Saturday, March 18, 2017

History in the Unmaking!

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Miss Hope n' Change? Then head over to the all-new Stilton's Place! Fresh cartoons and commentary every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from the Hope n' Change crew!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Stilton Crazy After All These Years

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Materials will remain available to (ahem) "check out."
Wow- here we are. After 8 years of ups, downs, and the intense insanity of the Obama administration, we've finally reached the last day of Hope n' Change Cartoons (at least for the foreseeable future).

I'd like to say things that are grandiose and moving, but who the heck needs that kind of pressure? If Lincoln had known beforehand that generations of kids were going to have to memorize every jot and tittle of the Gettysburg Address, he probably would have gotten writer's block and a migraine.

Moreover, if you're reading this, odds are good that you've already heard my opinions on pretty much everything. You know where my heart is and why I reflexively twitch when I hear the word "Obamacare." You know that I love this country, love those who have fought and died for our freedoms, and hope passionately that our nation has a bright future ahead.

Of course, that's only going to happen if we all continue to work towards that goal. And I really mean "all" - people of different political beliefs, races, economic strata, and whatever passes for gender these days.

I'm worried about that, because Obama's primary legacy (well, other than the wild pendulum-swing Presidency of Donald Trump) is one of hatred and anger, with American pitted against American. We see it every day now with the Left literally going out of its mind, declaring folks like us to be hatemongers, Trump to be the new Hitler, and the (formerly) United States of America to be a vicious fascist state.

Most of these people aren't evil - they're decent folks who are frightened and who have been lied to, and demonizing them would only be playing into Obama's game. Unfortunately, these people will not be swayed by words or logic (let alone delightfully witty webcomics) but will eventually have to have their opinions changed by actual successes from the Trump administration. Successes so large and tangible that there can be no denying them. Which is the same standard we should all use to judge every Presidency.

But even that may not be enough to convince those few who take an ugly pride in cultivating closed minds, cutting off communications to those with whom they disagree, or who simply lack the critical ability to process information anymore. Today I saw a story saying that Facebook (where many people get their "news," God help us) has instituted new algorithms to make sure that no more "fake news" ever appears on their list of breaking stories.

So what was at the top of their list of non-fake news today? This little gem...

Disclaimer: the views expressed are not those of anyone sane.
The "person to blame" is Donald Trump (surprise!). But who the hell are these "scientists" and by what power of scientific precognition are they able to foretell "apocalypse" or reset the hands of the preposterously-named and entirely bogus "Doomsday Clock?!" Fake news doesn't get any faker than this - and it can come from the Left or the Right. We need to cultivate skepticism while trying not to lapse into cynicism.

Looking back at 8 years of Hope n' Change, I'm proud of the fact that the cartoons and commentaries hold up as accurate and truthful. I'm proud of the fact that my vigorous opposition to Obama and the progressive agenda was never based on blind hatred, but on disagreement with actual policies and pronouncements. I genuinely gave this president a chance...but it didn't take him long to show himself wholly unworthy of his high office.

Some business items:

• The Hope n' Change website isn't going anywhere. It will be maintained so that you can visit anytime, sort of like going to DisneyWorld without needing to wait in lines!

• In the next week or two, I'll post a new welcoming page in which your hostess with the mostess, Busty Ross, will greet visitors and direct them to the easy to use "search" function that will let you time travel through thousands of HnC cartoons and posts about news stories as they developed over the years. If you've never played with this, you're missing a treat!

• In the near future, I'll probably make ebook collections of Hope n' Change available (perhaps each ebook representing a year). I've already found a service that can help me convert the content, and whatever I end up with will be offered as inexpensively as possible (maybe even free - I'm not really a red hot businessman).

The Hope n' Change Facebook page will remain active, and I'll probably post some new cartoons over there from time to time - albeit based on spontaneous impulse rather than an actual schedule.

• I can't emphasize enough that you should put your contact information on my email list (look at the top left column on this page). I'll never spam you, but I surely will have foolishness to contact you about from time to time as I discover new avenues of mischief-making.

Johnny Optimism, my other webcomic, will continue publishing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Heck, I'll even lift the ban on political comments over there in case any of you want to post "Funny leprosy gag, Stilt. By the way, did you catch the total dick move by Schumer today?!" 

I'm going to genuinely miss every one of you. And I'm not going to expound on that right now because Clan MacGregor is genuinely foul scotch at the best of times, and its taste will not be improved by tears and snot. Probably.

I'll be back.  I don't yet know how, when, or in what form - but I have no more ability to restrain my creative impulses than a Tourette's patient has to stop shouting obscenities.  In fact, my creative impulses may actually be a form of Tourette's. In which case, I'm hoping to get it named after me.


Some of you have voiced concern that Lefty Lucy may fall on hard times considering that she'll be losing her internship here at the Hope n' Change office tower and has no demonstrable job skills. Happily, something has already opened up for her...

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SOooo, that's it for now - though I'll meet you all for drinks and party hats in the comments section. It's genuinely been an honor and a privilege to be your host (not that I'm calling you parasites!) for the past 8 years.  I made the jokes, but you made the community. And for that I will always be grateful.   -Stilton Jarlsberg

stilton jarlsberg, handsome, brave, intelligent, ripley's believe it or not, i love you, happy anniversary Mrs. J!
Truth in advertising: my hair turned white during Obama's first year in office.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hope n' Change: A Dimly Remembered History

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Harp glissandos are more magical when you don't see who's playing them.
As Hope n' Change wraps up 8 years of publication, it seems like a good time to take a nostalgic stroll down memory lane - the better to answer the question that is on so many lips: "What the hell were you thinking?!"

As preamble, I'll say that for my entire adult life I've earned my living by writing comedy in various forms - for radio, television, print, and even film. Long before Obama was on the horizon, one of my favorite gigs was writing topical comedy punchlines every evening which would then be faxed to radio DJ's nationwide to use on their morning shows to prove they were spontaneous and witty.

Around the same time, to keep my writing skills in practice I started taking odd pieces of old black & white clipart and adding multiple goofy captions. I called those cartoons (never published anywhere) "Earwigs" as a tribute to the nightmarish insects which are alleged to crawl into people's ears, burrow into their brains, and cause madness. Because that's the sort of thing I find funny.

This is an Earwig cartoon. It may or may not be laying eggs in your brain.

I liked playing with the clipart because, while I loved to doodle, I wasn't really a terrific cartoonist...

But if I'd drawn this with my foot, you'd be impressed - right?
One of my favorite comic strips at the time (2008) was the wonderfully dark and demented "Red Meat" by Max Cannon. His highly stylized, retro-look characters would change very little (if at all) from frame to frame, and the comedy all came from the writing.

To my delight, I discovered that the Red Meat website allowed users to try making their own comic strips by selecting the characters and giving them dialogue. Here are a few of my early efforts (none of which are any sicker than the actual comic strip):

Yes, I could genuinely enjoy writing this kind of thing all day.
That's when I had an epiphany (or maybe it was scotch): I could assemble my own cast of distinctive characters from properly licensed clipart and do a comic strip! With a little investigation, I discovered the program "ComicLife" which made it easy to drag and drop from a library of images and add word balloons.

But what should be my subject? On something of a lark (little knowing how much time I'd eventually devote to giving others the bird), I decided on "Hope n' Change" - inspired by the still fresh and singularly idiotic presidential victory of Barack Hussein Obama.

Seriously, the man won based on preposterously meaningless slogans like "Yes We Can," "Hope and Change," and "We are the ones we've been waiting for." He had no successful track record of legislation or management, and for those who bothered to read his autobiographies (which didn't include the news media), he had an exalted view of himself and a dim view of America.

With a complete lack of understanding how blogging works, I published the first cartoons under the Hope n' Change banner in January, 2009. Not every cartoon that week was political - although this one was...

My choice of retro artwork was more than just a nod to "Red Meat." It was intended to echo the unsubtle "black and white" campaign promises which Obama had made and the American people had fallen for. Additionally, I liked the contrast between the nostalgic "classic Americana" look and the radical social upheaval being pushed by the Democrats.

By February 2009, I'd (barely) figured out what I was doing and began a daily publication schedule. That's right, 7 times a week...

Actually, that daily schedule was pretty easy to maintain because I was publishing just the cartoon with maybe an occasional sentence or two to go with it. No editorials. No comments to read or respond to. And, uh, no readership.

The first real surge in online views came after the conservative blog site Sondrakistan (called "SondraK" at the time) gave us a good review and suggested that their readers pay us a visit. From there, readership grew slowly but steadily thanks to word of mouth and a growing public awareness that, with Barack Obama in charge, we were in real trouble...

Over the course of a year I started adding more editorial content to go with the cartoons; I wanted to get the laugh, but also had more that I wanted to say. Moreover, Mrs. Jarlsberg (who is wise in all things) encouraged more editorializing because it made the strip more engaging for people - as did the addition of an open comments section.

Due to the extra work (cartoons are easy, wordification is hard), publication of Hope n' Change was cut to 5 days a week, then (in 2012 or so) 3 days a week.

The goal, however, always remained the same: to give conservatives a laugh and some hope that we could eventually get Barack Obama out of office and wrest control of Congress out of the filthy, spider-like hands of the Democrats. And by this time, the fight was getting serious...

Around this time, I started adding color to a number of the strips. It was a break from the classic look - but one I hoped would make the cartoons more appealing to a broader readership...

Over time, I then made the jump to frequently using actual photographs of people in the news, though I never completely dropped the black and white retro images of the coffee couple, chicken-boy, bear & cow, and other characters who remained (and still remain) dear to my odd little heart...

When Barry was eventually elected to a second term, it was a personal blow...

And alcohol was still available in stores.
I had never intended to make an unpaid career out of Hope n' Change, but the cause seemed more important than ever. Not that I ever had any illusions about how much impact I was making with the blog's modest (but highly intelligent and stunningly attractive) number of readers. 

Of course, there was always the hope that the site would magically go viral (Rush Limbaugh, would it have killed you to give me a shout out?) - but in times of need, real Americans pitch in and do what they can, big jobs or small. And if my job was to be the Rosie the Riveter of online conservative comic strips, I was happy to serve until the scourge of Barry's administration was finally over...

And we've also seen a lot of people who belong BEHIND bars.
And the rest, as they say, is history - or at least, soon will be history as we prepare the transition from an active blog to a lovingly preserved archival site in which Obama and his dishonorable band of scoundrels will always be roasting on our eternal flame.

On Friday, I'll be back with some closing remarks and personal thoughts on this long, crazy experience we've shared. See you then! - Stilton