm single. The photo above is the actual copy that resides in my collection, but the linked audio file was posted by another music lover with strange tastes. 

I don't know who Harold Wald is, but he thanks you for listening to this tune.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Reduced for Quick Sale

This week's Bizarro offerings kicked off with a look at discontinued items that might be found at the local market.
We toyed with and discarded a few other slightly-off products, and we might revisit this idea in a future panel. My Wacky Packages influences are showing.

Over the years, a few Bizarro comics have referred to the very real disorder known as restless leg syndrome, or RLS. In fact, my collaborator, Dan Piraro, once said to a reader:
I’ve had RLS for a couple of decades and it has driven me nuts. I’ve always found that humor is the best way for me to deal with life’s disappointments or miseries and so I do cartoons about them.
There's no doubt a psychological term describing this practice by artists to exercise some type of retaliatory control over their particular afflictions. Insomnia is something of a recurring theme in my own work, since I'm very familiar with its maddening and harmful effects. If I can get readers (and myself) to laugh at it, it seems less powerful.

On Wednesday, we took silly approach to comment on the sensible practice of mindfulness. As I understand it, mindful eating involves slowing down and paying attention to the experience of enjoying food, and being aware of the body telling us when our hunger has been satisfied. The opposite would presumably be "mindless eating," which we've all probably done. Of course, a character in one of our cartoons would stretch the concept to its illogical extreme.

Thursday's cartoon provided a peek into the cutthroat world of sports team mascottery. It's not all plush costumes and silly dances.

Everybody experiences an earworm now and then. Or, in this case, maybe it's an ear-krill.

A good investment advisor understand the customer's tolerance for risk, but some impose their own preferences.

Please be sure to check out Dan Piraro's weekly blog for another perspective on the week's cartoons, and to admire his latest Sunday page.

Bonus Track

I first heard this song on a 45 rpm single I'd plucked from a box marked "Weird & Misc" at a record fair. It became an instant favorite. I've never found much biographical information on McKay, and as far as I can tell, he only released one LP, Reap the Wild Winds (RCA Records, 1955), which included this track.

McKay played several instruments, including saxophone, oboe, English horn, flute, and bassoon, which is featured prominently on several of the LP's selections.

The style could be described as "eccentric jazz." The bassoon gives much of the album a strange, playful quality. Some of the selections are reminiscent of the unpredictable, zigzagging arrangements Carl Stalling did for classic Warner Brothers animated cartoons from 1936 to 1958.

Maybe the best description was on that box at the record fair, and Stuart McKay just played "weird miscellaneous" music.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Mean Left Hook

Before we get to the recap of the latest batch of Bizarro cartoons, I must share my favorite real estate photo of the week. This is from an actual online listing for a house in the greater Pittsburgh area.
When staging your home for sale, remember to make it look warm and inviting by including a photo showcasing your collection of Chuckie dolls.

This caption was suggested by a friend of Dan Piraro, who sent it along to me as possible fodder for a gag. Dan wrote, "Is it a guy at the bottom of the ocean trying to sell something funny to an octopus or crab? Or something else?"

After pondering it for a few days, I came up with this bit of underground theater featuring Willy Low Man.

Some experiences are universal.

Although it's a pun-based gag, we did our homework to get the first line of dialog translated correctly, and studied reference photos of Marcel Proust and the type of paper he used for his manuscripts.

Proust did in fact finish writing Swann's Way in 1912. We may sometimes be silly, but we always strive for accuracy.

Once these offspring start school, the parent will spend most of the day packing lunches.

These resourceful buccaneers have found a way to save money while preparing for a frigid journey. It's not widely known, but pirates are as proud of their frugality as of their brutality.

I didn't draw a graphic representation of a the sound of the phone for this comic because the character's ringtone was set to "dog whistle." The motion lines were required, since the phone was also set to vibrate.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that these characters are enjoying cans of Arf (The drink dogs ask for by name.)

For additional insights and wisecracks, direct your browsing device to Dan Piraro's Bizarro blog. While you're there, gaze in wonder at his latest magnificent Sunday page, and pick up some of that sweet Bizarro swag.

Bonus Track

This week's musical selection is "Chicken Strut," by the Meters. Recorded in New Orleans and released in 1970, this record shows why the band are widely known as founding fathers of funk.

Disclaimer: Some YouTube music videos are unavailable outside the US.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Bait & Switch, or, The Great White Guppy

Well, we made it through the first Valentine's Day in over a hundred years without Necco conversation hearts candies. We hope this week's cartoons helped you cope with that loss.
While getting tattooed is undoubtedly painful, I assume there's more discomfort associated with having a design etched onto an arm bone. 

We exercised artistic license here by drawing the skeleton's humerus larger than normal, in order to make the scrimshaw image visible in the printed comic. And, if a skeleton works out enough, maybe it actually does increase bone mass.

When I was a young'un, back in the (first) vinyl era, supermarkets often had racks of cheap records near the checkout lanes. Sometimes they were "cut-outs" -- remaindered copies of poor-selling or overstock product, with a punched hole or notch cut into the cover. Just as often, they were low-budget knockoffs of popular recordings, designed to fool clueless customers. Plenty of kids I knew received bogus Beatles records as gifts.

Here are a few of the more laughable phonies:

Wednesday's gag remixes Greek mythology, with Eros experiencing an Icarus moment.

At least they won't have bites taken out of them. While drawing this gag, I kept imagining the sound a box filled with walnuts would make. You can hear it now, can't you?

Remember to show consideration to friends and coworkers during cold and flu season.

The staging of Friday's panel echoes a great gag by the late Charles Barsotti (1933-2014). Barsotti's famous Fusilli, you crazy bastard! cartoon even ran in place of a photo in his Washington Post obituary. I loved his economic, clean drawing style, as well as his observant humor. After sketching this one, I immediately recognized Barsotti's influence showing in my drawing.
The background seemed a little too sparse, and my excellent editor/collaborator Dan Piraro suggested adding a TV showing the fireplace video.

We close the week with a gag for grammar nerds. The phrase "just deserts" uses an archaic definition of the word "desert," meaning "that which one deserves," though it's pronounced the same as "dessert."

If you enjoy my ramblings, you can gain even more insight be checking out Dan's blog, where you can also dig his latest Sunday masterwork, and pick up some fabulous Bizarro swag.

Bonus Track

When it comes to ersatz Beatles music, nobody does it better than The Rutles, the brainchild of Monty Python's Eric Idle and The Bonzo Dog Band's Neil Innes.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Your Vote Counts

Before we review the week's cartoons, I want to thank everyone who responded to the Boston Globe's call for votes. The Globe dropped half of their comics in December, but Bizarro's readers convinced the editors to bring us back. The Jazz Pickle Army has emerged victorious! Your support means a lot to us here at Bizarro Studios, and we wish we could give each of you an "I Voted" sticker.

The editors of the Globe handled this professionally and gracefully.

Now, back to business...

This week's batch of cartoons features several animals, but I must apologize for not including any pigs, since Tuesday marked the beginning of Lunar Year 4717, the Year of the Pig. I'll try to stay on top of that next year.

Underwater carpentry is even tougher than you might imagine.

I had a bit of a breakthrough when coloring this one. Initially, I tried to fill in the individual areas on each item of camouflage clothing with different colors, which quickly became overwhelming. 

Eventually, I realized that the solid and shaded areas in the black & white art established the camouflage pattern.
Subtle color variations on top of the line art weren't necessary for the clothing to be recognized as camo, and when printed in the paper, they wouldn't even be visible.

Applying a single flat color to each item (
as can be seen in this view of the color layer on its own) was all that was needed.
I hope I'll remember this lesson going forward, but I know that I'll probably have to "discover" it again.

We debated whether the word "cosplay" would be understood by most readers, but our syndicate editor convinced us to use it, although she added the disclaimer, "I'm a big ol' geek."

These rodents are actually getting by quite well, as opposed to someone who's just eking out a living.

This is the first time I've used Bizarro's Flying Saucer of Possibility symbol as an actual character in a gag. I wasn't sure if that violated any Bizarro Universe rules, but my editor/collaborator, Dan Piraro (who created the SoP) gave his okay, so I know I'm on solid footing.

This fellow never gets frustrated when calling Customer Service, since he has no expectations of speaking to a representative.

Be sure to read Dan's blog to see what he has to say about this week's selections, and to admire his latest Sunday page.

Bonus Gags

In honor of the Year of the Pig, here are some previously published porcine panels for your perusal. 

Bonus Track

Imagine if corporations used music this delightful when placing customers on hold. When you finally speak with a human, you might actually be smiling.

Disclaimer: Some YouTube music videos are unavailable outside the US.