Not having bothered to blog in a while (during which time, this blog escaped and went feral, submitting posts under its own name on bizarre astronomical and eskimo-porn web-sites; I wrangled it back this morning with the promise of cookies, and then subdued it with a benzodiazapene-spiced cracker), I had no real inclination to blog today. If I didn't have anything to say, why say it?
That was obviously not the motivating question for the syndicated cartoonists in the Sunday Newspapers, who today banded together for the first time since they met up during lunchbreak in the maths classroom, played Dungeons and Dragons, and wondered what girls were, a few dozen years ago. And that includes the girls. Anyway, they put out a collective commemoration, in which they pretty much had nothing to say, and said it en masse.
[Note: the original version of this post snagged a few of the cartoons to discuss below, but my attempts to reproduce them in the post were foiled, as the people who produced and print these cartoons put far more energy into protecting their intellectual property than into creating, cultivating, and developing intellectual property (and if that isn't a metaphor for something, I don't know what is)]
You can read the blurb and see what the syndicated cartoonists came up with here. They are, in many ways, like the security apparatus around us now: if you see something, say something. (which always makes me want to call the hotline and say, "Hey, I just saw two squirrels fucking." Or "I just saw a bus almost hit a cyclist, and I was kinda rooting for the bus." Well, I did see something . . . ) If you see something, say something. Don't people understand that freedom is not about what you say, but about what you don't?
Anyway, the cartoonists appear to have researched the flatulently middle-brow, Newsweeky, Timey, Lifey special edition issues and found their inspiration there. I'm not going to say that a few of the cartoons didn't get to me; a few did. It's that kind of day - a weird one, in fact, with the President's and ex-President's helicopters chopping over downtown; with the not very comforting roar of jets soon after; motorcades of state patrol police cars presumably protecting the governor at the head of their own sultry-brown parade; and, in one of those things that really does get to you, firemen walking around in their formal uniforms, probably heading downtown.
Other than the cartoons, I have avoided reading anything except this - from the very useful and amusing Ask the Pilot column at salon.com. (Oh but if you head to salon, don't read Laura Miller's execrable Why haven't we seen a great 9/11 novel? whose only worthwhile point is that she's sorta brave enough to dismiss Jonathan Safran Foer's 9/11 novel as "sentimental"; there was one response to Foer's contribution to the New Yorker editorials last week that I'm going to quote here: *hurl - yes, thank you, an alert reader for putting it that way) So anyway, in his piece, Patrick Smith says:
It's not the anniversary itself that irks me. The 10-year mark is -- or should be -- worthy of our solemn respects and a national timeout. But commemorating the attacks would feel a lot more meaningful if, in fact, we had ever stopped commemorating them. Our healing process has been never-ending -- occasionally introspective and edifying, but all too often maudlin and suffocating.
Yes, quite. Doonesbury was, as ever, attuned to patient skepticism, in today's memorial. It's also the only cartoon that is actually almost funny.
[Let's see if this works:
As one might expect, there is no lack of nationalism and jingoism in the cartoons,, but the overall impetus of the cartoons is to say 'This is how we will remember and mourn'; which is also to say: this is how we will insistently forget. Cartoons are good at that; it's not surprise that there are lots of cute dogs and round children, with lots of family and hugging, and blue teardrop-shaped tears. But most of it's just a kind of awkward, airy, phony. Maybe this will suffice as a relatively narratively-complex example?
Yes, or maybe it is deeply meaningful and ironic? Somebody who wins after a (cough, cough, unnecessary) recount promptly accomplishes his number one priority, which is a form of moving commemoration for the terrorist attacks. I don't know: is that sort of a weird metaphor for George W. Bush's presidency, a reverberating, distorted echo of "Mission Accomplished", or is it chastising the entire decade for its unending, hideously violent, socially criminal, civil rights-undermining commemoration in the form of wars and and in the name of "security", by saying: "we could have had our priorities right and remembered that day efficiently and . . ." Well, I was going to say "and tastefully", but there is no way that this cartoon's memorial is tasteful.
There are, of course, a few, slightly subversive ones. Just about the only interesting one was this.
It reminded me of Slaughterhouse Five, when time goes backwards, and the airplanes suck up the bombs that fell on the city, return them to the hangar, where they are shipped back to the factory, where women unmake them. In this peaceful cartoon about nature, there are a number of truly shocking repressions necessary to make it work, but at the end, the image is quite a haunting one. A terrible if only. Its story is a weird, reversed doppelgänger to history, suggesting restoration, memorialisation in the form of renewal, the gentle return to the order of things; the images themselves are a sort of natural imagining of the most 'unnatural' of sites (a city skyline); and there was always that strange doubling in the twin towers themselves. (I could linger on this cartoon: for all the startling unexpectedness of the lightning strikes in panel three, the cartoon gives a whole panel to rumbling, thunderous forebodings: how many other representations or editorials or discussions give a full and equal fifth of their space to the reminder that the attacks did not come out of nowhere? Yes, we know, 'bin Laden determined to strike' - but that has become a footnote, not an equal fifth of the usual story).
I suppose I should end this blog by objecting to the paucity of jokes in these cartoons, by objecting to the complete lack of any sick or transgressive comedy: but, remember, we're talking about the daily syndicated cartoonists. These men and women are the doodling scribes of the media at is most mediocre; some are better than others, some, like simperingly outraged, right-whinge, battling """Political Correctness""" Mallard Fillmore, are worse, but really, what would you expect?
And in some ways, that's the very worst thing to be thinking on this day, isn't. What would you expect? What did you expect? You expected something else?