Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 04/23/08



Artist's Statement

This cartoon is based on two letters I recently received from two friends at opposite poles of my personal friend planet, Rob (co-author of several of my film essays) and Jim (often depicted in my cartoons). Rob, mentioned in last week’s artist’s statement, is deeply concerned about the phneomenon of Peak Oil and its likely implications for our way of life. (For those interested in learning more about this, Rob recommends the link .) He and his wife have uprooted their pleasant lives in the Washington D.C. area and relocated to an energy-independent community in Ohio, where they are hunkering down and laying in provisions for the imminent collapse of our society’s petroleum-based infrastructure. A few weeks ago Rob sent a dispatch detailing his progress in implementing his plan:


… the plans for an edible food forest here in SW Ohio are developing rapidly. Nutritious perennial vegetables and berries take two or three years to mature, so should be in good production by the time the last-gasp 2009-10 global oil production increase ends. Same with dwarf fruit trees, and revival (via pruning) of some now non-producing old apples and pears. And the annual vegetable gardens will get well under way this year, with poultry to follow. It' not hard to be optimistic here, looking out over the dozens of over-wintering songbirds (cardinals, nuthatches, mourning doves, jays, house wrens, and assorted woodpeckers) that spend their days visiting our feeders and sheltering in the bushes and shrubs. Of course I'm typing with gloves on, and Jenny's darning wool socks, but we've kept our winter propane bill under half of what the previous owners spent, and I'm using the warmer days to build up our log pile for next winter by which time we plan to have in an efficient wood-burning stove.

I'm working part-time here with the local peak oil activism non-profit Community Solutions. I'm the Program Manager for their planned low-energy use farm-integrated residential building project, so I'm learning a lot about passive house construction, site planning, and the norms of co-housing, as well as how to work with the Village Council, Planning Commission, and City Manager.

Tonight we're going to look at a 1990 Toyota pickup with 70K miles on offer for $1900 through Craigslist. We spend an average of a day a week at the local thrifts stores, flea markets, and discount outlets building up our tool and garden supplies. Last weekend we went to an Organic Farming conference, and focused on "biological farming" workshops that taught how to rebuild damaged soil, and test plant tissues to check on the results (basically the field science side of the permaculture approach we're taking to edible forestry).

We're looking forward to spring for the explosion of flowering trees on the property, much more time outside in the barn and gardening sheds, and especially getting back on our bikes.


After I referred to Rob and his plans in my rather doomy artist’s statement last week, I received the following letter from Big Jim:


Dear Timmy Kreiderkrudd,

Not this again. Tim, you know how this kinda' talk enrages me. Fuck energy independent Ohio. Didn't more than half of the flatheads in that state vote for Bush in the last election? Mohammedfucker, nothing bad is going to happen. This country has weathered worse shit than this. Christ I am nearly as lazy as people get and I am fine, if I can come out somewhere in the middle than we are going to be OK.

Allah of a bitch, the government is giving poor people money. You think a failing government gives out cash? Ok don't answer that maybe they do. Malthusian catastrophe is something Europeans do, not Americans. I think this temporary collapse of the dollar is Mohammed sent. With the dollar so weak who wants to travel outside the U.S.? It's safer here within the walls of the city. You think the people of the city of Rome suffered as much as the rest of the empire during the collapse? Hells no!

My advice for
Pain readers is buy a gun, because when someone kills the dark man that is currently running for king dipshit you are gonna' wanna' defend your Cheez-crunch stash from looters. So readers go buy a gun, it's allowed, you may own a gun it is OK, you won't go to hell for it, it is your right to keep and bear them*, only dipshits that think it’s wrong and politically incorrect will whine about it. Do you dismiss your other rights so easily? No? Hopefully at least some of your heros have been gun-toting Americans. If they have why not do like your heroes.

Also, there is still plenty of oil. If I am wrong and we suffer, so we suffer, we suffer anyway, you suffer, they suffer; we suffer through this tiresome bullshit all day every day. Speaking as a guy who did not eat for more than a month once, I have to say that starving is no worse than heartbreak. You have been nearly murdered, I have had a heart attack, and some poor bastard somewhere in this world was just cheated on by the love of his life. We suffer regardless.

Tell that Ohio-energy-independent- idiot friend of yours to shut the fuck up. Talk about cowardly America-hating liberal. Don't spread his nonsense to your readers. That is just fucking reckless. We are talking about a guy who was going to go and live in New Zealand; this is a guy considering an expat lifestyle, not a loyal American. Why does he want to survive this shit so bad anyway? Is he planning on finally getting laid after the crash? Repopulating the world? What is he planning on doing with his gold? Become fucking king of America. All of his bullshit is suspect to me.


James the Large
Currently Ruling the Lands between West Rock and the Shores of Long Island sound

*Federal law stipulates that gun buyers wait three business days before receiving their weapons so background checks can be conducted by the FBI. This may mean you, please obtain your guns legally. We do not want guns in the hands of actual felons, only potential ones.


I myself am somewhat torn between these two positions. Intellectually, I'm closer to Rob on this one. There may, as Jim suggests, be reasons to suspect any apocalyptic certitude; there is what Thomas Pynchon calls that "pose... of somber glee at any idea of mass destruction or decline." Most utopian science fiction, from to Star Trek to A Brief History of the Future to the peak-oil novel World Made By Hand, is contingent on the slate being wiped clean by some catastrophe, which seems to me an admission of authorial inadequacy to the challenge of finding some way through the impenetrable mess of the present to a more perfect society. But peak oil isn’t some science-fictional conceit or crackpot conspiracy theory; it’s an uncontroversial geological/economic fact that sometime, rather sooner than later, the cost of extracting oil is going to exceed the potential profit, meaning that the price will rise and rise and then finally there just plain won’t be any more. What’s not as clear is what the repercussions will be. Possible scenarios span the spectrum of optimism from a somewhat hasty global adjustment to alternative forms of energy and a more conservative lifestyle to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, the really crappy one with Tina Turner. Rob personally feels that our civilization is still deep in denial about the exhaustibility of fossil fuels and has let too much time elapse without any Plan B. He is cagey about the gruesome details, but I know he fears the worst. Unlike some of his like-minded fellows who are just holing up with canned goods and ammo, Rob has expended a lot of energy desperately entreating his friends to take similar actions before it's too late. (Whether Rob’s tool purchases have included a firearm to ward off the marauding Boyds of the world I do not know.) My feeling about Rob’s Cassandran crusade on this issue echoes Dan Dreiberg’s uneasy question about Adrian Veidt in Watchmen: “I mean, this is the world's smartest man we're talking about, so who's to say? How can anyone tell if he's gone crazy?” Given this conundrum, it'd probably be wiser to err on the side of caution.

Philosophically, however, my heart inclines toward Jim. Not because I think Jim is right but because it's pleasanter to believe Jim. Of course it's always comforting, in a head-in-the-sand way, to dismiss all this doomsaying, tell ourselves, ahh, everyone's always saying things are going to hell in a handbasket, and assume that we'll eventually figure something out and this shit'll blow over like it always does. But, as my reading of Gibbon reminds me, sometimes the reason everyone's always saying things are going to hell in a handbasket is because in fact they are. The problem is that, unlike Rob, I am a lazy and disorganized person who does not base my life decisions on abstract ideas, and frankly I find it easier to resign myself to a premature and violent death than to figure out how to invest my money or repair tools or grow plants, at which I have always sucked. My only real vague plan in the event of some catastrophic excremental/climate control interaction is to retreat to my undisclosed location on the Chesapeake Bay, where all but those visitors who'll have a lot to offer in the post-apocalyptic environment, if you know what I mean, will be made to feel unwelcome.

Only time, and not much of it, will tell which of these two sages sees more truly. In a recent email, Rob offers a wager:

I wonder whether there might also be a small and purely
symbolic stake, such as a mutual willingness to have one of us
depicted naked and flagellated come Earth Day next year (or a decade from now), whoever has been most vindicated by interim developments?

He also graciously accepts that, as the straight man in this debate, the humor must necessarily be at his expense. "Until," he adds, "it isn't."


Production note: These panels were drawn on the backs of my tax forms.


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