Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday afternoon toons: Bracketing

When I was an earnest grad student (that would have been at least two self-reinventions ago), I happened upon the useful notion, from the branch of philosophy called phenomenology, called "bracketing." It was the act – the technique? – of analyzing mental experience by placing the consideration of the physical world on hold, or "in brackets." Later, I was able to bring more than one faculty meeting to a skidding stop by saying, "Yeah, but let's just bracket that for a moment." (You had to be there, I suppose.) But, years later, when March Madness comes around and I spend a few weeks listening to people talk about "brackets" it is tempting – oh, so tempting – to think, yeah, this is about temporarily switching the real world to voice mail and spending some quality time inside your head.

Although I'm almost certain that this wasn't the lesson my philosophy professors wanted me to learn.

I mostly let "brackets" and "bracketology" gags warm the bench today, although I did bring in Lalo Alcaraz – more from sympathy to the theme than because of its merits as a stand-alone concept. I was a little surprised – perhaps it happened too close to deadlines – that there were no mentions by the usual suspects of Obama's annual NCAA bracket picks.

A few artists picked up on Starbucks' risible attempt to build its megacorporation-with-a-heart cred by trying to inject itself into one of the earliest and most intractable of America's problems, but only Jeff Stahler gave it the treatment it deserved.

Hillary's email? M - E - H meh!

And something tells me that the new Netanyahu administration is going to be something of a political cartoon evergreen for the indefinite future, so I'm comfortable to let the dust settle there this week. Except to say that I agree with Comic Strip of the Day, below, about Gary Varvel's cartoon. You'll see.

Today's toons were selected, based on a message written in Sharpie on the side of a venti skinny latte with two pumps of caramel and one of hazelnut, from the week's offerings at McClatchy DC, Cartoon Movement, Go Comics, Politico's Cartoon Gallery, Daryl Cagle's Political Cartoons,, and other fine sources of toony goodness.

p3 Best of Show: Pat Bagley.

p3 Old School Ties Award: Signe Wilkinson.

p3 Certificate of Harmonic Toon Convergence: Mike Luckovich and Jim Morin.

p3 World Toon Review: Martyn Turner (Ireland), Ingrid Rice (Canada), and Emrah Arikan (Turkey).

Here's an Ann Telnaes toon from last summer, brought back today for two reasons: First, her rendering of the Evil Old Bastard always – always! – makes me laugh. In fact it could be the only reason for keeping him around. Second, watch closely when the EOB drops out of frame. Heh.

Mark Fiore pays tribute to force-multiplying projectiles combating the scourge of armored deer.

Tom Tomorrow knows what's wrong with America: some people just can't take a freakin' joke.

Keith Knight celebrates a minor fast-food breakthrough at the Golden Arches. (Back story here.)

Tom the Dancing Bug reminds us that even super-heroes with omnipotent powers still need a good metaphor every now and then.

Red Meat's Bug-Eyed Earl shares a nature moment.

I used to read Dennis the Menace when I was a kid. But The Comic Strip Curmudgeon draws my attention to a recent panel that I'm not even sure I know quite what to make of now; I can't imagine how I would have processed it back in the day.

Comic Strip of the Day starts with "the best argued, certainly the most beautiful, but perhaps also the most futile, political cartoon of the week" and then – somewhat like the Darrin Bell cartoon itself – moves on to the evidence of things unseen.

Dat's the ol' pepper, boy! We're not really huge baseball fans here at p3 International Headquarters, but the start of spring training does provide an excuse to resurrect "Baseball Bugs," a 1946 gem directed by Friz Freleng from a story by Michael Maltese. Bugs Bunny's voice was provided, of course, by Portland's own Mel Blanc (who may have voiced the abused umpire, too). I read recently that by this point Blanc's contract with Warner required that he alone got voice credit in the titles, which is why the work of Tedd Pierce (the announcer), Bea Benaderet (the Statue of Liberty), and Frank Graham (pretty much everyone else except the Sportsman Quartet) go uncredited. Musical director Carl stalling, of the p3 pantheon of gods, has a lot of fun matching movement to musical quotes in this one – watch the pitcher's wind-up and the Gas House Gorillas' 4th-inning scoring streak. "Baseball Bugs" also features an early instance of a cross-talk gag – "Safe!" "Out!" – that would be perfected and immortalized in slightly different form a few years later by the Hunting Trilogy (also written by Maltese, but directed by Chuck Jones) featuring Bugs, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd. There are two sight-gags relying on contemporaneous slogans that were much-parodied for decades thereafter: "Was This Trip Really Necessary?" quotes a wartime billboard campaign promoting gasoline conservation, and the "Does Your Tobacco Taste Different Lately?" throwaway is a reference to a cigarette and pipe tobacco ad campaign by Raleigh Tobacco. And I have this notion – which I haven't been able to verify – that "That's what the man said! He said that!" was a fairly well-known bit of shtick from some radio comedy (meaning it was familiar enough to audiences that they could hang the story's ending on it), but I haven't been able to track it down yet, although it did turn up in William Falkner's screenplay for "The Big Sleep" later the same year. Make of that what you will. Watch "Baseball Bugs" at VideoMotion.

The Big, And Getting Bigger Since We Started Cheating by Welcoming Back The Departed, Oregon Toon Block:

Ex-Oregonian Jack Ohman detects a shadow of doubt.

Possibly Ex-Oregonian Jen Sorensen has the ideal product if you find there just aren't enough hours in the day.

And speaking of the Golden Arches, Matt Bors looks at trends in medical care: The pickle poultice? The onion orthotic? The special-sauce splint?

Jesse Springer reminds us of an important truth: There's no good idea that can't be pushed over the cliff:

Test your control of the toon-captioning Force at The New Yorker's weekly caption-the-cartoon contest. (Rules here.) And you can browse The New Yorker's cartoon gallery here.

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