Letters to the Editor
"Tag the Fag," Adam Cayton-Holland, September 6
I always enjoy Adam Cayton-Holland's writing, whether it's his weekly column or another contribution. I don't know how old he is, but his tone strikes a chord with me (I'm 28). The latest What's So Funny? only further confirms that everyone has turned into a whining little bitch. When I was a child in Houston, we also played Smear the Queer. We had no idea of the implications of the name, and I am not the least bit ashamed of the name of the game. We didn't even know the meaning of "queer" (which used to mean "different or a deviation from 'normal,'" whatever that means). There was no malice in us toward gay people, and there hasn't been and isn't any malice toward them today. It was a completely innocent male way of hurting your friends. We also played "butt ball" — though we called it "spread eagle" — and fortunately, we were never prevented from playing the game.
Anyway, enough reminiscing. Why is everyone such a pussy? And what the hell is wrong with these stupid fucks who call themselves Juggalos? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? The world may never know.
In my opinion, Hillbillies was a much better game than Smear the Queer. I played both throughout grade school in a Main Line suburb of Philadelphia. In Hillbillies, one or more kids starts in the middle of the field between two imaginary lines, twenty yards or so apart. All the other kids start behind one line and try to run to the other upon hearing "Hillbillies" called by the kids in the middle — i.e., the Hillbillies. The object is to get to the other side without being tackled. If you're tackled, you become a Hillbilly and stay in the middle and attempt to tackle other kids.
This game involves a little more teamwork and strategy than STQ, which is every man for himself. The very nature of Hillbillies is more inclusive: You can form alliances with other kids and protect each other as you run the gauntlet. Bigger kids are brought down only when the smaller kids, including girls, work together. And, when faced with impossible odds, the meeker players can pretend to be a world champion soccer player and take a fall after getting bumped by a Hillbilly.
If this isn't enough to convince you that this full-contact running and tackling game is worthy of all playgrounds, there's also a diversity curriculum component. "Hillbilly," after all, is a distinctly pejorative term for certain white people. Any school administrator worth his salt would welcome the chance to publicly admonish inbred, no-teeth, welfare-collecting white people. And just as Feed the Christians to Lions or Death to America are popular games on many Boulder playgrounds, even these spoiled little mama's boys with screwed-up guilt feelings are still Americans, and therefore must hurt others. What?
"The Unfunnies," Michael Roberts, September 6
Good piece! I've stopped straining my eyes to read the comics — they've reduced the size so much I need a magnifier! And they really aren't funny anymore. Maybe that's their plan: to gradually junk them by shrinking them to infinitely small, little strips, the way the Republicans want to shrink government to where they can drown it in the bathtub!
I did enjoy "B.C.," which was visible with its sparse lines. And I didn't mind the occasional religious reference. Why not? Maybe the papers could reclaim readership by printing the sermons of the local religious bigwigs, like they did decades ago before radio and TV. Might help to offset the discouraging news of our politicians and sports heroes (heroes?) behaving like the folks from Sodom and Gomorrah!
Keep working over the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. They need it! And they need help in finding formulas to keep them relevant in this electronic world.
Peter D. Shultz
Michael, it would be revealing if you went back and re-read two weeks of comics from the years when you had a different view of these strips — and you were younger. Did the comics change, or did you?
David Cay Johnston
The New York Times
As a veteran reader of some Post and News comics (I remember when "Doonesbury" started, and as a right-winger still enjoy it anyway), I'm surprised Michael missed one of the most important issues in the duopoly's comics: leaving "Funky Winkerbean" out of the Sunday paper. Lisa will probably die on Sunday, just to serve Denver readers right.
I've written, called and e-mailed until I'm blue in the face, as have many other "Funky Winkerbean" fans I know, and have never gotten even a half-reasonable answer for this glaring omission. Michael also missed commenting on the related strip "Crankshaft," my absolute favorite and one of the most consistently funny strips in either paper. I also miss "John Darling" and the Bear newspaper writer who lives in a tree — its name escapes me right now, but it's hilarious — as well as "Tank McNamara," which some papers run in the sports section.
Contacting the papers about the comics is like reaching the dead-letter office at the post office, because they really don't care. As often as I've written to John Temple about leaving out the Sunday "Funky Winkerbean," I'm floored to learn from this column that he claims to give a damn. He sure hides it well from readers.
I'm very disappointed that Michael would take the swipes he did at "Diesel Sweeties." In an article bemoaning the dearth of new ideas in newspaper comics, one would think he would applaud a comic such as "DS" that has made the leap from beloved Internet phenom to syndicated newspaper strip, bringing with it a very different artistic sensibility and a sense of humor that could (potentially) pull in readers who don't have grandkids.
Beyond that, great article! I admire Michael's dedication. I very seriously doubt I would have the resolve to read two weeks of "Garfield" retreads.
Hard to know whether Michael's getting to be another of us surly curmudgeons, but I have to say I agree with him almost completely. Personally, I don't much care for "Pearls Before Swine." Still, it's better than his buddy's "Get Fuzzy," which amounts to "Garfield" without the humor (ha!), but with a vicious streak. Things had gotten so bad I was taking the Washington Post simply because with three pages of comics, I felt I could find a couple that I still enjoyed. Then I realized I was crankier and more depressed after I finished those three pages than before, so I finally went almost completely paperless.
I must say it's been a pleasure. I get the Christian Science Monitor for actual news, hit about seven news websites around the world on a regular basis, and keep up with four or five entertaining and funny comics online. It's cheaper and less antacid-provoking. The only strips I really miss that I can't get this way are "Tank McNamara" and "The Piranha Club"; otherwise, it's pretty much a barren wasteland out there.
Anyway, thanks for the analysis; it's always nice to know you're not alone in your irritations.
I wholeheartedly agree with Michael's sentiments. In my case, I believe comic fatigue is simply due to lack of complexity, that the jokes are too easy. In a rather far-reaching analogy, it's why I like the stories in the TV show Firefly rather than One Tree Hill: I like to be challenged.
Anyway, I recommend a comic called "Non Sequitur," by Wiley Miller. It blends fable, political commentary and the perceived frankness of children for an entertaining Sunday funnies read.
Los Gatos, California
Woo, thanks for writing that, Mike. I can now quit my strip and let all my readers know that it's not worth reading. I shall defer them to you in the future so you can tell them what's worth reading and what's not.
Creator of "Dog Eat Doug"
"Diesel Sweeties" is hilarious. The problem is, the character "Indie Rock Pete" burned the citizens of Denver for being pretentious elitists. They can't handle having the light pointed in their faces that directly.
The rest of us will enjoy an intelligent and modern approach to humor, while you guys just enjoy the thin air and your granola.
Los Angeles, California
I really appreciated Michael Roberts's rant about the state of comics published in Denver newspapers these days. I've been e-mailing the Post to bring back "Girls and Sports," a cartoon about dating and sports from the man's perspective, since it was yanked earlier this year. It's produced by two Denver guys and was actually funny. "Lio" is also a great strip, and I thought Michael was a bit harsh on "Pearls Before Swine" and "Speed Bump," which are also consistently funny and better than the dinosaur comics he mentioned.
Editor's note: For more, lots more, on Michael Roberts's "The Unfunnies," go to his blog at More Messages. And here's an alert for would-be cartoonists: Galen Shoe is pulling the plug on Earplugs, and Westword is looking for a new Backbeat comic. If you think you have what it takes to cover the local music scene in all its graphic glory, send samples to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talib Kweli Playlist, Ben Westhoff, September 6
Obviously you have no clue what hip-hop is about or what good music sounds like. Eardrum is a classic.
Drink of the Week, Nancy Levine, September 6
I really hope there are no "masticated" fresh raspberries in the Savoir-Faire at French 250, as most people would prefer to chew their own. "Macerated" might be a little more appealing!
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