Rat and Pig in Santa Rosa

Yesterday’s Pearls Before Swine:

(#1) 10/19/17

My comment on Facebook: “A double doleful “Awww”. One for panel 3, one for panel 4.” Pig cries out for help in the third panel, Rat sympathetically stands with his friend in the fourth.

Then discussion took us to Lucy and Charlie Brown in Peanuts (and incidentally to Calvin and Hobbes in their eponymous strip), and so to Peanuts artist Charles Schulz, and so to Santa Rosa CA, where Schulz lived and worked from 1969 until his death in 2000, and so to the geographical and cultural regions of northern California (the North Coast / Redwood Empire, the Wine Country, and the North (San Francisco) Bay), in all of which Santa Rosa is by far the biggest town.

Santa Rosa is in the news because of the devastation there in the current spate of wildfires in northern California. The Charles Schulz Museum there was spared, but the family house (with all of its memorabilia) was completely incinerated. The cartoon in #1 is pretty clearly Pearls artist Stephan Pastis’s homage to Schulz in these terrible times.

A linguistic note. A sign with a noun (or larger nominal expression) on it can be understood in many different ways, depending on its physical and sociocultural context; out of context, the interpretation of such a sign is gigantically indeterminate. A sign with the legend HELP (restricting ourselves to the noun help ‘aid, assistance’, rather than help ‘domestic employees’ or the proper name Help or one of the many acronyms HELP) can be understood as a request to the reader to supply help (of some unspecified kind, to be determined from context) to someone (if there is no direct object of help, the default understanding is that the person needing help is at or near the location of the sign), as a designation of the location of the sign as a place to desposit material help of some kind (or as a place for people who will provide help of some kind of help to assemble, in either case the kind of help to be determined from context), as an offer of help (to someone not mentioned on the sign, for a purpose not indicated on the sign, so both must be determined from context), and no doubt more.

Most people would probably take the sign to be conveying either GET HELP HERE or BRING HELP HERE (with all the details to be determined from context). Offer or request. Rat thinks offer, but Pig says request.

The model. The outdoor help desk or booth in #1 is surely modeled on Lucy’s in Peanuts:


From the Peanuts wiki:

Lucy in her psychiatric booth: Lucy’s psychiatry booth is a running gag in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. In a parody of the lemonade stands which are operated by many young children in the United States, Lucy van Pelt operates a psychiatric booth. Other characters [most often, Charlie Brown and Linus] come to it to tell Lucy their problems. She responds by spouting useless advice.

The psychiatric booth is a prime example of the more adult-oriented humor that Schulz incorporated into his comic strip, making it accessible to people of all ages.

History: The booth first appeared on March 27, 1959, and the price for advice has typically been a nickel, although it has varied throughout the strip’s history.

Lucy’s advice is almost always useless. For instance, the first time Charlie Brown goes to Lucy’s booth and tells her that he has deep feelings of depression, Lucy replies, “Snap out of it, five cents please.” That is normally how Lucy answers every problem and her advice normally makes Charlie Brown feel worse about himself.

Lucy in Peanuts is absurdly self-centered and snarky, while Pig in Pearls is sweet (and stupid). And in fact Rat is not at all a close fit to Charlie Brown, for the opposite reason: Charlie Brown is sweet, and drastically unsure of himself, while Rat in Pearls is (in Billy Green’s characterization on FB) “usually cynical and rude, if not actually sociopathic”, as here:

(#3) 10/11/17

From the Pearls wiki:

Pearls‘ style and humor are inspired by several comic strips, chiefly Peanuts, Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County and The Far Side. Pastis has drawn tributes to these influences in his strip.

Rat … is a narcissistic, misanthropic rat, the antihero of the comic strip. He frequently breaks the fourth wall.

Rat is an insensitive character in the strip, whose interactions with others are typically sarcastic, condescending, self-centered, insulting and often violent.

Pig … is the character that receives the most abuse from Rat … He is kind by nature, but extremely stupid.

So #1 has two characters behaving in ways that elicit sympathy for their plight: Pig is believable as a character in need of help, but he corresponds to Lucy as a provider of help, who’s not. Charlie Brown is believable as a prospective client who sympathetically joins someone in need of help, but in #1 he’s played by Rat, who’s not. We need to see the two participants in #1 as representatives of a pairing of two sympathetic characters; on FB, Priya K suggested that #1 is “a quiet Calvin & Hobbes sentiment in a Peanuts schtick with a Pearls twist and characters”, and that sounds just right to me: the little boy and his stuffed tiger, together against the world.

Also on FB, Jeff Bowles explained why #1 was an especially appropriate Pearls strip yesterday:

Given that Schulz’s home just burned to the ground, I’d say that a quiet acknowledgment of the long-standing master is welcome.

Yes indeed.

Santa Rosa. From Wikipedia:

(#4) Sonoma County: Napa to the east, Marin to the south

Santa Rosa is a city in and the county seat of Sonoma County, California, United States. Its estimated 2014 population was 174,170. Santa Rosa is [by far] the largest city in California’s Redwood Empire, Wine Country and the North Bay

… Five percent of the city’s homes were destroyed in the Tubbs Fire—a 45,000 acre wildfire that occurred October 2017 and claimed the lives of at least 19 people in Sonoma County

The fire has been contained, but within the (extensive) area of containment still burns fiercely and will do so until serious winter rains come (weeks from now). Meanwhile there’s a coating of toxic ash all over the place. (In recent days, I’ve been listening a lot to the Sonoma County public radio station, KRCB, owned and operated by the Rural California Broadcasting Corp.) The smoke put a pall over San Francisco and Oakland and down the San Francisco Peninsula; on Tuesday the 10th, here in Palo Alto, a hundred miles from the fires, we had the worst air day on record, by far, with visibility extending only a couple of blocks.

On to the overlapping regions — geographical, ecological, economic, cultural — Santa Rosa’s located in: the North Coast / Redwood Empire, the Wine Country, and the North (San Francisco) Bay.

From Wikipedia,

(#5) The Redwood Empire, along the California coast: Marin Co. at the south end, Sonoma just above it (with Napa to the east of it); Mendocino above Sonoma (with Lake to the east of it); then Humboldt and Del Norte

The North Coast of California (also called the Redwood Empire or the Redwood Coast) is the region in Northern California that lies on the Pacific coast between San Francisco Bay and the Oregon border. It commonly includes [from south to north] Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties and sometimes includes two counties from the San Francisco Bay area, Marin [south] and Sonoma [north].

… The southern portion of the North Coast is largely urbanized while the rest is mostly rural.

… The grandeur of the redwoods can be experienced throughout the region, from the protected groves of Muir Woods National Monument and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in the south to the massive forests of Humboldt Redwoods State Park along the Avenue of the Giants in the north.

Again from Wikipedia:

The Wine Country is an area of Northern California in the United States known worldwide as a premium wine-growing region. Viticulture and wine-making have been practiced in the region since the mid-19th century. There are over 400 wineries in the area north of San Francisco, mostly located in the area’s valleys, including Napa Valley in Napa County, and the Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Bennett Valley, and Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. Wine grapes are also grown at higher elevations, such as Atlas Peak and Mount Veeder AVAs [American Viticultural Areas]. The region is defined not only by its viticulture, but also its ecology, geology, architecture, cuisine, and culture. The majority of the grape harvest, by both area and value, derives from Sonoma County.

Cities and towns associated with the Wine Country include Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Guerneville, Windsor, Geyserville, and Cloverdale in Sonoma County; Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga in Napa County; and Hopland and Ukiah in Mendocino County. [Also Lake County, with the Clear Lake, Guenoc Valley, High Valley, and Red Hills Lake County AVAs]

And once more from Wikipedia:

The North Bay is a subregion of the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, United States. The largest city is Santa Rosa, which is the fifth-largest city in the Bay Area [behind San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Fremont]. It is the location of the Napa and Sonoma wine regions, and is by far the least populous and least urbanized part of the Bay Area. It consists of Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties, with a combined population of 922,719 (2015).

Only Sonoma County is in all three regions. It looks east to the coast and the redwood forests, looks west (to Napa) and north (to Mendocino) within the rural valleys of the wine country, and looks south (to Marin and San Francisco, then to San Mateo and my county, Santa Clara) within the urban-oriented Bay Area.



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