A Fine Dessert of Vengeance, Served with a Frosting of Comeuppance

Proving once again that comedy is tragedy experienced by someone else, I was amused to see that a bunch of former cartoonists for the New York Press, the right-wing alternative weekly in Manhattan, are bitching about how they’ve been treated in a whiny thread on The Comics Journal message board.

The Press has gone through a few changes as of late, having been sold by long-time owner Russ Smith. But some things never change: they’re a poorly-paying, arbitrary and capricious publication that loves, loves, loves you when they hire you and treat you like so much dog excrement when they inevitably boot your ass a few months or years later.

The paper did serve a purpose back during the early to mid ’90s, when it hired new artists and writers to do autobiographical essays about their sex lives or whatever, and also featured a lot of comics–about a dozen at one point–that were just starting out. While these were by no means the best the alternative press had to offer (those are now found in The Village Voice and like-minded publications), it was good to see a paper that understood that comics were a big reader draw.

I wrote a number of long cover essays for the Press, and eventually (I think it was 1997) Russ called me in to discuss running my cartoons. “We love the strip,” Russ said. Whatever. About six months later, he canceled it. That’s what the Press does.

The new editor, Jeff Koyen, is a real piece of work. I thought it would be amusing to send in a submission of sample columns–they don’t run in New York–to the Press a few weeks after they annointed me #2 on their list of “The 50 Most Loathesome New Yorkers,” ahead of Yoko Ono even! For some reason the editor of MAXIM made #1. Hey, they don’t like my politics, fine. No hard feelings from me.

Anyway, Koyen sends me a long suck-up email in response, promising to pick up my column and starts negotiations on how much he wants to pay. We go back and forth a bit, so I figure it’s time to call him on the phone to say hi. Which he does, but begs off for a few weeks because he’s busy doing something with another publication called Sports Express or something. Fine. I follow-up a few weeks later, he ducks my voicemails, I move on.

Then, in the Press’ “Best of New York” issue, Koyen publishes a screed full of lies, saying that I stalked his phones and how he never had any interest in my column, yadayadayada. Hey, he’s the guy who asked for rates. Bizarre. What was more telling, however, is that nobody mentioned it to me. New Yorkers don’t read the Press anymore. Still, I have to ask myself, what’s WITH this guy?

Part of me feels sorry for this batch of cartoonists getting screwed over by the Press. Then the other part remembers how they reacted when it happened to me. It only hurts, as Len Deighton said, when I larf.

300,000 New Jobs Created?

The good news, they tell us, is that the economy has created 300,000 new jobs in the last 3 months. The trouble is that the economy has to generate 400,000 new jobs a month just to stay even with layoffs and standard attrition of businesses going under, etc. The “good news,” in other words, is that the net loss of jobs has decreased from 400,000 per month to 300,000 per month. I suppose that’s good news…but calling it a recovery is a bit rich. A recovery, after all, needs to actually add jobs to the economy, not take them away…

This weekend is a big book deadline weekend, so I shan’t be blogging much.

Dean Shouldn’t Have Apologized

Gov. Howard Dean will be, with a little luck, the next president of the United States. I like him, but he shouldn’t have apologized for his Confederate flag remark.

Only an idiot would choose to misinterpret what Dean said as an endorsement of the Confederacy or its treasonous battle flag, which I have come out against on numerous occasions. What he said, and he’s right, is that Democrats need to get working-class Southern men–good old boys, if you will–back into the party. These hard-working guys need to understand that the GOP has played them for fools by dividing Americans by race, when what really matters is class. A poor white guy has a hell of a lot more in common with a poor black guy than he does with a rich white guy, and the Democrats need to spread that message.

That’s what Dean was saying, people who attacked him on this damn well know it, and Dean blew it by issuing an apology. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of this wussish behavior.

ATTITUDE 2: The New Subversive Social Commentary Cartoonists

I’m pleased to report that ATTITUDE 2 will be heading off to the printers in a few days! This sequel to the hit anthology ATTITUDE: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists (still in print, so order now to prepare for ATTITUDE 2!), is due out in February 2004. As before, I interviewed 21 of America’s most interesting social commentary (and a few hard-hitting political) cartoonists, most of whom work in the alternative weeklies. Along with the interviews are tons of cartoons, childhood photos and other ephemera of these great artists. It’s a great sampler of the most important work going on in American cartooning–too hip for the mainstream press, yet not obscure like those boring “art comix” the critics are always yammering on and on about but don’t do anything for you when you actually splurge on them. Literate, intelligent, and most of all funny–this is an amazing book, at least according to the few famous cartoonist types who have been privileged to lay their eyes on the proofs.

Cartoonists featured in this 128-page book are:

Alison Bechdel – Dykes to Watch Out For

Jennifer Berman – Berman

Max Cannon – Red Meat

Barry Deutsch – Ampersand

Emily S. Flake – Lulu Eightball

Marian Henley – Maxine!

Justin Jones – Soda-Pong

Keith Knight – The K Chronicles

Tim Kreider – The Pain–When Will It End?

Aaron McGruder – Boondocks

Kevin Moore – In Contempt Comics

Stephen Notley – Bob the Angry Flower

Eric Orner – The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green

Greg Peters – Suspect Device

David Rees – Get Your War On

Mikhaela Blake Reid – The Boiling Point

Neil Swaab – Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles

Brian Sendelbach – Smell of Steve, Inc.

Tak Toyoshima – Secret Asian Man

Shannon Wheeler – Too Much Coffee Man

Jason Yungbluth – Deep Fried

There’s no ordering info available, but you can e-mail NBM through www.nbmpub.com

Difficult Choices, My Ass

The downing of the Chinook helicopter near Baghdad yesterday has pundits chattering about the “difficult choices” we face in Iraq and how we have to stick around until we’ve won. What these morons don’t get, however, is that this war was lost before it started. All those wait-and-see folks were idiots; there was never any chance that the U.S. would go in and not act like assholes, guarding the oil ministry and nothing else against looters was inevitable, of course the place was going to disintegrate into civil war and chaos. We didn’t have what it took to do differently, and the situation was bound to degenerate immediately upon our arrival. A brilliant commander-in-chief would have had a hard time taming post-Saddam Iraq; these guys were always too narrowminded, undereducated and arrogant to tame anything. This was always gonna suck, and it’s always gonna suck. Every day that passes kills more innocents, and for absolutely nothing–the United States will never, ever win the war in Iraq because it just doesn’t know how.

To Iraq and Back?

It looks like I’ll be heading off to Iraq in the not-too-distant future. Needless to say, the news that US troops are getting ambushed some 35 times a day all over the country doesn’t exactly make me feel like this is a good idea, but my curiosity about what’s really going on, how ordinary Iraqis are living their lives and what they think about life post-Saddam, is probably going to get the better of me.

I don’t have any assignments whatsoever; I may file my syndicated column from there, but that’s about it. Will there be a book? Possibly, possibly not–I really can’t say. I’ll ask some editors at sympatico newspapers and magazines if they’re interested in receiving anything from me, and we’ll see what, if anything, happens. This is really just to see what’s what.

I won’t be embedded or hanging out with US troops; I’ll be traveling independently and staying with locals as much as I can. I love the fact that there are few expectations…I’ll let you know more when I know it myself.

It’s Nice to Be Loved

Here’s a lovely email I received today from one “John M. Callihan.” The subject line was “You Demagogue.”

Now, before you read this, you may want to ask yourself: What kind of person writes this sort of thing? OK, so the guy doesn’t agree with my opinions. Fine. He’s irritated. Fine. But to actually go to the trouble of writing this to someone merely because they don’t like what you think?

Weird.

Rall-Your every bit as despicable as the Nazis’ you depict in that

unspeakably bad cartoon you have comparing our soldiers in Iraq, to the Nazi

SS/Wehrmacht thugs/soldiers. You were born 50-60 years too late–you’d have

gone far in Josef’ Goebbel’s Ministry of Propaganda, or more likely, one of

Beria’s weasals/Commissars’ spreading Stalin’s Gospel writing for Pravda. I

hope you run into an unhinged,angry veteran or two of Iraq and that they

kick the living shit out of you–comparing these despicable shits attacking

our soldiers over there, to the Partisans and resistance fighters who took

on the Nazis’. And then, while your lying there on the sidewalk nursing your

injuries, I hope Tom Friedman walks by, unzips his zipper, and takes a

particularly-long piss on that brain-empty head of yours, you Hack—-anyone

with 1/2 a brain (which obviously cancels you out, you “hard-hitting

journalist”–yeah–I really hope someone hit you hard) could see how envious

and jealous you are of Friedman.

Have A Nice Day,

John Callinan

Ridgewood, NJ

For the record, I have nothing against Tom Friedman. I think he’s an interesting read; my cartoon from Thursday is merely my little reaction to a line of reasoning–once the Republicans get us stuck in something, we’re obligated to follow through–that I find amusing.

Swamped

My next book is due this weekend, which means this weekend won’t be a busy one for ye olde blogge. What’s it about, Ted? Wellll…..I ain’t telling. Not yet, anyway. Suffice it to say it’s all prose. Non-fiction. Political. Coming out in early 2004.

Will it change the world?

Leave me alone. I’m typing.

Yahoo “Censorship”? Nah.

People are asking what happened to my column “Why We Hate Bush.” That piece suddenly vanished from Yahoo’s News Op-Ed section yesterday, causing readers to ask if John Ashcroft’s jack-booted thugs had finally appeared to drag me off to Gitmo.

Actually, there are occasional software glitches over at Yahoo, and this was one of them. “Why We Hate Bush” was an old column that mysteriously resurfaced to the top of the Ted Rall section a few days ago for no reason. We caught the error and uploaded my new column from yesterday, about next year’s Necropublican National Convention, and thus bumped “Why We Hate Bush” into the archives.

Censorship certainly is a reality in the media; even so-called “alternative” newspapers refused, for example, to send me to cover the war in Iraq despite the fact that my pieces from Afghanistan won several awards and were lauded by The Washington Post, The Nation and others as the best war correspondent’s reports filed by an American reporter. They were pretty overt about why–they didn’t think their readers would be happy to hear anything negative…and they had reason to think I might look a little deeper than the typical clueless embedded types.

Yahoo, however, has yet to suppress my pieces and I count them among one of my better clients. These software problems do come up now and then, however, so this probably isn’t the last time I’ll have people wondering if the First Amendment is coming under fire.

By the way, if you’re looking for “Why We Hate Bush,” one of my more incendiary pieces as of late, you can still find it here.

Florida 2000-Style Contest Results

After going through more than 200 submissions for the contest to name my next book, many of which had some kind of riff on the film “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (talk about obscure!), the winner is…my publisher.

He came up with a great, simple title that I’ll be free to reveal a few month’s hence. “You have the habit of coming up with really long book titles,” he snapped. What, “All The Rules Have Changed” and “Real Americans Admit: The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done!” are too long?

I do feel badly that I wasn’t able to give away the cartoon original that would have gone to the lucky winner, but it’s like this – titling a book is difficult. If I can’t do it properly, and it’s my job to do it, it’s unlikely that someone outside the field of publishing will be able to do better.

I would like to remind the sore losers out there that there’s still a piece of original artwork out there for those who want one. All you have to do is convince the editor of your local newspaper to pick up either my cartoons or my columns on a regular subscription basis (that’s a 1-year contract). It’s actually very easy to do – often all it takes is a letter to the editor.

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