Tag Archives: understanding

Alien Anthropologist

alien anthropologist_edited-2

What’s the use of feeling blue?

How do people build entire careers on drawing political comics? I can’t even look at a photograph of our new kleptocratic overlords without wanting to vomit lately. There is so much material–so many things that are clearly not OK and therefore in desperate need of mockery–that picking 1 thing out of the day’s new is overwhelming, and by the time you get to the end of the list it’s not funny anymore, if it ever was. There’s too much of it, legions of alleged humans working with all their might to make the world worse for the mast majority of its inhabitants and acting as if it’s perfectly reasonable to watch other suffer and die as long as corporations profit. Who am I even supposed to shame?

It was another hard day. My sister probably had the right idea, getting her Canadian citizenship, but apart from the racism and most of my elected officials, I really like where I live. Still, running away has its merits.



I only believe ideas that conform to my previously held beliefs, and those are sufficient facts for me.

Nuances of style, voice, and tone in writing can be difficult to understand even for students interested in writing, which is a very small subset among college students taking freshman composition. Almost everyone who likes writing tests out of this course, so you don’t expect much more than average ability from your students to start. But some people defy your expectations, like this kid. I swear, this is a true story. He told me he was writing like a stereo manual on purpose, because that was the only good way to write, and he wouldn’t alter his written voice, even though revisions accounted for a huge percentage of the semester grade.

That’s the nature of reality. One person can spend five years studying the structure, detail, and elements of language that place Lolita among the pantheon of the most wonderfully written novels ever written and still feel that they have much to learn on the subject of verbal expression, and this freshman can proclaim with equal or greater certainty the stereo manuals are objectively the best, most effective use of English. This guy gave up an easy A because considering my perspective would mean compromising his own powerful belief.

And that is how we get to a place where people can proclaim that anything that isn’t personally a problem for them, isn’t a problem for anyone, anywhere, period. When you’ve already decided the truth about the world, you can’t hear further information on any subject.

So I repeat. It’s pointless to argue after you realize that the person you’re arguing with is choosing not to evaluate information that contradicts their predetermine notions. All the facts in the world won’t persuade someone who’s already made up their mind.


bonnie jo_edited-2

My mom would definitely categorize “blow job” as a dirty word.

I asked Bonnie Jo if it was OK for me to share this anecdote, which I can do because she was my master’s thesis advisor 12 years ago and she still answers my text messages. I offered to change her identity, and she said, “Don’t you dare.” She also insisted that I name her mother, Susanna Campbell, and suggested that I give the donkey’s name, which was “either Jack or Don Quixote,” but it didn’t really fit in the panel.

Bonnie Jo was also the person who told me about the sitcom moment of the day, which is her idea that in every day something extraordinarily funny happens, and you just have to look for it to keep your spirits up. Pretty often, the sitcom moment of the day informs my comics. This situation with the author’s mother standing always strikes me as an ultimate example of a sitcom moment. If you’ve never read Bonnie Jo Campbell, I highly recommend her work, which is often about the salt of the earth people of the American midwest, but also about other things, and always fresh and unusual and provocative. In addition to the above link to my interview with her (long story), you can also read my reviews of all 5 of her books, or purchase them from Amazon.

The text for this comic practically wrote itself, except for the last panel, which took an extra day. The images of Bonnie Jo were easy; she’s all over the internet and I think I captured her likeness. I’ve met her mom once or twice, plus I knew how to find a reference picture of her. No idea what her uncle looks like, though. I Googled “redneck reading” to find a source image. Please let that be OK.  The donkey might be overly complex; whenever possible, I like to use my own photographs, and I always found that image funny, but it’s so close up that it required a lot more details than the others. The final panel also took me a while; originally it was going to be someone crying, but this is better.

My mom loves me, but she doesn’t understand my work. That’s OK. I’m a niche experience. Not everyone can get into me.