My Favorite Cartoon (By George Booth)

George Booth is a long-time cartoonist for The New Yorker. He was born in 1926, and is now 92. Besides his normal cartoons, he often does cartoon covers for the New Yorker, in color. His usual iconic characters are a scrawny, slightly crazy old lady, various versions of a man sitting in a bathtub, multiple cats, and a fat dog (with a flat face like General Patton’s bull terrier). I like all of his cartoons, but I am showing you here my favorite. I had a Xerox of it on my desk for years. I don’t understand its appeal now, so if it leaves you cold, you may be right. It was also a favorite of a guy whose cubicle was across the aisle, but his tastes were a little unusual even for me. (Ip was not a standard character and only appeared briefly.)

I have no date of its publication, but I would guess sometime in the 1980s. It was published as a facing, two-page spread. Read it all the way across the two pages. Then, Google George Booth and click on “Images.” You will find dozens of his cartoons and New Yorker covers, some the very ones I had scanned and saved in my computer. See the slightly crazy old lady, the man in the bathtub. the multiple cats, and the fat dog. (Some of the images are not clear, but most are.)

Anyway, here’s Ip and how he gets his girl. Part of the fun is deciphering what they are saying.

Today, I would not pick it as my favorite; other cartoons of his speak louder to me now, and that is as it should be. I have changed, and cartoons speak to different stages of life.

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The Price Of a Single Copy Of The New Yorker

I was amazed when I recently noticed the price of a single copy of The New Yorker magazine: $8.99. I wonder if anyone has ever paid that much. I suppose if your grandchild had an article in one, you might pay that for a few extra copies to hand out.

I love their covers, and have been scanning those that especially appealed to me for a long time. The price is printed on each cover, so I can go back and see the rise over the years. It is not pretty. (This one shown is from April, 1965, and the price is coyly written out as “Price 25 cents.” The list below is of sample issues.)

Year   Price per single issue
1965     $0.25
1973     $0.50
1975     $0.60
1979     $1.00
1981     $1.25
2003    $3.95
2009    $4.99
2012    $5.99
2012   $6.99
2018   $8.99

Setting the price is their business, and I will not second-guess them. Perhaps it is only to claim what a bargain a subscription is, or perhaps purchasers of single-issues will pay any price, seeing it as only a one-time expense, or, most likely, the expense involved in handling individual issues is high. I have never purchased a single issue, and probably never will, so its price does not matter to me. I was just wondering.

(I started out just tearing off the covers I liked and storing them in a folder. I was a fan of those by Gretchen Dow Simpson and by cartoonist George Booth (and, of course, Saul Steinberg, who was still living then). Only later did I scan them and store them on my computer. I also kept a folder of New Yorker cartoons and another folder of their line art. All are now instantly accessible on my desktop computer.)

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“Audition,” by Said Sayrafiezadeh. The New Yorker, 9/10/18.

As I read, I keep my computer tablet at my side and quickly look up words that I do not know, or words I have only assumed their meaning from their context. Often, I am surprised. This piece of fiction had several; others I found elsewhere.

Euphemism: A less-offensive word or phrase used in place of an offensive one. Baby potty words are mostly euphemisms, such as “wee-wee” and “poo-poo.” A racial example is “women of color” (good!) instead of “colored women” (bad!).

Tautological: A phrase that sounds logical, but simply repeats the initial premise in  similar words, or even the same words. The example I hear over and over is, “It is what it is.” Can’t argue with that.

Solipsistic: This has a complex meaning that I have long struggled with, but often only means very self-centered.

Trope: An overused figure of speech, a cliché; an overused theme or devise.  Can be applied to characters in a play or car designs.

Vapid: Flat, dull, lacking interest.

Tatty: Worn, shabby.

Cyborg: a live fictional creature, human or otherwise, whose abilities have been extended with mechanical implants.

Nexus: Center, focal point. Example: The library became the nexus for new ideas. It can also mean a connection, as in, “the nexus between poverty and crime.”

If you have any insights, please send them. I am certainly no expert in vocabulary, as my high school English teachers would confirm, or would even laugh at the very idea. I am just struggling to keep up.

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Watching Serena

By now, we have all seen video clips of Serena Williams’ rant against the chair umpire at the US Open, so you know what I am talking about.

Serena is a giant. Her legs are like tree-trunks; her arms bulge with muscles. The rest of her is an exaggerated comic strip super-hero come to life. I once saw Chris Everett in person and was surprised how athletic she looked. Sweet little Chrissy.  How must Serena look in person? Don’t ask.

An angry, out-of-control, giant black woman is very scary to any man, especially a white man. She already broke her racket by slamming it on the ground and could slam me just as easily. It doesn’t matter if she was right or wrong, whether the umpire was right or wrong, the image of her yelling and pointing sends shivers through my soul. There but for the grace of God, go I, the object of her fury.

I was just getting over the image of her years ago berating a poor woman line judge half her size, Serena standing directly in front of her, holding a tennis ball in her face, threatening to shove it where the sun don’t shine. I would have fainted. Serena has worked on her image since then, projecting the appearance of sweetness, a modern Madonna, just a mother and her baby full of kindness and concern for all the world, but now we have this new, angry image to contend with, an image once seen cannot be unseen, an image that crushes all others.

This is not a black-white issue. I have seen angry, out-of-control, giant white women (although none so intimidating as Serena), and have been scared of them, too. It is like a huge, muscular dog charging at you out of the night, barking and wild-eyed, who cares why, who cares what color it is. Reasoning won’t help. This cannot end well, is our only thought.

Big people, whether black or white, male or female, athlete or couch-potato, can be very scary when angry. They should be careful of how they act in view of others. I enjoy watching Serena’s tennis; I am proud she is an American, but please, Serena, don’t make it so difficult for me to have good thoughts.

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Giuliani’s NYC Club

“Beating the Drum,” by Jeffrey Toobin. The New Yorker, 9/10/2018.

Rudy Giuliani

I am ignoring the main theme of this long article (an excellent article that suggests lawyer and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani has adopted Trump’s strategy of piling up falsehoods, misstatements, and half-truths in such abundance that it becomes futile to pick out any single one to criticize). I am  ignoring it to focus on one place described in passing: an old-fashioned smoking club where Giuliani hangs out and where he was interviewed for the article. Smoking clubs in NYC have boomed in popularity since smoking was banned from restaurants and bars in 2002.

This is a club prominent in old movies where old men (and only men) would sit in overstuffed leather chairs and mainly read a newspaper. Occasionally, they would chat with a friend, but mostly the room would be silent, which is why they went there.

I thought these clubs disappeared in the 1940s, but no, they still exist. The New Yorker article says of Giuliani:

. . . there is one place in the city where he still presides: the Grand Havana Room, a tatty [worn, shabby] cigar club that occupies the top floor of 666 Fifth Avenue [the building is owned by Jared Kushner]. Giuliani is on the Grand Havana’s board of directors and is a regular presence at the club. The room is filled with overstuffed armchairs, oversized ash trays, and the persistent haze of smoke. Thick velvet drapes, many the worse for wear, block out the view of the city, and ventilation machines wheeze from the ceiling.

Giuliani draws a $40 cigar from a carrying case, lights up, and the interview begins.

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Crazy Little Mama

I came across this song, popular in the mid-1950s, and its simple melody stuck in my mind (an earworm), so I researched it a little further. Its correct title is really a later line, “At My Front Door.”

It was first performed by the El Dorados, and was Number 1 on the R&B charts for 1955. Later, in 1957, the song was on their album Crazy Little Mama. Several others recorded their versions after 1955, including Pat Boone, who at the time was noted for recording R&B songs in a style designed to appeal to white audiences.

Here are the full lyrics:

Crazy little mama come knocking
Knocking at my front door, door, door
Crazy little mama come knocking
Knocking at my front door
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking
Just like she did before

I woke up this morning with a feeling of despair
Lookin’ for my baby and she wasn’t there
Heard someone knocking and much to my surprise
There stood my baby looking in my eyes
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking
Just like she did before

If you got a little mama and ya want to keep her neat
Keep your little mama off my street
Same thing will happen like it did before
She’ll come knock, knock, knocking at my door

Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking
Just like she did before
Crazy little mama come knocking
Knocking at my front door, door, door
Crazy little mama come knocking
Knocking at my front door
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking
Just like she did before

[Instrumental Interlude]

If you got a little mama and ya want to keep her neat
Keep your little mama off my street
Same thing will happen like it did before
She’ll come knock, knock, knocking at my door
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking
Just like she did before

Yi yi yi yi yi yi . . .
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking
Just like she did before
Oh oh oh oh oooooooooo

First off, “knocking at my front door” is a metaphor for offering sexual favors, and not literally knocking at his door. This is pretty obvious, but you need to understand that to make sense of the song.

“Little mama” is, of course, a young female sexual partner, and certainly not his real mama. He also refers to her as his “baby.” Either way belittles her as not of his generation.

He wakes up one morning and finds his little mama is psychologically distant, but she is soon “knocking at my front door” again, and things are back to normal (“just like she did before”).

But he is a naturally hot guy, hot beyond his control, and gives you some advice: “If you got a little mama and ya want to keep her neat, keep your little mama off my street.”

The lyric writer must have gone to his rhyming dictionary for this one. He uses “neat” to mean “pure,” as in “I drink my whiskey neat.” So, if you want to keep your own mama pure, keep her away from him. He is so attractive to all women, she will soon be offering sexual favors to him, too—and may have previously. It doesn’t matter; all women are the same. He will presumably act on any favors offered, although this is difficult to understand if Pat Boone is singing the song.

None of this would be acceptable, today, and would be seen as a boorish male attitude. Still, it makes a catchy song.

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Edging With String Trimmers and Window Glazing at Longwood Gardens

I admit I am biased about this. I have long thought edging is unnecessary, but most have it professionally done and see it as only a reasonable charge added on to their grass-cutting bill, so why not? Edging is done because we can, just as we can keep our grass cut at a uniform height because of cheap rotary engines. If people still depended on hand mowers and natural fertilizer (and before that, grazing sheep), you would see far fewer manicured lawns.

Clumps of grass growing randomly over the edge of the sidewalk and driveway softens the hard edge which homeowners will eventually appreciate once everyone has a hard edge. The grass never takes over the entire sidewalk. At most, it grows out only about six inches and stops. When I see a carefully edged lawn, I think, “There lives a guy with too much time on his hands (or too much money).”

But, I found a quality battery-powered string trimmer that I thought I would try (no way would I mess with the maintenance of a trimmer powered by a gasoline engine). Here are my conclusions:

Those Hispanic guys who work for lawn-care businesses make it look easy, but they are very skilled. Just by eye, they can edge a straight line quickly walking along holding a heavy piece of equipment, but they have two advantages a home-owner like me does not: they do it every day all summer long, and every time after cutting an individual lawn, so the edge gets refined over and over.

If you edge it yourself, keep in mind the direction  of rotation. String trimmers were designed to be used horizontally, to cut weeds too high for a lawnmower.  Today, string trimmers are used mostly in the vertical position to cut a sharp edge. Most rotate the string counter-clockwise, so walk in a direction such that the rotation throws the debris in front of you, not back in your face. The shield should protect you, but don’t tempt fate.

My instruction book does not mention this. There are several icon stickers on the handle within red circles and a red line through them, some even with explanation points, but I have no idea what they mean. But, I am extra safety conscious. I wear a full face shield of shatter proof plastic that I got cheaply at Sears long ago, for many things, but always with a string trimmer.

Keep the spinning string from touching anything hard, such as the pavement, or it will wear away quickly.

You never see the maintenance of the string trimmer, itself. The line wears away and has to be replaced sooner or later. Cheap trimmers use thinner line that wears quickly, and winding it is a chore. Then, too, if it is powered by a gasoline engine, that has to be maintained with oil, gasoline, and spark plugs.

I love the convenience of my battery-powered string trimmer, but I am aware a rechargeable battery is at its best when first charged up. It is all downhill after that. It just matters on how steep the hill is. We’ll see.

Right now it is an necessary tool for an unnecessary job.

The edging reminded me of my glazing experience few years ago. I was replacing the glazing in many of my windows, and I was getting quite good at it. I pulled the putty knife along the frame and got a smooth, even bevel every time. (Window glazing putty is one of the stickiest, awful things to work with.) I compared it with the glazing in the Peirce-du Pont House at Longwood Gardens, built in 1730 and last restored in 1995. I noticed they used the authentic, old-fashioned way where they rolled the putty between their palms into a long strand, then pressed it into place with their thumb.  The thumb-print of an anonymous worker left irrefutable evidence. Then they painted it roughly without masking tape.

It looked perfect and produced a water-tight joint. My way would have been no better, and would have looked out-of-place on an old house.

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