A clean, well-lit place to vent
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I laughed out loud today -- my first laugh of a dreary day -- when Becca had to wrap up her interview with Trff Bmzklfrpz since her "two o'clock" was due, and who do we see over her shoulder for his appointment but the Red Rascal. Love GBT's plotting.
The gorgeous Becca Bickle is perfect, feeling no threat whatever from the drooling Trff's mono-brained bluntness. Which might explain burkas in his country, or perhaps burkas caused him. Interesting planet, this. I'm in communications and media studies. I say Garry Trudeau with a dedicated channel is one of the things about the place that makes me feel okay.
Trff reminds me of a chef I used to work for. His food wasn't that bad, but he used to insult the customers, the staff, God. But then he got a waitress who was totally immune to any and all verbal assaults. Eventually the poor man was reduced to saying 'please' and 'thank you'. I think they got married.
I'm afraid I have to agree that the Trff character is "lewd, crude and contributes nothing." He's got to be the first character that's made me want Trudeau to move on -- fast! At the same time I know it takes as much skill and imagination to create a Trff as it does an Alex. So I'll keep watching and wondering where this will lead.
I'm sorry, but Trff is a brilliant character. Look at today's strip. We have a young woman at a major publishing house who is thrilled, thrilled, to be working with him. It is the perfect criticism of America's two-facedness: Coddle a genocidal thug who murdered untold numbers, especially when a best-seller could be the result? Sure can! Trff will do swell in America. Why? Because he can make a lot of people a lot of money. And isn't that all that matters?
Becca Bickle is amazing! The ability to browse the Doonesbury archives allows us to watch the development of GBT's incredible skill to the point where he can introduce a full-blooded human character in four frames. I can hear her bracelets jingle and feel the energy in the room.
One thing the Trff character has going for him, he makes Duke look like a (marginally) nice guy. Duke is having to deal with someone more obnoxious than he is!
Now I know who Trff reminds me of -- the late Art Hoppe's character the Ratt of Phynkia. His sand-swept, nuclear-weapons-equipped satrapy was located in the Greater Lesser Antilles Desert, IIRC.
I've enjoyed Doonesbury for many years. Yesterday's strip has Trff sad about a lost love, a female shot putter. In John LeCarre's book The Spy Who Came In From The Cold the lead character, Leamas, states that after he is paid for his treason he will "settle down with a flaxen haired shot putter." The similarity struck me.
Jim Andrews must be laughing his tuckas off from The Great Beyond as Random House takes a few shots from GBT. All of which I'm sure has the editors at Andrews McMeel Publishing relishing a few well desrved in-house gaffaws!
I love Becca Bickle on sight, and not just because I'm a professional editor. It will, indeed, be a hoot to watch a top-flight editor wrestle a murderous ego-maniac's story onto the printed page. And as for that deft bit of psychological jujitsu in the last panel, I think Becca and Celeste in Elias' office should get together for beers after work. Kudos to GBT for creating another great character. I hope we see more of Becca in the future.
Trff is a psychopathic dictator. So of course, he's lewd, crude and totally obnoxious -- that's part of the job description. However, notice that the ordinary Americans he's now meeting react to him with amusement and humour. Humour is not something that a psychopathic dictator really understands, which is why they so frequently lock up or shoot their country's satirists. A real-life Trff would of course react very badly to this approach. However, this is cartoon-land. So we can all join in with the Doonesbury characters and safely laugh at monsters like him, seeing him -- and all dictators -- for the ridiculous, strutting, childish clown that he is.
One of my favorite memories from college (class of '64) was a text I discovered while taking a course on Hebrew Wisdom Literature. It could easily be translated as "the kids today are no damn good." The wise man in the Egyptian court who wrote this about 1500 BC went on to say "Now that we can write, nobody can remember anything." (These quotes are filtered through memory, but close.) I try to keep this text in mind when thinking about our young people. Geezers have been damning kids for a long time -- i.e. for as long as we have a written record.
Still, as a college professor I have to say "Amen!" to last Sunday's strip. Maybe someday mind-meld technology will make critical thinking and literacy irrelevant, but not yet. Personally, I think things started going to hell when we began giving every kid on the peewee baseball team a trophy.
I just can't get into the Trff character. He's lewd, crude and contributes nothing to the strip. Sorry.
Today's TEN YEARS AGO Flashback strip reminded me of one of my personal favorites, the strip with the punchline "This is the Sgt. York." In a case of reality imitating art, the U.S. Army recently gave up on development of an Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle that had cost billions but didn't work. You can read about it here.
You're in luck. The Sgt. York strip appears as the TEN YEARS AGO Flashback strip tomorrow.
President Bmzklfrpz's application might have a better chance if he had a vowel in his first or last name. Or even his middle name(s), if he has any. Just a thought.
Dear ol' Garry Trudeau puts it into words for some of us (Molly Ivins called Doonesbury "the best source of information in the U.S.") in an interview with the Irish Times. Anybody who remembers World War II, McCarthyism, the whole scary/scared/scarred Cold War, has got to realize that we're doing better now, and the only constructive attitude is to accentuate the positive. As we're learning in France, if you don't appreciate it, you lose it.
I loved it when Eleanor Roosevelt said "When you lose hope, you lose everything." Bravo, Eleanor, bravo, Garry. I'm at least 20 years older than he is, grew up in the hot war, hit adolescence when the cold one hit the fan. Trudeau rarely gives interviews -- learned early on that they took time, energy, and attention better devoted to the strip. But this one will interest those who have loved the characters like family. For instance me.
As a teacher in a university, I am continually appalled by juniors and seniors handing in papers not as well written as what my children used to give me to review when they were in 8th grade. Some students can't combine similar facts from two articles into one sentence; they can't draw a cause and effect relationship; worst of all, they can't follow directions (if a section of a paper is worth 20 points, I get complaints for deducting 20 points for failure to include that section). I give detailed written feedback on their written work, and despite that, some students can't even use my comments to revise a failing paper into a satisfactory one. This is not an idictment of all students -- in every class there seem to be an equal number of excellent and inadequate writers. It's the excellent ones that help me keep my sanity.
Regarding Sunday's strip on college education: I always wonder, when reading these reports, how much the population outside of college is doing to improve their knowledge, vocabulary and reading skills. Judging by the current state of the economy, politics, human rights and a variety of other aspects of life, not only in America but the rest of the world, they aren't doing much.
As a third year at the University of Iowa, I wonder how true the assessment that students don't learn much in the first two years of college is and what type of knowledge, exactly, was being assessed. In my first year, I studied Indian History for the first time, discovering that it was completely different from any of the American or European history I had studied in advanced high school classes. Now I am beginning my study abroad semester in Mysore. However, most of the knowledge I gained in my first two years I learned outside of the classroom. Going to an out-of-state school, I learned how to pay my own bills, navigate a new city without a car, cope with loneliness away from my friends and family, and make new friends outside of my comfort zone. I consider these skills more important than anything I learned in a classroom.
I always feel perturbed when adults (the baby boomers and older -- those who have abandoned their education) complain that those of my generation are stupid; especially when higher education, swiftly followed by lower education, is usually the first thing cut when the budget comes in.
How is it shocking that kids are sticking to their comfort zones and doing the barest minimum to get out of school with a degree with tuition rising every year? By the time I graduate, I will be almost a million dollars in debt, which frustrates me considering I get the same grade (B) on the essay I wrote in a week as the essay I wrote in the hour before class started. Why do I have to go out of my way to get a real education? Why would I study harder for the same grade as the girl who parties all week, when I could be working to pay off my debt? Why am I working for degree at all when most of the jobs available to my generation are being filled by older workers or outsourced to another country or filled by machines? If it's for the love of knowledge, I may as well cut my losses, get a library card and travel the world.
This convoluted post has one message; We're not the monsters, Doctors Frankenstein. Also; when your generation is ready for nursing homes and medicare is cut, it'll be my generation who takes care of you. Or not. Just something to think about, now that you're out of college.
My sympathies to the VOICE OF DISSENT Swarthmore student. My daughter is having the same experience at Kenyon. It's worth noting that at those colleges (the serious) students do in fact make huge gains in writing, reasoning, and critical thinking. I stand in awe of my daughter and, as an engineer who can write complete paragraphs, nevertheless I'm consumed with envy of the liberal education I couldn't afford. It would be a public service to get the word out, too, that at colleges like Kenyon, Swarthmore, RPI, and others struggling to be "new Ivies" you don't get the good grades unless you earn them. Some degrees still really mean something.