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Archive for September, 2013

September 29th, 2013

Drafting Table Time…Getting It Out…

Pencils done on the cartoon for the next issue of OUTLoud…finally. With enough time left over to spend the rest of this lovely day inside carefully doing the inks and charcoal. I am not nearly good enough at this that I can rush it and expect to produce anything other than crap.

One of the great masters of the political cartoon art form British cartoonist David Low, once said each of his cartoons took three days, “two days in labor, and one day removing the appearance of labor.” Mine take about that long, mostly because I spend a ton of time redrawing and correcting. But I can’t put in full days on a cartoon like a full time professional artist can, so I need to have about a week to do one and that’s really putting it behind events for something that’s supposed to be as topical as a political cartoon. I’m doing something about an event that happened earlier this week that won’t appear in the newspaper until next Friday. Hopefully it’s good enough that it won’t matter too much that it’s old news.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Drafting Table Time…Getting It Out…


German Word Adventures

I read the English language version of Der Spiegel and get the German news magazine’s posts regularly in my Facebook stream in both English and German. The native German version usually contains a bunch more than the English translated one, and this morning the following appeared in my news page:

Im neuen DER SPIEGEL geht es besonders um die Steuerpläne der Union, mit denen der SPD eine Koalition schmackhaft gemacht werden soll. Ein weiteres Thema ist die Steueroase Deutschland: Weil in den Finanzämtern Fahnder und Prüfer fehlen, entgehen dem Staat Milliarden.

Außerdem: Schlechtere Schulnoten bei übergewichtigen Kindern, “Ermüdungserscheinungen” bei Bundespräsident Gauck, BND belauschte im Kalten Krieg führende Ost-Politker.

Facebook helpfully provides a translation link, powered by Bing which seems to be using the same translation engine that Google does. That last paragraph is translated as…

Also: Lower school grades in obese children, “Fatigue” President Gauck, BND overheard in the cold war leading East leaders.

What catches my eye is how “Ermüdungserscheinungen” is translated simply as “Fatigue”. The concept of a President of Fatigue is delightful somehow, but I know from  looking at it this is one of those massive German words made up of other German words all strung together, so I decide to try and decode it to see if I can figure out what they’re trying to say about the President of Germany.

Google also translates “Ermüdungserscheinungen” as simply “Fatigue”. Beolingus doesn’t know what the hell that word means and it usually gets German words Google and Babelfish doesn’t (Babelfish doesn’t seem to be with us anymore). But enter “fatigue” into Google Translate and you get a bunch of possible German words back for it.  Ah…of course…

Think of how it is that Eskimos have so many words for snow. It’s not that Germans are always tired, they are an existentially weary people and I guess weight of their lives gives them a need to keep cobbling together new German words every so often to describe how existence is a never ending drain upon the human soul. My Baptist grandmother was like this, but unlike Germans who just accept their lot in life, she hated everything which made her unpleasant company.

The root word in this string is “Ermüdung”, which means “Fatigue” Pulling apart the rest of it in Google Translate I get something about “these phenomena”. I think the word is trying to describe fatigue that is the consequence of localized phenomena, and the sentence is trying to tell me that poor President Gauck creates an atmosphere of fatigue everywhere he goes, or that he’s President of Germany because Germans are tired of everything.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on German Word Adventures

September 28th, 2013

There Is A Reason Why The Ungentlemanly Art Is Ungentlemanly

Cartooning. I’m trying now to get back into the routine of regularly producing my political cartoons, at least biweekly for Baltimore OUTLoud. This next issue’s cartoon will be the first I’ve done in nearly a year. It’s topic is the Met Opera’s giving the stage to several Russian opera stars, putting on an opera by Tchaikovsky, and refusing to condemn the horrific outbreak of anti-gay violence in Russia. In its way it’s similar to what the International Olympic Committed is doing. They’re all looking the other way to protect their profits and their access to power.

But in order to do this cartoon I needed to go online for images I could reference in the cartoon, images we’ve (most of us paying attention) all seen from the wave of violence in Russia. Images that will stick in the collective memory of our people for generations I am convinced. And that is reminding me now why I needed to take a break from doing the cartoons. Looking at all those pictures makes me so angry I keep having to walk away from the drafting table.

I keep telling myself it’s okay if I can just channel that anger into the cartoon. I keep telling myself that this kind of thing is Exactly where the political cartoon art form can be at its most effective, and that I need to get this out because it’s necessary. But it’s difficult trying to work when I’m this angry.

When you gaze long into an abyss…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on There Is A Reason Why The Ungentlemanly Art Is Ungentlemanly

September 27th, 2013

Remapping Of My World Continues…

I still keep flashing back to the memory of seeing Claudia thrashing on the street after she’d been hit, and bending over her as she died. It’s a horrible memory but it isn’t sticking to me as much now, or coming back as often.  I told some co-workers that BGE was coming to my house today to install the new smart meters and one of them who didn’t know asked if I had a pet and I said that I used to and I guess something in my voice told her to leave it at that. Then I flashed back for a while but it stopped pretty soon after.  It isn’t cutting me up so much now that I don’t see her coming to greet me, tail held high when I come home.  I’ve pretty much stopped calling her name quietly while standing alone out on my porch at night.

So it goes…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Remapping Of My World Continues…

September 26th, 2013

A Little Truth In Advertising Please…

Let’s see if my Facebook posting rights get pulled by an advertiser there.  I just posted the following comment on the Mercedes USA page, to a photo of their brand new GLK BlueTEC SUV, driving through the wild wide open wilderness…

“When you sell these, do your dealers tell their customers that diesel fuel that satisfies the warranty on the engine, fuel and emissions systems (no greater than B5 bio content) is getting very hard to find in some states, and the problem is getting worse, not better? I mean…that photo looks like you’re saying enjoy the wide open spaces in your GLK BlueTEC because it’ll go just about anywhere, and it will, but only where B15-B20 isn’t all you can find. Like, so I hear, Illinois, Minnesota… “

I mean…what is this ad photo telling you… That the car is made to go Everywhere

But no…it isn’t.  It’s made to go only where you can find diesel fuel with no greater than B5 biodiesel content.  And that’s getting to be a problem in the mid-west, and that situation is getting worse and worse.  For a year and a half after I bought Spirit I never saw Any bio diesel on I-95 between Baltimore and Key West.  This summer when I went to Disney World first time I stopped for fuel on the way home I was confronted by B20, and then again at the next place I tried.  Third time I stopped I was able to get fuel that met the factory specs.

It’s one thing for Daimler to point their fingers at the states and the biofuels industry, and I’d be 100 percent on their side in that, but for the fact that they don’t seem to be telling their customers at the point of sale that they’re buying cars they may not be able to get fuel for later on, or if they go traveling. You have to figure that’s because they know they won’t sell diesels if they do. But it isn’t like they don’t have the engineering talent to make their cars compatible with B20 if they wanted to.  It looks to me like they are just digging in their heels and hoping biodiesel goes away or remains a small niche market.  But that isn’t going to happen if I know my country’s agribusiness lobbyists.

This is a problem that is going to blow up in their faces eventually if they keep ignoring it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Little Truth In Advertising Please…

September 25th, 2013

Makes Sense…

Headline this morning on Andy Towle’s blog…

Family Research Council VP Says Same-Sex Unions ‘Threaten…The Well-Being Of Countless Families’

I suppose so, since zero means there is nothing to count.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Makes Sense…


The Closet Will Not Avail You!

Gandalf The Pink confronts a closeted homosexual and warns him sternly, You shall not pass!

I’m looking at you Mr. I’m a piece of work…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Closet Will Not Avail You!

September 24th, 2013

The Best Or Nothing…And That Includes Our Boilerplate Replies!

So what I think is happening at this point with German passenger car diesels, and Daimler in particular, is this: Automakers are under a mandate here in the U.S. to improve fuel economy across their fleets. It seems Daimler is counting on its diesels to do that for it, hence the reintroduction of the four cylinder diesel ‘E’ class after a long hiatus (it’s always been available in Europe). And given the ‘E’ class is a large high end vehicle, that engine gives it fantastic fuel economy for its class.  But this strategy comes at the same time the fuel these engines use is getting hard to find in some places, mostly the mid-west.

It looks to me now as though they’re just going to keep selling these cars anyway, and act as though telling everyone they can only use B5 and no higher absolves them of responsibility when their customers find out they can’t drive the cars in some states because the fuel they require isn’t available…vis

Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles utilize advanced emission control technology that is designed to comply with current stringent exhaust emissions regulations. Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel with no more than 5% biodiesel content must be used. Mercedes-Benz approves the use of B5 biodiesel in all BlueTEC engines as pure biodiesel (B100) and biodiesel blends greater than B5 (e.g. B10, B20, etc.) are not factory-approved and can damage the engine, fuel system and exhaust aftertreatment system. The only approved biodiesel content is one that both meets ASTM D6751 specifications and has the oxidation stability to necessary to prevent deposit/corrosion-related damages to the system (min 6th proven by En 14112 method). Please see your service station for further information. If the B5 biodiesel blend does not clearly indicate that it meets the above standards, do not use it. The Mercedes-Benz New Vehicle Limited warranty does not cover damage caused by non Mercedes-Benz approved fuel standards. BlueTEC models are not available in Ohio.

That’s from the fine print at the bottom of the specifications page for the new E250 Bluetec.  I have no idea at present why Ohio is being singled out there…on the diesel car forums what I’m reading is Illinois and Minnesota are the worst spots, and I have heard Daimler is no longer selling its Sprinter vans in Illinois for the reason that B20 is just about all you can get there now.  But this looks like the plan; say you warned the customers that they shouldn’t use anything other than regular petroleum based diesel or B5 at most and anything more just isn’t your responsibility.  I think plan B is to point their fingers at the biofuels industry and state governments.

I don’t think that’s going to fly. If they know their cars cannot be operated in some states without risking engine, fuel and emissions system damage, they probably should be telling their customers that too.

But…we’ll see…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Best Or Nothing…And That Includes Our Boilerplate Replies!


Eventually, This Is Going To Blow Up In Their Faces

To: “MBUSA Customer Support” (support@mbusa.com)
From: Bruce Garrett
Date: 09/24/2013 09:27 AM

I was just looking at the new model E250 Bluetec diesel, and checking the specs to see if it would run on biodiesel greater than B5. I see it won’t. So it seems Daimler is not responding to the increasing proliferation of higher than B5 diesel in the U.S. Are your dealers telling their customers who buy your diesel vehicles that there are parts of the U.S. now where they may not be able to find fuel for their cars? I see there in the fine print on the spec page that you are warning people not to use biodiesel greater than B5, but are you warning people that such fuels are almost all they can find in some states now? And that problem is getting worse.

Do you understand the problem here? I bought my 2012 E350 Bluetec because I wanted a Mercedes diesel since I was a teenager, for their longevity and fuel economy. I wanted a car I could explore the country with. Now it seems I have a car that I can’t drive in some parts of the country and which will someday not be drivable at all.

…and Lo and Behold, I get a reply almost immediately!

To: Bruce Garrett
From: Robyn L. – MBUSA Customer Support
Date: 09/24/2013 10:38 AM

Dear Mr. Garrett:

Thank you for your email to Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC.

That is correct Mercedes-Benz only recommends B5 or less Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel. Nevertheless, your feedback is sincerely appreciated and duly noted.

We appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Sincerely,

Robin L.
Mercedes-Benz USA
(800) 367-6372

At some point, probably in the not too distant future given the rate at which B15-B20 is starting to proliferate, lawyers for a lot of angry people who bought some very, very expensive automobiles they can’t drive in large swaths of the country anymore, are going to be asking Daimler why they didn’t tell anyone who bought their diesel motor cars that there were so many places they wouldn’t be able to drive them before they took their money.

I could sell Spirit now and maybe just break even on the car loan.  Then where would I be?  Without a car and no down payment that could get me another Mercedes for a long, long time.  Besides, I can’t sell a car in good conscience that I know is going to be worthless later on.  Or I could try to work a trade-in deal that would have me paying through the nose for less car than I have now.

Or…I could keep the car…it is an excellent car…my dream come true car…and be a trouble maker…

I should start writing some letters to my congress critters…and see which consumer protection agencies would benefit most from knowing that Daimler is withholding some arguably important information from its customers at the point of sale…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Eventually, This Is Going To Blow Up In Their Faces

September 23rd, 2013

Artwork

From cartoonist Howard Cruse I bought one of the original pages of artwork to his amazing graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby. It’s page one of the story and I feel kinda privileged to have it. That novel is an amazing, powerful work…if you haven’t read it yet you really should.

Howard posted a note about how the artwork contains a correction patch to resolve how he’d initially drawn the story’s main character, with how he’d drawn him as he continued working on the story. It took him years to finish it, and when he got done he could see there were some changes he needed to make on the pages he’d drawn years before.

That’s normal in artwork that’s meant for publication, and those of us who buy originals of this sort of artwork do (or should) value it for precisely that wonderful insight into the artist’s process you get from seeing how the work was made, corrections and all. And I, just a happy amateur, know how it is to look back on what you did years ago and see everything that’s wrong with it. Look at my early strips of A Coming Out Story and compare them with the most current ones and you can see my drawing technique on the series improving pretty drastically. As they say, practice makes perfect…especially when you have no idea what you’re doing. If I wanted to make those early strips look consistent with the new ones I’d pretty much have to redraw them all from scratch.

My work does not have the polish a formally trained and really good professional can put on it. I am a hunt-and-peck draftsman at best. But grant me this at least: I am doing my best. Sometimes I look back on what I’ve done previously and I cringe. Hell, sometimes I look at what I’ve just done and I cringe. But I keep telling myself that if I give up I will never improve, so I keep doing it.

And…I have the need. If you feel it too then you know what I’m talking about. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. The drawings, the photography, I get no reward for any of it other than that feeling of fulfillment when it’s finally out of me, and, surprisingly, a very small but devoted readership for A Coming Out Story (some of whom keep nudging me from time to time to keep working on the damn thing). So when I sit down to my drafting table I give it everything I have. But I am no professional artist. I know this. Hopefully the story I’m telling makes up for the skills I lack.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Artwork


Endings

I began A Coming Out Story in 2005, (spoiler alert) still not knowing after more than thirty years what had become of the object of my affections, still yearning to see him one more time.  I was convinced then that I never would.  Some days when I thought of him I was afraid that maybe he was dead.  Some days I wondered if he’d found and settled down with his other half, some other better guy than me.  Perhaps they were living a happy life together somewhere in the South American land of his birth.  Perhaps one day I might find his panel there among the Names Quilts all laid out in rows on a grassy field under a clear blue sky.  I had no idea.  I needed some way to get it all out of me, and hopefully make some sense of it all in the process.

So I began A Coming Out Story.  And then along the way I finally crossed paths with “T.K.” (not his real initials) and so my past came forward and collided with the present and I was spun ’round and ’round and ’round.  I’m beginning to think now that this is the default state of my life.  I know…I know…  I’m hardly alone in that.  But it really slowed down my progress getting the story out.

I had no idea how I was going to end my cartoon tale.  I figured I would find the end when I got to it.  Well…I know how it ends now.  Hopefully this will make it easier to resume getting the thing out of me.  It isn’t the ending I would have wanted…but it’s the one I have, and oddly, it’s not as bad an ending as it might have been.  I can see a truth here, finally, beyond the ones I had in mind when I started drawing it, that is worth telling.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Endings

September 19th, 2013

Grief

Grief comes in waves, and those relatively peaceful times when you think it’s past and you’re finally done with it are only the troughs between them.  You get yourself through it by letting it happen and eventually you find the waves do get smaller.  Or you’ve just become use to it being there.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Grief

September 18th, 2013

Cats…

I walk through the neighborhood on my way to Cafe’ Hon…a favorite dinner spot.  Along the way I often encounter various neighborhood cats.  We’re not exactly swimming in cats here in Medfield, but Claudia was hardly the only outdoor domestic cat in the neighborhood. They all usually come up to me for a pet or two when they see me coming…somehow they always seem to sense that I’m a friendly human, even the ones I’ve never laid eyes on before.  Apart from the ferals there is only one neighborhood cat who won’t come near…a big grey one that lives at the other end of my street.  But that one’s even more of a diva than Claudia was.  Claudia was a diva too, but a friendly one.

So I cross paths with the black cat that lives across Falls Road, who reminds me of my first cat, and yesterday as I walked to Cafe’ Hon, a little black & white one a few blocks away I’d never seen before, who came up to me for a pet.  It had a name tag exactly like the one I gave to Claudia after she became mine.  I reach down to give them a few strokes before I go on my way, and now I have a new patter I say to all the neighborhood cats as we exchange greetings.

Please be careful…Please…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Cats…

September 16th, 2013

Silence

Cats are not the most noisy of this good earth’s creatures, and yet it’s amazing how…quiet…my house is now without her.  I’m listening for small things…the sound of her collar tags tinkling, her feet bounding up the stairs, that odd little gravelly voice she had. When she was in the house every now and then I’d hear her little feet, usually going up or down the stairs or hopping off the kitchen counter.  She’d find me either down in the art room working on something or upstairs in the bedroom napping, announce herself in that little voice and then walk over to where I was for some attention. More often than not, it got me away from the computer. I was slowly beginning to rediscover what a life was like away from one.

There’s nothing in the house now but silence.  And…me, lost somewhere inside of it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Silence

September 13th, 2013

Pantomime Morning

In retrospect it’s amazing how quickly the morning routine with Claudia became, well, a routine. Before Claudia it was get up, bathroom, then some undetermined activity, maybe the computer, maybe putting out the trash or filling the dishwasher, brewing some coffee, or maybe making myself some sandwiches for lunch, then out the door to work on workdays, or Whatever if it was the weekend or stay at home vacation.  After Claudia it was always feed the cat, and that was a routine into itself, a pattern I quickly and neatly fell into.

I stopped going downstairs until I was fully dressed.  No more wandering down from the second floor only partially clothed, if at all.  Because if she was out for the night first thing when I got downstairs was open the door and let her in. No point in letting the neighbors see an unclothed Bruce at the door…they probably think I’m weird enough as it is.  She’d be right there at the door talking to me the moment she heard the deadbolt key turn, and as soon as I had the door open just a crack she was inside.  Then there would be a pause with her back to me, waiting for some petting and stroking. Then I got led to the kitchen. In her last couple weeks I was gradually trying to get her used to staying inside overnight.  So then the routine was I had to wait until I was dressed before I even opened the bedroom door because she’d either be there waiting, or at the foot of the stairs.  And once she laid eyes on me the Feed The Cat routine started, and it never varied much.

After the morning greeting she would lead me into the kitchen. I would walk over to the sink and her tail would go up and start vibrating, which is cat love. And I would get one of her stainless steel dishes and hand wash it if it wasn’t already clean (a solitary guy doesn’t fill the dishwasher fast enough to run it every night) and dry it off while she rubbed against my legs. Her food would either be from the can or something from the fridge…perhaps some carved turkey slices I’d bought from Trader Joe’s for both of us.  I’d bring some out and start cutting it up for her bowl and she’d stand up on her hind legs with her front on the counter door and scratch at it…I didn’t mind, she wasn’t hurting it, I keep meaning to get some new cabinetry put in because I really don’t like the fuax country kitchen decor the previous owners installed…and I’d reach down and give the back of her neck a scratch and go back to what I was doing.  Throughout the process she’d talk to me and I’d talk to her…

Good Morning! Hungry are we? Well you’re in luck! I was just about to put some food into one of these little stainless steel dishes and set it on the floor. It’s this little ritual I have. So you came along at Just The Right Moment! All these years I’ve had this tick of putting food into little stainless steel dishes and setting it on the floor and now all that food doesn’t have to go to waste anymore! Like it do you? Swell! This works out pretty well for both of us doesn’t it? I put food in one of these little stainless steel dishes and put it on the floor and you come along and eat it. Come back this afternoon…I might do it again. You never know….

I used to have shameless fun with it…

Hungry are you? Carnivore you say? Say…this might work out for both of us. You see, I have this turkey corpse hidden in the fridge. Trader Joe asked me to get rid of it for him. Here’s my proposition: You could slowly eat it…come back here every now and then and I give you some. Come alone….understand? Deal? We work this right and you get food, and I get rid of a dead body for Trader Joe. You in? Dead bird is just fine with you is it? Exxxxcellent…

Then I’d put it down on the floor for her, give her a few more pets as she dug in…

…and while I was there and she was eating I’d make some food for myself to take in to work, which in the long run was probably better and healthier for me and certainly a lot cheaper.  I’d grind some coffee to take in to work, pack some lunch, and by then we were both ready for our day.  She came to me a determinedly outdoor cat, it was how I came to have her in the first place as Ben, her previous owner, just couldn’t keep her inside.  So for the first months of our friendship, and then the first few weeks of my officially being her owner (or employee more likely), I didn’t bother trying to keep her inside when she wanted out.  I would sling on my backpack, put on a hat, set the alarm and we’d both walk out the door together.  I’d say something like “Watch the mansion dear…” or “Keep an eye on the neighborhood…” and off I’d go.

Most workdays she would be waiting for me when I got home, and if she wasn’t there a call of her name and she always came running.  Always.  And then came the afternoon routine.

No more. It’s amazing how lost I feel now. Aimless. My life here at Casa del Garrett has simply reverted back to what it has always been for the first eleven years since I’ve lived here, and I don’t know how to do that anymore. It isn’t intuitive. I’m just doing what I think my mornings were always like. But I don’t know anymore what they’re supposed to be like.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Pantomime Morning

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