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April 3, 2021: Get that Baby Off the Ground

The cartoon accompanying this dispatch is by Gary Larson. It’s of plane pilots attempting to get a baby off the ground. This is an analogy since the pilots would normally speak this way about a plane.

Today, when I was sorting books, I came across a beat-up copy of Gary Larson’s Far Side Collection 2. I had previously come across his Far Side Collection 1, and I did what I did then, I leafed through it, looking for the above cartoon. It is one of my all-time favorite cartoons and my favorite Gary Larson cartoon.

I grab whatever cartoon books I can when salvaging books. Last week I found a Smithsonian History of Cartoons, and the week before, a New Yorker Book of Cartoons, 1925-1975.

I get this love of cartoons from my father. His era was the 1930s. I think that I am going to inherit his collection of early cartoons, then called funnies. I will hang on to these books and not part with them.

Some time ago, I figured out what makes Larson’s cartoons so funny. He presents a strange picture, then suggests that something really weird is going to happen/is going on. It’s a total readerly expectation. And your mind then envisions what happens next. This translates to: This is really, really funny. I also am in awe of Larson and others’ high degree of artistry. Cartoonists are not taken seriously by the artistic community, but they should be. The image and the word, combined to produce a specific emotion, usually laughter – that anyone can do this is pretty impressive.

I needed to find this book today. I’ve been a little down lately, so this cheered me up considerably. I’ve been wondering why I persist in keeping this book project going – the cartoon, seeing it anew, it’s a metaphor for what I’m doing. Yep, I am going to get this baby off the ground. The baby imagery speaks to doing something that at times seems senseless. But imagine it, the baby in the air/the Bright Lights Book Project taking off.

I am constantly amazed at what materializes when I open a cardboard box full of books or go rooting around in a Gaylord. This is Palmer, Alaska, the end of the road. Books have to travel thousands of miles to get here, and come either by car, barge, truck, airplane, or backpack.

And these books aren’t just thrift store castoffs. Some are classics. Some are mind candy. And some are arcane. Here, next to my computer, I have a copy of (title is in lower case letters) ecology of sea colony birds of the barents sea, translated from Russian, academy of sciences of the USSR, Karelian branch. The author is L.O. Belopol’skii. Coyright, 1961. I could not even make this up. In the foreword, the author says that he “analyzes the general conditions of life of bird colonies of the Barents Sea and devotes his main attention to questions of ecology. He also examines in detail the reproduction of sea birds, their methods of obtaining food, their diet and changes in diet, the nature of nutrition of the various age groups, the relationship between the various ingredients of their diet, etc.”

I could go on and on about this dog-eared book that’s slightly waterlogged. For instance, it is very technical, and the photos, in black and white, are of sea birds. But I won’t. I instead need to put my energies into figuring out what to do with it as well as another 100 or so arcane books.

Yes, this baby will also fly.

93. 4/4/21: Okay, Okay, So April is the Cruelest Month

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