Friday, March 31, 2006

NCCC Just Not Funny Division Championship

The NCCC™ Division Championship round of the Just Not Funny Division pits the two first round winning heavyweights Cathy and BC against each other. Cathy was a ground breaking strip that it for the first time showed an independent single career oriented woman that obsessed over food, followed every ridiculous fashion fad, and pined for guys Just-Not-That-Into-Her. Big step forward there. Still, the author, Cathy Guisewaite was a pioneer that broke ground for a new generation of female comic writers like ,uh, just a moment here…., yeah those Six Chix. Can you smell token here? I can see the meeting at the Syndicate: “But, don’t we already have a strip about a woman written by a woman?” How about a FUNNY one, guys?

Normally a guy like Johnny Hart that can annoy both the Anti-Defamation League and Islamic groups would be hailed as “biting” and “edgy”. Instead he is more like the old senile relative that no one pays attention to anymore. Johnny is getting a pass because everybody just apologizes in advance “because that’s the way Johnny is, and everybody knows it.” Well, no, he wasn’t always that way. He used to be FUNNY. The strip wasn’t sold as crypto-religious allegory. It was funny cavemen. Johnny is using his tenured position as his own religious bully pulpit and we get stuck with it. Cathy has always been what she is, but with BC, we got bait-and-switched.
Winner/Loser: BC

Next up: Walker-Browne Division Championship

Or on to the Final Four.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

NCCC Pointless Soap Division Championship

For the Pointless Soap Division Championship of the NCCC™, Mary Worth and Rex Morgan, the first round winners, face off to determine who will advance to the Final Four. This is a division that has struggled lately. Anytime your newspaper has a comics survey, assume that all the serials are on the chopping block and the editors are just checking the pulse of the remaining readers. These strips are an endangered species because, just like dinosaurs, they are slow and lumbering and cannot adapt to a changing environment. Has anyone seen Brenda Starr or Terry and the Pirates around lately? Would anyone miss them?

Rex Morgan is an idealistic young doctor raising a family. He has a wife and child to support and works in a profession that regularly puts him in contact with people a lot worse off than himself. Never mind that he is a hopelessly closeted do-gooder that needs to drop the charade for his long suffering and amazingly hot wife June and their terribly mis-shapen child.

Mary Worth, on the other hand, is a meddling beyotch with nothing better to than interfere in other people’s lives. My retired parents in Florida have a phrase for people like Mary, “Condo Commandos”. Busy-bodies with too much time on their hands that manufacture crises if none exist. Nothing is more ironic than a bunch of incontinent ninety-year olds writing the bylaws to keep toddlers out of the pool. Mary needs to draw her blinds and let others live their lives.
Winner/Loser: Mary Worth

Next up: Just Not Funny Division Championship

Or on to the Final Four.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NCC Dead Writers Division Championship

Welcome back comics-fans to exciting second round coverage of the National Crappy Comics Competition ™. For those of you joining us late, first round action in the NCCC™ is complete and the results follow. Remember, the “winner” is the strip most worthy of being purged forever from the comics pages.

Dead Writer Division
Dennis the Menace lost to Andy Capp
Peanuts was defeated by Shoe

Pointless Soap Division
Mary Worth trounced Apt 3G
Mark Trail was upset by Rex Morgan

Just Not Funny Divsion
Garfield got edged out by Cathy
BC ran rough-shod over Family Circus

Walker-Browne Division

Beetle Bailey was butchered by Hagar the Horrible.
Hi and Lois passed Raising Duncan in a forfeit.

For our the championship of the the Dead Writer Division, we have Andy Capp facing off against Shoe. Andy Capp is famous around the world as being synonymous with “wife-beating drunk” . But if you ask someone who Rex Smythe is you either get a blank stare or a wild guess like “Elton John’s real name” or “right fielder for the 1918 Cardinals” . Jeff MacNelly on the other hand was a journalistic legend whose legacy is being defiled every day by the big black vultures circling his grave. Let the man rest in peace.
Winner/Loser: Shoe

Next up: The Pointless Soap Division Championship
Or on to the Final Four.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Plague of Plagiarists

The big kerfuffle in the blogosphere this week was the debacle at and their rather short-lived conservative Republican blogger. RedAmerica, as they named the blog (after rejecting RedDawn as being too obviously pro-gun), was written by a young well-connected blogger named Ben Domenech. I really don’t follow political blogs very much because the signal-to-noise ratio is just horrendous, so I was unfamiliar with RedState, where Domenech, who seems to like the color red, wrote under the pseudonym Augustine (a gimmick he probably lifted from Enders Game).

Well young Ben came out guns ablazing. In his first post he tiraded against the “shrieking denizens” of the left, who immediately took umbrage and started turning over rocks looking for something to throw at him. Ben immediately apologized for calling Coretta Scott King a “communist” while the rest of the country including our president was eulogizing her.

Then the charges of plagiarism came out. And they stuck. Liberal sites like DailyKos and Atrios began cataloging suspiciously similar phrases, paragraphs and even entire articles as fast as searches could reveal them. announced an investigation and Domenech resigned. His entire blog lasted less than 100 hours. Joel Achenbach, a real journalist and the WaPo's top blogger basically says good riddance.

I really don’t care about Ben’s politics or the extremely poor judgment on a lot of levels that the Post showed in hiring him. I‘m more interested in the plagiarism aspect which is extremely perplexing. I disagree that plagiarism is the worst offense a journalist can make. Blatant libelous character assassination is the most criminally actionable, but since the burden of proof is so high in the US, Tom Cruise and Roman Polanski and others with a beef with the press run to the more sympathetic British courts. I would even call outright fabrication even worse than plagiarism. As Janet Cook, Stephen Glass, and Jayson Blair have shown, the actions of one person can severely tarnish the reputation of a whole organization and reinforce suspicions about the entire journalism industry.

Plagiarism in the internet age is paradoxical because it is so easy to do yet so easy to detect. My wife found the winning poem in a contest at her school a little better than the student’s previous work would suggest she was capable of. A trial membership at an anti-plagiarism website immediately revealed the poem as copyrighted material. Definitely easier to detect than it was in John Kelly’s day.

Domenech’s “borrowing” was so irrefutable that his ostensible right-wing friends like Michelle Malkin, who he had worked with, had to back away. Rather than ‘fessing up immediately, Ben went to the plagiarist’s stock list of excuses. They include in decreasing plausibility:

Yellojkt's Top Ten Excuses Used by Plagiarists
  1. My notes were poor and I didn’t realize it was a quote and not my own thought.
  2. It was an editing error. The attribution got lost in revision.
  3. I referenced the source once and that should be enough.
  4. That idea is in the public domain and I didn’t get it from the person accusing me.
  5. It was a youthful indiscretion.
  6. I was just using the press release, that’s what it’s there for. (Corollary: I didn’t steal from him, we both stole from that guy.)
  7. I didn’t copy. I changed a bunch of words.
  8. People do it to me, so what’s the big deal?
  9. The source said I could use it and just doesn’t remember now.
  10. Someone else did it and signed my name to it.
© 2006 by yellojkt. All attributions or re-use must include a link to this post. Don't lie, cheat or steal.

Sometimes the reasons make sense. Dan Brown is defending himself for his ideas in The DaVinci Code using a combination of excuses 3 and 4. And I think that line of thought has some validity. Plenty of authors have written about Jesus and Mary Magdalene hooking up. Memory and Google fail me, but I’m pretty sure one of the Dangerous Visions collections from the 60s had just such a story.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has emerged only slightly battered using reason 1 and 2. A slew of pro-Walmart apologists are hiding behind the cover of 6. While Ben didn’t use the whole list, I think he invented items 9 and 10, perhaps the only original thoughts he has ever had. He finally took full blame in a rather defensive non-specific way and is now on his way to being a cause celebre and a martyr.

Accusations of plagiarism can be a career-ending death-blow. Newspaper columnists seem particularly susceptible as high profile cases like Mike Barnicle of the Boston Globe have shown. Something about the high volume of deadline writing and the tendancy to annoy people that may want to get back at you makes for a dangerous combination.

Here in Baltimore, highly respected columnist Michael Olesker resigned from the Baltimore Sun after reports from the local weekly alternative City Paper raised some questions. As David Simon explains, columnists have a tough time because they often have to summarize an issue in the news before opining on it. In Oleskar’s case, his little summaries were too often too similar to previously printed descriptions. The Sun never quite used the “P”-word, but they did say his stuff did not meet their standards for attribution. I think the cases they dug up are pretty slim, but based on the shabby treatment the Sunpapers has given their columnists in the past (see my mourning of Jules Witcover), I think the powers that be decided to err on the side of lower overhead.

In college, I was accused of plagiarism by a professor because she did not think the word “hegemonistic” was within the vocabulary of an engineering student. The word did not appear anywhere in the source and was my own interpretation. I had to meet with her and trot out my Model United Nations geek bona fides to convince her. She gave me and A on the paper, but I still got a B for the course.

What is the take-away lesson for bloggers? Cite and source. A whole page of hot links can look a little Christmas tree like, but it shows you know what you are doing and that you give credit where credit is due. I don’t know where I heard that first, but it seems like good advice.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

NCCC Walker-Browne Division Round 1

Game 1

The Walker/Browne Division of the National Crappy Comics Competition(NCCC™) is the sleeper bracket in the tourney, represented in the first match by Beetle Bailey and Hagar the Horrible. The Walkers and Brownes have been collectively hogging valuable comic page real estate for decades and have begun the process of handing over their domain to the next generation. I wouldn’t be surprised to find these two clans have intermarried to preserve the dynastic bloodlines. Beetle Bailey continues a proud comic tradition of stereotypically offensive caricatures. Anyone seen Sergeant Yo lately? He must be looking for his Coke-bottle glasses and his fake buckteeth. The strip finds yuks in sexual harassment, alcoholism and institutionalized brutality.

Hagar, drawn since 1988 by creator Dik Browne’s son Chris, finds mild chuckles in sacking British castles, being hen-pecked, avoiding tax collectors, and dealing with incompetent lackeys. The fact that there is nothing to take offense to, is itself offensive. Hagar epitomizes the paint-by-numbers paycheck-cashing ennui that sets in once you have a job-for-life that you inherited from Daddy. Talented comics are starving to get the space that seems to be a birthright. Beetle Bailey inexplicably has a devoted following in the genuinely hard working real military and gets a furlough while Hagar is sent packing so someone with an edge can take his place.
Winner/Loser: Hagar

Game 2

In the final game of the first round, we have Hi and Lois taking on Raising Duncan. Hi and Lois, created by Mort Walker and Dik Browne and now done by Brian Walker, Greg Walker and Chance Browne, raises the concept of nepotism to new levels. I guess basically if you are Browne or Walker progeny and can hold a pen without drawing blood, you can draw a paycheck. The strip itself is the archetype of bland inoffensive family fare. If it were a meal, it would be mayonnaise on white bread with a cold glass of homogenized milk and tapioca pudding for dessert. Whenever the new generation slips in some mildly risqué innuendo, it draws gasps where it would barely arch an eyebrow in other more cutting edge strips.

Raising Duncan is Chris Browne’s noble attempt to step out from his father’s shadow and create something original. Relying on the write-what-you-know philosophy, Duncan is about a bearded paunchy writer with bad fashion sense who owns a talking Scottish terrier. Sadly, both the pooch and the strip are no longer with us. If a Son Of Hagar can’t make it in the cutthroat comix biz, what hope do mere mortals have? The Flagstons move on by default.
Winner/Loser: Hi and Lois

Previous results:
Dead Writers Division
Pointless Soap Division
Just Not Funny Division

Or move on to the second round of the Walker-Browne Division.

Monday, March 20, 2006

NCCC Just Not Funny Division Round 1

Game 1

Over in the Just Not Funny Divisionof the National Crappy Comics Competition, one of the most anticipated matches has Garfield taking on Cathy. Both strips have been boring readers with the same 4 gags over and over for more than 25 years. In fact they both share making compulsive eating fun and goofy. Continuity is not a requirement since nothing ever changes. Well, Cathy got married and Andrea’s kids got bigger, but Irvin is the same passive-aggressive loser he was when she dumped him for awhile, years ago. Now that they are married, we can watch them slowly morph into the Lockhorns.

Garfield is one of the few strips it actually has fewer characters than when it started. Jon’s original roommate, Lyman, disappeared years ago to the same place they hid Richie Cunningham's brother, leaving behind his lobotomized dog. Garfield was mildly amusing when he was a bad rip-off of the B. Kliban® Cats, but as soon as he stood upright, he started a sharp exponential decay. At least he still amuses small children and the feeble-minded. No one has found Cathy funny since Donna Summer topped the charts.
Winner/Loser: Cathy

Game 2

The Just Not Funny Division of the NCCC(tm) is stacked with strong contenders like our next match-up between BC and Family Circus. Johnny Hart is a legend and BC’s early years are milk-out-your-nose funny. As the years wore on, the set-ups grew stale and then religious allegories starting sneaking in to the point people started (justifiably) looking for things to take offense at while the real offense is just not being funny.

Family Circus is an icon and a part of our cultural heritage. If any cartoonist draws a meandering trail of thick dashes, the reference is immediate and recognizable. Bil Keane even has enough of a sense of humor to put the more tasteful parodies and tributes on his web page. The strip is sweet to point of cloying and large doses can induce diabetic shock. Perhaps no other strip is more often and more maliciously parodied, but the heart of the strip is in the right place. The gags have to be deliberately, if easily, misconstrued to be disturbing. BC doesn’t even require that effort.
Winner/Loser: BC

First round action wraps up next with the Walker-Browne Division.
Previous results:
Dead Writers Division
Pointless Soap Division

Second Round Results

Friday, March 17, 2006

NCCC Pointless Soap Division Round 1

Game 1

Over in the Pointless Soap Division of the NCCC™, we have Mary Worth taking on the girls of Apartment 3G. Both of these strips move at glacial paces with random strangers wandering in and then disappearing forever once their life has been completely changed for the better by our protagonists. Both strips even feature pot-bellied bearded academics. Created in the thirties, these living fossils recall an earlier grander era when the artwork was actually good.

Mary, however, has a reputation as world-class meddler, while the 3G girls are always stumbling randomly into situations, often with romantic overtones. At least Margo, Tommie, and Luann are easier on the eyes than that old biddy who can’t seem to keep any tenants except the drunks by the pool. In a squeaker, the girls get their lease renewed.

Winner/Loser: Mary Worth

Game 2


Our second game in the Pointless Soap Division pits Mark Trail against Rex Morgan. Both contenders are raven-haired square-jawed do-gooders that date back to the 40’s but haven’t aged a day, largely due to the sluggishness of the narrative. The days in their world literally drag on for months. The pace of these strips makes Mary Worth look like the NBA All-Star game with crystal meth in the Gatorade. Having outlived their original audience by a decade or two, they now serve as camp nostalgia or homework for ESL students. Both have dark haired wives they met at the office and preternaturally clever dogs. The two could probably switch strips for weeks before any one noticed. Throw Sam from Judge Parker on the ambiguously gay dogpile and you would never get the mix straightened out.

Mark Trail’s only redeeming feature is that the freakishly large animals in the foreground distract from the fact that absolutely nothing is happening in the background. Also, the dubiously researched Sunday informative non-narratives prevent the bane of all serial strips, the Saturday-Sunday–Monday time warp where a single panel can be Xeroxed for three days. Rex tries to be relevent by slipping in PSA quality advocacy speeches about things like HEALTH INSURANCE, but no one is buying. In the first upset of the tourney, Mark Trail outlasts Rex.

Winner/Loser: Rex Morgan, MD

The power-packed Just Not Funny Division tips off tomorrow.
Previous results: Dead Writers Division

Side note: Subdivided We Stand is the premiere source for on-line Mary Worth snark. Bob's obsession with the silver-haired busy-body borders on disturbing. This coming from a guy who has linked to Half-Nekkid pictures of April Patterson.

Still having Blogger trouble. The home page keeps flaking out. The archives seem to do OK. this is ultra-annoying. I shouldn't have to babysit my blog like thisl Everytime the homepage disappears I have to re-publish the most recent post. Please be patient.

Blogger Test

I have been getting 403 errors for the past 12 hours. I will delete this post when Blogger is up and running again. has been seriously fracked up for a while. At least I am not the only one having all these problems. If the sidebar is missing or the background is dark blue, please come back a little bit later. Blogger is a great value, but you get what you pay for.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

NCCC Dead Writer Division Round 1

Game 1


Welcome comics-fans to the National Crappy Comics Competition first round action. Remember, only the worst comic in each match-up advances. In the Dead Writers Division, we have Dennis the Menace against Andy Capp. Hank Ketchum has been pushing up daisies since 1991, but ghost writers have worked on various parts of the Dennis Empire since at least the 80’s. Reg Smythe has been brown bread since 1998. Dennis is a charming if unfunny scamp with a fairly hot mom and a cute cast of supporting characters. Andy continues to perpetuate very vicious stereotypes about working class Brits proving that humor can be tone-deaf on both sides of the Pond.

Winner/Loser: Andy Capp

Game 2

In the late game of the NCCC™ - Dead Writer Division, we have Peanuts against Shoe. Charles Schultz put the whole world into mourning when he passed away in 2000. He had the class to prohibit anyone from taking over his strip, but the ghouls at United Media re-animated the corpse and run repeats to this day.
Jeff MacNeely was a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist before starting Shoe. Mac (as he signed his cartoons) died less than 4 months after Schulz but few realize how badly his successors have stripped the corpse. The characters are still there, but the cynical topical soul has been lost. Sadly, the 30 year old jokes in Peanuts are fresher than the stale retreaded gags at the Treetops Tattler.
Winner/Loser: Shoe

Tune in tomorrow for the Pointless Soap Division opening round.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Doonesbury and Doughnuts

My dad reads my blog. I’ve known this for a long time, thus ensuring that I practice the rule that I never write anything I wouldn’t want my mother to see. It’s a good safety check. Well, he must have seen my entry about my college roommate (which finally silences years of prying speculation on the part of my mother), because today’s Doonesbury reminded him that I mentioned Krispy Kreme in that post. The irony of a comic strip mocking someone for blogging about Krispy Kreme was too much for him and he e-mailed me this:

It looks like Garry Trudeau is reading you blog and stealing ideas. See today's Doonesbury.

First of all, this particular strip is a rerun. It originally ran at least a year ago. The Washington Post labels these as Doonesbury Flashback, but many papers don’t bother. I hate to spoil the suspense, but you can look forward to an entire week of Trudeau ridiculing obsessively narrowly focused bloggers. Next week: Which shotgun to use when hunting fish in a barrel with Dick Cheney.

Unfortunately, the whole joke has one important flaw that reveals Trudeau as a member of the inside-the-beltway media elite completely out of touch with the common man. The running gag for this week is Zipper Harris’s blog-obsession with the Krispy Kreme Flavor of the Month doughnut. This shows that while Garry is a comedic genius, he doesn’t know jack about Krispy Kreme.

NO ONE goes to KK for the Flavor of the Month. If you buy anything other than the Hot Original Glazed, you are being taken for a sucker. Try this as an experiment: Buy one dozen Original Glazed and one dozen Flavor of the Month. (They give a dollar off on the second dozen.) Put them both in you office break room and see which box empties first. I’d be surprised if you weren’t throwing out a few of the FoM’s at the end of the day. Only the yeast-raised dough fried and covered in liquid sugar glaze then eaten warm fulfills the true promise of the KK experience. All the other flavored doughnuts are just there for the poor people raised on Dunkin’ Donuts that think you need 32 flavors of doughnuts when really just one good one will do.

I understand that I have made Trudeau’s joke about bloggers that obsess over doughnuts a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is the sort of ironic meta-commentary I like to indulge in, even if I am the only one in on the joke. And I’m not. A technorati search will reveal over 22,000 blog posts mentioning Krispy Kreme, about four times as many as those that mention Doonesbury.

Trudeau should stick to what he knows, like the inside snark on liberal politics and left-wing culture, and leave the doughnut talk to us bloggers.

Technorati tag:, ,

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NCCC Selection Show

Back in May of last year, when I was spending way too much time chatting in the comments section of the Comics Curmudgeon website, I came up with the idea of having a National Crappy Comics Competition™ based on the NCAA basketball tournament. Josh’s disclaimer says:

Comics reproduced here for purposes of review only, and all rights remain with their creators; please don't sue me. All comments remain the property and responsibility of those who posted them.

I am exercising my right to re-use and republish my own comments on my blog. At the same time I am taking the effort to add just a little pizzazz to the presentation. Don’t think of these as re-runs, they are more like the Collector's Edition Director’s Cut with better special effects except without ugly hippo-looking things wandering around Mos Eisley.

So here we go with the definitive single elimination competition to find the crappiest comic in print.

These all look like tough match-ups. First round action begins Thursday. Remember, the competition is to find the crappiest comic, so the "winners" are really losers, but that in no way means that any of these losers are winners.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Rookie Driver

As my kid has grown from a mucous covered blob to a teenager (really not that big of a transition), I have taken all the rites of passage in stride. It’s a mom’s job to get all choked up about things like the first day of school. Even him dating doesn’t bother me much, particularly since that seems to mostly occur online. My mother likes to torment me by pointing out that he is now as old as I was when I met my wife. Even that doesn’t phase me. I just realize that kids grow up and you can’t stop it.

However, the rite of passage he just had is turning out to be harder to brush off. Saturday he was 15 years and 9 months old to the day, which is the earliest you can get a learner’s permit in the state of Maryland. He passed the written test with flying colors and now has official government issued identification to that effect. He still has to complete the Driver's Ed class he had to drop out of when his appendix ruptured and complications kept him in the hospital for two weeks.

He now has 6 months until he can take the driving test and get his provisional license. Then he is limited from having minors (other than family members, which is a moot point with him) as passengers for another 5 months. His provisional license, which is in effect for 18 months, also prevents him from driving between midnight and 5 am unless on his way to or from school or work. And any tickets reset the 18 months.

These extremely byzantine rules and restrictions are aimed at reducing accidents by distracted and/or inexperienced drivers. The damper they put on teen dating seem to be a pleasant, and probably not entirely unintentional, side effect.

To really drive home that this is all for real, we spent a half hour Sunday at the local high school parking lot going up and down aisles and pulling in and out of parking spaces. We even scanned and printed a homemade Rookie Driver sign that gets teen-age eye-rolls from my son.

Drivers licenses are probably the only truly universally American rite of passage left. Bar and bat mitzvahs, confirmation, quinceañeras, are all either religious or ethnic holdovers that really don’t have a legal or social impact. A drivers license, on the other hand, is the first step to true independence. From here on out all the milestones lead further and further away from home.

Pray for me and keep a lookout for a particularly tacky homemade Rookie Driver sign in the back window. I will be praying for you.

Update: Anyone that wants their own suitable-for-framing Rookie Driver sign, you can get mine here. I just scanned and cropped a portion of the Drivers Handbook the Maryland MVA gave him after he passed the test. I have seen removable vinyl stickers with the same logo. All the local auto shops told us to get them at the MVA, but we sure didn't see any when we were there. We just printed it landscape and coated it with packing tape.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Greatest. Roommate. Ever.

Every gay man has a “coming out” story. A narrative of how and when he knew he was gay. I have the opposite story. I know for a fact that I am straight and I know how I know. I have my college roommate to thank for this. My roommate in college came out of the closet in the middle of my sophomore year. I didn’t need to, since straight people don’t have that ordeal to go through, but but his experience sure changed my preconceptions and perceptions.

I met my roommate because when he and his current roommate wanted to live off-campus and needed a third person to split the rent. That was me. The two of us didn’t know each other, but we shared the two-bedroom townhouse for an entire summer while the other roommate was back home working a summer job. I drew the lucky straw and had a room to myself. When school started in the fall, the other two guys would go shopping together at Ansley Mall Krogers, which was the closest grocery store to our apartment. I would kid them about what a cute couple they made since many of the other patrons were gay.

In the middle of the year, something about my roommate changed. My other roommate and I were noticing some rather anvil sized clues, but couldn’t quite put the pieces together. He broke up with his girlfriend of two years. He would often stay out all night on weekends. He bought “It’s Raining Men” as an extended dance mix single. I read in the paper that his favorite bar won the Southeast Gay Softball Tournament. We couldn’t quite figure out what was causing all this new behavior. Remember, this was the mid-1980’s and not many people had their gaydar as finely tuned as today.

He finally sat down one evening and explained that he had come out of the closet. As part of that process, he was admitting that he was gay to people he thought ought to know, including, of course, his ex-girlfriend, me, and our other roommate who he had a crush on. The other roommate decided he was moving back in the dorms to become more active in campus life. My roommate needed to know if I wanted to keep the apartment when the lease was up. After some soul-searching, I decided that we got along together too well for me to go looking for someone new to live with.

Over the next couple of years, I picked up a lot of gay culture. My roommate would tell me all about his weekends. He’d explain things I didn’t understand in the gay nightlife magazines he’d bring home. A “Labor Day Parade” is very different event at a gay bar than at a union rally. He would point out people on campus he knew from the bars but wouldn’t talk to him at school. He wouldn’t bring tricks home, but I met a lot of his platonic friends. We would all occasionally go out to eat or drink together in the evenings before he hit the bars. He lived his life and I lived mine.

The key was we were still roommates struggling through college and still friends. I would help him with his homework. We would fight over stupid things. We would have long philosophical discussions over religion and philosophy. I was very active in the campus Catholic group and he attended an Episcopal gay/lesbian ministry. We’d make late night runs to Krispy Kreme on Ponce De Leon together. Since we are both redheads, we would frequently get mistaken for brothers.

Over the next year we had a revolving door of third roommates, straight, gay, and undecided. Each was a trip and story unto themselves. When he graduated, we refigured the rent so we would each have a room to ourselves. When my fiancée and I started planning our wedding, I asked him to be my best man. He threw me a very traditional bachelor party at the world famous Cheetah III. As the only straight guy in the group, I tipped the dancers while the rest of the party just sat back trying to figure out what the big deal was.

After I go married, the lease on our apartment was up and we were both searching for new apartments. We ended up renting places next door to each other. He had a washer and dryer and gave us a key to his place. For the next year, it was like a sitcom where the wacky neighbors are always barging in.

After I graduated and moved to Florida, I would look him up whenever I was in Atlanta. One visit when we came through town, there was no answer at the last phone number I had for him. We went by his townhouse and no one was home. That was about ten years ago. I don’t know where he is now, but I still remember what great times we had in college.

I lived with a gay man for three years and have now been married for nearly twenty. As a member of the school band and drama group, my son meets people that learn and accept their sexual orientation much earlier than when I was his age. I have raised my son to be tolerant and accepting of all people. I only hope that his roommate in college is as great a friend as mine was.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bitch Smacked

We all have guilty pleasures. Songs, books, movies, or shows that we know we shouldn’t enjoy but we do. The self-described bitches at ITalk2Much are just a such a guilty pleasure to me. Their site is a snarky combination of schadenfreude and car crash rubber-necking. Some of the blogs they review are truly awful. These people are blissfully unaware of the templated eyesores and banal banter they are inflicting on the internet.

These poor beknighted ignorant laughing-stocks include yours truly. Not completely unaware of the trap I was walking into, I requested a review from these potty-mouthed princesses way back in December and boy did I get one. The gave me one smack out of pity just because my blog didn’t feature a teddy bear in bondage gear. Personally I think it's because I don't fuckin' swear enough.

Perhaps some of what they said could be construed as constructive criticism.

He loses points for blatant comment whoring at the end of every other post…and technorati tags on the end of every post.

Fair enough. I gave up tagging everything in sight because they just weren’t bringing in any traffic. And say what you want about comment-whoring, it works. A lot of people like having a taking-off point for discussion.

Lately a lot of the blogs I read have been getting smacked as well. Lets see what sort of company I keep.

What The…. – No smacks
Mooselet Musings – One Smack
Trusty getto – Two Smacks, but he ass-kissed his way up to Four Smacks
Enough Already – Two Smacks, upgraded to Three Smacks after turning off her music.
Midvale School – Negative Smack for some silly-ass reason

Obviously, except for trusty, I have terrible taste in blogs. And mean girl gets extra smacks just because everyone wants to smack her.

Benn Ray of Atomic Books was once in a band that seems to sum up the Bitch Philosophy. (Warning: While this song includes no foul language, I would not recommend playing it with earshot of your boss):

Oh, and bitches, I’m willing to jeopardize my one meager smack with this:

Blatant comment whoring: Have you been smacked and did you enjoy it?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sally's Hero: Ted Forth, Part Deaux

Let’s face it, sequels suck. For one thing, the novelty factor is lost forever. A sequel has to be the same as the original, but different, but not too different. And even if the formula can be replicated, the tone of the original is never quite recaptured. It’s tough to get lightening to strike twice.

Unless it’s Greased Lightning. Grease 2 is the most AWESOME sequel ever. With classic songs like “Do It For Our Country” and “Lets Score Tonight (Let’s Bowl, Let’s Bowl, Let’s Rock n Roll)”, how could it miss? With all but a few minor characters reprising their roles (and who misses Olivia Neutron Bomb and John Revolta), the acting is top-notch. Maxwell Caulfield was completely wasted in The Colbys, and Adrien Zmed carried Shatner in TJ Hooker. I’m not sure what happened to the chick that played Stephanie. She was pretty hot, but I haven’t seen her in anything lately.

But I digress.

When I first wrote about Ted Forth, I emphasized how his middle-aged life mirrored mine. What I neglected to emphasize was the warm and loving relationship he has with the titular (there’s that word again) heroine. Lots of comics have couples that fight and bicker constantly. The Lockhorns. Andy Capp and Flo. Hagar and Helga. Gen. Amos Halftrack and the Battle-axe. Herb and Jamal. Cheap laughs from bad, bordering on abusive, relationships are easy. It is so much harder to convey the give and take of a devoted loving relationship between equals.

In the nearly eleven years of their marriage (Note to Ces: We still need that long overlooked failed pregnancy test/whirlwind engagement flashback), Sally and Ted Forth have stood by each other and grown stronger. I would dare say that in all of Western literature, Sally Forth is the strongest portrait ever depicted of a deep and abiding love between two androgynously drawn comic strip characters.

Let’s look at some examples:

Ted goes to chick flicks to keep his wife happy.
That way she doesn't have anything to complain about when he wants to rent Ben Hur for the umpteenth time.

Ted wants to take his wife on a romantic vacation.
His vacation got spoiled by a sick cat. That’s why I won’t own a cat. I did take my wife to Paris. Unlike the Forths, we took our kid. I like their idea better.

Ted checks with his wife before going out with the guys.
That’s not being whipped. It’s just common courtesy. It's also a great excuse to keep yourself out of situations you don't want to be in.

Ted doesn’t take marital advice from divorced guys.
That's a good philosophy to follow. Don't take financial advice from broke people either.

Sally supports Ted in his career decisions.
Sure he's a pop culture loving goofball that hates his vaguely defined office job, but with Sally's support he can make it.

Ted takes Sally out for a surprise dinner evey now and then.
A little spontaneity goes a long way towards keeping the magic alive.

Ted still thinks his wife is sexy.
There is someone for everyone and sometimes a quick wit is just as sexy as a hot body.

Ted is not afraid to tell Sally he loves here.
That kind of daily affirmation is needed to keep a love alive. You can never tell someone you love them too often.

Ted and Sally are still "romantic."
Even though they've been married a long time, there is still magic and romance in the relationship. Couples need to make time for each other.

Okay! Enough already! Get a room!

Ted and Sally are a married couple that has ups and downs, but they face their challenges together. They are not afraid to be playful and affectionate with each other. Since comics stay awfully PG, we really don’t know much about the Forth’s private life, but I’m sure Ted gets more action than any other middle-aged comic strip character. Except maybe for Arlo. That Janis is one frisky minx.

As before, clicking on the picture will bring up the full strip. Shhhhhh, just don't tell King Features Syndicate. They like to charge lots of money to look at old comics that you can find on the web if you now where to find them.