Friday, January 9, 2015

Not So Funny

I've been sick in bed this week, and I don't regularly follow the news anyway - so I only learned about the Charlie Hebdo massacre on Thursday from my son. I searched online to try and understand what had happened. As an artist and an aspiring cartoonist - I took it a bit more personally than the usual horrors I see on the internet.

It's hard to put into words what is going through my head. I'm thinking of how these horrible terrorist attacks seem to backfire as the targeted groups get support and pull together to become even stronger. I'm thinking of how political cartoonists have always filled the role of the court fool. Even when others were being beheaded by the king, it was their job to always tell it as they saw it. It's the cartoonists' job to point out absurdities and inconsistencies so that we can see ourselves in a different light.

Humor - the ability to laugh at ourselves - is what makes life livable. With all the crazy things I have gone through in my own life, there have always ever been two choices:

You Laugh
You Cry

I choose to laugh. And just about anything can have a funny side to it. Maybe ironic-funny, but still something to make you think differently.

A long time ago (I was 12) - I woke up from an operation that had not gone as planned, to find I had lost so much blood (much of it down my throat -), that there was a transfusion in my foot, and I vomited blood for ages before I could even ask what had happened. So - lying there in the hospital, with tubes sticking out of everywhere, my face cut apart and swollen, surrounded by bowls of barfed blood... have I set the scene? ... A nurse walks in carrying a huge phlebotomy tray full of tubes and needles. 

She says, "I'm going to need some blood."

I can't talk, but I hand her one of the barf bowls.

And then my mom and I start howling with laughter.
(Very, very painful laughter.)
Talk about sick humor!
Ah - - it's still funny to me now!

And someday, I will find a way to turn my experiences in the hospital, into a comic book. I've never wanted to be a political cartoonist, but I do want to chronicle life, and the Charlie Hebdo incident has only served to reinforce my desire to go to cartoon school.

Bored Panda had a fabulous post with cartoons drawn by 28 cartoonists to pay tribute to the victims. They are all fabulous images, but #18. "I am Charlie", made me cry.

This is the most un-political of the cartoons. We are all Charlie - especially THIS Charlie.

So what is my own personal, ironic humor that comes from this awfulness? In the past few months, since I started telling people about my plans to apply and attend the Center for Cartoon Studies, I have had a number of puzzled responses. "Why would you do that?" "What will you DO with that degree?" and the implied judgement that cartooning is frivolous and unnecessary.

But now... we see that cartoonists are among the most powerful and threatening forces on the planet! I expect to see the next generation rushing to go to art school rather than signing up for the armed forces, or medical school. Parents saying, with pride, "My son, the cartoonist!" And those who want to make a difference, but are too old or irregular to join the military anyway, you can do what I'm doing and go directly to cartoon school.


  1. I agree with you 100% Sandy. I was nervous watching all this. I have a jewish cousin who shops at the kosher market. She said it was a very long day. One of the cartoonists killed once said he'd rather die standing than kneeling. He was a brave man with incredible talent. You go back to cartoon school and don't let anyone discourage you.

  2. As a Calligrapher, I repeat......" the Pen IS (still !) mightier than the Sword!" So to ALL cartoonists, and journalists, and writers and ANYONE who can hold a pen," UNITE & WRITE". The terrorist horror can be defeated only if we show NO FEAR !

  3. Hope your illness is waning. I'm proud of you for your attitude, for your spunk.... YOU GO GIRL!!

  4. Sandy, as the news unfolded, I kept thinking of you! ...that you are setting out on the path of cartoon making and up pops an international event...actually a series of events across the pond in France. Suddenly, the whole world is tied together as we realize that cartoonist speak for us all every day, they embody the precious right of free expression that is a precious right for us all! Peace, hope and love! Je suis Charlie!

  5. Oh, BTW, wanted to add, hope you are feeling better after being sick!

  6. I've taken a different approach to the tragedy. This is not a "free speech" issue but one of risk management. Yes, we are free to think and express ourselves, but as members of society, we also need to determine the result of our expression and the risk it takes to us and our neighbors.

    Late last year, 3 photographers went into New Jersey's north woods in hunt of animals to "shoot." They found a bear. One member risked getting to close, the bear gave chase, and the guy was eaten. *That* is what "freedom" is all about. What people are complaining about is the disruption of civil society. It is unfortunate that the cartoonist, who refused security assistance from the French government AND who refused to install a security system got shot. What we need to remember is in their exercise of their personal freedom, innocent people were killed.

    Art is only an extension of human emotion, thought, and actions. It is not above all of that. As humans, our actions, including our "art," have consequences. Can someone tell me to stop what I am doing? If I yell "fire" in a crowded theater just for fun, you betcha . . .

  7. Excellent! As if you really needed a blessing from someone you don't know: I think cartooning is a NOBLE profession. Go for it!

    P.S. Been a fan of your zentangle books for a long time. ;-)

    @LIttleviews: Charlie Hebdo does NOT equate with yelling "fire." Being offended does NOT equate with murder. Ever.

  8. Looks like I agree with you. The issue is not freedom of speech, it is murder. Now that said, if someone yells fire in a crowded theater as a prank (a verbal cartoon), there is a chance panic will result some people being trampled to death. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, that organization received serious death threats over the years, with the French government concerned and offering assistance. Unfortunately, CH did not take any protection and did not install any security equipment in or around their office. Like a person yelling fire in a theater, CH took risks that set about events that killed many people without a thought in the world about protecting their neighbors for their own privilege of making fun of others. Given that, CH did yell fire in that it put many people in harm's way for the sake of expressing itself. ... this would not be the first time that someone at the butt end of a joke retaliated. Murder shouldn't happen. This whole incident, however, is about risk management - how far to push risk before something happens.


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