Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 8/22/07

Artist's Statement

Mr. Kreider sends this report of the artist outwards with no more explanation. I continue my search for him and will submit a report with the readers soon. I am given the reason to suspect that he went extreme equipping to the "Man-on-Fire" event in the desolation of the distant Western American state of Nevada. It is apparently a certain gathering annual of Hippies for the goals of the abuse of drugs, nudity and detonation. I am ambivalent if to follow.



Iíd like to thank those readers who have written me in recent weeks with concern and encouragement, especially those young women who have offered consolation sex (even the ones who later sheepishly retracted). To those readers who have urged me to stop being a big crybaby and get over it already and get back to making fun of Republicans, let me point out that there is now a whole division of the entertainment industry devoted to turning out products pandering to your political views: Tom Tomorrow, Janeane Garofolo, Al Franken, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, etc. You can surfeit yourself on anti-Republican propaganda of varying quality twenty-four hours a day if you wish. I, in the meantime, will of course continue to draw exactly whatever the fuck I want.

As my longtime readers know, Iíve been gradually burning out on politics for years now. Who hasnít? Everything there is to be said about the current administration got said clearly and cogently years ago, everyone with eyes to see already knows it, and waiting for the news to seep into the minds of that portion of the populace that is near-impermeably stupid is getting really old. The only people who can still maintain any enthusiasm or interest in the subject of politics are diehard party hacks and those 9/11-conspiracy wackjobs. I still pay attention to politics, of course; itís just gotten to the point where itís almost impossible for me to care. (Kind of on par with my vestigial interest in Star Trek-- Iíd probably still watch the premiere of a new series, but none of the episodes after that.) I noted with a near-total lack of interest the resignation of Karl Rove this week. The mention of "family" in connection with any unexpected resignation is generally code for some unspeakable scandal involving a child prostituteís corpse in the trunk of a car, but weíll probably never know the truth. It will certainly be a relief not to have to look at photographs of Roveís big pale soft-boiled egg of a head and weak, mean little eyes anymore, but beyond "good riddance, fat boy" I donít have much to say about it.* I refuse to start following the 2008 Presidential race until at least 2008, and I doubt Iíll be able to bring myself to care about it much even then. My prediction: the Democrats will find a way to lose. And who cares? They deserve to. The Democrats voted along with the Republicans to expand the surveillance powers of the Bush administration last week, and now theyíre realizing they may have inadvertently granted even broader powers than they intended to. Does anyone really believe a Democratic administration is going to pull us out of Iraq? Children who havenít even learned the word Iraq yet are probably going to get killed there. But soon enough, readers, the Bush administration will bomb Iran or the terrorists will attack New York again and then, Iím sure, the spirit will move me to draw something new.

My cartoons have never been what youíd call traditional political cartoons, anyway. I donít know any more about politics than anyone else who reads the New York Times and listens to NPR. The Bush administrationís policies havenít affected me personally at all, except to allow me to keep more money I didnít earn. What theyíve done is affronted my sense of honesty, integrity, and fairness, of basic human decency. My cartoons have always been about the things that depressed and enraged me. For years these were the big existential questions, and then the folly and hypocrisy of government. Now Iím preoccupied by more personal matters, and if my coverage of politics drops off in the weeks or months to come, I may have to accept a decline in popularity. Iím not about to turn up my nose at anyone who enjoys my work for any reason, but I do have to worry that people who like both my cartoons and the didactic and humorless clip-art editorials of Tom Tomorrow must be responding indiscriminately to arbitrary, superficial similarities of content. Thereís nothing wrong with this, but from my point of view itís like being a hot girl and having to remind yourself that men may not like you exclusively for your mind. So this weekís cartoon doggedly continues our examination of the subject currently demanding all of my attention, heartbreak.

Panel 1 illustrates the hazards of mistaking amusing drinking companions for friends. Unsympathetic responses in times of crisis turn out to be among the least such hazards.

Boy, I only wish the 1980 Flash Gordon was playing in a theater. One night last winter I was walking by a little comedy/performance venue called Rififi on 11th street and noticed a flyer announcing a screening of the 1980 Flash Gordon on their giant-screen projection TV. I got very excited about this and e-mailed everyone I knew in New York to invite them along. Nobody wrote back. The night of the screening I went by myself, and turned out to be the only person in the whole theater. The projectionist and I spoke for a little while of our shared love of Flash Gordon. I took half a Vicodin, took my shoes off, and put my feet up on the couch. It was all right. Now there is a chintzy SciFi series called "Flash Gordon" in which there are no art deco rocketships and Ming is relatively young and handsome and Dal Arden kind of likes him. One longs to have Max von Sydow or Charles Middleton show up and show this upstart prettyboy the meaning of "Merciless."

Note to any and all women I may have had sex with lately: of course that is not you in panel 3, nor, certainly, did I imagine masturbating with a Kermit the frog hand puppet at any moment during our very meaningful and satisfying lovemaking.

Weíve all seenóespecially those of us who have spent more time than was good for us in the dive bars of Baltimore--that sad old guy at the bar who, after a certain number of drinks, predictably turns to telling the same old story of the woman who broke his heart, methodically peeling the scab off the wound one more time, I guessbecause that pain was the last thing he felt, and itís better than nothing. The story of that guyís life is over; all thatís left to him is the telling of it. So he tells it over and over, like the Ancient Mariner or Ishmael, except drunk and boring. People like to think of emotional healing as a process that happens naturally, inevitably, just like our bodies keep healing wounds until we die. But itís something we have to let happen. We can also decide not to. Thereís a part of us that never wants to feel better or forget, to which healing feels like a betrayal. And our capacity for healing is not bottomless. We get over everything until the thing we donít. My old dance instructor used to say that what doesnít kill us makes us stronger. But the thing that does kill us, kills us dead.

One of the childish delusions I still cling to unconsciously, despite all evidence to the contrary, is that Everything Will Work Out. Everyone will find someone to love, theyíll figure out what to do with their interests and talents, their lives will ultimately be okay. After all, this is what happens in pretty much every story we grow up on. Except itís not what happens in real life. Read a few biographies, the stories of peopleís actual lives. Plenty of people end up alone and unhappy, disillusioned and bitter--losers, failures, the self-pitying old man at the bar. When the director Abel Gance was finally acclaimed, in his nineties, for the restored version of his masterpiece Napoleon, after decades spent ignominiously prostituting his talents, he said: "The bravos come too late." One of the most alarming things about entering middle age is that you begin to realize itís possible that things might not work out after all.

Even when we do get over things and go on, itís not as if weíre good as new and itís like nothing ever happened. I was stabbed in the throat twelve years ago. It didnít kill me, and I donít have nightmares about it or overreact when people come running at me with raised stilettos or suffer any other symptoms of post-traumatic stress. I hardly ever even remember that I have a spectacular scar anymore, unless someone asks about it. But the wound severed some nerves that never fully regenerated, so the feeling there is still slightly deadened. And my smile isnít the same anymore, and it never will be again.


* Okay maybe I have one or two things to say about him. Like: I never understood why this plodding, unimaginative guttersnipe was hailed as some sort of political genius in Washington circles simply for following the crude, thuggish tactics laid out in that infallible campaign playbook, Mein Kampf: lie big, fight dirty, hit your enemies where theyíre weakest before they can hit you, say the same simple thing over and over and over again until people believe it, and once youíre in power dismantle the institutions of democracy so you can stay there. The word "genius" gets dramatically devalued in circles outside of science, where it still pertains to provable results. Being called a genius by your colleagues in the field of subatomic physics actually means something; being a "genius" at political campaigns is on par with being a "genius" at advertising or professional wrestling or scamming old ladies out of their pensions over the phone.

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