Remodel

Sent by Mark M, saying: “The mouse hole is taller than the usual depiction of one, but why would that deter the cat?” We were going to rejoinder that it is also much narrower, but on reflection that would not stop a determined paw. Anyhow, was this not the goal of the remodeling? Or does it somehow surprise the speaking rodent?

45 Comments

  1. Oh, interesting twist of perception! I never thought about “larger”, only “narrower”.

  2. I was beginning to wonder if the joke is the idea that mice might remodel and the “I haven’t seen the cat” was just cocktail party chit-chat. Mice are opportunistic vermin who don’t model, they just live in crawlspace so the idea that they might be trendy and remodel could be weird. Admittedly its such a common comic trope its hard to even conceive it as a joke but I’ve found Wayno’s Bizarro frequently overestimates its cleverness (although seldom to this extent).

    But Lost in A**2 has it… I think.

  3. The fact that the lower two-thirds of the wall has a different look than the upper part confused me a bit. As if the remodeling was to put up bamboo siding, or an extra wall made out of bamboo.

    I didn’t even notice the mouse-hole until I read the comments. Before that, I thought it could be the top or bottom edge of a book, and was trying to make sense of how it visually fit together to form a coherent scene.

    To echo woozy’s sentiment: I think Lost in A**2 has it — but I’m not 100% sure.

    Something still feels unexplained to me. But maybe it’s just me and my silly “bamboo walls.”

  4. “I think the comment was just a bit of a brag of satisfaction.”

    Then what is the joke? Could I actually have that joke is simply that mice are engaging in the human concept of remodeling? If so, this takes “is that all?” to new levels.

  5. Lost in A**2’s interpretation matches mine. If this were just about mice engaging in mindless banter during a social event, there would be no need to have a larger than usual hole.

  6. Why do you say it’s narrower? I don’t think it’s any narrower than a typical cartoon mouse hole. It just looks narrow because the aspect ratio is so tall. Those mice could easily walk through.

  7. Maybe the cat is confused and doesn’t recognize it as a mouse hole anymore?

  8. I am sure this probably wasn’t what he was going for, but my thought was maybe they walled the cat in during the remodel. There was a whole storyline in the web comic days of Breaking Cat News centered around a ghost cat who was killed during a remodel while exploring inside a wall. I know it sounds a bit morbid but it is a fan favorite.

  9. I go with “bigger hole, bigger mouse”, scaring the cat. The hole is narrow to keep the cat’s head out.

  10. But what’s with the eyeball outside the opening of the mouse hole? Our is it the tip of the cat’s tail?

  11. WAYNO writes:

    “Tuesday’s gag baffled many readers. I received dozens of comments, emails, texts, and phone calls from those who were confused by it.

    “The premise was simply that the clever mice had cut a tall hole in the wall, making the household cat think that extra large mice had moved in. The joke failed to land for a lot of readers.

    “I’m now thinking that I probably should have drawn the opening in the shape of a large, musclebound rodent. Perhaps I’ll redo this one some day.”

    So, Lost in A**2 had it right.

  12. Andrea – Thanks for confirming that.

    The FAQ for this site says the artists are NOT encouraged to explain their comics. I can see the point of wanting to do that. Sometimes discussions in the dark are more fun. Personally, I think it was appropriate for you to post what you did and I think getting the artist’s intention is a good thing, so I’m definitely not discouraging you doing so in the future. Just pointing out the statement in the FAQ. I suppose a compromise would be to post that the artist has explained the comic for those who wish to go find it.

  13. Well, I disagree that there should be any “wrist slap”. The FAQ suggests that the artist is not encouraged to come here and give his own explanation. But Wayno did no such thing. Unless “Lost in A**2” is Wayno’s secret identity.

    It seems to me, if we have spent several days discussing a comic without coming to a consensus, and if the artist has published his own explanation, in his own forum, it would be silly for us to ignore that.

  14. I also don’t expect that the FAQ item needs to be understood as imposing very tough strictures. If a CIDU participant wants to check out a cartoonist’s blog for an authorial “authoritative” reading, or even sort thru a comics site’s web comments for their community consensus, if any, those can be welcome commentary here. There may be a question of timing to bring into play — something like that can wait until any good debate on CIDU is running out of steam, or stuck in a stalemate. In this instance, I’d say that the timing of Andréa’s pull from the Wayno blog was timed just fine.

  15. The spirit of the FAQ item is clearly to keep the author from explaining the joke. If the dividing line is merely the delivery method, the FAQ item makes no sense to have at all. What difference does it make if someone posts the author’s intent vs. the author directly posting? In both cases the author’s intent is posted here. It kills the discussion. I’d say the point of this board is lost if the only goal is to get to a definitive interpretation of the comic. We aren’t on a fact finding mission. We are here to have lively discussions and share differing interpretations of a comic. Who cares who is right or wrong?

    I see a huge difference between the author’s explanation being posted and consensus from others readers being brought to the discussion.

  16. How often does an author provide an explanation for something we discuss? My impression is “rarely,” and if so it’s hardly worth fighting over. If nineteen out of twenty CIDUs continue to have to authorial official explanation, that gives us plenty of Stuff to Dispute About.

    I would agree that it’s probably not a good idea to post an author’s interp (when such is available) right away during the discussion, but I can’t see any reason not to do so after a couple of days, assuming the debate has cooled by then.

  17. With regard to the artist explaining his work here, there is an old Jewish joke. A large number of Talmudic scholars are having a convention, and there is a heated discussion going on about a particularly difficult verse of Scripture. Rabbi Moishe stands up and gives his interpretation. There are many objections from the others. Then Rabbi Avram stands up and gives his interpretation, about 180 degrees out of phase with Rabbi Moishe’s. Many more objections, then people are standing up, shouting over each other, and starting to throw things at each other.

    Suddenly the ceiling of the room opens up revealing the sky. Dark clouds move in, thunder crashes, lightning flashes, and a booming voice from high above says “Rabbi Avram is correct!”

    75 scholars look up and say in unison “NOBODY ASKED YOU!!!”

  18. Andréa, please don’t over-read the tone of the discussion – or, even apart from tone, the views being expressed. Almost without exception, people are saying it was absolutely fine for you to check Wayno’s blog and relay a report of what he had to say. In fact, just before your comment was posted, I was (quite literally) thinking to myself, “Hey, it’s Saturday morning maybe Wayno’s blog has the weekly update and it will clarify the mousehole thing!”.

    Your note is listed as reply to Shrug. If you look back at his comment, he says it could be a bad idea to post an authorial explanation right away, but “I can’t see any reason not to do so after a couple of days”.

    TedD is the main voice for hewing strictly to a very firm ban as the reading of the FAQ item, and he made a point of saying it was not meant personally directed at you. His later persistence in this strong=principled reading is again not fussing over this instance but just pursuing the logical argument with those of us saying it can be read much more relaxed. It is absolutely not a discussion of blaming — or at worst, blaming WW and me for reposting the FAQ but then both appearing to back down from it — when we’re just saying it doesn’t matter much, as long as the CIDU-site discussion has a chance to play itself out.

  19. Well, my two cents is that I don’t care for the authorial intent. First, I think the only place to look for meaning is in the work. Once the work is released, the creator’s explanation is no more valid than any other. And determining the “correct” meaning isn’t terribly important to me. It’s the discussion and the diversions that makes this place fun. So, I’d rather not have somebody drop an explantation bomb into the middle of things. I would grudgingly allow a link to the explanation but I don’t feel I need even that.

  20. More context on Mark in Boston’s comment about “Nobody asked You!” — it’s not merely a Jewish joke. It’s an actual important point of Jewish law and culture. It’s the Oven of Akhnai story in Talmud Bava Metzia 59a-59b. The Oven of Akhnai was a theoretical oven which would have been built out of stacked rings of material; the question was, if you built an oven in this manner, would it count as a single item which would allow it to become ritually pure and impure in the normal manner, or would the ways in which it heated in chunks create a situation in which it ritually purified itself such that it couldn’t become impure? Or something like that. I don’t understand the exact mechanism, and, apparently, neither did anybody else exactly.

    Everybody said that, yeah, you treated this oven like a normal oven, except for Rabbi Eleazar ben Hurcanus, who said that it would automatically purify itself. Eleazar says, “Well, if I’m right, let this carob tree uproot itself and walk away. So the tree does. The rest of the sages are unimpressed, and say that walking carob trees are unrelated to the matter at hand. Eleazar asks for a nearby stream to provide proof; it runs backward, and the Sages remain unimpressed. He then suggests that the very walls of the building they are in will prove it, and they start to fall over. R. Joshua ben Hanania tells them to stay out of it. They stop falling, although, out of respect for Eleazar, they just stay at an angle instead of going back to upright. Eleazar says that, if he’s right, let Heaven prove it, and a voice from heaven says, “Why do you continue to disagree with Elezar ben Hurcanus, who is right in every matter of the Law that he speaks about.”

    Joshua then quotes Deuteronomy 30:12 — “It (the Torah) is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ But the word is very near unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” Once the Torah was given to us, it was given to us, and it’s our job to interpret it.

    (There are a bunch of other follow-on points to this story, like how Eleazar felt that this was an insult, and his grief destroyed a third of the world’s crops, but how ONLY a third of the crops were destroyed, because of how carefully and respectfully people tried to treat him anyway, and stuff like that, but that’s getting REALLY off the point.)

    The relevance for Comics I Don’t Understand is that we go by the Rabbinic tradition of audience interpretation over authorial intent. If Wayno decided to post here, his opinion would be just as valid as any other reader’s — but not more so. I mean, if he wanted to opine on F- or Rhymes With Orange or something, that would be fine; if Hillary Price wanted to opine on Bizzaro, that would be fine. Knowing that G-d Himself thought the Oven of Akhnai was self-purifying is interesting, but doesn’t make it self-purifying; knowing that Wayno intended it to suggest “very tall mice” is interesting, but doesn’t make the comic about that.

    If we go off and create a new interpretation, or just plain reject the author’s intention, well, that’s how CIDU works.

    Another random tangent… this literary theory is called “the death of the author” theory, meaning that, once a work exists and is in front of audiences, the audiences determine its meaning. This idea was formulated fully in a 1967 essay by Roland Barthes called, obviously, “The Death of the Author.” The thing is — he was French, and the essay was written in French, so the title was “La mort de l’auteur”.

    Get it? It’s a joke on the title “Le Morte d’Arthur”.

    Okay, that’s enough random stuff for right now.

  21. My point was more to indicate the FAQ needs changing, not the behavior. I think what Andrea posted was just fine, especially given the timing. The author’s interpretation is fine so long as people view it as just one more view rather than something definitive that ends the discussion. As I said, the fun of this place is in the discussion, not necessarily getting to a consensus.

    Andrea, you didn’t start the kerfuffle, so consider that in your decision to stay or not. I think you make insightful and interesting contributions to this site so it would be a loss if you decided to leave. Hopefully you reconsider and stick around.

  22. Thanks for that rich explanation, Ian!

    I didn’t think you need to go French for de-centering authorial intention. In a way, that was already a centerpiece of “The New Criticism”.

  23. My point was more to indicate the FAQ needs changing, not the behavior.

    Gosh, TedD, you could have made that clear a bit sooner!

    I’ve probably already said I don’t support “enforcement” of the strictest reading of that bullet-point in the FAQ. BTW, as I think people have acknowledged, it is literally just about a cartoonist posting here (about their own work), only by extension about a CIDU participant posting a cartoonist’s words from elsewhere. Should we make that extended application explicit? And should we make some awareness of timing explicit, that is, in terms of “continuing active discussion” vs “when discussion has petered out”?

    I think this could best be continued on the Site Comments thread, https://comicsidontunderstand.com/2020/10/01/your-site-comments-october-2020-edition/#comments

  24. But Wayno did no such thing. Unless “Lost in A**2” is Wayno’s secret identity.

    Observing that A**2 is probably A^2, is probably AA, is probably Ann Arbor – and Wayno’s location is given as “Reporting from Bizarro Studios North, in Hollywood Gardens USA” – they probably do not coincide.

    It makes sense for Wayno to mention USA, since the senior partner, Dan Piraro, is living in Mexico! Oddly perhaps, Hollywood Gardens seems not attached to either prominent city called Hollywood (CA and FL) but instead PA. Or perhaps Wayno had his pen in his mouth when he writes that.

  25. I think everyone has the same basic idea – it’s nicer if the cartoonist doesn’t just pop in right away and end discussion, but it’s not a big deal if at some point the cartoonist’s view appears here, either because they put it in, or because someone invokes it. I feel like we could just leave the FAQ is, or delete that line. I don’t think it matters either way, but it would feel silly to have a long discussion in the FAQ trying to tease out the nuances of what’s “OK” and what’s “prohibited.”

    Whether to consider the author’s opinion – er – “authoritative” is a different question.

  26. Well, depends how one defines “big deal.” I’d prefer to not hear anything about the author’s explanation here. As I mentioned, a link out to it would be acceptable to me, but I don’t think we get anything from a “definitive” answer. If the cite was every about actually getting a definitive answer for CIDUs, it has long since moved past that.

    The whole death of the author thing is rife with tripping points, though. I’ve seen work that, in my opinion, isn’t about what the creator claims at all. What’s on the page, in the picture, on the screen, in the notes, carved in stone, or whatever is really all there is to the work. What was in the creators mind but didn’t make it to the end product isn’t part of the work. That said, I’m very interested in the creative process. I love supplemental features on video discs to hear more about how things were made and the choices made. I will often be interested in hearing more about an author’s life to understand the forces that shaped his or her worldview, which would have influenced the finished novel. Those are interesting things to me, but the work exists as it exists, separate from them. When J.K. Rowling, for example, decided to declare that Dumbledore was gay, that seemed a silly publicity stunt. Nothing I’d read had any suggestion of that (though I admit that I did stop reading after the Harry Potter and the Goblin on Fire as they were really getting tedious and I decided I should read adult fare). Her claim is no more valid than my claim that he was geosexual and attracted to rocks. If it’s not on the page, it’s not part of the story.

    All that said, I do think there are interpretations of a work that are just wrong. I’m involved with a few groups for writers of fiction where work in progress is shared and critiqued with the intent to improve it. Listening to the comments some people make has shown me that people do not always read closely. I’ve heard interpretation of work that completely ignores things explicitly stated in the work. Saying something like they don’t know a character’s age when it was clearly mentioned, for example. Or it could be doing a very shallow, surface interpretation of a piece, failing to see subtext, such as the strained relationship between to characters which is conveyed by the way they speak to each other. So, I’m not willing to say ALL interpretations are equally valid.

  27. Somehow this reminds me of the old Shakespearian actor who lectured to an English class, and was asked by a member thereof: “We think we’ve solved all of the cruxes in HAMLET except for one thing — did Hamlet seduce Ophelia?” The actor replied “In my day, about eighty per cent of the time.”

  28. Singapore Bill: I agree that whether Dumbledore is gay should be based on the text. And personally, I found the textual evidence weak. But it’s worth nothing that (1) the textual evidence comes after Goblet of Fire and (2) CiduBill said that when he read that textual evidence (before Rowling’ post-publication tweet), he just assumed that meant that Dumbledore was gay. So it’s not like Rowling pulled that claim out of thin air.

  29. A cat’s leg is of finite dimensions. Forcing the cat to snake its paw through a narrow, keyhole-shaped opening would reduce danger to the mice, if they could stay away from the opening. The mice could even conceivably inflict damage on the cat by biting its paw as it struggled to get in there. Most cats would give up quickly and return to their Meow Mix. Now I am overthinking this but there is my 0.02 worth.

  30. Well, I’d say it really did come after the fact. That it only came out (so to speak) when some fan asked about it (and fans will ask all kinds of things to support their own personal interpretations) makes me think it an after thought. That somebody asked and that CIDU Bill had it in the back of his mind suggests it could be read that way. But if it is things like saying Dumbledore dressed flamboyantly and was mesmerized by a charismatic political leader, that’s pretty weak. I don’t care enough to go looking for it, though. Simply an example.
    https://literature.stackexchange.com/questions/1901/is-there-any-textual-evidence-to-support-that-dumbledore-was-gay/1905

    Personally, the challenge in writing (particularly fiction) is to craft your work so that it can only be interpreted the way you meant it and that’s part of the fun of it. A fool’s task, of course, but it does help discipline one’s writing. Hallmarks of bad amateur writing fall to the opposite sides of that: either including everything in terms of backstory and research that exists in the authors mind but which is not relevant to the story and bogs everything down or not writing down relevant parts and keeping them in the author’s head.

  31. Singapore Bill: I did say that I found the textual evidence that he was gay weak. (Although there is also not much textual evidence he was straight or bi, either.) So I think we are basically on the same page.

    IIRC, the main evidence that CIDU Bill saw that Dumbeledore was gay was that when he talked about his relationship with Gridelwald it was it was tinged with a sense of romantic longing, and indications that their relationship was romantic. That’s subjective and open to interpretation, and like I said, I didn’t see it that way when I read it. But the fact that CIDU Bill did see it there makes it plausible to me that Rowling was thinking of Dumbledore as gay when she wrote that dialogue. If so, she certainly didn’t make it clear, but that’s fine – good fiction writing can/should leave a lot of backstory ambiguous.

  32. “The whole death of the author thing is rife with tripping points, though. I’ve seen work that, in my opinion, isn’t about what the creator claims at all.”

    Yeah but these a strip gag cartoons. Jokes. Not nuanced literature. They usually have a specific set-up and gag and the author’s intent is, well, the intent.

  33. WW: I cannot (and don’t wish to) argue against what you said. In what I read of the HP books it didn’t seem that anybody’s sexuality was an issue. I wouldn’t really expect it in a kid’s book series. I guess there were some crushes, if I recall. Like Ginny liking Harry and maybe something in Goblin on Fire (which is a way better name). So no dispute about that.

    I can understand why, but find it unfortunate, that the only kind of male-male love (excepting father-son and brother-brother) that can be conceptualized is gay. I think that’s harmful, that feeling an emotional connection to another man MUST be sexualized. I’ve got my man-crush on Viggo Mortensen. He’s dreamy and just hanging out and being buddies seems like it would be awesome. Drinking beers while camping and listening to him read poetry he’s written about the day’s adventure. He really seems to have it together and I think he’d be a positive influence in my life. As a positive note on man-crushes, a bunch of guys at work (when I used to work in corporate office) did play “Who’s Your Man-Crush” at lunch one day. Each declaring who was our man-crush and why.

  34. I like the thought that cats hate remodeling much better. The odd shape of the doorway is so obscure all I could only relate it to the similar shape of a cat’s pupil (would make it easier for the cat though) unless it were sideways

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