May 5, 2016
May 4, 2016
So I couldn’t help wondering what happened to her. Had she been run off by another cat in a territorial dispute? Was she sick or injured? Had she trekked off on a hunting safari to a far-off region of the woods? Or was she just in heat and out tomming?
Who knows. But she showed up out of the blue last night and made herself at home, like usual.
Cats are mysterious. To this day I have no idea what my feral cats do when they leave my campsite. . . But my hunch is they mostly just lay around sleeping and licking themselves.
On the economic front, I’m pleased to announce that the price of OE 40s has remained consistently at the $3.50 mark over the last quarter, give or take a little spare change due to inflation.
On the international front — “foreign affairs” for those of you keeping score at home. The world situation remains as dire and fucked up as ever. Crisis all across the globe (fortunately there’s OE to take the edge off — reference my first point).
On the sports front, we’re all worrying about the state of Stephon Curry’s ankles and knee.
On the feral cat front: They continue to breed like rats and remain deeply appreciative of the massive amounts of meat and cheese and tuna fish and cans of cat food and that crunchy dry stuff that I keep feeding them. In year 2016 they have been purring at 37% times the rate of previous administrations. And my approval ratings are off the charts.
In closing let me just mouth a dull platitude followed by a clever joke written by my speechwriters and a jibe at that asshole Trump. God bless America.
April 29, 2016
Living on the street scene can be an odd experience. I’ll give you a random example from this afternoon.
I go to Hate Camp in People’s Park to socialize with the street bros (so-called). Sit down next to the legendary Hate Man and buy a smoke (Hate Camp is sort of like a men’s smoking club scene). Before I’m even half way through with my cigarette this other street person shows up. A guy named Blue Beard. He sits down, wedges himself right between me and Hate Man.
“HATE MAN!! WATCH MY STUFF!! I’M LEAVING MY BAGS OF STUFF HERE!! WATCH IT WHILE I’M GONE!!”
“OK,” says Hate Man
“IF ANYONE MESSES WITH MY STUFF I WILL SLIT THEIR THROATS!! IF ANYONE STEALS MY STUFF WITHOUT MY PERMISSION I WILL KILL THEM!! I DON’T MESS AROUND!! I’M OLD SCHOOL!!”
This fellow, Blue Beard, cracks open a 24 ounce can of Steel Reserve. Takes a big pull. Taps me on my shoulder. “HOW YOU DOIN’ DUDE??”
“OK,” I said.
I’d been trying to sit there minding my own business, smoking my cigarette and checking out Facebook on my cellphone. But now this fellow Blue Beard has suddenly interjected himself into the middle of my world. And is eager to relate to me. In between making loud death threats towards all the assholes of this world that he wants to kill.
“HEY!! CAN YOU TOUCH YOUR TOES??” he asks me.
“Yeah sure,” I said. I reach down from my seated position and touch my shoe.
“NO. I MEAN STANDING UP WITHOUT BENDING YOUR KNEES!!”
“No. I can’t do that,” I said.
I finished off my cigarette, stubbed it out on the ground and stood up to leave.
“Ciao,” I said.
“Ciao,” said Hate Man
But that’s what its like on the street scene. Sometimes you can’t even finish smoking one goddamn cigarette before some lunatic is sitting directly across from you and talking about slitting peoples throats and threatening to kill people and asking if you can touch your toes.
April 8, 2016
Doing a comic strip was an interesting discipline. For it teaches you how to package your thoughts in this powerful and concise way. I mean, you have these tiny little panels. That you have to pack with information. So every line, every word, has to be exactly right. And instantly recognizable to the reader (if he has to stop and think in confusion for even a moment, that can blow the whole timing of the punchline). And every line and word has to work in service to the idea you’re trying to convey. It’s a lot like commercial advertising in a way. Except instead of selling some crappy product, you’re selling an idea or concept.
Some of my stuff I guess you’d call “satire.” Satire is similar to propaganda in a way. In that you’re manipulating words and images in a slanted and one-sided way, in order to persuade the reader to your point of view. But, unlike propaganda, your satire is hopefully in service to some kind of truth. Whereas propaganda does the opposite.
Every now and then I’d come across one of those “How To Be A Cartoonist” books. They were almost always written and illustrated by unsuccessful cartoonists. I think it’s because you really can’t teach somebody how to be a cartoonist. Cartooning is such a weird and peculiar skill. You can either do it, or you can’t.
My Achille’s Heel as a cartoonist was that I wasn’t a natural draftsman. I had to really work at it just to reach the bare minimum level of drawing that was acceptable as commercial art. It would often take me 3 or 4 hours just to draw one 4-panel comic strip. I really labored over those thing, often painfully so.
Whereas there are other cartoonists that I call “genetic cartoonists.” They were born to be cartoonists. They have to draw. They have a compelling need to draw. And they fill up countless sketchbooks with drawings whether they’re being paid for it or not. Myself? I almost never had a sketchbook and I rarely even doodled. In fact, the first cartoon I sold back in 1977 was virtually the first finished cartoon I had ever even drawn. And once I stopped getting paid to cartoon back in 1995 I almost never drew again.
What I enjoyed about cartooning was coming up with the ideas. The problem was: I would come up with what I considered an amusing joke for a comic strip. But then, over the next 4 hours of actually drawing the comic strip, it’s like telling the same joke over and over in your head for 4 hours. By the time I was finished with the comic strip I would be so sick of that joke. And by that point I would have no idea if the joke was still amusing or was successfully conveyed in the strip. I’d just have to trust my original instinct that there was something amusing in there somewhere.
When I turned 38 I got hit by a massive mid-life crisis. “Am I really going to spend the rest of my life sitting here by myself at this goddamn drawing board?” I wanted some action. So I packed all my stuff into storage and hit the open road. I figured after awhile I would have sowed my wild oats, got it all out of my system, and returned to cartooning. But it’s been over 20 years now. And I’ve never felt the slightest urge to “get back to the old drawing board” (as the saying goes). And my eye sight is getting so bad from the glaucoma, I can barely read comics these days, let alone draw them. So I guess it’s a moot point now.
The thing I miss the most about cartooning isn’t actually drawing the cartoons. But being a cartoonist. Being a cartoonist was like being a part of this really cool, secret club, with members scattered all across the country. And cartoonists are almost universally clever, witty, entertaining, sharp-minded and surprisingly modest and self-effacing (compared to the artists in the other fields). So when I quit cartooning, it was like being kicked out of this really cool fraternity. It was like having all these great drinking buddies, but then you join AA and become a tea-totaller. You no longer have the common bond that connected you with those people.
To this day, people still regularly say to me: “Ace Backwords, you have got to get back to drawing comics!!” Which is nice in a way. That people still remember what I did. And want more of it. But it’s a little sad in another way. It’s like being a musician who’s a one-hit wonder. And people are always wanting to hear him play that one song he did years ago. But they’re not really interested in hearing what he’s doing now. . .
Since I quit cartooning, I published 15 issues of a photography magazine. Recorded an hour-long CD of original music. And wrote two full-length books of prose. Among many other artistic endeavors. All to some acclaim. But to this day, I’m still primarily thought of in the public imagination as: “Ace Backwords former cartoonist.” And I probably always will be. Oh well. I guess there are worse things you could be called.
April 7, 2016
I don’t wanna say I’m ahead of my times. But here’s a comic strip I did back in 1990.
April 6, 2016
Fatty was the acknowledged leader of the three feral kittens from that litter. It was Fatty, Scaredy and Crier. And with all the litters there’s always one cat that’s the leader. Who’s a little smarter and quicker at assessing the situation. They always make the first move. And the other kittens stand back in the rear and see how it plays out before they make their move.
For example, when the litter of kittens were first scoping out my campsite. And they weren’t sure if I was a friend or foe (“Sure he’s putting out all this cat food for us. But how do we know its not a trick?? Maybe he’s just fattening us up for the slaughter??”). Fatty was the first to accept me. “I’ve decided to trust you. I’m throwing in my lot with you.” Came right up to me. Let me pet her. And the other two kittens — Scaredy and Crier — fell in line. “Well. If Fatty thinks this guy with the glasses is cool. Then I’m in too.”
Like I said. Fatty was the leader. She had a bit more of a sharper intelligence.
Yesterday, the bums who had invaded my campsite packed up their tent and left. Apparently. But who really knows for sure. For all I know somebody came along and stole their tent while they were gone.
But that’s one of the beguiling things about life on the streets. You usually get the second acts, and the third acts of these dramas. But you rarely get the first act (how it started) or the fourth act (how it ended). You just try as best you can to figure these things out on the fly. And not get sucked into other people’s dramas. Living on the streets is like playing a game where there are no rules and no logic. Or, more to the point, each person makes up their own rules as they go along.
But one thing’s for sure. As usual with these types, they left me with something to remember them by.