Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Agony of Waiting

I'm trembling like a tot on Christmas morning waiting for those damn indictments! Every day I pick up the morning paper looking for that tall, ultra-bold headline––CHENEY INDICTED! Here it is Wednesday and still nothing. Come on, Fitzgerald, you're killing me!

The president is reportedly skulking around the white house cussin', kickin' the dog, sighin' real loud, and chewin' out his s'bordinates. Why'd all this stuff have to happen 'n' ruin mah presidency? Now I know how the people of my sister's generation must've felt as the noose closed in ever-so-slowly around Nixon's sweaty neck (my parents were solid Nixon people, my dad even wore a 5-o-clock shadow for the entire year of 1970 in support). Presently it feels to me like the first thaw, the last day of school, it's just so wonderful to imagine that any day now Dubya's fall could rapidly accelerate.

I'm still worried, though. Justice's hopes are pinned on the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who is, I read somewhere today, "uncorruptable, just like Elliot Ness," referring to the guy who put Al Capone away on tax evasion (in case you missed the movie). Fitzgerald, they say, is dogged, disciplined, and determined to do what's right with neither fear nor favor toward anyone. He sounds too good to be true. I hope not, because we've been let down too many times before by weasley commissions, whitewash investigations, the media, and those tigers, the Democrats. I'm not sure the republic could take another wimp out.

It'll all be about the framing. Will Fitzgerald in the end come out treating it as a teeny little case about loose lips in the white house saying things that barely crossed the line? That would be a major, major, but familiar, disappointment. Remember, Kenneth Starr was investigating a $15,000 Clinton real estate deal when the smoking gun came in the shape of Monica's smoking lips. The jesuit school boy had no problem diverting his investigation down the road of oral sex. Far less of a detour would be required in the current case to crack the whole White House Iraq Group's (WHIG) conspiracy for war wide open––and take every one of them down. Will Fitzgerald take it big? God, I hope so. I hear he's trying to get his website live in time to post the indictments. We know how that can be. Damn, that means it could take till Monday to indict those suckers and work out the html problems.

Dangle Swallows FOOT

What was I thinking yesterday when I posted an entry calling my friend, Ted Rall, a "meddling louse and second-rate hack" and suggesting that he made a syndication deal of mine go sour? The fact is I don't have any idea what happened with the Voice way back when or what caused the art director's turnaround. Editors and art directors have a right to change their minds 180 degrees whenever they want, and they do, and it's irresponsible––even in a blog with zero standards––to make such an accusation. Ted called me on it and he's right. I feel like an double-extra jerk too, considering that he was kind enough to include me in his anthology of weekly cartoonists, Attitude, which is a cool book.

Well, there I go. Finally do a little blogulating and pull a jerkoff move in the first session at the keyboard. The truly shocking thing is that even though TrouBLOGtown generates only an average of fifteen hits a year, Ted happened to find out about it on the one day that I decide to go and defame him.

Monday, October 24, 2005

New Times Swallows the VOICE!

I wish I had time to blog all day long, but as always I have been working, promoting, and trying to make the funny picture business pay, and it takes more hours than there are in the day. Of course the exciting news in my world today is the much anticipated acquisition of Village Voice Media by New Times, Inc. Now, seventeen weekly papers will be owned by one 800 pound gorilla. This brings out the paranoia in me because Troubletown hasn't had all that much success in New Times papers over the years: it ran in a Cleveland New Times paper for a little while, it ran in Broward Palm Beach for a little while, and until last week it had run in the Miami New Times since 1994. Yes, they canned me last week! Right before the merger. Coincidence, or something more sinister?

Actually I saw it coming. My editor, Jim Mullen, had been one of the first to discover Troubletown–– I didn't have many papers back in '94––and publish it in Miami, where it was instantly a favorite among the South Beach glitterati, the Versache crowd, Cubans, drug-runners, and Dolphin fans (I'm making this stuff up). Anyway, Jim retired last month, and the new editor, Chuck Strouse, canned Troubletown as one of his first orders of business. The reason I saw it coming was that Strouse is the former editor of Broward Palm-Beach New Times where, upon being hired, canned my strip there! Do I sense a Strousian bias against Troubletown? A one-man crusade to rid Florida of Dangle? Well, it looks like he has succeeded. For now. Hopefully Strouse's career will not involve bouncing around to too many of my other papers.

The swallowee, Village Voice Media is itself a chain of weeklies. I've had better luck there––except with the goddamn flagship. OC Weekly has run Troubletown for a long time, where the cartoon is a favorite target for venomous, fixed-income Republicans. OC Weekly is one of my favorite weeklies, not only because the editor and staff are sweethearts to work for, but because they fearlessly operate right there in the bastion of nutcase American conservatism. Over in Los Angeles they only run my strip occasionally in the LA Weekly.

The Village Voice, however, has always been a pain in my ass. I loved the journalism and comics in the Voice so much growing up in Michigan, where newspapers read like oatmeal, that it was 90% of why I moved to New York in 1983. I got myself hired and worked there for three years in the production department when the Voice was owned by pet food magnate Leonard Stern, trying in vain to get my cartoons in front of my bosses and published. Once in the middle of the night on deadline at "the plant," an old Voice art director, Wes Anderson, told me, "Your stuff is way too fresh for the Voice. Once your cartoons old and tired and boring the Voice will want you." That was so nice of him to say.

Years later, the slick, downtown, nineties-to-the-present art director, Ted Keller, told me at an AAN convention, "We want you in the Voice! We'll talk right after the convention." Finally, I thought, I'm either good or boring enough to get in!

I called Keller right after I got back and he sounded less enthusiastic. "What is it between you and Ted Rall, anyway? What has he got against you?" he asked.

"Huh? Ted Rall?" I had no idea what he was talking about. What did Ted Rall have to do with it?

Anyway, after that, Keller became mute and stopped returning my calls. Was it Rall who got me shit-canned from the Voice before I was ever in? Was Keller too weak-kneed to stand up to the meddling louse and second-rate hack Rall would be if he really interfered? We'll never know. I've talked to the editor, Donald Forst, on many brief calls to ask him to consider Troubletown again, so far without success. Well, they're all working for the Phoenix-based New Times company now. Forst and Keller might be looking for jobs, and our man Chuck Strouse may be packing his bags for Manhattan. This ain't no easy business.