If we focus on Joseph, as Matthew does, and make this a legend of salvation, then Joseph becomes the second Adam. He is given a second chance, as we all are, constantly, a chance to reenact a life drama that we have wretchedly botched at least once before, and to do it right this time.

—Stephen Mitchell

Happy Christmas to everyone: here’s Stephen Mitchell from his book, The Gospel According to Jesus, on the Christmas Legend, Joseph, and the true meaning of Christmas: forgiveness.

Today I hope you’ll forgive yourself, and then forgive those who have wronged you.

Peace on earth!

stephen Mitchell on Christmas


I scanned a bunch of drawings out of John Porcellino’s memoir of his teenage years, Perfect Example, to share with you…and then I realized that if I put all the drawings in a certain order, they told a little story:

Remix of John Porcellino's PERFECT EXAMPLE

I don’t think I’ve talked a lot about Porcellino and King-Cat on this blog. He’s definitely one of my favorite cartoonists. It’s amazing to read the King-Cat collection King-Cat Classix and watch his drawings evolve from punk-zine scribbles to zen-like elegant lines. At their best, his comics are pure poetry — nothing extraneous, perfect and simple. Looking forward to his adaptation of Thoreau’s Walden.



Among the sayings and discourses imputed to [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate therefore the gold from the dross; restore to him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of his disciples.”
—Thomas Jefferson

When, at the age of fifty, I first began to study the Gospels seriously, I found in them the spirit that animates all who are truly alive. But along with the flow of that pure, life-giving water, I perceived much mire and slime mingled with it; and this had prevented me from seeing the true, pure water. i found that, along with the lofty teaching of Jesus, there are teachings bound up which are repugnant and contrary to it. I thus felt myself in the position of a man to whom a sack of garbage is given, who, after long struggle and wearisome labor, discovers among the garbage a number of infinitely previous pearls.”
—Leo Tolstoy

In The Gospel According To Jesus, Stephen Mitchell sets out on the quest of Jefferson and Tolstoy: to separate the “diamonds” of Jesus’ teachings from the “dunghill” of the gospels (Jefferson’s words).

The resulting gospel is 25 pages long.

The rest of the book is a wonderful 100 page introduction, an exhaustive 140 page commentary, and a 25 page appendix of words on Jesus by Spinoza, Jefferson, Blake, Emerson, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Nitezsche, Gandhi, and more.

Of course, Jefferson himself produced a collaged gospel text, commonly known as The Jefferson Bible:

page from the jefferson bible

“During the evening hours of one winter month late in his first term as president, after the public business had been put to rest, he began to compile a version of the Gospels that would include only what he considered the authentic accounts and sayings of Jesus. These he snipped out of his King James Bible and pasted onto the pages of a blank book, in more-or-less chronological order. he took up the project again in 1816, when he was seventy-three…pasting in the Greek text as well, along with Latin and French translations, in parellel columns. The “wee little book,” which he entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” remained in his family until 1904, when it was published by order of the Fifty-seventh Congress and a copy given to each member of the House and Senate.”

Speaking of presidents, it was Bill Clinton who recommended reading this book

More reading:


…the soundest advice is to be seeking always for the picture…”
—Paul McHenry Roberts, How To Say Nothing in 500 Words

I need to write in a visual way… for example, with cut-out words.
Julie Doucet

Once again, I have redesigned the blog. After talking smack about sidebars, I realized that, duh, they can be quite useful and add to the content—but only if they’re used in a dynamic way…if the content of the sidebar changes with whatever page you’re viewing. With the new design, you’ll notice that “meta” information appears in the sidebar next to the post. Making optimal use of the web browser’s real estate. (Can you tell I do web geekery for a living, now?) Clean white to remind me that it’s the actual content that makes a blog. No more lightning bolts or black.

Poke around, let me know what you think.



A few months ago, Jessa Crispin asked me if I wanted to submit a t-shirt design for the literary website Bookslut. So I said, “Cool, let’s do it.” Last week I finally got around to finishing.

I really didn’t want to go for the obvious slutty-girl-reading-a-book theme, so after about a dozen abandoned ideas, I sketched this one:

Decided Jefferson would be my muse (the pixellated color cartoon is from the wonderful 1993 computer game, DAY OF THE TENTACLE):

Tighter sketch:


Thought ol’ Tom needed a companion:

Sketched her:



No idea whether the design will actually get used, but there you go.



This book blew my mind. I read it based on the recommendations of both George Saunders and Bill Clinton. Saunders’ recommendation pretty much sums it up:

“It deals with the way our brains process political information, and particularly with the need for people on the left to become more honest and direct in the way they talk about things – to stop trying to appease the growing right-wing movement and really say, flat-out, what they believe and why they believe it, directly and fiercely. Westen includes an incredible “here’s-what-he-should-have-said” speech that Al Gore should have made when Bush questioned his character during one of the debates. Really a mind-expanding book…”

Highly recommended →


by George Grosz
Pimps of Death (1919)

“It was my first encounter with the works of the German artist George Grosz, when I was in my twenties, which showed me that drawing need not just be a space-filler in a newspaper: in the hands of an honest man, drawing could be a weapon against evil….Look at [his drawings] and you know the world is sick. You may say that he was sick too — but it is a common mistake to believe that sick drawings indicate a sick mind, rather than a reflective indictment of society. His drawings scream indelibly of human depravity; they are an eloquently barbaric response to life and death, right through the First World War and into the wild, helpless excesses of 1920s Berlin, which rotted away the lives of all those caught up in its suicidal glee.”
Ralph Steadman

My first encounter with George Grosz (1893-1959) was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s glorious show, “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s,” which we happened to stumble upon during our honeymoon to New York last year. After seeing his work, it was unsurprising to learn that Grosz had a major influence on some of my drawing heroes, including R. Crumb and Ralph Steadman. In the past week I’ve been sifting through a fat stack of his books borrowed from the art library in the hopes of sharing some scans of my favorite drawings. Barring “Pimps of Death” (shown above), the rest of the drawings are presented in chronological order.

"Riot Of The Insane" by George Grosz, 1915
Riot of the Insane (1915)

“Riot of the Insane” might be familiar to anyone who has a copy of Ivan Brunetti’s Anthology of Graphic Fiction — in the introduction Brunetti analyzes the piece in terms of cartooning:

ivan brunetti on george grosz

I have been struggling lately with how to depict space, and specifically, people in space. These drawings are amazing to me because they look like they were drawn by someone who knew the rules but didn’t care about them.

"Family" by George Grosz, 1916
Family (1916)

“Family” might be my favorite. The way the baby swings with four legs, the flowers, the dogs, the man’s face (what is he doing there? is he spying? bringing a message?), the crosses, the windmill, the way it looks like the sun is setting over a horizon that is several thousand feet above where it “should” be. And where did that tree come from?

"Suburb" by George Grosz, 1917
Suburb (1917)

Many of these drawings came from the collection, Ecce Homo, — the words come from the Latin that Pilate spoke while presenting Christ: “Behold the man.” Some artists in Grosz’s circle took this to mean “How pitiable is man”; others “What a beast man is.”

"Friedrichstrass" by George Grosz, 1918
Friedrichstrass (1918)

"Eva" by George Grosz, 1918
Eva (1918)

The more I look at these drawings, the more they look less like drawings and more like collages. It’s no coincidence — Grosz collaborated with the famous anti-Nazi photomontage artist John Heartfield.

"The Guilty one remains unknown" by George Grosz, 1919
The Guilty One remains unknown (1919)

It’s impossible for me to look at “Cross Section” as just a drawing:

"Cross Section" by George Grosz, 1920
Cross Section (1920)

It’s a confection.

"Toads of property" by George Grosz, 1921
Toads of Property (1921)

From the beginning, the models he looked to were not the plaster casts of antique sculptures he was forced to draw when he studied in Dresden and Berlin; they were, rather, taken from the realm of popular imagery. The figures he admired were not the heroes of antiquity and history but those of dime novels. Grosz studied and collected children’s drawings and toilet graffiti. He was fascinated by garish pictures of horrifying atrocities and catastrophes of the sort displayed at carnivals and riflemen’s gatherings, and he loved the lurid illustrations in western novels and detective stories. And of course he knew the great caricaturists of the past: William Hogarth, whom he explicitly names as a model, Honore Daumier, Wilhelm Busch. Over the years he extracted from these widely divergent sources a unique and characteristic drawing style. With this style, he prowled the metropolis, studying its marginal districts, circling around such subjects as crime, nightclubs, bordellos. He was fascinated by the lower depths of society and of people.Matthias Eberle

I Shall Exterminate Everything around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master by George Grosz
I Shall Exterminate Everything around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master (1921)

Further reading:

“One Day We’ll Get Even,” 57 drawings

George Grosz: An Autobiography

ECCE HOMO by George Grosz


lady justice with laptop

I did this for our IT department at the Law School. It’s one of those ideas I didn’t have to think about very much: if you walk around a law school at finals, you don’t see students doing much but tapping away at laptops.

A rough sketch for the general idea:

scan 2.jpeg

Start cutting and pasting stuff into Photoshop from Google Image Search:

Draw a (slightly) tighter sketch:

scan 3.jpeg


lady justice / no border

Then see a much better-executed idea in the NYTimes:

lady justice amnesty ad


Before my mom came down from Ohio for Thanksgiving, she was going through some family photographs and unexpectedly came across these postcards my great-grandfather Frank Davis sent from Austin and San Antonio to his daughters, Eleanor and Matilda, in 1929. At the time he was a state liquor inspector in Ohio, and we think he traveled to Texas for some type of conference or convention.

Have not had time to see much of this town: but like it as as far as I have gone. Spent until 4:30 today on trains. You Kiddies be good while Daddy is away for tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Be especially good to Mother.

– Daddy

Eleanor this is the seat of learning for the state of Texas. They have some wonderful schools here. The most friendly people that I ever saw.

– Daddy

Sister this is a pretty country. But a lot of Nationalitys [sic].

– Daddy