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What Is This?

Wednesday, April 12, 1995

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Background: Langdale's watching Fox's Wednesday night lineup, followed by Law and Order on NBC.

During this semester, I was taking a Poly Sci class. I really enjoyed the lectures, but didn't do so well on the tests. I felt a little awkward when the professor offered the opportunity to the class to have a group lunch with him. I think I safely had the lowest grade of the group at the table.

During the lunch, I noted that I drew Paper Cuts. The guy sitting next to me lit up, and said that he loved the strip. (Side note: doing a cartoon on a college campus is like having all of the benefits of celebrity minus all of the annoyances. People knew who I was, but didn't know who I was.)

After the lunch was over, I had an extended conversation with the professor. This semester was particularly brutal for me, granted that my grades weren't so hot and I felt like I was failing everyone who were expecting great things from me. We spoke for probably a half an hour afterward, where he offered some pretty solid advice.

A couple of weeks later, he grabbed me after class and wondered if I would give him permission to use one of my cartoons in a book he was writing. I asked him which cartoon, and assumed it would be one of the political ones. (Specifically, I thought it might be the one about the signs.) I was midly surprised when he told me it was this one.

I redrew it exactly, but changed the shows to Star Trek, Cheers, and Letterman, which I thought might date the cartoon less. (Man, I should have stuck with Law and Order. But who knew then what a rerun fiend that show would be?) From a bad photocopy:

I gave him the cartoon, finished the semester, then heard nothing more about it.

In the summer of 2001, my parents received a phone call. (I had semi-intentionally not updated the school as to my whereabouts.) It turned out that the professor was reprinting the book, and needed my permission to use the cartoon again. I called him back, and we spoke briefly. I got the impression that he only vaguely remembered me, but that didn't bother me.

He offered me $50 for the re-use. I was stunned. I got a check in the mail a few weeks later.

To date, I have made exactly $50 from Paper Cuts. Though, to date, I have absolutely no idea in what context the cartoon was used. (I did find the book once at Emory's library thanks to a friend who worked on campus at the time, but I couldn't check it out and didn't have time to read it.)

If you're curious, the book is called The Media in American Politics: Contents and Consequences by David Paletz. I think it's in one of the last chapters.