B. Kliban has always been one of my favorite cartoonists, and I was reminded the other day of his fine book, "whack Your Porcupine". I used to have all his books, but like almost all of my possessions from more than ten years ago, they've all disappeared down a black hole. If there is a God, He seems to be Hell-bent on obliterating my history, but that's another story. Okay, Kliban. I went to Amazon, repository of every material thing anyone could possibly want, looking for a replacement copy of Whack Your Porcupine. And was shocked to find that it was $80! I guess I'm glad that he's valued so highly, but $80! And why are his books out of print anyway? So anyway, here are a few of his cartoons from that book:
This is clearly the yard of a person who doesn’t like the way foliage grows naturally. Makes you wonder what her you-know-what looks like, doesn’t it? No? Oops, sorry. Yeah, I know there’s a long history of nature-shaping, and sure, stuff need to be trimmed to co-exist with us in our traffic-congested fume-choked garbage-strewn concrete and asphalt world, but for me the pleasure of seeing a bit of natural effusion is missing from a tree like this one. What I like about the presence of nature in our sterile grid of urbanity is the way it grows by its own rules, and fuck us. It sprouts from cracks, it runs up telephone poles, it brings down power lines, it heaves up sidewalks from underneath, and it infuriates lawn Nazis. It’s like Anonymous without the pompous pronouncements and Guy Fawkes masks. And it will probably return in force once we have succeeded in our long-term societal erotic asphyxiation.
From the archives, a series of illustrated anagrams. The funny thing is, I can't remember the original word(s) that these were anagrams of. So they're now just free-floating anagrams, kind of like the space junk you read about, out there in space, just bobbing around untethered. I'm proud to have made my small contribution to the word junk floating around in the great void. The end.
I’m just coming out of an extended blue period. Or going into one, I forget. At any rate, blues, don’t you dampen my door. Parking-garage scenarios I can handle, the wide scatter and whatnot. Doorways, though, are more like sphincters or permeable membranes. I’m in the vicinity now. I understand the situation. But it’s not the right one. I’d charge right through the door, if I knew which side of it I’m on. Alternatively, I can dick with old drawings from earlier times, when things were either better or worse. Case in point.
I was down in the catacombs chasing away the nutria when I came across these rare, never-before-seen--well, I-forget-when-before-seen--watercolor drawings from figure drawing group, and I was so stunned I sat on the nutria. But my loss is your gain!
Feast your eyes on these babies while I try to rescue that pesky testicle. These sketches bear witness to a time when I would actually attend drawing sessions, armed only with the bare necessities, a pad and a brush, and barely hesitated as I proceeded to bare my soul on paper, exposing my ego to the possibility of stark failure, dealing a blow to my naked ambition. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.
No, this is not about Kate's fucking baby bump diary. I'm just trying to punch up my numbers with the distaff demographic. God knows my numbers could use punching up. They're not just low, they've become negative. Women who have never heard of my blog have vowed never to visit it, should they be informed of its existence.
So no baby bumps today. What I'm doing today is recycling some old bits from 2006, on the assumption that all my readers from back in the early days have grown old and died, or have finally been apprehended by the authorities and are growing old in a maximum security venue without Internet access, or have their faces planted in a bowl of mushy peas while Ellen blares from the day room tv.
In 2006, I was still working in an office, in a room without windows. I was still a few years away from meeting the people who punted me out of my doldrums. My blog and its drawings were my only escape. I was like a Mennonite woman who, in the midst of the plainest of lives, exuded flamboyant quilts. And that’s the only way I’m like a Mennonite woman, I hasten to add. My output has lost some of that flamboyance these days, but it’s a small price to pay. I think.
This is my Master Plan for the three or four inches remaining in my Whole Nine Yards. As Master Plans go, it’s pretty inscrutable, even to me, because my Original Master Plan didn’t include learning how to craft a scrutable Master Plan. But I forgive myself, since I was only three at the time, and my Original Master Plan consisted mainly of strategies for collecting toys. Which goes a long way towards explaining why I sit here today surrounded by piles of random toys and little else. If you look at it a certain way, my Original Master Plan was phenomenally successful, since I’m still alive and I have toys. It’s only when you look at it one of the hundred million other ways that it’s seen as a failure, the kind of failure that the word abject was created for. If abjectest were a word, then it would be the perfect word for the slot currently occupied by abject, but it hasn’t, as far as I know. So anyway. My New Master Plan, presented here, is intended to carry me from my squalor and toys into a bright new future of...well, I don’t know, I haven’t gotten to that part yet. Phase One was to assemble elements that, together, made no sense whatsoever, and go from there. I’m pretty comfortable with Phase One: nonsense makes few demands of one, don’t you find? It’s the next part that has me nervously biting my knuckles, or would, if I were a fully-realized adult. I just hope it doesn’t feature linoleum-lined hallways smelling faintly of urine. That would be abject.
My mother kept a journal of sorts when we were kids, into which she pasted news clippings, wrote down jokes she liked, and where she stuck cartoons by her brother Donnie. I used to sneak looks at the journal (some of the jokes were what they used to call “risqué”, and she frowned on unsupervised browsing) and I came across this cartoon by Uncle Don. I must have been five or six, and was in the middle of my first artistic period, feverishly drawing soldiers shooting each other, houses with the front door on the ground floor and all the windows on the second floor and the chimney coming out of the roof at an angle, and cars which rolled on the tops of their wheels. Uncle Don’s cartoon was a revelation! Here was a grown man doing this stuff! Was it possible that I didn’t have to go in the army and then get a job in a factory and be a dull grown-up reading the paper and filling his pipe with tobacco? Could I draw cartoons my whole life? Uncle Don had already cultivated a black-sheep reputation in the family. He wrecked his car, he was caught drinking, he smoked (well, they all smoked) and he flunked out of college. When he visited us, his wicked smile lit up our cloister like Lenny Bruce walking into a cathedral. When he began a joke, we’d cast nervous glances at Dad, wondering how long he’d let it go on before shutting things down.
But Uncle Don loved Mom and Dad. Mom we could understand. She was his sister, after all. His affection for Dad made us shake our heads in wonder. One of my favorite moments in the last twenty years was at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party, where they had chosen Donny as their keynote speaker. Here, in the middle of comfortable middle-aged church-going Ohio, he gave a speech that would have made Don Rickles livid with envy. It was a joy to see these people stunned by his ribaldry and “dirty words”. When he began riffing on Mom and Dad having oral sex on the dining room table, there were audible gasps. It was a beautiful moment.
Several years later, when Dad died, Uncle Don flew in from the West Coast to be with him. When Dad left, Donny cried.
Now it’s Uncle Don’s turn. He died Sunday. I wasn’t close to him; we rarely talked. But there’s an Uncle Don inside me. He gave me permission to draw funny pictures for a living. He told me it was not the end of the world to flunk out of college. He taught me the pleasures of being scandalous among stuffed shirts. He’ll live as long as I do.
Flying over the mountainous terrain of New Zealand, preparing to jump--okay, never mind, it's just some shit on the waterfront. And it was yesterday, not today. And my name isn't really Crack Skull Bob. And this world is an illusion.
Hard to call this reportage when it covers an event that took place a year ago, but I’m going to call it reportage anyway, because it’s my blog and I can. These sketches were distributed internally when it happened, and I had forgotten about them until just now. So now you can view them, totally free of any context. Fun, huh?
This is the little fish pond in our backyard. There are lots of goldfish in it. Hot weather, cold weather, they’re always there. And we don’t do a thing. I mean I avoid peeing in it, as tempting as that is, so I guess that’s something. But I don’t put fish food in there, or pour hot water in it when it’s freezing cold and whatnot. But there they are, swimming around like crazy. That’s my idea of a miracle. Even more of one than the time I was really really hungry for a Whopper but I was broke, and then I found a $10 bill in my coat pocket!! Okay, maybe not more of a miracle than that, but pretty close. Not enough of one to trick me into believing in God, though. There are leagues and leagues of superheroes who could keep goldfish alive in an untended pond, I bet. At least that’s the kind of thing my geeky art friends debate after drawing group. Now if I looked in there and saw a salmon, that might tend to sway me. Or if I got really hungry for some Cheetos and found a million dollars in my pocket. That might do it.
This charming tableau comes from the Women Are From Venus, Men Are Zombies school of human interaction. Women are so picky. A few protruding entrails, and they’re all “eeww!”
Oh, I can see the impatiently raised hands now: “Mr. Taylor! Mr. Taylor! There are no subways in Norfolk!” Just put them down, annoyingly observant students. This isn’t Norfolk, okay? This is from a photo sent me by my lovely New York people watcher, Lydia, who, with her lovely accomplice Amanda, supplies me with an endless stream of NY characters as sketchy inspirations. All right, class dismissed. And don’t forget, your essays on distinguished Hampton Roads sketch artists are due tomorrow.
I tossed in the above just to have a visual. It's from an email sketchy thing I did back in the '05s or thereabouts. The reason I needed to dig around for a visual is that a photo of a soon-to-be-deceased cat would be too traumatizing for the delicate flowers who follow me here. You see, last night al Qatta chewed through the charger cable to my MacBook, rendering it useless. As luck would have it, she didn't electrocute herself, and you'll notice I haven't added a qualifier to the word 'luck', since which kind is very much in question at the moment. Today I went to the Apple Store and paid $82 for a new one. Just in case you might be fooled from its price into believing that this is yet another magical Apple creation that will usher in a whole new era of personal computing, it's not. It's a wire that delivers a current from an outlet to a laptop. And that's all it does. That's the price I pay for being an "Apple fanboi", as a colleague of mine derisively calls me. I remind myself that I'm experiencing a moment's annoyance, but he has to sit in front of a PC every day all day.
Every Saturday morning, NPR trots out a feature called This I Believe, in which people present essays infused with sanctimonious uplifting optimism, which usually make me feel guilty, but which this morning got me to thinking about Belief.
Life is like that annoying person who, as soon as you assert belief in a principle, eagerly pounces with "Oh yeah? What if….?" followed by a searing exception that exposes your belief as a tattered limp flag with which to charge into the fray, only to be flayed to within an inch of your life, such as it is. Which image reminds me of a tangential, maybe, incident that occurred when I was eight or nine. Around that time, incidents were occurring to me with a depressing regularity, but this one stands out. It was Halloween, and my Cub Scout troop was having a party, and our assignment to make our own costumes without the help of any tyrannical adults. My big idea was to construct a suit of armor out of cardboard and masking tape. A suit of armor! This would, in later life, toss up a softball for my therapist to hit out of the park, but I’m not going there today. So! I had barely made my grand entrance when the suit of armor began to deconstruct itself, revealing that in my over-confidence in my armoring skills I hadn’t gotten fully dressed. Burning with embarrassment, I turned my face to the heavens and cried "Why?" although even at that tender age I had begun to suspect I was hollering into a cold, uncaring Universe. You know, kind of like making a proposal to House Republicans.
Oh yeah, belief. Knowledge is the enemy of Belief. That’s what I believe.
At least I think it's Korean. I know, I know. Listen, if you're going to get all youknowwhat on my ass and accuse me of cultural insensitivity, then you're going to miss out on a small laugh, and it looks like you could really use one. You know, laughing is supposed to release all kinds of beneficial chemicals, like oxycontin and antihistamines and human growth hormones. I don't mean release them out into the general populace--at least I think I don't. Man, wouldn't that be embarrassing? You'd burst out in laughter and then have to dab gobs of endorphins off a woman's bodice, and it would be doubly embarrassing if the reason you were laughing was that she looked funny or that she had a bodice. You might as well just pack it up and go home, because you're not getting any tonight. Crack an Old Milwaukee and break out the Korean porn literature.
I already posted this drawring on Facebook for my ADD friends, but here it is for you Luddites, and you know who you are, who stubbornly resist jumping on the bandwagon--or the turnip truck, depending on your point of view, and you know what it is. Anyways, I drew this house in the Prospect Park South neighborhood of Brooklyn just because it looked interesting. But it turns out this is Robert Longo’s house. The artist, you Phyllis teens! Jesus. Anyhoo, what else is new with me? Well, a conservative friend of mine told me to go fuck myself the other day. Feel kind of ambivalent about that. I must be doing something right and I must be doing something wrong. The cute little avatars that sit on my shoulders, the one with the pitchfork and the one with the halo, whisper their admonitions in my ears, and as science tells me, when their respective sound waves meet in the skull-delimited void, they neatly cancel each other out, creating a mindless sense of bliss, and a strong desire for an inch of Laphroaig. Not a bad way to pass the time.
Yes, it’s true, my little world is tightly circumscribed. I can go for days at a time without protruding beyond a three-block radius. Is it my fault that everything I need is trundled to my doorstep? Although in my defense, if I need to defend this situation, I do have a few out-of-townity decals on my bumper. Much-prized ones. Take NYC, for example. Visiting NYC is like touring my subconscious. The density, the assault on my rods and cones, the narrow, deep streets, the underground, the shadows. Everyone needs a meatspace embodiment of that territory. NYC is mine. When I return to Norfolk, it’s as if I switched the video to slow motion. So benign. Seeming almost deserted. Quiet. Kind of petering out here, aren’t I? Must find 5 hour energy.
If this ever had a context,it has long since flown the coop. Makes it a little more interesting, to my way of thinking.
This is what Portrait Partier Marion Lokin believes I look like. I like to think, in a preening sort of way, that no one can really capture my essence, which is undoubtedly a good thing. This one makes me look rather benign and sweet, whereas everyone who knows me knows I am a savage sociopath, ready to disembowel a kitten or reduce a widow to tears at a moment’s notice. That’s art for you: you can’t trust it.