Here’s my latest local Nashville cartoon. This really is the policy of the Metropolitan Planning Commission – interesting that a government agency, that is holding public hearings on projects that require public approval, makes itself so unavailable to discussion with the public.
Here’s my latest local Nashville cartoon from the Nashville Scene altie-weekly that is all over town. This cartoon came out on the day that the crazy building project next to my house in West Nashville was scheduled to be reviewed for a zoning exemption by the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the board of developers who generously grant other developers whatever they want in the way of ignoring city planning here in town.
The project next door was indefinitely postponed at this meeting, at the request of the “expeditor” for the developer who noticed more local opposition to the project than he expected. I expect the guy to come back with another request for a zoning expedition to build something still non-conforming but slightly less dense and onerous, so I’m keeping up with the Metropolitan Zoning Commission cartoons for a while. The project’s “expeditor” or lobbyist, is a former city councilman, Roy Dale – Nashville’s version of congressman who quits to make the big bucks as a K street lobbyist – here it is a former councilman lobbying his councilmen buddies and the planning commission.
Nashville can be sleazy, but you gotta love the hot chicken.
This is the first cartoon I’ve drawn for almost two weeks, after my trip to Ukraine. I was a little more ambitious with this one than usual, doing caricatures of the top FIFA officials who have just been indicted by the USA Justice Department – the only law enforcement agency in the world willing to take these crooks down. Sometimes it is good that America doesn’t care about soccer; but we care about crooks.
Funny, I was rushing to get through with this, because it was taking me longer than it should have, and now that I posted it and sent it out to newspapers, and I have a minute to sit back and think, I see lots of errors! Look at Rafael Esquivel the second row left – I didn’t draw his left leg!
Last week I was in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, for the opening of an exhibition of political cartoons. I’ve been speaking at some universities and getting to know the people and the place.
Ukraine has 60% inflation here and seems certain to default on their substantial foreign debt as Russia continues to press a festering conflict in the east. Since the news about Ukraine is so terrible, I had expected to see some desperation here. Kiev is lovely and it seems like a normal, European capital. There’s no desperation evident.
My hotel is in the center of town where snipers killed more than one hundred people as the Ukrainians threw out their corrupt president, Victor Yanukovych in 2014. There are scattered memorials showing faces of the slain protestors, along with candles and flowers. One large, burned-out building on the central square is a reminder of the violence.
Yanukovych stole billions from Ukraine and fled to Russia. He built a crazy huge mansion for himself, which has been made into a national park and is now a tourist attraction. The grounds are vast, stretching for kilometers, with manicured gardens, a zoo, waterfalls, rivers, and a giant, pirate, party ship. The grounds are lovely, leaving visitors both charmed and cursing at scale of the of the corruption that could build such a fantastic complex. There was a wedding on Yanukovich’s fancy porch when I visited. It is nice to see these crazy digs preserved as a park rather than seeing it all torn down by an angry mob, as with Saddam Hussein’s mansions. Even the animals at Yanukovych’s giant zoo look happy.
I had dinner with my friend, Vladislav Kazanevsky, who has probably won more international cartoon contests than anyone else. That’s a photo of me with Vlad standing in front of his trophy case at this studio. There’s another photo of Vlad with his most recent cartoon of Obama, smiling out of his butt at Ukraine.
The world of international contests is very foreign to American cartoonists, who rarely enter these competitions, making us seem aloof and arrogant to the Ukrainian cartoonists. The international contest cartoons seem strange to American cartoonists, and I apologize for that – we don’t really fit in with the style, which is very foreign.
I’ve enjoyed the college audiences for my lectures here. I show them my cartoons where I have made Ukraine into a peasant woman character, which they tell me is “a little bit offensive” to them, “but only a little bit”. They ask why I picked this woman to represent Ukraine; why is she fat; why is she blonde? She should have black hair, I’m told, and she should not be fat. “We are not fat. Americans are fat,” I’m told, at each lecture.
The students always ask why I don’t draw Ukraine’s colorful leaders in my cartoons, and I have to explain that American readers won’t know who they are without an explanation. I tell them that Americans only pay attention to Ukraine when there is a revolution, when Putin invades, or when an airplane crashes here, and they all nod in agreement.
I had an excellent meeting with representatives from Ukraine’s cartoonists organization, who gave me some books and a copy of their Crocodile Magazine, a throwback to the old Soviet gag cartoon Crocodile Magazine. Kazenevski draws some western style editorial cartoons, but Ukrainian cartoonists are otherwise contest cartoonists, looking to collect trophies and awards to list on their CV’s. That’s the way it is for cartoonists in much of the world.
Thanks to my Ukrainian buddies, Tomas and Adam Lukacka, their cousin Matthew and loyal volunteers Alex and Brian for a great exhibition, also thanks to Eufurion and the Swiss Embassy, and the volunteers from Ukraine who are managing the show as it moves around the country.
My buddy, Martin “Shooty” Sutovec, the star editorial cartoonist of Slovakia, was also in the exhibit and traveled to Kiev for the opening along. The president of Slovakia was there too, which was a bit strange. I told the president that Shooty is Slovakia’s national treasure, and the president said, “many people do not think so.” This president is a little bit rude, huh?
There are some wacky sights to see in Kiev, and at the top of the list is the “Mother of Ukraine,” a colossal statue of a strong, Soviet woman, holding a shield and a fifty foot long sword in the air. Last year I visited a similar, but smaller statue that towers over Tbilisi, when the exhibition toured Georgia. I’m told that every former Soviet republic has a giant mother statue.
This mother is hollow, with a step ladder inside where fit and intrepid souls can climb to the top of her shield and open little portholes on the top of her shield, just big enough to poke a head out of, and take a photo. It was too much of an athletic feat for me to climb that ladder, so I was content to look up her skirt. The huge Mother of Ukraine is surrounded by a park and giant, metallic, heroic statues of Soviet, World War II statues. The national art museum in Kiev is full of thick, strong, Soviet proletarian hero paintings.
My Ukrainian cartoonist buddy, Vladimir, gave me a tour of downtown and explained that the big, handsome buildings were rebuilt by captured German soldier slave labor after the war. When he was in school, Vlad was taught that the Germans destroyed all the buildings in Kiev, but after the revolution he learned that the Soviets actually destroyed all the buildings, to keep the Germans from claiming anything of value as they took the city from retreating Soviet troops. What goes around comes around, I guess.
The Ukrainians certainly don’t like Vladimir Putin. Tourist shops sell Putin toilet paper. There are images of “Putler,” a combination of Putin and Hitler. I heard a crowd chanting about “Putler” at a rather large protest rally at the main square.
I asked the college students, “since you don’t like my Ukrainian peasant lady as a metaphor for Ukraine, what should I draw instead?” They always say, “Ukrainians just look like regular people – draw that.” And I say, “hey, these are cartoons, that doesn’t work for me,” and they nod in begrudging agreement. I think I’ll keep drawing the Ukrainian chick, the next time Ukraine suffers a new indignity – but now that I’ve learned so much more about Ukraine I’ll draw her with black hair.
Here are some samples of my cartoons with my Ukraine peasant metaphor lady, who suffers from Putin. Judging from the tourist souvenir junk, also pictured below, I think I got her right – but no, I’m told, she has to have black hair, and lose some weight.
It is pretty common for editorial cartoonists to draw parody cartoons with the Peanuts characters. Lucy pulling away the football is a political cartooning standard. I wonder why it is always Peanuts, and not other strips that find their way into editorial cartoons – so, here’s my Zits-ISIS-ISIL-Dash-Zits cartoon.
I’m a big Zits fan. I have two Zits originals, that I bought at charity events, hanging on the wall in my house. Borgman and Scott are brilliant, although I don’t think they’d ever draw Jeremy joining ISIS, so … sorry about that. Kids and ISIS – always a surprise, huh?
I’m headed off to Ukraine next week and I won’t be drawing cartoons for a while. Hold your breath until I get back!
Here’s my second cartoon for the altie-weekly Nashville Scene. It is about a crazy 38 house development, with 35 foot high houses on tiny lots, planned to be built next door to me. This isn’t just a “nimby” (“not in my backyard”) issue, Nashville is growing like a weed, a stupid, unplanned weed, so I’m drawing a series on the topic. “Dale and Associates” is a former Nashville City Councilman, Roy Dale, who lobbies his old cronies to get big construction projects approved in town – a local version of the same nasty kind of lobbying we see in Washington when legislators retire to K Street.
I may get mad at something else and keep drawing local cartoons when this nimby battle is over, or I may pick at this scab for a while. I regret that local cartoons are so rare these days – local cartoons are the most fun and can have an impact, but they have to be drawn out of passion, rather than business sense.
Here’s Commander-in-Chief Hillary! Back in 2008 there was a lot of chatter about whether Hillary was up to the job of commanding the troops. Hillary told a story about how she was “dodging bullets” as she flew into Bosnia – a story that would have shamed even Brian Williams.
We also heard a lot about how Hillary thought America would rather she got an emergency call at 3:00 in the morning, instead of Barack Obama. I drew a cartoon similar to this one in 2008, with Hillary’s medals, and I realized that in only seven years, many of the medals have changed, but Hillary is basically the same. Here’s a new, updated version of my military, Hillary golden oldie. Come see our big collection of Bill ‘n Hillary cartoons.
Nashville is growing like a weed, and though officials talk about planning, they really just approve every stupid proposal. I’m awakened to this by an absurd, huge development of 38 houses, each 35 feet tall, planned for the lot next door to my rural zoned, Nashville house.
In the coming weeks I’ll try pushing the limits on how rude I can be to local public servants – hey, its an altie-weekly, I should be able to get nasty. Here’s the first softball.
We just saw yet another terror attack provoked by cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, this time at a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland Texas. A competent cop shot two home-grown terrorist gunmen before much damage was done. The event was organized by a right-wing group called “Stop Islamization of America” that was best known for opposing the construction of a mosque in Manhattan. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists them as a hate group, which they deny.
Cartoonist Rénald “Luz” Luzier, who drew the famous Charlie Hebdo cover after the shootings in France, recently decided he would no longer draw Muhammad cartoons. I can sympathize with Luz’s choice, since he’s now “typecast” as the premier Muhammad cartoonist – It seems reasonable that Luz wouldn’t want his career to be boiled down to being the “Muhammad cartoon guy.”
I’m an editorial cartoonist; I haven’t drawn a Muhammad cartoon myself, because I haven’t been inspired to do so. I shy away from drawing cartoons that some people would find offensive. I don’t use four letter words, or the “N-word” in my cartoons. I don’t draw sexually explicit cartoons. Offensive subject matter in cartoons can be so loud that it drowns out anything else I might want to say in a cartoon, except, “Look, I have the freedom to draw something offensive.”
Many cartoonists have drawn Muhammad cartoons, and racist cartoons, and dirty cartoons; that’s fine, that’s their business – but drawing offensive stuff just to draw attention to myself, or to prove that I have the right to do so, just looks like lousy cartooning to me. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were doing more than that; they were addressing issues in French culture that were important to them, and rejecting all religions that they felt didn’t fit with their secular society.
I knew three of the five Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were murdered earlier this year and I got to know more of them at French cartoon festivals. They have a genuine passion for their issues and our conversations always turned to a discussion of their religion-bashing cartoons. Here in America we’re not faced with the same social pressures and similar cartoons here should seem out of place.
The “Stop Islamization of America” people, who sponsored this contest, are poking the extremist Islamic beast to elicit a predictable response. This violent, cartoon stimulus and response will surely continue to be repeated.
It doesn’t matter that I personally don’t choose to draw Muhammad cartoons, or that most cartoonists don’t care to draw offensive cartoons, all editorial cartoonists are now being seen as recklessly poking surly Islamic beasts. My profession is being painted with the Muhammad cartoon broad-brush.
I was recently asked to speak at a local college, and I met the college president; the first thing he said to me was, “Now, don’t show any of those Muhammad cartoons.” This is not unusual. Casual conversations with editorial cartoonists often start with, “So, do you draw those Muhammad cartoons too?”
Like Luz was typecast, it seems we’re all typecast now.
Like flies attracted to stinky poop, the media is drawn to riots and looting, with little interest in the other issues surrounding the stinky poop.