“All the News that Gives You Fits”

Most of the reactions to my blog’s new look have been positive — so thanks to all for that (and I’m still working on it, so I hope you’ll like it even more as we go forward).

But the new look has caused a number of you to question the tagline that I’ve used for the last few years (you can still see it here on my old blog): “You’re either on the blog or you’re off the blog.” It was, of course, a paraphrase of what Ken Kesey told the Merry Pranksters: “You’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus.” More specifically, here’s the full quote from when he spelled out the policy — which was a reference to state of mind as well as physical location:

There are going to be times when we can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.

Anyway, for years, I’ve thought about whether to stick with that, or go with the one you see up there now: “All the News that Gives You Fits.” This is a play on the Rolling Stone slogan (“All the News That Fits“), which is in turn a play on The New York Times‘ “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

It’s also the official motto of The Status Quo, the fictional newspaper featured in a comic strip that Robert Ariail and I planned, but never fully executed, back in the 90s. The strip was set in the capital of a small Southern state, and it also featured:

  • A protagonist named Hampton “Sugarboy” Shealy Ravenel (or something like that), who was a lobbyist and general all-around fix-it man who may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer, but knew everybody and meant well. I got the nickname from Robert Penn Warren, and the idea for the character from Randy Newman (“…college men from LSU/Went in dumb, come out dumb, too./Hustlin’ ’round Atlanta in they alligatuh shoes/Gettin’ drunk every weekend at the barbecue…”).
  • Auntie Bellum, the owner of the boarding house where our anti-hero lived. She is already a regular character in Robert’s cartoons. You’ve seen her before — such as in this cartoon and in this one and in this one — you just didn’t know she had a name.
  • The state’s junior senator, Grits Holler, and the senior senator, Storm Thunder. We thought we’d introduce the characters by initially introducing Grits merely as The Junior Senator, and he would be drawn looking like a centenarian.
  • Two mice, named Sol and Edgar, who lived in the Statehouse and who, unbeknownst to everyone except our hero, actually wrote all of the legislation that ever passed. They did so at night, when no one was looking. The protagonist’s value as a lobbyist arose from his close relationship with the mice.

Anyway, you get the idea. A mix of political satire and Mayberry-style downhome gags. Sometimes the strip would consist merely of dialogue among boarding house residents settin’ on the porch shelling peas for Auntie Bellum, a la Andy and Barney. Other story lines were less down-to-earth — such as a recurring thing where Sugarboy gets taken up into the spaceship by aliens who take the form of two-headed Elvis impersonators. Anyway, the whole thing was too Southern for the folks in New York who Robert tried to sell it to. So we set the project aside.

I’m sufficiently fond of some of the characters and situations that, since the strip didn’t fly, I now and then think of writing a novel based on the characters — less cartoony, of course, more serious, but some of the same characters and situations. Now that I’m unemployed, I’m thinking more and more about that novel…

All of which makes me happy to turn to The Status Quo for my new catchphrase, which — knowing the backstory as I do — at least makes me smile…

8 thoughts on ““All the News that Gives You Fits”

  1. SGMret

    Brad, I like it: Thomas Wolff meets Andy Griffith down on Cinderella’s plantation.

    Too bad Disney’s already done “Song of the South.” Animation is the only medium that could do it justice. While the book idea has some merit, it really needs to be kept fresh in a daily serial. Too bad you and Robert Ariail couldn’t sell it. (Damn Yankees…)

  2. Brad Warthen

    Sarge, I thought “Damnyankees” was one word…

    Yeah, KB, I kind of winced when Will came up with that, because it DID sound like my slogan. But Robert and I thought of it in 94 or 95. Will was probably in high school then…

  3. SGMret

    Well, Brad, it can be one word, or then again, depending on the emphasis, it can be two words.

    It’s kinda… deep… You know, it’s a Southern thing with many layers…

  4. Claudia

    Just getting my first look at the new blog-look, Brad… sharp – I like it!

    The tag line’s great… I’m not too worried about anyone comparing you to Folks. “Press” onward!


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