It's been a tough week for light-heartedness, and the drizzling summer rain hasn't helped. As Lent started this week, most Kiwis were remembering the one year anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake. My reflections on the quake are summarised here. Nothing more needs to be said about that here. I just want to remember, then get back to finding the funny side of life.
Whatever you give up for Lent this year, don't give up on that.
I guess I still have themes from Steve Jobs' biography running through my head this week. That and the fact that I finally got given an iPhone to use for work.
Having used it for about a fortnight now, I can understand how people fall in love with that device. It's so simple, soft and sleek, and relates to you like a close friend. It's hard not to get addicted to the device because of the world of information that opens up so quickly and easily.
The above cartoon is not the first time I've mocked the Apple fanboys for their passion. But now it seems I've become one of them. It hit me when I realsed that for the past two weeks on my morning and afternoon train rides I'd been fiddling with my iPhone instead of reading the book in my bag.
That Jobs created things that so many people would line up for hours, sometimes days, to possess is not what really resonates with me. It's more the fact that the people themselves believed in something so strongly that it compelled them to line up for days to possess it.
For myself, I think I'm going to try and be more careful about how much I use that phone. While I do love the accesibility of that world of information out there in the ether, I don't want to lose touch with the tangilibility of ink on paper. Or the feeling of directing that ink onto it through a pen.
I guess I just realised what I would stand in line for.
Sometimes a bit of pure silliness is all you need to get through the day. Well, I find it works for me at least.
In that spirit, I hope you enjoy this warm, custardy serving of cartoony goodness!
I’ve just finished reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaccson. For all his faults (and there were many, as the author relentlessly points out) Steve Jobs was certainly someone who believed in himself. The legacy of his 56 years on this earth was a long list of creative innovations that he intended for the betterment of humanity, which began with a belief that his own ideas had worth.
My favourite anecdote from the book was about the time during the development of the revolutionary Macintosh computer, Steve decided suddenly and unequivocally that the name of the Macintosh computer was now instead going to be called, ‘The Bicycle’.
The reasons behind this idea I’ll leave you to look up for yourself, but apparently for about a month he was totally set on the name, until someone finally managed to convince him to go back to the original. I do wonder whether Apple would be what it is today if he had persisted with it.
I have a bunch of friends that are starting their own businesses. They sometimes refer to it as their ‘baby’, or use similar terms of affection. They nurture it with much the same love one would bestow on their own flesh and blood; they do what they can to help it through tough times, feed it with the best resources they have and worry about it when it is struggling.
It’s understandable then that they feel pain when their business doesn’t seem to be growing. Like poor old bewildered Harold, to have your idea – be it a business, a piece of writing, or yea, even a cartoon – receive little or no response or understanding can be heartbreaking. But the lessons that can be learned from such heart-break can bring break-throughs.
Steve Jobs clearly learned that. Along with his many successes, he had many failures. They are all chronicled in gory detail in the book, but are well summed up in this article.
For my own friends struggling with their own businesses and the ideas to which they have given birth, all I can say is the things which have been said ad infinitum by others going through the same experience; don’t give up trying, and don’t give up learning. Your ideas have worth, so don’t stop believing in them. And as much as is possible, enjoy the journey.
I hope cartoons like the above help with that enjoyment, even just a little.
If you’re back at work after the Christmas / New Year break and feeling a bit blue, this one’s for you.
This is a weird little cartoon that had its germ of an idea many years ago, but crystalised for me this week when I had Korn's version of Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall' running through my head during a lonely time.
A bit bleak perhaps to start the New Year, but understandable that this is where my head is at considering the bleak start New Zealand's had to the year. Hopefully things will be looking up next week, and this at least raises a smile in the meantime.
Happy New Year?
Without making any specific predictions, I think it's fair to say that 2012 is going to be a pretty crazy year.
Leaving aside the ridiculous superstitions about Mayan calendars and associated global cataclysm popularized by Hollywood, it seems as if it's going to be one of the most defining years for the world in terms of inequality between rich and poor. The recently released OECD report 'Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising' paints a pretty bleak picture, as this recent article explains.
It's nothing new by any means. The gap between rich and poor has always been widening. Beyond that, technology has reached a point where we can get every bit of news about the world instantaneously and in high definition, but it still fails to bring any real change to the human condition.
Add to the mix that there's going to be the usual nuttiness of a US election in 2012, and my fear is that there will be so much rampant craziness and superstition this year that the real issues of inequality and solving genuine social problems are going to get forgotten.
If nothing else, it's going to be a field day for cartoonists. If any profession can truly cut through the craziness and reveal the truth of an issue, it's those who hunker down over a piece of paper (or computer screen) with a pen (or stylus) and carve away at the crap by cartooning about it. Laughing at our craziness is a sure way of not succumbing to it.
So, my only prediction for 2012 is that it's going to be a year full of powerful, funny cartooning. Hopefully I'll be able to contribute a little to that.
In the meantime, here's hoping that 2012 will truly be a happy New Year for you!
One Christmas tradition I've always liked are the crackers that come with Christmas lunch. They especially bring out the kid in me.
I always loved pulling the end of a cracker with a family member, hearing the satisfying little bang, followed by the faint, acrid smell of gunpowder. Then there was the flimsy paper crown, the tacky nick-nacks and, of course, the little sheet of jokes. There were always lots of lame puns, which neverhteless delighted my boyish brain.
I think that yearly tradition led to my enduring fondness for puns, of which the above cartoon is a direct descendant. I hope it finds you having a very happy Christmas, filled with laughter and whatever traditions - religious or otherwise - give it meaning for you.
For me, it will be popping Christmas crackers with my family over Christmas lunch. Let's hope there are some especially good puns this year!
Have a killer Christmas everyone!
This cartoon - or 'startoon' as I like to call it – has been good to me. The original cartoon is not the one drawn above. It was first done in black and white, and has an interesting story.
I remember exactly where I was when I thought of it. I was stepping onto a train in Adelaide, going to work one morning in November 1997 and it popped fully formed into my head. When people ask me the question that most cartoonists get asked – ie. Where do you get your ideas from? - I mention this moment because it was one of those rare moments when the idea just arrives. Mostly it takes much longer than that, but I got lucky with this one.
It was first published in The Lutheran magazine that same year, and I also used it for personal Christmas cards. The response was great. Lots of laughs. Result!
This was also around the time I first got an email address. It was the days before Facebook and Twitter so funny stuff was sent via emails. It was cool one day to get a viral email from someone a saying 'Hey, thought you would like this cartoon!' Not often you can reply and say, 'Yeah. I drew that.'
A few years later, I submitted it to US magazine The Wittenburg Door (now-defunct, but at the time was popular as the "pretty much only" religious satire magazine around) which published it, making it my first internationally published cartoon. They also put it on their web site, which also made it my first cartoon published online.
A few years later again, I used it for my first solo published book, Gone Astray. I still get comments from people who read that saying it's one of their favourites in there.
Just last month I received a request from an church that wanted to use it for their weekly bulletin, so since it is the season, I thought it was high time for a re-draw. Hopefully it will bring a laugh or two again this year.
With one week to go till 'Christmehs', redrawing it has helped me start to get into the spirit of the season. In the spirit of that, you can – for a limited time – purchase a copy of my book 'Gone Astray: A Collection of (Sac)religious Cartoons by Jim' and get a second copy absolutely free! Click here to order. Eighty 'vintage' Jim cartoons (including the original of the Startoon) in one book, which has been nicely reviewed in a few places. Makes a great gift. :-)
I must admit, I feel a little ‘meh’ about Christmas.
It started when I was in my early twenties and worked in a Christian bookshop for five years. Every year we endured a month of non-stop Christmas carols that played throughout the working day, while we flogged off Christian Christmas crap to the masses.
On top of that were all the carols and official religious Christmas festivities at the church where I worked on weekends. My teeth still are set on edge when I hear some carols. There’s only so many times you can hear ‘Gloria in excelsis deo’ without starting to think up cartoons like the above to mock it.
I guess you could say I have love-hate feelings about Christmas, because while it does still drive me up the wall sometimes, I do still love it. I have great memories of celebrating Christmas as a kid, and the exciting time it was with presents and trees and honey biscuits and Christmas lunch with family as Handel’s ‘Messiah’ played in the background. We’ve got our own version of that in our house now, with the added joy of the temperate Kiwi summer and pohutukawa trees in full red bloom in view from our backyard.
So over the next few weeks, I’ll be getting into the spirit in the best way I can think of and posting some Christmas (or ‘Christ-mehs’) cartoons. Hope you like ‘em. And if you hear my teeth grinding in the background, don’t worry about it. I’m smiling through those gritted teeth.
Wow, it's been a busy week and weekend. Posting this cartoon a little later than usual as a result. It's actually one that I drew well over a decade ago and have spruced up a little here.
It's interesting to look at it again now after all this time. At the time I drew it, I think I was feeling a little like nervous Mr Jones here, hoping for some big break. I've definitely felt like the square peg more than once in my life.
But that's the thing ... I like square pegs. Tell me about a musician whose songs are not quite palatable for mainstream radio, and I'll want to have a listen. Show me a movie which doesn't adhere to standard Hollywood formulae, and I'll probably want to watch it right to the end of the credits. Introduce me to someone new, and I'll secretly be hoping there'll be something quirky about them that they'll be willing to share.
So, be edgy. Be niche. Be off the radar. Be a square peg. It's bound to be more exciting than just following the round-holey club.
Here's to not fitting in!
Hmm. What does it mean? Here's a hint, if you need it.
We're coming to the end of a couple of 'psycho' years at my house; or more correctly, a couple of psychotherapy years.
This week my wife officially finishes the full-time clinical training component of her Masters in Psychotherapy.
While she's actually been the one doing the course, we who were not – our son and me – have still been imbibed in the theory, the practice and the acronyms (so … many … acronyms!) so we feel like we've have become psychotherapy Jedi-novices along the way.
We are incredibly proud of her. Talk about a grueling course. The scrutiny that they (rightly) put psychotherapist trainees under seems the equivalent of being stripped naked and made to run through a gauntlet of angry clowns while being beaten with copies of the DSM-IV (a big, mother-gorilla sized book, for those not in the know.)
Now that the course is finally finished for this year, we've finally had time to watch together those TV shows that were studiously avoided in deference to her study.
So what show are we choosing to watch? The sharply brilliant HBO drama 'In Treatment' starring Gabriel Byrne. Series One is 43 half-hour episodes of dramatized psychotherapy. After four years immersed in it, I guess you could call us gluttons for punishment.
It's brilliant though. Seeing people getting to the heart of their issues on screen – essentially digging for the truth about themselves – makes for gripping viewing.
Those who know my philosophy of cartooning will know that I put a lot of stock in the ability of cartoons to reveal truth. In that spirit, I've dug back into my cartooning memory and brought the old 'toon above to the surface and given it a dust off and some colour.
I liked it when I first drew it, but think I understand the truth in it better now. However, the whole masculine/feminine side concept is explained and re-thought out a lot better than I could in this article from Psychology Today.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. That's damn right. I wouldn't want to be a psychotherapist, but my admiration for those who do – especially the one closest to me – is immeasurable and eternal.
This is why dogs shouldn’t listen to Coldplay …
The conservative US media, which seems to make the loudest noise - loud enough anyway to echo all the way to little old New Zealand - portrays the Occupy Wall Street protestors as having no clear message. Nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion.
I think their message is as simple as can be, and I've seen it encapsulated best in a cartoon. Not my silly take on the movement, as depicted above, but this one.
At last count, I think I've drawn at least three cartoons over the past three years mocking the bailouts, and the longer the OWS protestors aren't heeded, I'm sure it won't be the last.
So occupy away, occupiers. And make sure you occupy those Wall Street bathrooms too. If that happens, those who caused this whole thing might start to realize just how full of sh*t their greedy practices are.
Peace at last
The road was long, the journey was hard and the final victory painful, but sweet. It came down to just one point, but it was enough to secure the peaceful rest that so many Kiwis seemed to need. Now history will tell for all eternity, the All Blacks were Rugby World Cup Champions in 2011.
That is all.
Son of Jim
Cartoons by Jim features a special guest cartoonist this week. Please make way for a cartoon by Ari!
Those who know my son Ari will know he loves reading books and comics and often draws his own by himself and in collaboration with school friends. He writes great short stories and has even attempted to write a novel or two in his 11 years of age so far. He has also been assisting his dad lately with colouring the cartoons that appear on this web site. A couple recent examples of his work were this one and this one.
We gave him a drawing kit for his last birthday, and he's since been having a go at doing some gag cartoons.
It's been interesting to see him struggle with the creative process of communicating humor through drawing, and the frustration of when ideas don't seem to gel, or when a drawing doesn't go quite right. (That's something every cartoonist is well familiar with, and is something he'll continue to face.)
However, after some halting starts, and with a little help from me in drawing the panel frame, he came up with the above 'toon, which as his first published work, I think is a cracker. It does everything a cartoon needs to, and looks great. I'm very proud of him.
Well done Ari! You've got a great sense of humour and I love how you exercise it daily. Keep it up!
When it comes to the Rugby World Cup 2011, I've made it quite clear where my allegiances lie, so I won't reiterate that here.Needless to say though, New Zealand is gripped with a religious fervor (fever?) about the upcoming semi-final this weekend against the Wallabies.
I'll make no predictions on the result here, except to say that I'll probably resemble the poor guy in panel three on Sunday evening.
Until then, enjoy this cartoon. And enjoy the game!
I drew this cartoon in 2007. It was published in a local tech magazine, just as the iPhone was set to arrive in New Zealand. Consider it a small tribute to the legendary Steve Jobs, whose passing was mourned the world over yesterday.
The biographers have already noted his flaws as a human being, but his inspirational vision will remain an inspiration, especially for anyone involved in creative pursuits.
My favourite quote of his was, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” As a cartoonist, I try to take that advice every day.
R.I.P. Steve Jobs: 1955 - 2011.