JINGLE JANGLED

Each year we greet December
Decked out in green and red.
We count the days ’til Christmas,
And dream of what’s ahead.

We picture happy moments —
The sights, the sounds, the smells —
But as the month progresses,
Our tension level swells.

Instead of just relaxing
And taking things in stride,
We structure every minute,
All knotted up inside.

We haul out wreaths and garlands
And fight with tangled lights.
We decorate our rooftops,
Despite our fear of heights.

We wander seven counties
To find the perfect tree —
A process that requires
A forestry degree.

We send out inkjet letters
To people far and near,
Recounting every detail
About our boring year.

We gobble mounds of candies,
Cakes, cookies, tarts and pies,
Which somehow seek out pathways
Directly to our thighs.

We hear our favorite carols
Five hundred thousand times.
(It almost makes a person
Appreciative of mimes.)

We sit around at parties
We’d rather not attend,
Conversing with the husband
Of our neighbor’s cousin’s friend.

We start exchanging presents
With folks we’ve barely met.
(“Gee, thanks, I’ve always wanted
A mini-ratchet set!”)

As Christmas Day approaches,
Sheer panic fills the air.
The malls are packed with shoppers,
All tearing out their hair.

But there’s another option —
Not gimmicks, or a trick.
Let’s take our inspiration
From jolly old St. Nick:

It’s giving, not receiving,
That matters most, we’re told.
The gifts of love and friendship
Cannot be bought or sold.

So give yourself a present —
Wrap up your Christmas stress,
And mail it off to Nowhere,
With no return address.

JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY

I can’t be exactly sure when I did this drawing and the essay that accompanied it. But, based on my creative spelling (and the way I referred to “Nov. 22” without specifying a year), I’d guess that I produced it within a few months of the Kennedy assassination in 1963. So, I would have been — nine, maybe? Something like that.

I’m not sure where I got my “facts.” Clearly, I can’t blame the Internet for my unique historical perspective. (Oh, yeah, that’s right — I was nine. Maybe we should think of our current Web-heavy information age as “The Nine-ification of America.”)

In case you can’t read my handwriting, here’s what I wrote:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1917-1963

President Kennedy was assasinated Nov. 22 while riding through Dallas, Texas. Mrs. Connally had just said to Mr. Kennedy, “You can’t say Dallas isn’t nice to you,” when the 3 fatal shots rang out. The first one hit the President in the head, the next went into Gov. Connaly’s arm, hand and leg and the next one went into the Presidents neck. Presedent Kennedy slumped into his wifes arms while she shouted “oh no”. Mrs. Kennedy crawled on the trunk of the motorcade, shouting for a secret service man. At this, the car sped off toward the hospital with the wounded president. He was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. that afternoon. Then, Sunday Lee Harvey Oswald, acused assasin of the president was shot in the lower abdomen as he was being taken from the jail. He was shot by Jack Rubenstein, a night club owner.

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

SPOTTED COW

HODG-MAN

A while back, my brother Eric and I pulled together a pitch for an animated weekly series – to be based
on true-life anecdotes and totally-made-up crap involving noted writer, raconteur and “Daily Show”
correspondent John Hodgman.

It didn’t pan out. But it was fun.

Each week (as we envisioned it), Hodgman’s character would embark on a fresh new intellectual journey
into the unknown.

Hodgman would be joined on his various quests by an impressive array of his very own friends, colleagues and musical collaborators – including the two Johns from They Might Be Giants:

In the plum role of Hodgman’s arch-rival, B-movie icon Bruce Campbell:

Hodgman’s faithful sidekick and personal troubadour, of course, would be none other than Jonathan Coulton:

Would there be big-name guest stars, you ask? Why, yes. To quote from our pictch, “… in a fond tribute to
(and blatant ripoff of) Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Hodgman might be joined by author and assassination buff
Sarah Vowell, with whom he would time-travel to the Garfield administration only to discover that, if they do not act to ensure that President Garfield is indeed felled by the bullets of a disappointed office seeker, the fabric of time will be ruptured and the very future of civilization endangered. There will also be hoboes.”

And, serving as Hodgman’s spiritual advisor in times of crisis – his “Obi-Wan Kenobi” – The Ghost of
George Plimpton:

JIM’S JOURNAL

Before co-founding The Onion, Wisconsin-based cartoonist Scott Dikkers created the anti-comic “Jim’s Journal,” which followed the excrutiatingly uneventful exploits of a human cipher named Jim. (Jim’s “exploits” involved a long string of bleak, emotionless inactivities, with a howling absence of conventional punchlines and no lessons to be learned.)

Many of Dikker’s comics were published in book form, under titles such as “I Went to College (and it was okay),”
“I Got a Job (and it wasn’t that bad)” and “I Made Some Brownies (and they were pretty good).”

During my college years (also in Wisconsin), I’d produced my own anti-comic, “The Blandies” – so, naturally, I was a big fan of Dikkers’ work. I vividly remember showing one of his compilations to my mother, who laughed until she cried, collapsing onto the couch in baffled delight, barely able to speak.

In Dikkers’ Twitter account, he hints that Jim may be making a comeback of some sort. Seeing this, I was inspired to create my own anti-animation of a classic moment from “Jim’s Journal”:

Check these links for more from Scott Dikkers:

Dikkers Cartoon Company

On Twitter:

@ScottDikkers

MANSON TOWING

I’m not sure what this says about me, but …

Every time I see one of these road signs, I picture Charles Manson.

MICKEY RAT

Introduced to the world of “underground” publishing in the early ’70s by comic artist Robert Armstrong, Mickey Rat never clawed his way to the heights of Hollywood rodentry. (With his distinctive features, he easily could have become the Shemp Howard of animated cartoons.)

Here, in a nod to what might have been, I present my own modest animation of Mickey:

Check these links for more information about artist/musician Robert Armstrong:

Armstrong’s Art and Novelty Hut

R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders

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