From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…
I don’t want to slant today's C&J poll by saying how great I think it is that we now have so many talented editorial cartoonists regularly posting on Daily Kos, so I won't. Instead, I'll just pull up our giant beanbag chair and have a little chat with one of 'em.
Jen Sorensen took her first breath of American Freedom Oxygen a few decades ago in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1996 and, two years later, debuted her iconic "current events from a liberal perspective" comic strip Slowpoke. Since then, the strip has garnared a loyal following and six awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.
Jen's work has appeared in the Village Voice, LA Times, Ms. Magazine, The Progressive, NPR.org, altweeklies around the country and here at DKos on Wednesdays. She's served on the board of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, and hosts her own blog. This morning we're thrilled to plant our klieg lights two inches from her face for the latest installment of our C&J interview series, Yes, We're All Staring At YOU!
Cheers & Jeers: How long have you been blogging and what originally brought you to Daily Kos?
Jen Sorensen: I’ve been blogging since January 2004, when I felt compelled to write a post predicting the Dems would lose the presidential election if they nominated John Kerry. As the great Molly Ivins put it, he had no Elvis. I joined Daily Kos at the invitation of a group of cartoonists posting their work here, but I got busy with other things and stopped posting for a while (sorry!).
In your first comment here at Daily Kos, going back to April, 2007, you said you'd "long been frustrated that alternative political cartoonists have mostly flown under the radar of the Big Blogs…even though many of us are widely published." Do you like the way Daily Kos has opened the door to political cartoonists?
Absolutely! The Bush years were something of a Renaissance for political cartoons, yet it seemed like alternative newspapers and the progressive blogosphere existed in separate universes. I’m grateful to Daily Kos for making the connection, and I hope it leads to more sites recognizing us (and paying us). During the Bush years, alternative cartoonists were far more accurate than a lot of the blowhard pundits you see on cable TV.
How did you get your start in cartooning?
Like most cartoonists, it’s something I’ve always done since I was a kid. While in college, I drew a daily strip for the school newspaper that seemed to get a fair amount of attention. I also had some short-story comics published professionally, which probably influenced my decision to pursue cartooning after graduating instead of grad school. I started submitting comics to papers a couple years after graduation. The 2000 election recount debacle made me take a sharp political turn. That was such a dark period, doing anything non-political suddenly felt trivial.
Who were your mentors or influences as you developed your own style?
I grew up reading Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics and MAD Magazine, and later discovered Matt Groening, R. Crumb, Peter Bagge, and Roz Chast, who I just had the pleasure of hanging out with at the Small Press Expo a few months ago. And of course, many alt-weekly cartoonists paved the way: Tom Tomorrow, Ruben Bolling, Ted Rall, Lloyd Dangle, and Ward Sutton, among others.
How long does it take to create a "Slowpoke" strip?
The writing process varies---it can take 1-2 hours or 1-2 days. Once that’s hammered out, creating the artwork takes around six hours.
If someone wants to be a successful cartoonist, they must...what?
I always say it’s easier to be a rock star than a successful cartoonist, but generally speaking, living frugally, going to conferences and conventions, getting to know other cartoonists, and having endless patience (or stubbornness) are all helpful. A lot depends on what genre of cartooning you’re working in: political cartoons, comic strips, webcomics, gag cartoons. The markets and audiences are all very different.
What kind of music makes you feel invincible to the GOP horde?
I go back to the classics: British punk from the late '70s/early '80s. To hell with poverty!
How do you continually find humor in political situations---like anything related to Congress or the economy---that are, by any standard, severely depressing?
Well, as they say, bad experiences can make great comedy. Piqued emotion translates more readily into humor for me, so I try to focus on stories that really get my goat. Sometimes the sheer horror of American politics makes even me lose my sense of humor. And too much of a bad thing can get boring, as I found during the last couple years of the Bush administration.
Of the 2012 GOP candidates, which one do you consider the greatest source of comedy gold so far?
They’re all so clown-like and over-the-top, with the exception of Huntsman, that I find them difficult to parody. Romney has a nice roboticism about him that makes me chuckle whenever I see him. Rick Perry has great wrinkles that are fun to draw.
What's the one book every Kossack must read?
Of all the political books I’ve read, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine was probably the most eye-opening. And it’s more relevant than ever in our present era of manufactured crises and austerity-fever.
Finish this sentence: In the kitchen I make a mean…
Thanksgiving dinner. Especially butternut squash curry soup, but really it was all excellent this year. You should have been here.
You talent was recently featured in MAD magazine, which I've read for…1,2,3,4…37 years. Just wondering if I can kiss your feet next time I see you. Going to Providence in June?
Yes, I collaborated with Mr. Slowpoke on a very non-political strip in the current issue. I do hope to make my feet available for kissing and/or massage at Netroots Nation.
No waffling here: dogs or cats?
That is a highly controversial question, but I won’t waffle: I like small, cat-like dogs. I own a cairn terrier, like Toto.
I have one question left, but I'm tired of being the only one who does anything around here. Please ask and answer the final question yourself...
Happy to help. I have two questions:
Q: Creamy or chunky?
A: Creamy is obviously the purest expression of peanut butter’s mellow smoothness. Chunky is like having sand in your swimsuit.
Q: Give us a closing thought to ponder.
A: Making money is the only sport in which we condemn the losers to death---from lack of health insurance, hunger, etc. Americans need to apply lessons of good sportsmanship to the game of life.
Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
Cheers and Jeers for Monday, December 5, 2011
Note: ||||||||||||||||||||| (Time to trim your unibrow?)
By the Numbers:
Days 'til the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary: 29, 36
Days `til the Army-Navy game: 5
Increase in vehicle sales between November 2010 and November 2011: 13.9%
Year-to-year increase for, respectively, GM, Ford and Chrysler: 7%, 13.%, 44%
(Source: USA Today)
Percent increase in the number of tweets written in Arabic over the last year: 2,000%
Rank of "iPhone," "Casey Anthony," "Japan earthquake" and "Osama bin Laden" among Yahoo's top search terms of 2011: #1, #2, #9, #10
Number of the three wise men who complained that some kid pounding away on a drum in the dead of night was "probably the worst present anyone could give a baby, let alone Baby Jesus": 1
NE Patriots 31 Indy Colts 24
Puppy Pic of the Day Eight years later…Found!
CHEERS to big bidness. Time's running out---the third annual Netroots Nation Holiday Bazaar online auction comes to a crashing halt at 10 ET tonight. The auction's an easy way to get some holiday shopping done and support a great cause (proceeds support the programs sponsored by Netroots Nation). There's a plethora of unique treasures, gifts, keepsakes and edibles for anyone on your holiday list, including:
Over 110 items on the virtual auction block! NO muss! NO fuss! NO trips to the mall! NO 8-hour delays on the tarmac! How much would you pay for all this? That's up to you! But bid early and bid often, because the Netroots Nation Holiday Bazaar online auction ends tonight at 10. Oh, and for an extra 50 bucks, John McCain will deliver your goods dressed as Santa. Or, for an extra hundred bucks, he won’t.
JEERS to bigger time wasters than Angry Birds. My headline for Saturday's major announcement: Cain Bails, Atlas Shrugs. Yes, Herman Cain, who offered absolutely nothing but platitudes for the gullible and facepalms for the rest of us, bowed out of the GOP presidential race. This bit of departing wisdom rivaled Sarah Palin's "Only dead fish go with the flow" as the silliest line by a cut-and-runner:
"We will move the shining city on the hill back to the hilltop."
How inconsequential was Cain's departure, seeing as everyone knew from Day 1 that he was not going to be the last man standing? Let me put it this way: MSNBC gave Chris Hayes approximately 3 minutes for analysis, and then they promptly returned to their prison snuff documentaries. Before we forget, C&J gives props to Jonathan Martin at Politico for his initial reporting on the adultery that brought Cain down. Still, I feel some sadness in watching Cain shuffle off to spend more time with his family's couch. Mainly because he promised he'd be back.
CHEERS to sweet victory. On today's date in 1792, George Washington won reelection. It was a brutal campaign. His challenger was a real jerk named...um...George Washington. Watching him debate himself was actually a little creepy: "Shan't!" "Shall!" "Shan't!" "Shall!" "Thy wife weareth the boots of a paymaster in the Continental Army!" "Okay, okay...thou hast me there, I concedeth the point." "Then bullocks to you, I win!" Oh...Did I mention he owned his own distillery?
Gong! Gong!! BuddaBuddaBudda… GONG!!!
This is another edition of The One Word Answer Man. Over at Washignton Monthly, Steve Benen asks: News tip for the right: Simpson-Bowles is much further to the left than anything Republicans have been willing to even think about on debt reduction. Do they not understand this?
Now back to Cheers and Jeers.
Gong! Gong!! BuddaBuddaBudda… GONG!!!
CHEERS to history in the making (aka The Maine Event). Portland's first elected mayor in 88 years takes the oath of office this morning. Michael Brennan, the victor over 14 other candidates in Maine's first election using a ranked-choice voting system, will grapple with employment issues, keep the business climate buzzing, battle the scourge of graffiti, and figure out how to play nice with the Occupy Maine protesters located just a mic check away from City Hall. And then…lunch.
CHEERS to speedy Kossack wish fulfillment. Larry King: "I want to be frozen." Weatherdude: Deep freeze set to envelop U.S. this week. The National Association of Gays, Feminists and Pagans for Climate Calamity issued a brief statement: "Wow---he's good."
CHEERS (at least on his birthday) to #8. Martin Van Buren (aka "Martin Van Ruin") turns 229 today. He sat around picking his nose during the panic of 1837, and was on duty during the time of the shameful Trail of Tears. And talk about your Herculean wafflers:
Martin Van Buren was renowned for not taking a stand. One story, which Van Buren admits to in his autobiography, tells how one senator accepted a bet that he could actually make Van Buren admit to something with finality. "It's been rumored that the sun rises in the east," said the senator to Van Buren. "Do you believe it?" "Well, Senator," came the reply, "I understand that's the common acceptance, but as I never get up till after dawn, I can't really say."
---From The Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents by Cormac O'Brien:
See, Romney? That's how a pro does it.
Five years ago in C&J: December 5, 2006
GOOD RIDDANCE to John Bolton. Despite a desperate plea from his wife to keep him away from home a bit longer, the U.S. Hater of the U.N. joins Brownie, Powell, Rumsfeld et al. on the growing scrapheap of exiled Bush administration failures. Good luck with that mall Santa gig in Hackensack, buddy.
JEERS to the worst of the worst. Columbia University professor Eric Foner says President Bush is our Worst President Ever for some good reasons: He's "stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes" like Pierce, Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson. He's "channeling money and favors to big business" like Harding and Coolidge. He displays "disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power" like Nixon. And toss in Polk's "unprovoked attack" on Mexico for good measure. So, to summarize: Last in war. Last in peace. And last in the hearts of his countrymen.
And just one more…
CHEERS to the new kids on the tube. Current TV's live news lineup, under the direction of Keith Olbermann, debuts some new but familiar faces this evening: The Young Turks starts its weekday run in the 7pm time slot. And talk about stacking the deck: Alan Grayson will be one of their first guests. Given that Cenk Uygur is no longer tethered to MSNBC's fussy beltway bobblehead demands to "act like an insider," expect him to haul heavier rhetorical artillery onto the set. We hope he and the crew find a happy home at Current, and enjoy a successful run. My only advice: give that bleep button a workout.
Have a riotous Monday. Floor's open...What are you cheering and jeering about today?
Today's Shameless C&J Testimonial:
"Preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon Cheers and Jeers."