Friday, July 31, 2009

A Complicated Place

Calvin and Hobbes, named for a theologian and a philosopher, was one of my favorite cartoons, as I'm sure it was for many people, given that over 30 million of his books have been sold, according to Wikipedia, if that source can be trusted. (If you are not one of the 30 million people who has already purchased at least one of his books, well, what are you waiting for... go to, type Calvin & Hobbes, and get out your credit card...) Bill Watterson had a real genius for re-living childhood through adult eyes, and his cartoons are pure pleasure.
And being as slow as I am, I also only just discovered today that Bill Watterson came from a tiny town named Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Now for you astute lovers of trivial pursuits out there, you may remember that Chagrin Falls also figures in one of Stephen King's books, I won't say which one, and that a character named Owen also appears in another of his books. Although I never met Bill Watterson, nor Stephen King (got a letter once from him though) this was of interest to me because my Aunt Judy and Uncle Ed lived in Chagrin Falls for many years, and I visited them there on one or two occasions. To what lengths we will go to associate ourselves with anything famous...
For many years I worked almost exclusively with black and white film, before finally breaking down and allowing that color also has an important role in photography, and in life in general. Which explains why of all the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons I ever saw, this one is in a league all by itself. The debate between black and white versus color photography was an important one to some folks, Ansel Adams, for example was a purist for black and white film, while Eliot Porter on the other hand was a strong advocate for color, and a pioneer in working with color in the printing process. Both display sheer artistic genius in their results.
One other trivia note, which shows again how wide a following Calvin and Hobbes had; some of their images appeared on t-shirts associated with the Grateful Dead and their music which were sold outside concerts in the parking lot marketplace that sprang up at every Grateful Dead show... One Calvin and Hobbes shirt had the quote from a Dead song, "One man gathers what another man spills" on it.


ladydi said...

Hi Owen! Long time no see. My children were big Calvin and Hobbes fans, and were so sad when Bill Watterson gave up the strip. They thought it was quite a feather in our cap that their mother went to school with said Mr. Watterson. I regularly maintain that Frazz is written by none other (under an assumed name) but my family assures me I am full of it. From your cousin, Diana.

Unknown said...

I used to thik the world was black in white in "the olden days" when I was little!

Thanks for the smile!

Peace - Rene

Unknown said...

What a great strip. Hobbes always had the most practical advice.

Lynne with an e said...

There's a stack of C&H books in our attic guestroom causing a bookshelf to sag in the middle. I should blow the dust off them and haul them down for a re-chuckle. Am presently hitch-hiking through the Galaxy, though.

an ersatz Frenchwoman said...

When I was a child, c 1958, my father was a TV repairman in Tulsa, OK for MUNZ. We had a living room full of those TVs on truncated triangle wooden stands-w/speakers and the rounded rectangle screens.

I simply avoided color TV like the Black Death until 1987. "Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, and Paladin..." What could color offer that was better, I ask you?

Great cartoon!

Patricia said...

I believe that the idea of using photography in the NASA space program was controversial with engineers claiming that cameras would add too much weight. Of course when we got to see the images, everyone just flipped. Then the agency had a problem with conserving the color images...if it's not one thing, it's two things.

Jenny said...

Hi Owen,

Intersting story this. I like the style of "Calvin & Hobbes". In Swedish it is called "Kalle & Hobbe". A friend of mine was an avid reader of this cartoon.

I am a Snoopy fan, myself. :)

Anonymous said...

I'll have to read that comic again after my 2nd!

Steve said...

Like Jenny I am a huge Snoopy / Peanuts fan and really rate Schultz as a philosopher as well as a cartoonist. My knowledge of Calvin and Hobbs is sparse but that cartoon is just wonderful.

JoMo said...

Calvin & Hobbes is truly one of the great favorite strip just might be the one where Calvin is told by Dad his parents got him on sale at Kmart (a blue light special I believe).

If you're into such things, you're tagged (in full color I might add) on my blog.

jeff said...

Ow.n ? ! ? Pas .ncor. .n vacanc.s ? J. p.nsais qu. tu .tais d.jà parti sur les causs.s ! B.n d. mon côt., j'ai l. . qui .st d.jà .n vacanc.s .t c'.st vraim.nt chiant pour laiss.r d.s comm.ntair.s...!
By.By. Ow.n ! Pass. un bon w..k-.nd !
Ciaoamigo !...;-)

robert said...

Good morning from Athens,
to be honest never heard of this comic before. Neverthess, find it very interesting. Germany has something analogue, called Vater und Sohn, mostly drawn in B/W.
Guess there is sometimes too much colour in our nowaday lifes.
However green and yellow have to be included. Wish you a nice weekend.

Margaret Pangert said...

The humor is so ingenuous, childlike! There's a certain askew logic to it that a child knows enough to challenge. A book of these would be a great source to have on hand!

Amy said...

I've been to Chagrin Falls several times; it's a charming little town - New England in Ohio.

Marguerite said...

Love the way you cleverly wove this post, Owen. Interesting analogy and fun comic strip. Have a fun weekend!

Laurie said...

This is seriously good, Owen. My favourite is Winsor McCay's wonderful Little Nemo in Slumberland [1905 - 1914]. More about him on


Anonymous said...

damn, you have been blogging like a maniac the last few months! good stuff!

owen, i tagged you. if you get a minute check out the post '4 of a kind' on my blog.


Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten about Calvin and Hobbs. They were classic!
Great cartoon, thanks for the nice post.

@eloh said...

Another Calvin and Hobbs fan and I could sit in a room full of Ansel Adams photographs and be happy the rest of my life.

We were the second family in our city to have a color TV. Waiting, waiting, waiting, for Bonanza to finally be broadcast in color.

There was a commercial, for Fritos Corn Chips called the Frito was in color....when it came on we would all come running through the house to catch a glimpse of "color".

Owen said...

@eloh, that was really something, those early days of television... I remember we had a black and white set from sometime in the mid-sixties that lasted well into the seventies before we finally got color. Ansel Adams was a giant...


Hi Dedene, don't know if you would have seen any of the Calvin and Hobbes t-shirts at Dead shows, they were part of the scene... hope you're having a great weekend where you are, in this unseasonably cool summer here in northern France...


Hey Fucoid ! Well, that may be because I AM a maniac... but not too twisted a maniac... this blog is sort of like a dam that burst releasing 30 years of pent up photos and writing. There's more to come... Thanks for whatever it is that is over at your place, I'm on my way to check it out !!!


Hi Laurie ! I've definitely never heard of Winsor McCay... will certainly take a look here in just a minute. Thanks for the reference ! Hope everything is going alright with all the changes in the air... :-)


Salut Marguerite, many thanks, the weekend is more than fun, we have 7 unexpected visitors in the house, it's quite a challenge keeping them all fed... could sure use some good cajun cooking, a shame blogger hasn't figured out how to let us send each other food, instead of just comments...


Ahh Amy, so you know Chagrin Falls ? I have great memories of the place. The only time in my life where we saw ball lightning during a summer storm there...


Hi Margaret, that's exactly what I love about it, the skewed logic. I love the part where Calvin's dad says "alot of great artists were insane"... for some reason that makes me howl with laughter.

Owen said...

Hi Robert, Calvin & Hobbes was hugely popular in America for quite a long while, you might enjoy reading more of them, the relation between parents and son is full of experiences that many parents will live sooner or later... am not familiar with Vater und Sohn, will keep an eye out for it... thanks ! Hope your move is going ok !


Hallooo Jeff, n.n, pas encore en vacances, bient^t, mais cette semaine était encore la folie totale, du boulot à ne pas en finir, toujours comme ça juste avant les vacances, et puis, 7 personnes qui devraient partir en Malaysie jeudi dernier, ils ont loupé leur avion, du coup on les loge chez nous jusqu'à mardi, ça change un peu les idées, on passe de 2 enfants à 8 ! C'est l'aventure! Mais comme il y a du monde qui couche même dans mon bureau à la cave, je ne peux plus y aller la nuit pour ... blllooggger ! Bon, ce n'est pas grave, et ils sont super sympas... c'est la vie... à bient^t sudiste!
Du grand nord !


JoMo, hey, glad to hear you like Calvin & Hobbes... we sometimes tell our kids we got them at the store... Many many thanks for the tag, will come take a look here shortly... ! :-D Very kind of you !


Hey Steve, yeah, I loved Peanuts too growing up, the Christmas TV specials were always wonderful, would love to see some of those again to see what I'd think today... well, check out some more Calvin & Hobbes if you can, they're fabulous...


Hi Rain, hope you were able to follow the logic more clearly after another coffee ! Am coming over soon to see where you are with the "Hands"... hope you are having a supercalifragilistic weekend !


Hey Jenny, so Calvin got translated into Swedish ? cool, I never looked into how many languages he's been published in... guess that is a true sign of success, an international following. I love Peanuts too...


Patricia, very interesting comment there, I guess weight concerns about photographic equipment would be a really serious concern on a moon mission... glad they finally worked it out. Hopefully all the images have been digitized by now. Old color film has a shelf life. I'm sort of hurrying to get all my old negatives scanned, I'd hate to lose them.


Hi Ersatz ! You must have a better understanding then of the inner workings of televisions than most people. Black & white definitely has an aura about it, in cinema, TV, photography... I stuck with B&W for a long time, just couldn't let go. Now it is so simple, to shoot in color, then see what it looks like as a B&W with one quick slide on the saturation bar, easy to see which works better for a particular image. A fine weekend to the two of you !!!


Dear Louc... can I come stay in the attic guestroom for a month or two, time to read all those books and get to know the raccoon neighbors ? And if you can get the Saj to come over to mix us all drinks, that would be... le pied !

Hope you're having a great time in the outer reaches of the galaxy !!! Don't forget your towel, and remember... don't panic !


Hey Bil, yeah, Hobbes is perfect here... and that's exactly what I did this afternoon; a nice long nap !


Hi Rockefellers Not, you are more than welcome for the smile, this cartoon really is one of the greatest I ever saw... Cheers !


LadyDi, hope you don't mind the time warp effect here if you see this... as explained in above answers, this weekend's blogging plans were completely upended by the arrival of 7 visitors, so I was scrambling to find a fun post, this one merited being more widely seen that it was last November, when there were almost no visitors yet to this humble little blog...
Have a great Ohio weekend !!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank goodness I DID have a few coffees before even prounouncing supercalafradoodlistic-thingy! LOL

Hands are done! I didn't have time to send emails out though, so sorry! People sent in stuff VERY last minute!

Roxana said...

ahahahah - that dialogue is the work of a genius, no doubt :-)

lovely post! and i have found out recently that our different perception of black and white and colour has something to do with periphereal vision: that it records black and white and only afterwords the brain converts it to colour. very interesting! someone who seems to know a lot about it explained like this in a comment on another blog i follow:

"Visual Perception was one of my favorite courses at college. It caught my imagination when the professor explained this as the reason why black and white film looks so realistic to us. The rods at the outer edges of our eyes have poor color receptors, unlike the cones at the center. The theory is that the brain compensates by blending images to help us keep our balance. That's why I'm taken by the notion of "bird's eye view." Other creatures see the world in ways we can only imagine."

Alexandra MacVean said...

I totally forgot about C & H. Thank you for sharing this comic strip. Made me smile with all that is going on in my world. :)

Owen said...

Hi Amelia, glad I could refresh your memory... they are fabulous, Hobbes is always such a practical counterweight to Calvin's dreaming schemes...


Bonsoir Roxana, the whole notion of vision has fascinated me from long ago, in a magical sense as well as a purely physiological phenomenon. That we can see, that we have these incredibly sophisticated organs in our faces that are our eyes, and in color no less for most of us, with optics that defy comparison, and brains that can unscramble the signals coming in and make sense of it all, wow, it leaves me practically panting. And for the most part we take it for granted, hardly think about it. Thanks for sharing the comment from the other blog, it really is fascinating how black and white images speak to us despite the lack of color... And yes, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes shows definite signs of genious, although perhaps a bit insane, like the great artists he refers to in the cartoon... :-)


Rain, things usually are more clear after the second coffee ... LOL... the "Hands" are wonderful, thanks so much for everything you did to make that happen, quite a job for you...

Batteson.Ind said...

hahahahahahahhaaa!... I love Calvin and Hobbes..! This bit sounds like a onversation we'd have with the kid... she's currently obsessed with potatoes, because they all could potentially be God... (but it's o.k to cook them, because that sort of thing is God's will).. anyway.. I love black and white photography, only because to me, unless you find a place that is shitehot on their developing, the colour never comes out how you remember, thus ruining the intent of the photo (to me).. black and white retains the moment, because your eye feels the moment as it sees fit (if that makes any sense!)? However.. I recently found a place that is shitehot at their developing.. and I've had some great things back.. I just wish I could afford to get stuff developed there, lol.. and lose this snappy crap digital camera I have.. (which makes me not give a shite about what I'm doing).. anyway... I love calvin and Hobbes.. (that's all I needed to say really)