29 September 2006

The post-modern Everyman

See it here.

The composition and content of today's panel is extremely interesting. Most interesting is that the central figure is not our protagonists, Joy and Burl, but instead is the ticket window patron, who is devoid of facial features, a clearly deliberate quotation of Magritte's The Son of Man, symbol of the lonely anonymity which occurs because humans refuse connection with one another, preferring to be solitary, even when in plain sight: "Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see, but it is impossible. Humans hide their secrets too well." In a panel with significant baby imagery, this man must symbolize the Son of all Mankind, in essence the post-modern Everyman.

The rest of the figures in the panel are only important insofar as we can learn from their interaction with the post-modern Everyman.

Burl and Joy, in virtual unison of gaze and posture, glare in consternation at this enigmatic symbol. Their mode of interaction with the world involves constant hostility and an assumption that every inconvenience is a deliberate and personal affront. In a world lacking meaningful social interaction, they have gone to a strangely opposite extreme and assigned every shred of interaction a narcissistically excessive amount of meaning. Burl, the infant-in-adult's-clothing, is the mouthpiece for this world view, lacking the impulse control necessary to keep his thoughts to himself.

The mother of the baby and presumed wife of the post-modern Everyman has jerked her head a clear 180 degrees in anger at Burl's comment. This head-swiveling ability, which appears to be common in The Dinette Set's universe, is an animalistically maternal response to a perceived threat to her infant, though ultimately impotent. More importantly, however, she is taking this action in favor of responding to the very real cries of her infant, whose desperate needs go unfulfilled while its parents attempt to sedate themselves with the latest entertainment offering from the mass media.

In the background we have a solitary figure standing out against the other shadowy background figures. He is slyly and voyeuristically enjoying the conflict, but refusing to be drawn into it.

When everything is placed together, this panel clearly bespeaks the profound and growing dehumanization of the post-modern existence.

Hidden behind the four walls of our houses and fenced off from our neighbors, our lives are devoid of contact with the community of Man. We've traded non-interactive entertainment, such as movies and television, for direct human contact. What contact the post-modern Everyman does engage in is done anonymously, voyeuristically, and within a space with dubious impulse-control rules, such as the Internet.

The end result, the panel surmises, is a rending of the social fabric which will eventually become so acute that, among other things, human parents will lack the necessary instinct to even care for their young.

Surrealist marginalia:
  • If you look closely, I believe the infant in line is actually the infant star of Look Who's Talking Again, despite the fact that the artist has cleverly tried to mask the difference with a hilarious false moustache.
  • Sam's Club has a family crest?

28 September 2006

Death ride

See it here.

The Dinette Set, as is its wont, takes the road less traveled, eschewing banal conventionality, like humor, in favor of exploring the deeper and more poignant mysteries of the human soul.

Ostensibly a panel about Timmy's new bike and the disastrous consequences which accrue when Dale attempts to take it for a spin, what we actually have is a parable about accepting age with dignity. Dale commits the elemental mistake of attempting to relive his youth by taking the first turn on Timmy's bike and finds himself hurtling towards a strangely empty white space in the panel.

Towards the void, if you will.

The bike at once becomes a figurative and literal death ride, hurtling out of Dale's control towards his own death. In the most optimistic scenario, the panel is entirely metaphoric and speaks to the need to accept the slow descent towards death, rather than hastening one's demise through age-inappropriate thrill-seeking behavior. More disturbingly, the reader must face the possibility the panel is not a metaphor and we are witnessing the moment just before Dale's horrific and fatal bike accident scars Timmy for life.

Whatever the actual answer, a part of me believes this panel is The Dinette Set's homage to Mary Worth's recently departed and irreplaceable stalker-in-Captain-Kangaroo's-clothing, Aldo Kelrast.

27 September 2006

The long goodbye

See it here.

Ma Penny has long been The Dinette Set's most tragic character, hounded as she is by the specters of death and dementia. And today's panel examines what it is like to live in Ma's world.

Her home, which I believe we are visiting today though that is pure speculation, is a clear metaphor for a failing mind. She cannot remember her own daughter's phone number, yet takes the time to commemorate that fact in writing on the wall. She has lost her car keys. And she has forgotten to fill in her own mnemonic device, despite its massive size and prominent placement.

Narratively, Ma mistakes the salad spinner for a serving dish, or possibly an implement intended to distribute salad dressing, clearly a sign that she is in need of assisted living.

This appears, on the surface, to be an incredibly simple joke. And yet, paradoxically it doesn't work, which is the author's clear intent. The key is the deliberate and conspicuously imprecise use of the word "tossed." On one hand it is brilliant because of its pun-like quality and could add to the joke. But on the other hand it causes the reader to wonder if, perhaps, the panel's meaning runs much deeper than is evident on the surface. Should we be looking for puns or double-entendre visually as well as verbally? Is the meaning actually something beyond what we are seeing on the surface?

Once the reader starts down this path, we are given a chance to experience what it is like to be Ma, trapped inside a failing mind which cannot make sense out of even the simplest things.

I can't remember where I left the marginalia:
  • Looks like Ma broke out the fancy, and I mean fancy in a jewel-encrusted way, goblets for Joy and Burl.
  • A good rule of thumb would be: if you can't draw salad on Burl's fork that is distinguishable from a mass of squiggles or a pair of busted eyeglasses, then you'd be better off not drawing them at all.

26 September 2006

Be right back

A second post today because commenter treedweller requested that I take a peek at this panel from 23 September, 2006.

I admit that this panel does pose significant interpretive issues. For starters, it brazenly defies conventional wisdom which says that comics should have an identifiable narrative or joke, and preferably both.

At base, we have a man using a laptop computer, and Burl is reading off his screen the chat shorthand "B-R-B" and asking what it means. The natural assumption is that Burl is being rude in reading the man's screen (reinforced by the sly smiley face on his T-shirt). The man, therefore has suspended his activity and told the person on the other end of the conversation that they will "be right back" in order to deal with Burl.

Of course, that reading suffers from several problems, the central being that it is not funny in any way generally understood by homo sapiens. Beyond that, typing "brb" assumes a two-way instant communication connection, which would require an internet connection, which may be available in train stations but not (so far as I know) on trains themselves.

And so, having determined what the panel is not (funny or narratively sound), we can actually pierce the fog and determine what it is, which actually turns out to be very simple.

The single most prominent detail is the word "Dell" which is conspicuously framed inside a white expanse which is purportedly the laptop's cover. Also conspicuously, no attempt is made to mock the laptop's brand, such as terming it "Dull".

And so, we are left with only one reasonable explanation. Dell Computers, for reasons passing understanding, paid an enormous amount of cash for product placement within The Dinette Set and this is what they got.

Visit the marginalia's Facebook page:
  • American Tourister also seems to have paid for placement, though obviously not as much as Dell.
  • Is it just me or does the "car may be disengaged" warning read like a tasteless Amtrak derailment joke?

Bewildering freedom of choice

See it here.

After spending almost two months contemplating how best to address the subject, The Dinette Set finally gets around to using the primary defeat of Joe Lieberman as a springboard for a sweeping lament about the state of US politics.

Political campaigns are no longer discussed in terms of issues, the panel clearly suggests. Instead, the entire focus is on the who's-up-who's-down of the horse race. Polling used to be a reactive glimpse at the voter's state of mind regarding the virtue of a candidate's positions relative to his opposition. Now polling has assumed a leading role in defining the actual value of a candidate. So much so that polling data can actually depress voter turnout and decide elections.

Furthermore, personal connection with candidates has been eliminated in the post-television era of large media conglomerates. Everything which is known about any given candidate comes from those 3-second sound bites which are deemed entertaining enough to take time away from reportage on American Idol. And, just as the TV Guide can be trusted to define the hot shows (saving us the trouble of deciding for ourselves), those sound bites which make the cut must pass through the filter of a talking head who will save the populace the trouble of distilling information for itself.

Once the panel is closely examined, the reader cannot help joining with Joy's shirt in the belief that the entire exercise is a bunco swindle in which we, the people, are persuaded to buy worthless candidates who are, ultimately, Kinko's copies of one another.

You can fool some of the marginalia some of the time:
  • I'm struggling to identify the significance of Marlene's bathing wear.
  • I'm also struggling to read the bottom lines on Jerry's shirt and Burl's cup.

25 September 2006

A private matter

See it here.

I'm back from vacation, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. And to greet me, The Dinette Set examines our sense of personal security and privacy.

Joy stands, as naked as anyone could possibly tolerate, in front of a window which affords a view out onto the world but also allows the world to peer into her house. While she looks through the blinds, the neighborhood has a clear view of her bare midriff sandwiched between a sturdy brassier and a comfortable pair of underwear. And, in a delicious meta-theatrical irony, the reader has a perfect voyeuristic vantage point from within her own house, unimpeded by even a small amount of Venetian blind.

It's not clear what, precisely, this metaphor speaks to. Certainly it could be a general comment about the Internet, which enables unprecedented access to information but also imposes serious risks to one's personal security if not careful (or if AOL publicly publishes your search history). Possibly it expresses a more topical concern regarding the trade-offs of the NSA wiretapping program which violates civil rights while purporting to provide additional security against external threats. It could be a more general commentary and not related to anything specific.

What is perfectly clear, however, is how Joy chooses to deal with the insecurity of living in the modern world: she ignores it completely pretending instead that she is perfectly safe. She hides her head behind the Venetian blinds of life, preferring to believe herself and her privacy secure against all evidence to the contrary, such as the all-too-evident open window just inches below her eyeline.

Pay no attention to the marginalia recording your conversation:
  • Burl's reaction to all of this is strangely paradoxical. On the one hand his posture indicates an airy lack of concern. And yet, if my eyes do not deceive me, he has concern lines radiating from his forehead. Either that or his Spidey-sense is tingling.
  • Please, God, tell me that dark patch on Joy's underpants is not an Xtreme skid mark.

20 September 2006

Super-size us

See it here.

I am in a rush today (still on vacation), and so all I have time for (without incurring the wrath of loved ones) is this:

Appalled as I am at the fact that poor Timmy has been left in Burl's care, I am at least grateful that Burl and Joy removed the S&M spikes from their kitchen chairs to protect the child from injury during his indentured servitude.

This small act indicates some capacity for personal growth on the part of Burl and Joy, a capacity which is mirrored by their capacity for weight gain as a result of over-indulging in french fries.

19 September 2006


See it here.

On the surface we have a fat joke, to wit: Joy's neck is too fat for the necklace to reach around. But bubbling below the surface, we have a panoply of symbols reflecting the state of Burl and Joy's relationship.

Burl, for example, has long since ceased to see their relationship as anything beyond a convenience borne of dependencies. His shirt could obviously be a reference to his belief that he had a hand in Patty's upbringing, a claim which is probably dubious. More likely, however, it is a reference to his having long since retired any feelings of care towards Joy.

More poignant is Joy's not-so-secret wish for Burl to view her as an object of desire, as expressed by her shirt's brazen declaration that her breasts can be "bought" (and rather cheaply at that). Long gone are the days (if, indeed, they ever existed) when Burl might give Joy a present in the hopes of attaining physical requitement from her. Why exactly Burl has given Joy a present is not the subject of the panel, though it is safe to assume that the reason is entirely perfunctory. No matter how much Joy wishes it, the gift from Burl comes with no strings attached.

And, in the final analysis, the fact that they openly shop in a faux jewelry store for gifts is a clear indication that neither of them attaches any value to their relationship beyond the surface appearance they project to those around them. It does not matter if their private lives are a living hell of emotionless co-habitation and unrequited love, so long as, to Dale and Marlene's eyes, everything appears normal.

18 September 2006

Fact-free zone

See it here.

Today's Dinette Set is all about the fading importance of fact in modern discourse, especially in the midst of a bitterly-contested election where truth is the first casualty.

No one in the audience can possibly have any idea what the actual number of steps for a day should be, and the author must know this. So we have to conclude that the panel is designed to ask the reader to derive enjoyment without benefit of knowing the facts.

As such, and much like modern discourse, the reader is apt to accept as fact whichever figure best fits their own preconceptions, or in this case makes the joke more personally entertaining.

17 September 2006

The invisible hand

See it here.

Picking up one of the panels I missed while away, The Dinette Set takes a hard look at TV, advertising, and the modern condition.

By the 21st century, TV advertising has virtually perfected itself. Assisted by the fact that the length of the average commercial is within the attention span of the average channel-surfing viewer (unlike the programming), pop-culture knowledge of commercials is as much coin of the realm as knowledge of the programming which interrupts the steady stream.

Madison Avenue Moguls rub their hands in glee knowing that water cooler conversation and You Tube links are as likely to feature the latest commercials as actual programming. And Marketing Directors at major corporations cackle knowing people will TiVo the Super Bowl so they can watch the newest commercials.

Of course, Burl's tastes in commercials is a bit more pedestrian than most, but we should probably forgive him his desire for hair. After all, commercials will tell you that to be attractive, you need it.

That said, the real metaphysical question posed by this panel is: There's an identifiable "best" of Full House?

16 September 2006

Crossed salad implements

I'm heading off for a week of vacation and time to post properly will be scare, but I'll try my best to get regular "quick hits" up here.

See it here.

Dueling rudeness today with overtones bemoaning of the lack of civility and growing crudeness in human discourse and interaction. The central ethical question revolves around which couple is demonstrating the most rudeness.

Is it Burl and Joy for going off-script and purchasing a worthless house warming gift? Or is it the about-to-be-newlyweds for crassly pointing out that Burl and Joy have purchased a gift that was not on the registry?

The author's answer is not well hidden. The goateed man wielding the oversized salad spoon like a cudgel is fairly dramatic evidence that he and his wife are the one's overstepping the boundaries of good taste the most.

15 September 2006

Crustwood free trade association

See it here.

Given the impact globalization has on workers of Burl's age and stature, it's no wonder The Dinette Set takes a probing look at this deeply complicated issue.

On the surface Burl and Joy embrace the idea of globalization, celebrating their connection with the rest of the world, represented by the German cousin, as well as the idea of the "global village" which shrinks the world and enables his cousin from another country to come for a visit. They welcome him with a large party, American-style, and even try to add a few appropriate flourishes, such as signeage which says "Velcome" and a name tag which says "Da!"

And yet, for all their effort to embrace globalization, they reflexively rebel against it.

How else to explain the Tiki torches, which clearly imply that, to Burl and Joy, one ethnic touch is as good as another. No effort need be expended learning specifics about the German culture from which the cousin originates. Tiki torches are foreign to American and, as such, they should be good enough for a foreign guest of any stripe, all of who fall into the same category: "not American." This point is further strengthened by Joy's shirt with it's mix-and-match language usage.

But that represents the more passive-aggressive aspects of Burl and Joy's rebellion. It also features much more overt aggression as well. For example, they conflate the concept of "translation" with "we don't understand your crazy foreign language and why don't you just speak English, goddamnit?"

In addition, Burl atampts to force all ethnicities to conform to his pre-conceived notions, all of which emanate from American entertainment, such as the fat but lovable German Sgt. Shultz from Hogan's Heroes whose name is emblazoned on Burl's T-shirt.

The T-shirt shirt itself offers and even deeper puzzle because the phrase "Dismissed" was not Sgt Shultz's catch phrase, but that of Col. Klink. That forces us to wonder at the intent of such an obvious mismatch, since the possibility of an accidental mismatch is so remote.

Perhaps the two lines of the shirt are meant to be an entire phrase: "Dismissed, Sgt. Shulz!" In this case it is expressing Burl's isolationist rage and desire to cast all foreigners, including his cousin, from America's shores. On the other hand, perhaps it bespeaks Burl's lack of understanding of his own culture in that he can't even get American pop culture references correct. Unfortunately, we may never know the true answer to this question.

But what is certainly clear from this panel is that globalization may be a fact of modern existence, but the first line of defense is blithely co-opting the entire notion and redefining it until it means "foreigners becoming more American."

I see no marginalia! I hear no marginalia!
  • Unless I am mistaken, I spy Psychiatrist John (who's been absent for a long time) and Personal Injury Lawyer Tom in the crowd.
  • It's hard to tell where Dale's face ends and the party guest's bicep begins. That's twice in two days that Dale's face has merged with a background body part.

14 September 2006

A matter of perspective

See it here.

The first thing I'm certain every reader noticed about today's panel is the jarring change in perspective on the living room. The Dinette Set relies heavily on repetition of backdrops, providing a familiar but essentially blank slate on which it can make its philosophical arguments.

Among the standard backdrops, the straight-on view of the living room is among the most frequent.

As such, the sudden change to a three-quarters view begs for analysis. It's tempting to believe that the change is entirely functional, necessitated by the plot requirement to show the resistance chair out the window.

But that functional interpretation requires belief that the artist is not herself keenly aware that showing the chair does nothing to enhance the panel. As if that were not enough, the chair is rendered with such coarseness and clumsiness that it is hardly recognizable as a chair.

And while that answer is, in fact, too easy and too obvious, it is precisely that realization which unlocks our understanding of the panel as a whole.

The leap to an easy and obvious answer mirrors Burl's desire for an easy and obvious solution to his weight loss problem.

When, the panel asks, did the American Dream change from being about the rewards of hard work into the dream of finding a get rich (or thin) quick scheme?

Before the reader has the time to laugh at Burl for his foibles, the panel forces us to realize that we, like Burl, are looking for our own easy answers.

Lose 30 marginalia in 30 days:
  • Here we go with the Cialis again.
  • Burl's cup appears to say "Big Slupe"
  • Anyone want to hazard a guess about the full title and significance of the "Baby Jones" movie?

13 September 2006

Some gave all

See it here.

On the 5th anniversary of the September 11th attacks against America, The Dinette Set takes a close look at where we are 5 years later.

The eerily-empty city street suggests strongly that everyone is crossing the street, if not the county, to avoid any contact with Jerry, whose all-over-hairiness understandably makes the average passerby suspicious that he is Arabic. Not because Arabs are necessarily hirsute, but because Jerry looks different and different is not only bad, but potentially lethal.

Burl and Dale's high-stepping gait conspicuously exposes their heels, providing a bittersweet reminder that everyday items like shoe heels and liquids have been transformed into objects of irrational fear.

The sewer grate, spewing forth gas with enough force to lift the T-shirt from Jerry's impressive girth with a strangely billowy flourish conjures up a dual image of America's consumption of fossil fuels, thus funding our enemies, and the dangers posed by potential attacks on our infrastructure, in which sewer gas could be replaced with Sarin.

And, finally, Burl's obvious mistaken identification of the Marilyn Monroe movie reference as being from Gentleman Prefer Blondes is a potent reminder that terrorists hate the average American citizen's freedom to be so aggressively and openly stupid.

Many issues are raised, but as is befitting a struggle as nuanced as the one in which America finds ourselves and a comic as nuanced as The Dinette Set, few definitive answers are forthcoming.

Marginalia are no longer allowed on planes:
  • Is Burl's shirt supposed to say Cheep!, Chief! or Chiep! Either way I don't get it.
  • Is Jerry really supposed to be a member of AARP. While not young, nothing in the artwork suggests the characters are that old.
  • Does Dale always wear that inane grin?
Note: Many thanks to Chris over at Permanent Monday, for not only saying nice things about the site (high praise coming from him) but also for directing people to the new location. My bad timing to be away for a few days, but I hope some new folks will enjoy the blog.

09 September 2006

Meta-post: Hiatus

I am travelling, so there will be a hiatus for the next 2-4 weeks. I may post some or not at all, since it is not clear at this point how much time and access to the Internet I will have.

08 September 2006

Don't eat the carrots

See it here.

Theatre of the absurd today, in the style of Samuel Beckett, which asks the reader to consider meaning in a world where there appears to be no true order or meaning.

Why has Ma revealed to everyone the fact that her hands are now clean? The question itself is absurd and there is no answer forthcoming. There is no simple explanation for all the mysteries of the world, the panel tells us. Previous attempts to explain have all failed because they oversimplified the human condition. And they are a source of despair to those who carry around the hope that a simplified system can provide answers.

Ma's statement forces everyone in the room and everyone in the audience to face the absurdity of the human condition and the metaphysical...

Who am I kidding?

The truth is that Ma's fecal matter is mixed in with the crudite.

Employees must wash their marginalia before returning to work:
  • The dramatic motion lines above Joy's head can only mean that we have caught her in mid-head swivel.
  • There's a large expanse of white space in the upper right. At least two or three extra jokes could have fit in that space.

07 September 2006

A place called deception lane

See it here.

Today's minimalist effort examines the impact of the 24-hour cable news industry's maximalism on the ability of the average person to digest information and draw rational conclusions.

The scourge of the red-state/blue-state pundit class who spout an endless parade of talking points with no relation to or arbiter of the truth is represented by the pair of birds, clearly different species, facing off over a morsel of food.

The style of "all-fear-all-the-time" reporting is represented by the large glossy tabloid with an ad for anti-bird flu medicine.

And the endless mountain-out-of-a-molehill sensationalism of the latest "white woman gone missing" story is represented by the binoculars through which Burl is viewing something which is just feet away from himself.

In a world where access to information is virtually limitless, but all information is distorted through a lens which warps it for commercial, political, or purely dishonest reasons, is it any wonder that Burl draws the 100% wrong conclusion?

No, Burl. When viewed through that end of the binoculars, those birds are actually smaller than they appear.

This is marginalia:

06 September 2006

Vive la difference

See it here.

Today The Dinette Set asks the reader to ponder the similarities and differences between four of its main characters: Burl, Joy, Dale, and Marlene.

To start with we have Marlene. Marlene seems to genuinely delight in the good fortune of her neighbor who is able to afford new carpet. Admittedly it is possible we are meant to read her statement as being jealous or disingenuous. But such a reading is contradicted by her T-shirt, which indicates she esteems carpet so highly that she engages in interstate travel to indulge her passion.

Then we have status-seeking Joy. In the best possible interpretation, Joy is so desirous to elevate herself above Marlene that she massages the facts to give the impression that she and Burl are members of an exclusive carpet-owning community. In the worst possible interpretation, she tells an outright lie for the sheer pleasure of torturing her carpet-loving neighbor. Note, however, that any charitable interpretation regarding Joy must explain away the further status-seeking gesture of giving her husband the "new cup" while forcing Dale to drink from the "old cup".

Next up is Burl, whose exact motives are somewhat murky. Perhaps he is reflexively correcting Joy's mischaracterization. Perhaps he is sadistically correcting Joy to destroy her attempt to feel important. Perhaps he is adding to Marlene's misery by letting her know that this particular carpet dream will forever be beyond her. Perhaps he is just bragging that he got it cheap because it was discontinued. In this particular case, intent is much less important than the effect, which is to devastate both women. Burl, you can rest assured, will be sleeping downstairs with the carpet tonight.

And finally there is the mute Dale, Burl's useful idiot. A chameleon of a man who simply blends in with the strongest personality in the vicinity because he lacks any personality of his own. Despite not having taken an active part in this episode, the inane grin on his face seals his fate, which is to also spend the night alone.

And in the end, today's panel is a personality test for the reader. Are you a Marlene? A Joy? A Burl? Or a Dale?

Going out of business! All marginalia must go!
  • Ye Gods! Joy can also swivel her head 180°!
  • The carpet pattern is showing through the (apparently) transparent legs of the TV table.
  • Carriage Lane is a bed and breakfast in Murfreesboro, TN. Is the implication that Burl and Joy purchased used motel carpet?
  • Anyone with a theory on Joy's shirt, I'm all ears.

05 September 2006

Tears in the mirror

See it here.

The Dinette Set examines the self-destructive behaviors we engage in with full knowledge of the damage they do.

Burl and Joy watch a storm approach with a feeling of dread, and yet do little other than watch. They are transfixed and unable to prevent themselves from remaining in the path of destruction or to take steps to mitigate the damage. In point of fact, Burl's shirt indicates that he actively pursues dangerous situations and places himself in peril by action as often as by inaction. And the Big Book of Burl's Claims (05-06 Edition) tells us that this is not the first time that Burl has been in this office for a similar reason, with the clear implication is that it won't be the last, either.

One can easily see the larger metaphor regarding self-destructive behavior with clear echoes of Burl and Joy binging late at night to satisfy their insatiable hunger, knowing that it brings them closer to cardiac arrest every day. Or echoes of Joy remaining in a lousy marriage until the bitter end. Or echoes of Timmy's grandfather, Dale, who continues to expose Timmy to Burl's corrosive influence, despite the lasting psychological damage.

Even when we recognize the impulse towards self-destructive behavior, the panel bleakly surmises, we are unable to prevent ourselves from engaging in it.

Similarly, the insurance agent (Bill Welsh) bespeaks the soul-crushing self-inflicted agony of being an insurance agent, especially one who has earned a plaque for rejecting the most claims.

Despite the trappings of success, such as the prominent menu for a steak house, Bill is lonely and self-flagellating. A mirror is prominently positioned to give the illusion that he is on the same side of the desk as Burl and Joy. Bill makes a lame attempt to pretend that he is sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with his clients, part of the family of humanity, despite the fact that he knows he is a soul-sucking tool for larger profit margins. Just as poignantly, Bill places a toy on the edge of his desk, yet puts up a sign which points towards himself and informs him that he may not touch his own toy.

If that is not a cry for help, then I don't know what is.

Pity the marginalia:
  • Regarding the Hurricane Huntress shirt...how frequent are hurricanes in Illinois?
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I think someone may have forgotten to mess up this phrase to make it reflect poorly on the insurance agent. Because I don't actually expect my insurance company to help fix things that aren't broken.
  • At least some portion of Burl's hand/arm did not get drawn and it's creeping me out.

04 September 2006

Cleanup on aisle 9

See it here.

Burl's insecurity and loneliness bubble to the surface and we find him expressing a desire to be mothered though the desire is cleverly disguised as a puerile prank.

The fate of Burl's own mother is not known (perhaps it has been dealt with at some point in the panel's history, but it is not a part of what I know) and he usually has a fairly hostile relationship with his mother-in-law. But, deep-down, he yearns for a time when his needs (be they T-Bone steaks, Moose Tracks Ice, Dum Dums, or a Cell Phone from AT&T) were taken care of and were not his responsibility.

He longs for a mother's love.

He can't actually have expected to get away with stuffing these items into Ma's shopping cart. It would strain credulity to an absurd level to ask the reader to believe that Burl expected to get away with this prank. So the act must bespeak a deeper truth. Burl wants to be caught. He wants Ma to find the items. He wants Ma to recognize the act as an expression of Burl's desire to be smothered with the affection he can no longer get from his own mother.

Closed-off as Burl is, not only is he incapable of expressing those emotions overtly, but, once caught, he cannot even face up to it. Instead he sneaks into the parking lot, the little boy running away from home. Even more tragic is the realization that Burl will now get into his car and abandon Ma at the store.

What started as Burl's desire for love will end up by further strengthening Ma's belief that her family is trying to abandon her in her old age.

Secretly longing for a mother's marginalia:
  • The best part about today's panel is that we get a rare chance to see what it looks like when Burl swivels his head around from the opposite side.
  • Crust Foods sign on the inside?
  • AT&T merged with Cingular. Try to keep up.

Meta-Post: A new home

Welcome to the new URL and the newly-named "Blather 'Bout Burl."

I've spent the better part of my available time the last two days changing the site around in response to Ms. Larson's copyright request. So you'll have to pardon me for not posting. I'll get back into the swing of things in the next few days.

03 September 2006

Meta-Post: Legal Action

The Dinette Set artist is threatening to sue.
'Thank you for writing regarding content posted on
http://dinettesetdeconstruction.blogspot.com. We would like to confirm
that we have received and reviewed your inquiry dated 09/01/06.' Google

As author/creator and owner of all rights to The Dinette Set, I plan on pursuing compensation for use of your use of my cartoon, The Dinette Set on a daily basis on your Dinette Set Deconstruction blog . This includes the daily posted cartoon as well as the access yo all the archives posted for repeasted viewing every day. My cartoons can only be reproduced with my permission as well as Creators Syndicate with compensation per cartoon per use.
I will also pursue avenues which pertain to content and purpose of your blog. Marketing and Sales are costly ventures as well as the ownership, production and legal representaion required.
I have contacted a lawyer to review your use of my cartoon's name on your blog and the daily critique of my property, The Dinette Set. My syndicate is now involved as well.
You can either remove it immediately or wait until I move further on this matter.
Julie Larson
Creator of The Dinette Set
I'm taking the comment at face value, assuming it is real and not just someone having fun.

I have removed all reproductions of the comics from the site. Ms. Larson owns all rights, has requested I not reproduce the comic, and I will honor that request. I have modified all posts so they link to the comic rather than display it. I will follow that convention from this point onward.

UPDATE: After sleeping on this, I decided I will also modify the name of the blog, per Ms. Larson's request. I'm not sure what the legal implications are of using the name of the strip in the name of the blog, but I'm not over-concerned regarding the exact name and if it simplifies my life, it's an easy change. If anyone has a good suggestion for a name feel free to put it in the comments.

Sunday Reader Blogging: Early Dinner

See it here.

Too much going on this weekend to get to this until now, so I'll post Saturday's excercise in Xtreme scheduling for comment.

01 September 2006

Saving Happy Gilmore

See it here.

Today's panel wants to pretend it is about a desire for comedy over drama, presumably because comedy does not require as much introspection or effort from the audience.

But in the end it's actually a metaphor for a larger tension between comedy and drama. It is a requiem for celebrities who won't stay in the pigeon holes we have assigned them, preferring to wriggle free to transform themselves and their careers. It is a lament for the shattered fans they leave in their wake when they abandon what is familiar and safe and venture into the unknown.

Tom Hanks, noted goofball comedy actor from the early to mid-80's (Bachelor Party, Big), made a career transition starting with a role in Bonfire of the Vanities and later Philadelphia. By 2006, he is best known for his work in serious movies, something which contemporary fans of Dragnet could never have predicted.

In making that transition, Hanks did not spare a thought for the people whose sense of identify and self-worth were tied up in being fans of Tom Hanks, comedy actor. People who wore their fandom as an iconoclastic badge of honor were betrayed when he went "mainstream" and proved he could do serious drama work.

Hanks is the seminal modern offender by dint of having succeeded in the transition where others failed. Robin Williams and Jim Carrey spring to mind, men who tried desperately to make the change but in the end only succeeded in damaging their own careers. They ended by losing much of their comedy fan base without gaining a drama fan base to replace them.

Burl and Joy, we can assume, were among the fans of early Tom Hanks, but now feel betrayed and alone. Until along came Adam Sandler to tickle their funny bones and fill the void once again. They can only hope that Punch-Drunk Love is not the beginning of the end.

You've got marginalia:
  • Is it just me or are Burl and Joy the wrong demographic to be Adam Sandler fans?
  • Unless the woopee cushion reference is an unbelievably oblique (and mis-spelled) pun on Whoopi Goldberg, its purpose in the panel is mysterious to say the least.
  • The Dinette Set is completely obsessed with Cialis, a fact which makes me a little queasy.