Archive for February, 2009



you auto buckle up

Driver’s Education didn’t take an entire year at my high school. It didn’t even take an entire semester. When you signed up for Driver’s Ed, you actually took about a month and a half of real, actual instruction on how to drive a car. I took Driver’s Ed my sophomore year.

Anyone, including the teacher of the class, will tell you that the real knowledge doesn’t kick in until you begin driving. Like most of high school, class is about killing time until you graduate. The best thing to do is to fantasize about the girl sitting in front of you. Her smell will make you forget your own name; she will play with her hair, tying it up, then letting it back down. She’ll hunch over in her desk a little and you will notice how tiny her shoulders are.

The rest of the semester was filled with Health, a perverse joke played on us by a group of gym teachers. They sat around between class joking and talking sports. The upside of Health was that I got to read a book about Ebola. But back to Driver’s Ed.

There were a thousand ways to get extra credit. It was almost as if the teacher didn’t want us to learn the regular way, by reading the textbook and taking tests. We could just turn in an endless series of extra credit projects. I think I finished Driver’s Ed with a 240% out of 100.

One of these throwaway extra credit assignments was to design a billboard extolling seatbelt safety. I almost didn’t do this one at all, but on my way to school one morning I got a brainwave and quickly sketched out my idea. The whole process, from thought to completion, was maybe 15 minutes.

A man, first shown sitting upright, is thrown slowly through the air. He lands on his head, then bounces back up, then lands on his crotch, then bounces again, and finally comes to rest on his back. The tagline underneath read: SEATBELTS: THE RIDE ISN’T THE SAME WITHOUT THEM. The man, had he been wearing a seatbelt, would have remained in the car. A much better outcome for him, I imagine.

When I turned the paper in for extra credit, my teacher asked if I wanted to enter it into the contest. “Sure,” I said, not thinking about it.

A little over a month later (when we had moved into the Health portion of the class), my teacher told me I had won the seatbelt contest. I was flabberghasted. What did that even mean?

The contest was for the winning desgin to be made into a billboard. I invited to an awards lunch downtown. The mayor of Tucson was going to be there! I also got a certificate.  you-auto-buckle-up-certificate

My dad drove me downtown. He made a joke about making sure we wore our seatbelts when he picked me up from school. I hadn’t yet gotten my driver’s license, an irony that went unnoticed by the group at the awards ceremony. The mayor of Tucson was a no-show, a snub I will remember until my dying day. The group, including representatives from the police department and Golden Eagle Distributors, were all very pleased with my design. They asked if I could add color, which I did happily. I probably should have redrawn the whole thing, but at that point in my artistic career I hadn’t learned the joy of revising. It didn’t matter to them; they loved that I had made it funny.

This is a detail of the billboard. I tried to make it sharp enough to read:seatbelt-drawing-close-up

The billboard went up a few months after the ceremony. It was on the way to the airport, a fairly high traffic road. We took some pictures.seatbelt-billboard2

It must have been popular with the sponsors because it remained up for almost two years. I have a clear memory of a girl telling me she’d seen it when we were seniors. I could not for the life of me figure out how to parlay that into asking her out.

In spite of my fame, I didn’t get big-headed. My stride remained uncocky. Though I haven’t won any big contests recently, I don’t dwell on my glory days in high school. I let them exist in my mind (and now, on this blog) as milestones. I know I’m capable of greatness; the Tucson police force says so.

What I did learn was that sometimes the best ideas are the least worked-over. I try to remember this when I write comics. Leave the good ideas alone. I also learned that a throwaway idea can sometimes prove the most enduring.

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the specter of racism

the times they are a changinIn 1963, William Zantzinger caused the death of Hattie Carroll. He spent six months in jail, perhaps not an overly harsh term for such a crime. However, Bob Dylan made sure the world knew of this foul, fat little man by writing the beautiful song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”

Zantzinger died on January 3, 2009. The reports of this death are not greatly exaggerated. This post is not a mourning of the man, nor is this a celebration of his death. However, it is somewhat comforting to note that a man who once remarked about segregation, “Hell, you wouldn’t want to go to school with Negroes any more than you would with French people,” was alive to see the first African American elected President of this country. It’s a shame Mr. Obama didn’t have any French relatives.

I suggest you to have a listen to Bob’s song, and if you know the song already, do like me and listen once more. I always come away a little bit sadder; Zantzinger’s tale is one of life’s many little atrocities. Bob was good enough to make us listen and to make us care for a woman who didn’t have enough care for her while she was alive.

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he doesn’t stand a chance

He’s got gumption, I’ll give him that.dino-vs-lego

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the way love works

In our household, love flows from me to my wife and from me to my cat. Love also flows from my wife to me and possibly from my cat to me. I’ve drawn up a chart to show how the first part of this process works:flow-of-love
This is all very scientific.

Lately, the natural order of things has been perverted. The wily cat has been stealing the love intended for my wife and redirecting it to herself. The flow of love interrupted looks like this:flow-of-love-interrupted

No good can come of this. The cat will drive a wedge between me and my wife, resulting in divorce. I cannot let this happen so early in our marriage. Ten years down the road, sure. By then we’ll definitely hate each other. But the cat is trying to expedite the dissolution of our partnership. I can’t sit by and let this happen.

Dealing with cats is a tricky business. Were I pitted against a human adversary, like Alan Rickman in Die Hard, I’d know exactly what to do. Alan-Rickman-Die-Hard
I’d do exactly what Bruce Willis did in Die Hard. But a cat is not a human, and therefore the usual tricks won’t work.

Wish me luck, dear readers. The future of our household is at stake.

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Friday Robots Are Alive!

Fun with stickers.friday-robots-2-6-9+3 friday-robots-2-6-9+4 friday-robots-2-6-9+2 friday-robots-2-6-9 friday-robots-2-6-9+6 friday-robots-2-6-9+5

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