December 2007

5 December 2007

Hello Tim,

In light of Ms. Hautpanz's departure, I hereby offer my intern-related services. E.g., I could sort through your fan/hate mail. I am good at looking at icons and clicking buttons.

As a native Texan, I understand the importance of having a hot chick working for you. Ergo, I will provide you with a random pornographic picture to simulate that experience.

Please do not let your personal tragedies lead you to retirement. Just remember you have many fans, most of them insane. That means plenty of character witnesses if the secret police finally get you.

As always, I am loving your cartoons.

2 things to cheer you up:

1. Bible illustrated with Legos:
2. The explanation for most of our problems:

Cheer up,

Alyosha Karamazov

Dear Mr. Karamazov,

Please accept my apologies for the nearly three months it's taken me to reply to your letter of December 5th. As you can see, I am sorely in need of a new intern. Since Ms. C.-H.'s departure I have failed to keep on top of administrative duties around here. It's only because I am laid low with the flu and heavily medicated that I've turned my attention at last to the long-neglected mail.

Thanks very much for your offer. However I am sure I do not have to tell you that pornographic pictures are no substitute for an authentic hot female intern breathing in your workspace. Seems like wiith a screen name like "boyzrule" you ought to be a hot boy-crazy chick yourself. What's with that?

If to do retire it will not be because of personal tragedies, but because of professional ones.

Thanks for the links you sent. The study you referred me to illuminates much in the realm of politics and elsewhere. To quote (or paraphrase) Kurt Vonnegut: "The trouble with stupid people is, they don't believe there is such a thing as being smart." A thought that troubles me is: how do we know we are not stupid?




7 December 2007

Subject heading: “more robots”

seriously, more robots. You draw wicked good robots. That muslim death robot you drew a couple of weeks ago was awesome, he should be a villain in his own comic. The robot this week was wicked good, too.

more robots, please



Thanks sincerely for your compliments on my robot-drawing skills. I enjoy drawing robots and regret that there have been few occasions for the depiction of robots in the months since. But why do I need an excuse? Robots are always cool. I hope to cast aside my artistic inhibitions and begin drawing nothing but robots, monsters, space battles and asses in the near future.


Tim Kreider


9 December 2007


just wanted to point out that you left out "with" in your statement "I've had it Mohammed and all the violence and misery he's brought into this world"
Plus, I think your statement is very effective, except perhaps where you say "I've had it with the fuckin' Muslims" it comes off more racist than you intend. If you replace Muslims with Islam it would be referring more to the ideology than the people, which from following comments I think is what you mean...?




Your typographical correction and broader concern both noted, albeit belatedly. I got a couple of very long, serious, well-intentioned letters taking me to task over that let's say somewhat reductive screed on Islam. Apparently I sounded like some kind of dickhead that week, which we all know is not what I am really like at all.



10 December 2007

I found this week's comment struck very accurate sentiment amongst me and several associates and friends and bizarrely it has driven me to voice such support. However, I was a little confused that while Mr. Kreider chose to mock those who berate the people who named the teddy bear mohammed he didn't point out that they still see fit to name their children with such a name, surely he sees this as humerous and ironic too?

Recent comics have been very entertaining, keep it up.




I had not considered your teddy bear/child conundrum before and am at a loss to account for it. Perhaps a child, which carries the divine breath of life, is a vessel worthy to bear the sacred name of the Prophet but a teddy bear, which is a mere plush simulacrum, and of a dumb animal at that, is not? But I think I have foregone trying to fathom the reasoning of the sort of people who would demand to have someone flogged over a stuffed toy.




10 December 2007

Mr. Kreider,
I've long been a fan of The Pain; you have a singular talent for discerning humor in events and predicaments that, for most of us, lend themselves to the utmost sobriety--"Well, well, well. . ." is one of my favorites. I respect this talent tremendously.

Given that respect, I was disturbed by your most recent artist's statement (12/05). I am nowhere near an expert in theology, sociology, postcolonial theory, or much of anything. Nevertheless, I must wonder: are you really under the impression that religious people "suffer no such spiritual malaise," that "they are flush with clear-eyed certitude?" This does not seem in keeping with much of the Bible, or the writings of various Christian saints; it is far from the fear and trembling of which Kierkegaard wrote, far from Rilke's excruciatingly beautiful musings; do you so blithely dismiss Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh? I realize that you specifically target "idiot fanatics," allowing a certain degree of respect for the virtuous, unphotogenic sub-species of the faithful. I would suggest that this distinction be reconsidered, as it cleaves to a self-serving variety of Western thought in which fundamentalism (and I am thinking, here, of Islamic fundamentalism, as emphasized in your statement) is seen as totally divorced from the structures of modernity--it is posed as something external to modernity, an irrational and destructive alien intrusion. This imaginary rupture serves to perpetuate the very conditions that produce violent fundamentalism (see Enemy in the Mirror by Roxanne L. Euben, which I have not studied closely but which is, as I understand it, an excellent resource on this topic).

You write that "We in the west are performing the experiment, for the first time in human history, of living without faith." Again, this statement appears to assume a basic disjunction between the ideal western lifestyle and that of "idiot fanatics," as though the style and conditions of western life exist in an isolated system, rather than being engaged in a macrocosmic power dynamic of extreme complexity. To put it another way: western society has established the parameters of violence, and it is sickeningly absurd to imply that the west would have a much easier time learning to live with its faithlessness if not for the insane inroads of "ignorant, bigoted, cruel, life-hating assholes."
As you note, our project of faithlessness has prompted us to invent "wonky, jerry-rigged or retrofitted new religions even stupider than the old ones, all in a desperate effort to stop feeling so empty and afraid." This is not much of a concession, as it maintains the implication that these neo-faiths are imperfections of the modern condition--imperfections that ought to be excised by the rational, the intelligent. That a modern capitalist society can function without recourse to the transcendent has been questioned or refuted by myriad scholars, too many to be enumerated here; we need look no further than Max Weber's seminal The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism for a demonstration of how the fundamental operations of modern society are inextricably tied to religious sensibilities. It goes without saying that this linkage is highly nuanced and largely inexplicit, yet it points to the illusory nature of the west's faithlessness: we're not really trying to do away with faith; our wonky new religions are not a regrettable patina of evolutionary refuse smeared on the gem of Reason, but one of modern society's most basic, inescapable needs. So if the perpetuation of a social structure that directs the energies of both faith and logos toward dehumanization and widespread violence is the main criterion for identifying "ignorant, bigoted, cruel, life-hating assholes," it's hard to see how the west is granted exemption, hard to see how "we are better people than they are." Indeed, to paint the most pathological and genocidal aspects of western culture as a "heroic" struggle with the burden of skepticism is so despicably self-aggrandizing, so utterly delusional, as to be worthy of the parochial buffoons you so deliciously deride.

Again, I do not lay claim to expertise in these matters. I only mean to express, in an admittedly rough manner, why I felt such deep misgivings while reading the artist's statement of 12/05--even though I approached it with eager anticipation. While the vituperative quality of your writing is often what makes me laugh, I found it tainted, in this instance, by a dangerous and rather virulent kind of cataracts. By my interpretation, this week's statement is an espousal of the same appalling values that you purport to abhor. You are an eloquent, highly literate and persuasive man. I urge you to be conscientious in your exercise of those talents.


Charles Hogle

Charles Hogle:

I hope you'll excuse the time it's taken me to get around to attempting to answer your thoughtful email of three months ago. I hope you didn't imagine that I felt your message was unworthy of a reply; on the contrary. I think you're being either humble or disingenuous by saying you're no expert on theology. I'm afraid I got daunted by the challenge of writing a commensurately erudite response.

I will remind you gently that I am a cartoonist rather than a scholar, although certainly this is no excuse for sloppy thinking or intellectual dishonesty. I'm aware that the distinction I drew between modernity and fundamentalism was somewhat schematic and reductive. But then caricature is, after all, my business.

Your points about the inextricability of religion and rationality are well taken. As my old dance instructor, Herr N., pointed out, the notion of truth as a virtue, which leads to skeptical, scientific inquiry, was born out of the religious impulse. (Newton and Kepler were primarily interested in proving wacko theological/astrological doctrines.) But the scientific, secular world, even through it may have grown out of its opposite, is a genuinely new thing under the sun, and I maintain that it is a better world than the world of superstition.

If you are a longtime reader of my comics you do not need me to tell you that I am no unapologetic cheerleader for the West. I think I've established, if not credibility, then at least consistency as a critic of U.S. policy. We're trying to fill the awful void left by that old Deus abscondus with all kinds of trash, from drugs to porn to useless wasteful merchandise. And our civilization may well be the one that finally does to the planet earth what the Rapanui accidentally did to Easter Island--render it totally uninhabitable for human life. Besides which the Final Solution to the Great Leap Forward will look like pretty penny-ante crimes and blunders, like kids shoplifting Clark bars from the local 7-Eleven or busting the neighbor's lamp on Wreck Night.

The distinction I'm drawing is not meant to be some simple-minded, jingoistic, Us (modern, secular America) vs. Them (fanatical swarthy persons in the Middle East) conflict. Obviously the scism between the religious and the secular doesn't break down along geographic or political boundaries. I know there are lots of moderate Muslims, not that their voices get heard through Western media much. And our own country is more given to fundamentalism than most European democracies. We've always been a semicivilized nation at best. I think it's a disgrace that our chief executive was educated at the finest universities our country has to offer and still thinks like a Mediæval warlord. There's no doubt that he's motivated by the same sorts of delusions that drove the Crusaders. (I've written else where that I regard the Bush administration's War on Terror as so much "sectarian violence," a struggle between two fundamentalist factions.) But this is just one administration, which will soon be peacefully replaced by another, hopefully more rational one. There exists an institutionalized separation of church and state in this country. Fundamentalist Islam, by contrast, represents an unusually pure strain of all that is most malignant and loathsome in religion.

I don't think we know whether religiosity is something endemic to human nature. We surely seem to need something of the numinous, some source of wonder in our lives--and, being hierarchical animals who get easily confused and frightened without a leader, we also seem to crave some external authority that'll tell us how to behave. But this doesn't have to mean believing unprovable nonsense or killing folks who think otherwise. Plenty of individuals have learned to live happy and compassionate lives without religion. All kinds of evils that used to be widespread ways of life have been eradicated, at least institutionally; mass rape and massacres in warfare, human sacrifice, slavery. We are still in the adolescence of our civilization, and it remains to be seen what we can overcome and what we can't. I think those who are trying to learn to live without religious dogma represent progress--a blind, clumsy, groping step forward.

The side I'm on is the side of those who are struggling to live without certainty--which is to say, without delusions--and the side I'm against is of those who are clinging fiercely and defiantly to the most discredited and dangerous delusions of all. My convictions lie with those who lack all conviction; I mistrust and oppose those others who are full of passionate intensity. I am, in other words, taking an un-relativist stand on the side of the relativists against absolutists. But even here, I realize, there's plenty of messy ambiguity and contradiction, overlap and exceptions: there are, I know, smug know-it-all atheists who are every bit as dogmatic and humorless and arrogant in their certitude as the dumbest southern Baptist, and profoundly spiritual people for whom faith is the daily struggle with uncertainty and doubt. But you understand this is all kind of hard to cram into a cartoon.

The point is, I think there's room for nuance and complexity in this argument, for recognizing the inextricable origins and nature of the religious and the secular, without suspending all judgment, throwing up your hands, and saying, "ahh, it's all the same." I don't think it's fair to say that although our society is perhaps fatally flawed I would still rather live in a corrupt, morally bankrupt, and exploitative imperialistic republic than in some totalitarian theocratic shithole--just as we ought to be allowed to admit that 9/11 was the not-exactly-unpredictable consequence decades of violent and oblivious U.S. policy while still condemning it, unequivocally, as an inexcusable act of evil.

It's a far from perfect world, as I'm sure you've noticed. I just got here, as you did. I did not make the rules and I don't like them any more than you do, but here we are. There are apparently sides. You don't get to not pick one. That being the case, I'm on ours.

I guess what I'm asking is, Give me a break here, Charles. Just this week [26 March 2008] I got some twerp sending me these interminable plodding emails accusing me of calling our heroic troops terrorists just because I acknowledged the number of civilian casualties in Iraq, and some other wackjob calling me a traitor because I don't buy The Truth About 9/11 crap. I don't want you to think I'm dismissing your criticisms out of hand or flatly refusing to consider what you say. You know you're doing something right when the twerps and wackjobs write to harangue and insult you, but when really intelligent, literate people write to take you politely to task, it's a sign you may have erred, or at least gone too far. You’ve given me much to think about, and your reading recommendations duly jotted down in my little notepad. Thanks again for taking the time to write at such length, and so thoughtfully.


Tim Kreider


12 December 2007

Subject heading: “religious terrorism”

Here's what i'd like to see: a person who truly believes that God wants them to kill people, but who refuses because it's wrong.

Bravo, sir. Like the story of Isaac except with a saner moral. "What are you talking about? I'm not doing that. That'd be a horrible thing to do. What are you, crazy?"


13 December 2007

… crazy good stuff two weeks in a row. I of course figured some sort of decree would be issued. That there wasn’t does not bode well for the size of your readership perhaps. No connection to level of talent, just a crappy deal where Garfield gets the bigger chunk of a finite dish of lasagna.

One would hope you would have received a larger piece when Nancy and Sluggo disappeared. So it goes.

Tom Ragatz


13 December 2007

Ms. Phelætia Czochula-Hautpänz,

I don't often read Mr. Kreider's artist's statements, but the December 5th issue got me giggling more than usual, and I ventured a peek.

Therein Mr. Kreider made the following statement:

" Doubt is no day at the beach, but certitude is more like a day at Dachau."

If he would kindly provide life-affirming phrase (or is it an idiom- no, axiom... colloquialism?) along with an illustration (maybe a kitty dangling by one paw) on some sort of public medium: bumper sticker, poster, t-shirt, or other consumable merchandise, I would happily purchase it and proudly display it.

Thank you.

Yours Sincerely,

Richard Massey

P.S. As for Mr. Kreider's, "rather reductive and reactionary screed" last week, I'm inclined to afford him plenty of latitude in this area. Considering the justified attention he has consistently and artfully paid to western religious fanatics, it was only fair to shine that light at their Middle-eastern counterparts for the same reasons. Merely a trifle, nothing to put him between the hammer and the anvil over.

P.S.S. As for "making up wonky, jerry-rigged or retrofitted new religions even stupider than the old ones," that barb was an obvious jab at a religion scarier than fanatical christianity or islam combined. I can forgive him for not wanting to arouse their scrutiny, but I feel that most peoples' fear of them is misplaced. I'm surprised he doesn't recognize Scientology as the greatest piece of satire ever constructed. Furthermore, would you please inform Mr. Kreider that I am volunteering to be the first acolyte/pope/martyr in his blessed flock should he ever decide to robe-up, build a compound, and make the pilgrimage there (such is my fanatical adoration of his message. Truth be told, that appreciation approaches the bourne between hobby and fetish. It is like a drug, and the only resentment I bear towards Mr. Kreider, as pusher, is that I have to wait an eternity of seven days betwixt his servings of the fix that balms.)

Richard Massey,

I appreciate your commission, but I am hard-pressed to imagine what would be the appropriate illustration for this little homily. I'm picturing, instead, one of those corporate inspiration posters with the word "CERTITUDE" and a photo of masses of marching brownshirts or stormtroopers.

As for my screed on Islam, hey, I felt the same way you did about it, and yet I not unpredictably had to defend myself against a couple of horribly erudite and courteous letters criticizing my reductionism and cultural bias. In a way this is even worse than getting semiliterate hate mail from conservatives in that you have to take them seriously and take time to write a thoughtful reply. They are killing me. Though at least they are not literally killing me like Muslin fanatics.

Thanks for your adoration. You will be the first to know if I found a church. I'll have to ask my friend Aaron, who does my taxes for me, about the advisability of this from a fiscal perspective.



17 December 2007

Dear Mr. Krieider,

i was curious, after reading your artist statement attached to the "fatwa" cartoon, as to what were the comments made by the other emailer? i suppose the fact that you bothered to read a critical email is what prompted me to write to you myself.

should i start with the obvious--arabs and muslims are human beings, and those terrorists and fundamentalist no more represent the vast majority of people in the middle east than do pat robertson and gearge bush represent the majority of Westerners (christians, americans, europeans, etc.)? i'm sure you've heard that a million times, and i'm sure you've thought about it.

so i won't dwell on it, and i'll take a different approach.

are you aware that from the 1840's up to the first few decades of the 20th century, Blackface Minstrelsy (white people who smeared burnt cork on their face and did musical/comedy variety shows acting like niggers) was the most popular form of entertainment in America? far eclipsing any other form of entertainment during that time period, in terms of number of people who paid to see it, as well as ripple effects into other forms of media (like print media and literature).
a few years ago, i examined some of the literature that was connected to it, including "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and some of the works of Mark Twain ("Huckleberry Finn" and "Pudd'nhead Wilson"). In those works was a very nuanced portrayal of the complexity of post-slavery mixed society. Pudd'nhead Wilson, one of Twain's last works, is particularly dark and satirical--the story follows two boys, one white and one 1/32 part black (therefore black), who are switched at birth by the nanny of the white boy who is also the mother (1/16th black) of the black one.

Stowe's novel, of course, deals with the pre-civil war situation, and tries to show the human side of the slaves, as a justification for freeing them. it shows the human cost of separating families, etc.

the thing is, both of these authors had their characters appropriated and used on the Minstrel stage; one character from "Uncle Tom's Cabin," a little wild girl named Topsy, who had been orphaned, and who, over the course of the novel, is gradually habilitated into civilized society--and who therefore is held up as a model of how blacks can become humanized and civilized with love and care--was extremely popular on the minstrel stage. not as a complex character, of course, but as the caricature of the wild nigger child, who dances around and sings with crazy antics.

Twain's Nigger Jim, a very human character, was also put on the minstrel stage, without any of the subtlety that twain actually wrote for him--just as the comedic foil for huck.

my argument boiled down to this: in a world where there is a saturation of images (and i was talking about late 19th century america, not now) of a certain kind, it is the sheer number of images--not their complexity or nuance--that contributes to and shapes political and social discussion. thus minstrelsy, and literature, contributed to the establishment of Jim Crow laws toward the end of the 19th century, and gave added justification to the beginnings of scientific racism, that twisted development from darwin's work, which led, among other things, to the Eugenics movement and its first legal success: the 1907 Sterilization Law of Indiana, which allowed for the arrest on petty charges of female members of The Tribe of Ishmael (a mixed-race nomadic group who had Indianapolis as one of their stopping points), and sterilization while in prison--as a strategy for wiping out the group (it succeeded).

White people were so used to seeing caricatures of black people, created not by blacks but by other whites, that they began to believe that all blacks were as they were portrayed to be in the minstrel shows. Ironically, toward the end of the 19th century, black performers joined the minstrel shows and put on **extra blackface** (to make them even darker), and acted the roles created for them by decades of white performers.

the problem is that blacks never got a voice of their own, to address the mainstream.

well, that's the state of affairs for arabs and muslims, nowadays, in the american media. and we are exponentially more saturated with negative images of them, then 19th century folk were of images of ridiculous, lazy, conniving niggers. when our media doesn't give voice to the millions of reasonable muslims and arabs out there--who are as horrified by honor killings, reactionary fatwas, riots over cartoons, and terrorist bombings as are white americans and christians--it is so easy to represent them by a glut of caricatured images.

everything out there is true, a race of people has every shade of belief and action--but what others believe about them is the small part that is selected from that larger truth, and presented in soundbites or cartoons.

so, like it or not, when you make cartoons about fatwas, and reactionary muslims, you are aiding george bush and the reactionary neocons and fundamentalist christian nuts here in the states. like all demagogues, you are calling out to the worst of the other, in order to bring out the worst in us. even if in other cartoons, you mock george bush and the neocons and the fundamentalist christians, you are really part of their project. the project of keeping sturdy that wall between us and them so that we can justify anything we do against them.

i realize that comedy must make use of stereotypes & reductions. i love comedy. most people do. most muslims and arabs do, too. one of the most sensitive (and hilarious) comedians of recent years was dave chapelle, and ethnic types like me mourn the fact that he isn't still on comedy central--because he was one of the only people to speak for us in a nuanced way. he had a way of using stereotypes to turn them on themselves and make us realize that there was a deeper unity among us. he did that in a million ways, all while using the blunt instruments of the comedian--and making us all laugh.

so don't argue to me, anybody else, or even yourself, that it is the stereotyping tools available to comedy that limits you to the kind of portrayals you have made. you limit yourself, because your vision is limited.

why don't you go make some muslim or arab friends? and on top of that, you could familiarize yourself with the real voices coming out of arab culture. do you know that there is a group of arab/muslim-american comedians who are trying to make a name for themselves, who had a special on comedy central earlier this year (the "Axis of Evil Comedy tour"), and who have an internet series on comedy central's website? here it is:

they're following in chapelle's footsteps, of course.

I'm not asking you to give up comedy or stereotyping. i'm just asking you to stop being one of the yes-men/lackeys in bush's war on terror. you may not have realized you were portraying yourself in that "NEW Structure of Our Government" cartoon you drew 12/15/04--inside the box, not outside of it--but you were.




Alas, now that my beloved and indispensable intern Ms. C.-H, has gone, I have no choice but to read my own e-mails, complimentary and otherwise.

Sorry it's taken me this long to respond to your message. I've had a lot going on lately, and am unused to answering all my own correspondence. Plus your note seemed deserving of a commensurately long and thoughtful response, and I needed a nice free Sunday morning to compose one.

I'd begin by gently reminding you that I am a cartoonist, not a serious political commentator, though I agree that is no excuse for intellectual dishonesty or sloppy thinking. And I want you to know your message has given me pause. The last thing I want is to make anybody feel bad about themselves or any less at home in this country than they already do, or to align myself, even coincidentally, with the forces of Assholism. I believe it is the historical and moral mission of the humorist to be always on the side of the underdog, the Little Guy, to take up the flag of the nerds against the jocks, the Marx Brothers against Margaret Dumont.

You raise and put aside the point that Islamic radicals and terrorists don't by any means represent the majority of Arabs, any more than evangelical wackjobs and neocons represent all Westerners. But let's hold on just a second and think this over. As you say, I am smart and fair-minded enough to understand this. But so does that mean I have to stop mocking the Creationists and fag-bashers and abstinence-only crowd out of respect for decent, intelligent Christians like my mother or my friends John and Boyd? Okay I realize this is not quite a fair comparison, since white Christians are the dominant culture in this country and Arabs and Muslims are marginal and mistrusted. So let's ask instead whether, for example, I'm allowed to say that women's magazines and romance novels are for very stupid people without sounding like a misogynist? To get into a touchier subject, am I allowed to admit that I think rap and hip-hop is musically on par with car alarms without being labeled an elitist Eurocentric philistine or just plain racist? What's off-limits for me to say as a straight rich white guy? Who gets to decide?

I can't quite tell whether you're arguing that, as nuanced as Mark Twain's black characters may have been, he was nevertheless as guilty of contributing to cruel and unfair cultural caricatures as his minstrel-show imitators just because he was adding more fodder to the bigoted public conception of African Americans. If you are, I would have to make whatever the official NFL-referee gesture is for Bullshit. Mark Twain gets to do whatever Mark Twain wants, and it isn't Mark Twain's fault if people fail to appreciate the complexity of his work or appropriate and distort it, any more than it’s fair to blame Nietzsche for Naziism or poor Bill Watterson for all those tacky peeing-Calvin decals on people's pickup truck windows.

I guess what it comes down to is what context you see my work as existing in, what audience you think I'm drawing and writing for. I suppose if you look at my work in the broadest context of mainstream American culture, sure, it's just more xenophobic stereotyping, depicting Arabs as fanatics and terrorists and abetting The Man in his demonization of our alleged global enemies. But the thing is, I'm not in the mainstream media. I'm not on TV or in daily papers. I'm printed in one alternative weekly and appear on the prestigious Internet. I think my readership is pretty self-selecting, composed almost exclusively of urban, college-educated liberal types. (The few SUV/shopping mall Americans who stumble across my site invariably scold me for being sick and unpatriotic and then vanish in a snit.) It is expected among this audience that I should castigate my own country's government, pillory the Republicans, and call George Bush a criminal and a fool. Tom Tomorrow has done this for the last 810,397 weeks running and his readers eat it up. But preaching to the choir gets boring, for both the artist and, I would think, for the audience.

But this audience also has a (generally benign and decent) conditioned inhibition against being--or at least looking--ignorant or judgmental of other cultures, lest they be mistaken for jingoistic yahoos or racists. I dislike feeling constrained by this politically correct sheepishness (even though I am also deeply mistrustful of most humorists who rail about the censorious constraints of "political correctness," since what they mostly seem to want is to return to the good old days of telling darkie jokes and smacking broads on the ass without some uptight biddy making a federal case out of it). So in the context of that smaller, more rarefied subculture it is somewhat subversive and nervy to point out that, no, actually I think that other culture sucks. Anybody, humorists included, has more integrity and credibility if they express their own honest, idiosyncratic views instead of predictably parroting some party line. This is why when some dim-bulb apparatchik like William Kristol supports the invasion of Iraq you just roll your eyes and make the jerk-off gesture, but when Christopher Hitchens does it you have to do a double-take and furrow your brow over what he has to say, if for no other reason than to pinpoint where this formerly smart, sane person went completely wacky. As a colleague of mine put it, "It's Kreider's job to call bulllshit wherever he sees it." And here's where I see it:

I truly think that Islamic fundamentalism, like Christian fundamentalism, is abhorrent. Fundamentalism is a refuge for desperate, angry, ignorant people, too dumb to handle any complexity, frightened of ambiguity, hostile to reality. If I were a more compassionate person I would feel some generosity of heart for their confusion and fear, but I'm not, I'm a crank, so I wish them ill. Fundamentalists hate the things I love: art, fun, girls. And Islam is currently more dangerous than Christianity, since most Christians lack the deep gut conviction necessary to kill people over their dingbat beliefs, or at least are safely confined to countries with an institutionalized separation of church and state. The fact that there are still functioning theocracies in the world is an embarrassment to the species.

Which is not to say, by the way, that I believe that the War on Terror is a "clash of civilizations," or that it's the major issue of our time. I feel confident that we'll all drown under rising sea levels or shoot each other over $1000-a-gallon gasoline before the first turbaned invader hits the Coney Island beachhead. "Islamofascism" is not going to take over the world. Adolf Hitler couldn't even take over Europe, and he had the most terrible war machine the planet had ever seen at his command. My own unofficial policy on Islamic theocracies is, let them have their shithole paradise. Like, enjoy the eleventh century, guys. Drop us a line when you invent movable type. Totalitarian societies just tend to be too brittle to last--the Soviet Union only held it together for seventy-odd years, and by the end their empire was revealed as a hollow, rotten shell. Most people don't want to live under a dictatorship of clerics. They want to buy tacky useless crap and watch bad TV and listen to shitty pop music like we do.

What I do worry about is that in the long run rationalism might lose out to superstition. Human beings are not primarily rational creatures. The number of people who actually understand and trust the methods of science can probably be counted in the low thousands. Civilizations do collapse, and Dark Ages ensue. If we regard the present situation as a struggle between rationalism and superstition, modernity and Mediævalism, from my point of view bin Laden and George Bush are on the same side, and the War on Terror is what the media likes to call "a sectarian conflict." A pox on both their houses, says I. I am an enemy of fanatics and assholes whatever side they claim to be on. So I get called an America-hater by semiliterate patriots for mocking the assholes on our side and a racist and Tool of The Man for mocking the assholes on the other side. I make fun of the assholes on our side about twenty times more often than the ones on theirs, since this is my side and it's my job to mock it and there are already plenty of Morning Guys riling up public sentiment against the towelheads. But once in a while the Taliban dynamites a Buddha or the Saudis stone a rape victim or the Sundanese threaten to flog someone over a stuffed animal, and it gets under my skin. And I reserve the right to draw outraged, impotent little cartoons about these things. Further, I claim the right to be silly and stupid about very serious, emotionally volatile issues to no noble or instructive purpose whatsoever. I am currently toying with a little notion called "Captain Pakistan" and nobody's sensitivities are about to dissuade me from pursuing it.

Understand, I'm not comfortably dismissing your argument or heedlessly thumbing my nose at you here. I would say your letter has helpfully complicated my thinking, and will likely modulate my tone on this subject in the future. But I hope you understand I can't afford to let it shut me up. I thank you for taking the time to write at such length and with such serious and thoughtful intent. I hope we understand each other better and can amicably agree to disagree on those points where we can't find accord. You are welcome to write back with your thoughts, but I'm about exhausted on this subject for now, so you shouldn't expect a response inside another month or two.



p.s. I am aware that I'm pretty sheltered in terms of my friendships and exposure to different cultures, and that this is a liability in an artist who purports to comment on current events, but I also think it would be pretty artificial and patronizing for me to go out of my way to cultivate friendships based on ethnicity. Would I want someone to try to make me their token white friend? And although I've heard nothing but wild praise for the Dave Chapelle show and have seen some very funny routines by Arab comedians, I've never had any success pursuing interests out of a sense of obligation. If I could bring myself to do that I would've finished The Brothers Karamazov by now. Right now I'm just trying to cultivate new friendships with men, having lost a lot most of my old Baltimore crew, and am heavily into reading everything by Cormac McCarthy and trying to understand the higher-dimensional implications of string theory. So I've kind of got a full plate. Nonetheless I will check out the Arab comedians you recommended.

Dear Tim,

My deep appreciation for such a long and thoughtful response! i just wanted to let you know that i certainly didn't intend to shut you up with my letter--i understand that you "can't afford to let it shut you up," as you put it. i appreciate, and actually agree with, most of your points. especially, as an artist myself, i understand that one must be free to express the truth that one believes.

i take issue with you not so much as an artist as as an american; your artistic integrity is clearly in place (as evidenced to me before i wrote to you by your thoughtful artist statement)--yet you betray the background assumptions of someone brought up in the racist, moral high-horse-riding, self-entitled american culture. here's the only point i'll take issue with in your response, and then i'll let it go: I agree 100% that Islamic fundamentalism, like Christian fundamentalism, is abhorrent. Fundamentalism is a refuge for desperate, angry, ignorant people, too dumb to handle any complexity, frightened of ambiguity, hostile to reality. If I were a more compassionate person I would feel some generosity of heart for their confusion and fear, but I'm not, I'm a crank, so I wish them ill. Fundamentalists hate the things I love: art, fun, girls.

but this is where your thought gets muddled and dangerous--reflecting your american bias (as a fish would reflect its origins in water): And Islam is currently more dangerous than Christianity, since most Christians lack the deep gut conviction necessary to kill people over their dingbat beliefs, or at least are safely confined to countries with an institutionalized separation of church and state. The fact that there are functioning theocracies in the world is an embarrassment to the species.
if you count the death toll on both sides (or the number of nuclear weapons in both stockpiles), i think you'll have to concede that christian fundamentalism is currently about 100 times more dangerous than islamic fundamentalism. most christians lack the deep conviction necessary to kill people over their beliefs just as much as **MOST MUSLIMS ALSO LACK THAT CONVICTION**--but they (american christians) are happy to support others killing on behalf of their beliefs (which is what muslims do as well), like the powerful american military. they are happy to vote for people who will use that military, happy to keep spending 50% or more of their tax dollars on the military budget, etc. etc. happy to support with billions of dollars racist and murdering states like formerly south africa and currently israel, who do their dirty work for them. but you know all this! you agree with this, i know! considered outside the american perspective (i dare you to poll the average european or latin american), christian fundamentalism--and beyond that what we might call "american fundamentalism" (the belief that america is the good guys, fighting for truth and democracy, etc. etc.--the global extension of "manifest destiny") poses a much greater danger to world peace and security than does islamic fundamentalism.

and we here in america are only a minor step removed from being a theocracy, in fact if not in name. when political candidates can freely express atheism, don't feel compelled to trumpet their deeply held religious convictions (whether sincerely held or not) in order to get elected, don't make religious issues like abortion and gay rights and flag burning (a religious issue in the church of america) political issues, then i'll believe we're not a theocracy. certainly our stated principles are anti-theocratic, but we are the worst, most dangerous kind of theocracy, the one that doesn't know or is in denial that it's a theocracy. in the only two actual theocracies in the middle east, Iran and Saudi Arabia, it is much easier for the majority, who actually oppose the theocracies there (true in both countries), to be against it, since the theocracy is the instrument of an obvious dictatorship, imposed on the people from above. it is clearly something that, on a personal or socio-cultural level, one can disassociate oneself from. but in america, the theocracy permeates every aspect of our culture, and any public statement that is remotely anti-religious or anti-christian results in the speaker being made a pariah.

and yes, it is an embarrassment to the species (both varieties). when i said, above, that your thought was "muddled and dangerous," that's because i think it is very dangerous to assume that one form of fundamentalism is worse than another, or one is more harmless. that assumption is what allows us to continue killing and oppression, continue dividing the world up into us and them. i like your point about bush and bin laden being on the same basic side, having a sectarian squabble. so don't be mentally trapped (by your american bias) into conceding that bin laden is worse. the average muslim in the middle east, is actually ON YOUR SIDE--against the bushes and bin ladens of the world. the problem is that that muslim thinks bush is worse than bin laden, and you & the average american think bin laden is worse than bush, and both bush and bin laden are counting on that minor difference in your and their assessments in order to use you and them against each other. that's what's called demagoguery. because the muslim thinks bush is worse than bin laden, bush & the media are able to spin that into making you think that the muslim is actually against **you**; and vice-versa.

so i want to make perfectly clear that i'm with you: down with fundamentalism, and long live art, fun, and girls!




18 December 2007

Hello Tim--

Have looked at the "When The Fatwa Comes" cartoon a bunch of times now, and it is inspiring as well friggin' funnier than anything I've seen in a long time. Great job!

I especially liked how each panel/quadrant/element is a self-contained sight gag. I'm partial to the "Lie Low" bit--I chuckle every time I look--but the Kreider-as-cat-petting-fatwa-meister and Kreider-as-repentant-Cat-Stevens are each excellent too. Of course the ray gun bit at the end is great too. It reminded me of your piece a couple of weeks ago with the giant Islamic robot. Not sure why the juxtaposition of sci-fi cliches and Islamic extremist assholes is funny, but I like it and it works well in both cases.

I look forward to your strip every week--it's a great inspiration for my own stuff.

Take it easy and be careful out there,

Steve / Frank


Thanks for your effusive compliments on my cartoon that week. I felt like my drawing of myself in Afro-American disguise was heavily indebted to Gene Wilder in "Silver Streak." It's possible that, following the advice of many readers, as well as my inner dweeb, I should just ditch politics and draw fucked-up gleaming Kirbyesque gadgetry every week.

Good luck with your book projects.



18 December 2007

I really like your scowl in the counter-fatwa panel.

Don't forget that I was serious circa a year ago when I offered you my back-cottage gratis on the CANADIAN side of Lake Erie. I've got a system worked out where I "LIVE" in a bought and paid for home in Buffalo, yet have actually never spent a night there. I am friends with our state senator who lives across the street and three judges (1 local, 1state, and 1 fed) whom all live on "my" block. The neighborhood is called "Judge's Row". Consequently, our streets are plowed first in the 6 months of winter that we get here. They like me b/c I'm smart polite, charismatic, and they think I represent optimism for the future. FOOLS! Bwahahahaha...etc.

Anyway, back to havens here in my Canadian world, you can still buy codiene OTC and Absinthe (WITH the Thujens hallucinogen that the pussy US still doesn't allow). I extract the codiene, mix 1:1 with absinthe, burn a teaspoon of absinthe soaked sugar in my actual 1799 sterling silver carmelizing spoon (made just for this purpose). Extinguish flame (IMPORTANT STEP). Stir, and enjoy. It tastes like ass, but PBR makes a good chaser, and frankly after about four of them, you stop caring. I call it the "Strangelove" or when I'm with more TV oriented friends, the "Sleestack".

Big downside to this place though, is that most of the women in the area are old, Tai-Chi, lesbians. I'm not against any one of those things, but when you put 'em together, it makes for a special kind of tedium. That's when a "Strangelove" or three comes in handy.

But, the local youth have my back b/c I let them fish and snowmobile on my beach. I also sell them class "B" fireworks which aren't legal in the US or Canada, so they unerringly give me a heads-up when the mounties are in the area. Say what you will about the apathetic dumb-ass youth, they know how to evade the law.

I'm a data-analyst for the US gov't, so I can roll out of bed when I feel like it, write a report, cash my check and be basically beningnly decadent. I life-style choice I think you can appreciate. If you can make their deadline, fuck everything else, order more food, pop in another movie, and have a drink.

Anyway, I offer sanctuary or a free vacation setting (I recommend summer) bring friends, except maybe that crazy half-breed. I'm not some kook, fanatic, or security risk. [PASSAGE REDACTED DUE TO SECURITY CONCERNS]

I still love the "Micshka, the Russian Space-Bear", atop a garbage can full of TNT). You're dead-on about that one.



Thanks for the gracious invitation. I may yet take you up on it, as homelessness in New York City seems imminent. It sounds like an ideal setup for a safe house, what with Strangeloves and the protection of the local good-for-nought teens. Your lifestyle sounds much like my own, except that you have a source of income. Can I also do data analysis for the government?

Funny you should've mentioned "Sleestaks" in your letter--some friends of mine and I passed my birthday last year watching "Land of the Lost" on DVD on painkillers. It's a terrible show.



19 December 2007
Mr. Kreider,

More years ago than I care to think about, National Lampoon ran several pages of Christmas song themed parody by the Great Gahan Wilson.

Dashing up the tree
To decorate the top
The ladder tilts,
A sickening pause,
A fatal ten-foot drop!
Bah! Humbug!

Joel Carson

Joel Carson,

Good old Gahan. I met him at a comics convention a couple years ago. He was just as you'd hope he would be.



21 December 2007

I almost did a spit take when I saw the last panel of this week’s comic. Great work!

Your Dallas Fan,

T.S. McBride

T.S. McBride:

Glad you liked it. See, with the head-hole, when you did a spit take there'd be like a whale spout as well, only adding to the hilarity.

Get Out of Texas,


22 December 2007


I came across your cartoon while randomly browsing webcomics on the internet. I don't usually contact people in the same media as myself because I am both socially anxious and a misanthropic shut in and find even the most remote forms of human contact to be painfully unimportant. All of this gibberish aside, I would just like to say that your cartoon made my day and I have listed you on the links page of my own cartoon: Thanks much for the work you do.

-Noel Graham

Noel Graham:

Just checked out your website and was pleasantly surprised to laugh at the first cartoon I saw. The "Your Mom sounds like she really likes to party" therapist, graven monster-God with the "inflexible virgin policy," and the Gorgon cartoons are all solid hits, and those are just from the most recent batch. I like how it's always the same generic loser guy, a kind of (just barely) cooler Ziggy. (Unsolicited but minor gripe: I wish you'd either a.) hand-letter the word balloons or, maybe better, b.) turn them into New Yorker/Far Side captions at the bottom of the panel.)
Thanks very much for your compliments on my own work. They mean that much more to me knowing your aversion to your colleagues' work. I hardly ever look at anyone else's cartoons, either, since they'll only either be worse than mine, in which case why bother, or better, which will fill me with envy and despair. I was glad to see yours.


24 December 2007

To Mr. Kreider,

I stumbled across your website recently and all I have to say is that I love your work, and feel I share a lot in common with you (currently a lonely art student without any career plans who is atheistic, depressed, and loves his cat too much).

I find a lot of your cartoons enjoyable and find it nice to know there's someone out there who feels the same way I do about a lot of things and is still trucking along somehow. It gives me some kind of foolish hope, I suppose.

So, all I wanted to say was thanks, and I'll be rooting for you.



Thanks for writing. Getting home from Christmas is always a bummer, and your letter was the one reward for scrolling through and deleting 104 messages with subject headings like "Your Health," "Exquisite Handcrafted Timepieces," and "Fill Her Twat to the Limits."

The thought that it is me who gives anyone hope fills me with the kind of despair best encapsulated by the joke whose punchline is, "But, doctor--I am Pagliacci." Still, glad to hear I'm helping somehow. I wish I could help more. Atheistic, depressed, and without career prospects is a tough row to hoe. But a cat is a good thing to have, not to be dismissed. My own cat has been turned into a yowling tea-head by the cat-sitter I hired over Christmas, who apparently indulged her in her ungovernable lust for catnip.
It'd be nice to leave you with something uplifting but I got nothin' for ya. Sorry. It's a shitty time of year and I'm just barely hanging in there myself. I guess the cartoons are the best I can do for you. Which reminds me, I'm supposed to be working one right now. Time to shut up and draw funny pictures.


P.S. Cameron is a gender-neutral name but I suppose you are probably a pathetic lonely dude like myself rather than a cute young potential groupie, yes? Just asking.

Mr. Kreider,

I'm glad that I was able to help you, as well, in some small way. Honestly, I expected a best case scenario of a form letter from someone too important and inundated with similar letters (or their antithesis) to write back to anyone specific, so your return letter came as a pleasant surprise. I do love my cat, but fear for the inevitable day that she must pass on, for she is 14 years of age and growing old. Also, I'd rather prefer the honest "sorry, I'm in the same shithole myself" than a blatantly fake "believe in rainbows and butterflies and your own self-worth and you'll be a happy man!"

I'd actually rather listen to someone commiserate than some successful ecstatic man screaming "You just need to BELIEVE in yourself and you'll do it, too! Just look at how successful *I* am!" Which has never really helped.

But, I digress. I'm sorry to hear about Ms. C.H.'s departure, and I hope you find some happiness somewhere. We all need it, us bitter artists more than most.

And, yes, your presumption was correct. Lonely dude.