Four more recent cartoons

Four cartoons yesterday that present interesting challenges in understanding. Now a mixed set of four more — a Zits, a Zippy, a One Big Happy, and a Dilbert — that have accumulated in my posting queue.

Digression on my life, giving some explanation for my slight net-presence these past two weeks. Skip ahead to the Cartoons section if this doesn’t interest you.

Some contributions:

I had a long monster cold. Not the flu, but a cold bad enough to have me sleeping 10 or 11 hours a day for a while.

I continued suffering from shortness of breath on exertion. Wore a Holter heart monitor for two weeks. Results back this morning: nothing of concern. But my shortness of breath persists and limits my mobility — especially in the cold mid-winter weather we’ve been having. (Cold enough to freeze to death all my coleus plants.)

Then it’s been the emotionally tricky mid-winter time between January 17th (the day Ann Daingerfield Zwicky died, in 1985) and January 22nd (the birthday of my man Jacques Transue, who died in 2003).

This year this emotional abyss was softened by the joy of taking part in the first day (Saturday the 20th) of this event:

(#1) In Alameda CA, drawing singers from all parts of California and, in fact, all parts of the country

That pretty much consumed the day, getting to Alameda and back, singing from 9:30 to 3:30, with “dinner on the grounds” (immense amounts of food supplied by the locals) in the midde.

But the big event was the arrival of my new iMac (at 5 p.m. on Friday the 19th, unannounced, when it was supposed to be delivered on the 23rd; fortunately I was home). And its installation over many long hours in the days between then and yesterday morning at 7. For several days I was unable to post images on this blog, and for other days I was deranged by the installation process. But now most things work ok, though there are plenty of wrinkles to iron out, probably over months.

Four people were engaged in the installation process, but all the heavy lifting was done by Ned Deily, directing things over the phone from Bethlehem PA. All praise to Ned.

On to:

The four cartoons.

(#2) Zits and speech bubbles/balloons

(#3) Zippy and Harvey the Giant Rabbit

(#4) One Big Happy and palm-greasing

(#5) Dilbert, with a vivid analogy from Alice

Zits and the detachable speech balloon. In a meta-move, #2 treats speech balloons as physical objects that can be moved around, propped up next to someone as a representation of their speech, and then carried away when their purpose has been served — all without the consent, or even knowledge, of the person the balloon is temporarily attached to.

Zippy and the Giant Rabbit of Aloha OR. Bill Griffith is fond of roadside fiberglass figures, but the one in #3 is especially grotesque. The actual figure:

(#6) Harvey the Giant Rabbit, 21250 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy, Aloha OR

From Roadside America on 1/25/18:

It takes a somewhat warped creative mind to envision a 20-foot-tall man as a 26-foot-tall mutant rabbit man. That mind was Ed Harvey’s (1928-2017), and he ran a boat business named Harvey Marine in landlocked Aloha, Oregon.

The story began in October 1962, when a big storm blew through the Pacific Northwest and damaged a fiberglass Texaco Big Friend statue (an obscure kin to the more famous Muffler Man). The owner brought the statue to Harvey Marine and to Ed, who was skilled at fiberglass repair. Ed fixed it, but the owner never returned. The statue lay abandoned at Harvey Marine for years (Ed once hauled it to Lake Oswego and used it as a boat).

Then Ed had a brainstorm. One of his favorite films featured Jimmy Stewart and a giant, invisible rabbit named Harvey. And rabbits supposedly brought good luck. “At boat shows we’d have a guy walk around in a rabbit suit,” Ed told us in the 1990s. “Then we got the idea to put a rabbit head on the big man.”

That was in 1974, and Harvey has been attracting attention ever since. Ed estimated that 50,000 cars drove past his business daily, and about 1 out of 20 either honked or yelled greetings to the bunny-head behemoth. “We don’t encourage honking,” said Victoria McCurry, manager, vice-president, and self-described “rabbit master” at Harvey Marine. “If we did, we couldn’t hear ourselves think.”

Still, by Ed’s figuring, that’s 2,500 people a day who regard Harvey as something more than fiberglass. And that’s not counting those who write letters to Harvey when they’re sad, or to tell him how happy he’s made their drive along the Tualatin Valley Highway. Victoria keeps a binder filled with the notes and cards that she’s found stuck in the front door over the years.

Ed rebuilt Harvey’s head several times, modifying his features or repairing damage, according to Victoria. Once, when the head was in the shop over Halloween, Ed playfully put a giant pumpkin in Harvey’s upturned palm. Local motorists didn’t recognize his reference to Washington Irving and besieged the store with anxious phone calls. “We had all the TV stations out here,” Ed said. “People calling, ‘Will you explain to my kids why this rabbit has no head?'” Children in the local elementary school reported having nightmares.

Ed’s son Mark told us that FBI agents once used Harvey as a rendezvous location. Victoria confirmed the story (“When they want to meet an informant, they need a very specific spot so that there’s no misunderstanding”). Harvey has also drawn his share of unwelcome attention. Vandals once broke off his fingers. Another time, Mark recalled, “they stuck a big penis on him.” And someone once managed to steal one of Harvey’s ears, but the police found it a couple of miles down the road. Harvey Marine was soon awash in get-well cards and flowers. “It’s unreal,” said Victoria. “I don’t know what would happen if he was to go away.”

Harvey probably isn’t going anywhere. Unlike his namesake, he is too visible to become invisible. “He’s grandfathered in,” said Mark. “He’s a national landmark.”

On the film, from Wikipedia:

(#7) A poster for the movie

Harvey is a 1950 comedy-drama film based on Mary Chase’s play of the same name, directed by Henry Koster, and starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull. The story is about a man [Elwood P. Dowd] whose best friend is a pooka named Harvey – in the form of a six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch tall invisible rabbit.

The Harvey in #6 is only too visible.

Palm-greasing in One Big Happy. Ruthie and Joe in OBH are often notable for their ignorance of relatively rare or specialized expressions in English, an ignorance that typically goes along with their lack of experience with the referents of these expressions (art works, for instance). In #4, they exhibit a surprising acquaintance with a cultural practice, the use of money to smooth service (“cash talks”). In plain terms, (small-scale) bribery to facilitate service, a practice sometimes referred to as palm-greasing. From NOAD:

idiom grease the palm of: informal bribe (someone). [grease expressing the sense ‘cause to run smoothly’ and palm, by association with the taking of money.]

The kid’s dad uses the combination of idioms slip s.o. a fiver. From GDoS:

slip v2 1. to give, to hand over [first cite:] 1868 Reade & Boucicoult. Foul Play I 68: She is as beautiful as an angel, and rich enough to slip a fiver into Dick Hexham’s hands.

The entry doesn’t capture the suggestion of furtiveness that often accompanies such transactions, and it doesn’t make it clear that this use of slip has most of the syntax of give (slip/give RECIPIENT TRANSFERRED-OBJECT / slip/give TRANSFERRED-OBJECT to RECIPIENT etc.).

And from NOAD:

noun fiver: informal: North American a five-dollar bill. British a five-pound note.

Alice’s description of bad writing. In the Dilbert in #5, Alice hits on a wonderfully vivid way of telling her boss that the writing in his plan is appalling. In the context, too vivid a way.

We’re not given a sample of the boss’s writing, but we might suspect him of thesaurisizing and of reaching for unnecessary jargon. That would produce an effect like a monkey’s vomiting on a dictionary.


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