Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Plug for New York and Boston readers: my friend and colleague Tom Hart's comic strip, "Hutch Owen," will begin running daily in the free daily METRO in New York and Boston as of Monday August 14th. The strip will continue to run after the first month if the response is positive, so please voice your support for the strip at METRO 's website: http://ny.metro.us/metro/yourturn or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Longtime readers of The Pain know that my views on this issue are passionate. However, I am willing to be reasonable about this. I will concede that there are arguments to be made on the other side. My old astronomy textbook rather judgmentally describes Pluto as "a deviant." Pluto is lovably idiosyncratic. It is neither a dull, domestic rocky terrestrial planet, composed of silicates and metals, nor a surly vainglorious gas giant of hydrogen and methane. Itís mostly ice, as far as we can tell. Itís smaller than the Moon. It has an extremely eccentric orbit, spending of its 20 years of its 249-year revolution inside of Neptuneís orbit, and is tilted at a crazy angle of 17˚ to the ecliptic. And even more distant trans-Neptunian objects are being discovered, some of them bigger than Pluto. Now, I do not propose to let any half-formed iceball that comes careening in out of who-knows-where into the solar system. What Iím saying is, letís grandfather Pluto in. Pluto deserves a little velvet-rope treatment. It is not like the rest of that Kuiper Belt riffraff. Pluto has been a full and cherished member of our solar family since 1930, when Clyde Tombaugh discovered it. (Also, patriots take note: Pluto is the only planet to have been discovered by an American.) It has been the subject of story (from H.P. Lovecraftís "The Whisperer in the Darkness" to Kim Stanley Robinsonís Icehenge) and song (Matthewsí addendum "The Renewer" to Holstís famous suite The Planets) and is beloved by all. And now they propose to say, sorry, Plutoís not a planet and it never was? As I warn in my last panel, if they can do this to Pluto, they can do it to anyone. Because frankly we all have our little quirks, donít we? Whoís next to have their seemingly secure planetary status called into question? How about Neptune, with its retrograde moon Triton? Whatís with that? Or Uranus, a so-called planet orbiting on its side, with its pole pointed toward the sun? Or how about us, with such a disproportionately large moon weíre considered a double planetary system? How long before someone revokes your American citizenship? Enough! The persecution ends here. It ends now. So long as any man anywhere is a slave, I am not free. If Pluto is not a planet, I am not a person. I am Pluto.
Thanks to Nell Boyce of NPR for valuable inside information, Isabelle for "Thanks, Mr. Jupiter," and webmaster Dave for "DIGNITY FOR URANUS," clearly the crown jewel of this cartoon.
Yes my single-minded focus on the taxonomical fate of Pluto is a deliberate backhanded fuck you to the apocalyptic coverage of the war in the Middle East, with which the media apparently expects me to be as urgently concerned as the fate of Tom and Katie. As regular readers know, I have vowed to maintain not only neutrality but resolute and imperturbable indifference to this conflict. I know almost nothing about the region or its history, except what I learned in Sunday school, nor am I curious to know more, and so I have a hard time understanding why I am supposed to take such hysterical daily interest in it. Even so, itís been hard to ignore the whiff, unmistakable as that of shit, of propaganda in the media coverage. Why do we hear so few actual numbers mentioned? How come itís "terrorism" when Arabs kill a hundred Israelis--half of them soldiers--but "retaliation" when Israelis kill a thousand Arabs--mostly civilians?* Just yesterday I heard a radio report from a correspondent describing a scene of devastation in Israel, when there were some booms in the background. The anchor asked her whether those were more rocket strikes, and she admitted that no, actually those were outgoing missiles. A friend of mine wrote me this week: "I will say that I have a Lebanese Christian friend whose 10 year old niece was killed in her Beirut apartment last week. I will also say that Israel sucks uncircumcised cock." The entire civilized world is calling for an immediate cease-fire, watching in horror as the Israelis bomb buildings full of children, but Our President--who cites Jesus of Nazareth as the political philosopher who has most influenced his policies--keeps saying, Naah, not yit--letís let Ďem git in a few more daysí a killiní folks. Is there any way of pointing out that our governmentís blind, uncritical endorsement of Israelís every atrocity is the main thing fueling Arabic hatred of our country, and to ask, hey, whatíd Israel ever do for us, exactly, without sounding like some Gibsonian America-is-but-a-puppet-of-the-Zionist-world-conspiracy freak? Okay. I thought not. Never mind. Back to indifference I go.
*Estimates. Do not send more accurate or updated figures. I do not care. All e-mail concerning the conflict between Israel and Lebanon or Palestine will be deleted, unread, by Ms. C.-H.
I just read The Plot Against America, which as you may know is a sort of alternate-historical novel in which Lindbergh wins the 1940 Presidential election, signs a non-aggression pact with Hitler, and starts letís say forcibly assimilating American Jews. There was a passage that reminded me of a talk I had with my friend Megan in New York immediately after 9/11, about how history books make everything look like a linear narrative, inevitable in retrospect, with obviously right and wrong sides to have been on, whereas the reality--the essence--of history is uncertainty. Nobody knows what's going to happen. No one knows which side will turn out to have been the right (or at least winning) one. The one thing I find heartening in this novel is that, as today, you can get a hopeful sense of which must be the right side to be on because all the bigots and fools and chauvinists and fanatics are proudly lined up on the other one.
But let us acknowledge that in the last week or so there has been much news to cheer a cynic: