Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 07/05/06

Artist's Statement

By the time I began work on this week’s cartoon, I had already decided, as Ms. C.-H. has announced, that I was going to go on hiatus for the rest of the summer. I thought it would be appropriate to leave you all with a patriotic message for the Fourth of July. So I felt even more pressure than usual--to come up with something not only insightful and funny, but also valedictory in tone, maybe even inspirational. The first cartoon emerged as I was doodling, trying to come up with an idea—the image of an aging, bloated Lady Liberty telling us to get off our asses and do something for ourselves for a change. Like, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, assholes. (It also seemed like it might be interpreted, inadvertently but not inappropriately, as a surly message from me to my readers.) Local readers will recognize "tard" as a transcription of the Bawlmorean dialect for "tired."

Still, it didn’t exactly crack me up. Once I’d finished the drawing it still only seemed like an acceptable fallback cartoon in case I couldn’t come up with anything funnier. I finally began drawing the one I ended up submitting, "3006 A.D.," in earnest early Friday morning, with a noon deadline. It was based on a conversation I had last week with Boyd and Isabelle over lunch at my friend Michael Lynch’s sidewalk café in Baltimore. I was rifling through the complimentary copy of the New York Times, impatiently scanning the very headlines featured in panel 1 of this cartoon. As astute readers of these artist’s statements may have inferred, I have been burned out on politics for months now, having a harder and harder time caring about current fucking events, and reading this utterly predictable news filled me with a dreary sense of déjà vu. It gave me a glimmering of the kind of contemptuous boredom, bred by decades of familiarity, that David Brinkley used to not even bother to conceal anymore when he was forced, in his dotage, to cover Presidential campaigns. I felt, literally, world-weary. "How long would I have to go into suspended animation to see some different headlines?" I demanded aloud. I felt like even if I entered artificial hibernation for a thousand years I might still wake up to news of the Middle East still, eternally, on the brink of war, the Republicans trotting out their trusty flag-burning amendment again, another car bombing in Iraq. Which gripe I ended up transposing more or less verbatim into cartoon form, except for the few minor inspirations that occurred to me as I drew, such as that the flag-burning amendment would have been transformed, by some Spellbinder-like black magic, into the fag-burning amendment. (I tried to leave enough of the lower headline unobscured for dedicated readers to infer the rest, but, just in case, it’s: PALESTINIAN HYDROFOILS RAID GAZA STRAIT. In other words, same old same old.) In a sense I will be going into suspended animation for the rest of the summer, which, unless there’s another terrorist attack, looks like it’ll be a stretch of meaningless posturing and non-issues from now until November, an unendurable circus of hypocrisy that deserves to be ignored by every American.

The only part of this cartoon that interested me a little was drawing the thought balloon in panel 1, showing me delighting in the rockets packs, ray guns and bubble domes of a Buck Rogers future. Even when I was a kid, in the Seventies, World Book’s Childcraft encyclopedia was still promising personal rocket packs and levitating cars you wouldn’t have to drive and lunar colonies by the time I grew up. But I feel glumly certain that even in a thousand years they’ll still be trying to iron the last few bugs out of rocket packs. And at this rate I’d have to come back in a million years before they’ll have bubble-dome cities on the moon. I hear they’re working on cars you won’t have to drive, which will be great news for drinkers, at least. The only Childcraft prediction that actually came true was what they called "the homework machine," or personal computer, though it would more accurately have been called "the pornography machine." (I remember they even showed what we now call a screen saver, although, naïvely, the one their illustrator chose was DaVinci’s sketch for a helicopter, rather than, say, a low-res Photoshopped image of Jenna Bush’s crotch.) It disappoints me that the most conspicuous technological advances in my lifetime have been consumer goods, toys for grownups, instead of, say, warp drive or time travel or anything that would advance human discovery or adventure. I mean sure, it’s nice that kids today have high-speed access to fantasies more depraved than Caligula’s instead of having to scrabble, as I did, for whatever pitiful soiled scraps of pornography we could find in the woods. But it’s not exactly walking on Mars.

Really, folks, who gives a shit about any of these douchebags in Washington? The only news I have any vestigial interest in today is whether or not the space shuttle lifts off tomorrow. Let’s all go to Mars and start over. As my friend Boyd used to say, Earth sucks.

I’m spending the long weekend at my friend Steve’s house outside New York, surrounded by some of my oldest and dearest friends in the world, eating Thai shrimp and blackened tuna and wild salmon on a cedar plank, drinking watermelon mojitos at the cabana by the pool, soaking in the hot tub, and reading around in Volume IV of The Collected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft. I’m writing this sitting at the table out by the pool with Steve’s eight-year-old daughter Emma, who is meticulously painting her nails. (I asked her if she had any message for my readers. She says: "Hey, pukin’ stinkbombs.") I’m listening to Kris Kristofferson’s song "To Beat the Devil." He sings:

And you still can hear me singin' to the people who don't listen,
To the things that I am sayin', prayin' someone's gonna hear.
And I guess I'll die explaining how the things that they complain about,
Are things they could be changin', hopin' someone's gonna care.

I was born a lonely singer, and I'm bound to die the same,
But I've got to feed the hunger in my soul.
And if I never have a nickel, I won't ever die ashamed.
'Cos I don't believe that no-one wants to know.

Tomorrow night we’re all driving into New York City, to watch the fireworks over the Statue of Liberty. But for now, Steve has placed a bloody mary in front of me, and Emma says it is time for my makeover. Happy Independence Day, everybody.



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