Archive for November, 2008

great minds

Today brought us Berkeley Breathed’s final Opus comic strip. Will Opus the penguin be gone forever? Who knows, but at least he’s in a happy place.opus_final
However, does Mr. Breathed know that a little-known, unsyndicated cartoonist beat him to the punch a few years ago?5-5-2006colorWhen I ended my comic strip The Family Monster in 2006, I went in a very similar direction.

I also used the expression “good-night Opus” in my blog post earlier this week, a reference to the beloved children’s book Goodnight Moon.

If anyone is paying attention, the unsyndicated cartoonist came up with this idea two years ago, followed belatedly by the world famous syndicated cartoonist.

I expect some royalties, Berkeley.

parting shot

jimmy-carter-says-yes-graphicThere are people – Republicans, mostly – who claim Barack Obama will be a rehash of the Carter Administration. It’s true, our country doesn’t exactly pine for the salad days of 1976-1980. What I don’t understand is the special kind of hatred conservatives reserve for Jimmy Carter. I do agree with them, to a point. There are Jimmy Carter qualities in Barack Obama. Of these shared qualities, what is it Republicans don’t want?

A President willing to stand up to the auto makers and raise fuel efficiency standards?
A President fully engaged in the peace process, willing to bring the Middle East nations together in unprecedented agreement?
A smart, charismatic President to follow one of the most disastrous (and, ahem, Republican) Administrations of all time?
Are these bad things?
Jimmy Carter says “Yes!” to peace, environmental protection, a progressive energy policy, and housing for the homeless. So does Barack Obama.obama-carter-08
Brought to you this Election Eve by Obama/Carter ’08.

dinosaurs for Election Day

I was trying to think of an interesting thing to say today, what with the election and all. And yet, even as we Americans look to the future, I found myself stuck in the past…

The prehistoric past!

apatosaurus stegosaurus tyranosaurus

Vote, you Americans! Vote like your entire species was about to go extinct and future societies would judge you based on this one single act.

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yup, we did

We now live in a country where a white guy can sing the blues and a black guy can lead the Free World. Not too shabby.springsteen and obama

Congratulations, America. You passed.

michael crichton 1942-2008

As many you who read this blog already know, dinosaurs are more than a passing fancy for me. Of the many books that deal with dinosaurs, the best novel to do so is Jurassic Park. The man who wrote that book and went on to co-write the screenplay to the movie, Michael Crichton, died on Tuesday. After all the terrifying, visceral, bizarre ways he devised his characters to die, not only in Jurassic Park but in his many science fiction novels, he himself succumbed to cancer at the relatively young age of 66. It is that fact – something as simple and powerful as your own cells turning against you – that makes the death of one of my childhood heroes even more hard to take. I always imagined Crichton being carried away by Vikings, or zapped into another dimension. Not cancer. It’s an insult to such an imaginative man.

To say that I was influenced by Jurassic Park is like saying I was influenced by air. Jurassic Park is, without a doubt in my mind, the best dinosaur story ever written. The movie is among my favorites, although it only captured about 1/3 the story of the book. Crichton’s logical and somewhat cynical take on a man who clones dinosaurs for a theme park was softened by Steven Spielberg for the film version, although the special effects and Spielberg’s great sense of pacing an tension made the movie the seminal moment of my childhood.

Crichton’s other books left a big impression on me as well. The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Sphere, and Terminal Man are all stories so strange and so interesting that their main plots, if not every detail within the novels, still stick in my brain.

Crichton was a nerd; a tall skinny white guy who liked to do voluminous research on each story before writing a sentence. He was interested in time travel, other dimensions, history, and hard science. He was the successful grown-up a boy from Arizona could look to when the boy wondered about his future. Crichton showed that there was room in the world for nerds, not just in windowless research labs but in Hollywood, as well.

I’ll leave you with a page from the book The Making of Jurassic Park, by Don Shay. In it Crichton explains how the idea for writing a novel about dinosaurs came about.

Thanks for everything, Michael.

michael crichton