Tag Archives: porch swing

Marred Mount

Link to Today’s Strip

I don’t know what she just bought, but Cayla’s jeans magically manifest on her body between panels one and three. Maybe they slithered up her legs in panel two. Maybe that’s why she looks so shocked.

Anyway, she better run out and get dark sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, and old-timey high collared coats, because she’s going to have to wade through a picket line to get into the Chateau.

Once again, Batiuk writing a year in advance shoots him in the foot. Last September The Hollywood Reporter put out an in depth investigative hit piece on the hotel. After nearly all the staff was laid off due to the pandemic, many were willing to speak out against the hotel for discrimination, harassment, and general mismanagement. The allegations went all the way to the very top, with owner, André Balazs, accused of using the hotel as his own private playground, snorting cocaine, getting drunk, and groping workers.

Since then there’s been regular protests outside the hotel, as well as calls to boycott the business. A movie cancelled a planned film shoot there. Celebrities like Jane Fonda, Alfonso Cuaron, and Lena Headey have all supported the boycott. And when Cersei Lannister is ringing the bell and calling ‘Shame!’ you know it’s gotta be bad.

Not that the controversy has completely killed business, the place looks pretty booked up through the end of September. Sometimes, to my folksy midwestern eye, the entire SoCal area looks like a hyper-charged game of social activism whack-a-mole being played by a manic-depressive. Quixotically clutching their pearls in moral outrage over the living conditions of livestock while snorting cocaine off a dinner plate at a hedonism fueled wrap party.

Shame poor Cayla’s excitement had to be marred by this controversy. I wonder if Batiuk is hoping it will fly under the radar of his normal readers. Then again I wouldn’t be surprised if the last news story Batiuk remembers hearing from the Chateau Marmont is John Belushi’s death.

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What Women’s Lib Doesn’t Know…

Link to Today’s Strip.

Oh wow.

After taking the bold stand that women have been unappreciated for their contributions to comics, (something that hasn’t been true for literal decades,) Batiuk now declares that WOMEN BE SHOPPING.

And I’m pretty conflicted on it. Because on the one hand, it’s a tired old stereotype. It’s Pluggers level humor. It’s an insult to Cayla’s character. And who is Cayla or Batiuk fooling? She hasn’t changed her hair in any meaningful way since Les paid the chemically relaxed shoulder length cut an anemic compliment back in 2011.

You like it? I will literally never ever change it again.

But on the other hand WOMEN DO BE SHOPPING THO.

I feel like we can be too reactionary against stereotyping in general. Stereotypes are usually based on observable trends. Moreover stereotypes are such a fundamental part of human humor, that trying to go on a moral crusade against them is a dumb and fruitless as Baptists trying to ban dancing. (See what I did there.)

Some of the oldest written comedies we have are full of humor based in gender, generational, or cultural stereotypes.

LYSISTRATA: Hello Lampito, my dear friend from Sparta. How beautiful you look, so sweet, such a fine complexion.  And your body looks so fit, strong enough to choke a bull.

LAMPITO : Yes, by the two gods, I could pull that off. I do exercise and work out to keep my butt well toned.

Lysistrata, Aristophanes. 411 B.C.

CHREMES: He maintained that women were both clever and thrifty, that they never divulged the Mysteries of Demeter, while you and I go about babbling incessantly about whatever happens at the Senate.

BLEPYRUS: By Hermes, he was not lying!

CHREMES: Then he added that the women lend each other clothes, trinkets of gold and silver, drinking-cups, and not before witnesses too, but all by themselves, and that they return everything with exactitude without ever cheating each other; whereas, according to him, we are ever ready to deny the loans we have effected.

BLEPYRUS: Yes, by Posidon, and in spite of witnesses.

The Ecclesiazusae, Aristophanes. 390 B.C.

It’s not the dumb shopping stereotype that’s the problem here.

It’s that an obsession with shopping is literally the only character trait other than doormat that Cayla has been given in the TEN PLUS YEARS she’s been part of the strip. Nothing makes her unique. She has no agency or desires of her own. Except for her skintone she is identical to Cindy, or Holly, or Mindy, or Jess.

Every female character in this strip is as thinly drawn as the forearms of HE WHO SHALL NOT BE MENTIONED.

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Crazed.

Link to Today’s Strip.

You know what?

No.

I spent an entire week working really hard to transmit my enthusiasm for how wonderfully dumb the Phil Holt resurrection arc was; and THIS is how I’ve been rewarded.

With HIM.

Well, jokes on HIM.

I refuse.

For the rest of my shift, I’m going to be lazy. And for the rest of my shift, I will not mention a thing about HIM. It’s what he wants. Attention. And I refuse to give it. The rest of you feel free to savage at will in the comments, as is deserved. For once, I can’t stomach the rightfully earned dismemberment.

So what I’ll say about today is that I really like the porch swing in this strip. I like how it shows up off and on as a gathering place. It gives the strip visual continuity that rewards long time readers, but as far as I remember it doesn’t have the same verbal attention drawn to it by the characters as other locations like Montoni’s. It’s 100% better than that stupid bench that gets talked about all the time by…

Whoah.

That was close.

Cutting it short today so I don’t mess up again. Until tomorrow folks.

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Flash has reached end of life status

Today’s strip gives us our first glimpse at a young Batton Thomas… back when he had the hair of a newscaster, the jaw of Rob Riggle, and the neck of something that doesn’t have a neck. Quite a contrast to today’s sad-sack Batton, who looks like he could be Pete’s dad (he’s not, John Darling program director Reed Roberts is). Trading that plaid seersucker jacket for a blue Members Only was a good call, though.

So The Flash #123 inspired Batton Thomas (and, most definitely, one Thomas Batiuk as well) to become a cartoonist, eh? How, exactly did it do that? If we are lucky we’ll get that answer in 6-10 business days. Or just visit the official Funky Winkerbean blog, where TB writes more about The Flash than he does about his own creations… Haha, yeah, you all go do that. I’ll wait.

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…that the Play is the Tragedy “Les,” and Its Hero–

Link to today’s strip.

…is the Enabler Cayla.

You know, Les and Lisa are horrible, horrible people.  But today’s entry makes a strong case that their infection has spread beyond the immediate Moore family, and has made its way into the outer world.  Soon, entire cities, entire nations will fall as the Lisa-Worship pandemic spreads to every corner of the globe.

Because here’s Cayla, Les’ current wife, asking Les to make sure that Lisa, Les’ dead wife–dead at least twenty years now, mind–is protected from the machinations of the cruel, uncaring world of entertainment–you know, the slugs who push awful contrived entertainments on the (shudder) masses so they can sell toilet paper and cheap auto loans.

And this is something Cayla cannot stand.  Because Lisa’s reputation, Lisa’s legacy, is the only thought she has.

Not a thought for herself remains.  Not a thought for herself, her own child, her marriage, her future.  It’s all Lisa now.  It will never be anything other than Lisa.  Lisa.

I thought I was being clever the other day when I referenced “Colossus: The Forbin Project.”   (And c’mon, I kinda was.  And if you haven’t seen that film, then you should.)  But the real reference film here is far more chilling.  From 1956.

Well, it started, for me it started last Thursday. In response to an urgent message from my nurse I’d hurried home from a medical convention I’d been attending. At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn’t. Something evil had taken possession of the town.

The “Colossus” movie ended with Dr. Forbin’s defiant “Never!”   The book ended similarly, but included a final paragraph:

Never?

Anyway, that’s all from me for now.  Thank you all for your indulgence, your creativity and your knowledge.  It always makes hosting this place a treasure, when the actual strips make it a chore.   I learn nothing from the strip, but learn a lot from you all.  Kudos!

Tune in Monday, when your snarker extraordinaire Epicus Doomus takes the center seat in the Funkyverse’s most-watched game show, “How Bad Can It Get?”

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Spring Swingers.

Link to today’s strip

I gleaned a few interesting tidbits from the dialogue today. Les’ statements about having to sell more books and the school being happy with a perpetual super-senior indicates that he is currently paying for some or all of her college. Summer’s scholarship must have run out and/or it was not a full ride. Kent State is a NCAA school and only allows students to compete in four seasons of a sport. Maybe she was a redshirt freshman and wasn’t on the team her first year? But it indicates that this will be her fifth, sixth, or even seventh year of college.

If Les’ is paying for Summer’s graduation, maybe from Lisa’s life insurance, then is Keisha’s college also being paid for? Wouldn’t that be super awkward if Keisha was having to take on a bunch of student loan debt while Summer gets to start clean? But, then again, Keisha seemed like a smart girl. She probably made sure she finished her degree before her athletic scholarship was gone.

Actually going to commend the artwork today, relatively speaking. The ruler did a lot of the work, but there is good attention to detail for once. In the background at least. Les is drawn as a sightless abomination talking out of his ass, but I’m guessing that’s Ayers subtle caricature of him. And putting up the porch swing in spring not only sets the season, it’s a subtle callback to the strips way back in June 2011 when Cayla and Les confessed their love on it. Batiuk may forget how many kids his characters have, but he seems to always remember that Les has a front porch swing.

Of course…it was TAN not BLUE. But then again, maybe it’s been painted.

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For Leaf Closure

Link to today’s strip.

Dear Mr. Batiuk–

Look, we get it.  You killed off one of your favorites to win a prize, and when you didn’t win that prize, you’ve tasted ashes and been filled with regrets ever since.

But it doesn’t change the fact that she’s dead, and you need to stop bringing her back.  Either that, or finally give Cayla a small bit of dignity and have her divorce Les for “irreconcilable differences.”  She can even make puns on the way out the door.  Then Les (and Summer) can wallow in Lisa memories until March 2022.

She’s not poignant.  She’s not insightful, or funny, or even interesting.  Les’ continued need for her makes him look even more pathetic than he actually is.  Here’s the thing: The more you bring her back, the less special her death becomes. 

It’s like the dork who finally gets a laugh with one of his dumb jokes, so he repeats it endlessly until everyone was sorry they laughed in the first place.   And they wonder why they laughed at all.

One thing I’m sure of.  I’m willing to bet real money that the Pulitzer Committee is not reading this strip and thinking, Wow, we really made a mistake.  This is great stuff.  Let’s award him a do-over prize!  No, like most of humanity, they’re not reading this strip at all.  And if they did, they’d think, Wow, we were lucky on that one.  How did we even nominate this?  Were we drunk?

We get it.  “Lisa’s Story” was your crowning achievement.   Typically, when one has a crowning achievement, one retires.  Otherwise, as one’s crowning achievement recedes more and more into the distance, that crowning achievement begins to look a lot less like the result of talent and more the result of blind luck.  And one ends up as one of those sad old people whose every sentence begins with, “Hey remember when I…”

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From Here to Punchternity

Link to today’s strip.

Poor Cayla.  Doomed forever to live in Lisa’s shadow.   Of course, she brought it on herself so it’s difficult to feel any sympathy when Les realizes, “Hey, this might get expensive, and she’s not Lisa, so why did I even bother telling her I’d take her overseas.  I’ll buy her dinner somewhere.  At the Paris Bar-B-Que & Bar-B-Beer-o-Rama in nearby Flungdown, Ohio.  And I’ll pretend it’s Paris, France, and she’ll be just floored by how clever I am.  She’s already happy with everything I do, so even if I instead spend the Beer-O-Rama’s five bucks on framing a Lisa picture, she’ll smile in delight.

“And if she insists on China–ha, like she’d insist on anything–I’ll take her to the Golden China Dump in Wastelife, Ohio and she’ll think I’m double clever.  She always does.”

My brother went to China a couple of years ago, and it’s not the sort of trip a cheapskate Wetviewian would undertake.  According to my brother, you’d be wise to go first class, because you can develop some severe health problems in a cramped lower-class seat.  Although, come to think of it, if Cayla got severe health problems…

Ahem.

So, I went to Priceline (because Captain Kirk is cool), plugged in my nearest airport, put in Hong Kong as the destination and selected the dates of November 12 – 18.  (I think Les’ anniversary is around that time.  Like Les himself, I can’t remember.)  The result–

Whoa.  Let’s try something a little more reasonable.  I plugged in my numbers for a late-August, early-September trip to Beijing.

Still up there in “Yikes!” territory for a Language Arts teacher who doesn’t make a lot of money (as the teachers continuously point out).  Keep in mind, in both cases that’s per person, so Les is going to be out anywhere from $25 to $16 grand*.  This is a guy who wouldn’t bother to warn his first wife that she might die–and he’s going to spend that much money on Cayla?   Somehow I think the excuses will come a’runnin’ and Cayla will meekly accept them, now that she understands that she’s worthless.  (Sure seems like Les has been far more damaging than her old typing teacher could ever hope to be.)

Observe that she’s just now moving next to Les on the porch swing, now that Darin has left.  My assumption is that she was afraid she might distract attention away from Les, and that would never do.  Cayla is symptomatic of some kind of syndrome, that’s for sure.  I think it’s Lack of Pulitzer Nomination Syndrome, and I hear it’s pretty wearisome.

*Some might suggest that Les’ publishers would foot the bill.   In the real world, an author who had deliberately sabotaged a movie adaptation of his own work would be lucky to get a second book, and he’d be flung out a window if he asked for a free trip to China.  In the fantasy world of Westview, they’d not only foot the bill, they’d make sure it was national television news.  I don’t feel bound by Tom Batiuk’s logic, however…one of the main reasons this strip consistently fails to impress.

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Punch Me to the Moon

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Yeah–that sounds exactly like the way publishing must work.  Let’s take a book that’s already completed and put it aside for a book that’s barely begun, and might take (agonized) years to finish.   In the meantime, the folks who put literally moments into illustrating the first book will wait patiently to be paid.  This is as close to real as it gets, folks!  After all, if top-of-the-bestseller-lists author Les Moore isn’t handled properly, and given all the time he wants to mediocretize, he might skip to another vanity press!   Heavens!

Notice how in just one day, the focus has switched from Darin’s Californian Adventure back to Lisa.   That Pulitzer nomination must be the bitterest flavor Tom Batiuk has ever tasted.  Notice, too, that Cayla shows up just now so she can be further humiliated and placed at the back of the bus so Lisa can ride up front.  I find it very difficult to feel sympathy for her, however, as this is a bus she chose when she fought to get Les as a prize.

I take it back.  The failure of the Pulitzer committee to notice that Tom Batiuk had married his most wondrous character ever to a black woman–that taste must be bitterest of all.

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Empunchable You

Link to today’s strip.

Greetings, BChasm back for another stretch driving the Funky Phantom.  In today’s episode, the most notable thing is another amazingly punchable face by Les in panel three.  It’s so punchable, in fact, that it looks as if Tom Batiuk beat us all to the punch (so to speak) and just kept punching.  I’ve never seen a visage as scrambled as that, outside of Beetle Bailey after Sarge scrunches him to the ground.

As to the “content,” why would Darin ask Les about his Hollywood experience?  I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that Darin actually wants to work on this movie, and to see it through to completion, thus possibly getting a good-paying job.    Les, you’ll recall, worked tirelessly to torpedo his movie and make certain that Hollywood would never call him again.  It’s hard to think of a greater example of non-success, or, to give it its proper name, failure.  Unless Darin is planning on doing the exact opposite of everything Les says, he’s doomed.

The feeling on my part is that the movie won’t be made anyway.  Given the absolute sacredness with which comic books are viewed in this strip, coupled with how Evil Hollywood always wants to alter the purity of the material it has been given, means that all the cast and crew will resign en masse in order to keep from sullying the wonder that is Starbuck Jones.  If it doesn’t come from Les, it’s not allowed to happen.

By the way, I think I’ve figured out what it is that I dislike most about the art in this strip as it appears throughout Act III.  It’s not the smirks, it’s the half-lidded eyes, the ones that seem to be carrying on their own conversation.  “You know, right?”  “Of course I know.  And you know, too.”  It’s that unspoken superiority to all things that is totally unearned.  It makes me want to punch Les all the more, although all the characters do it.

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