June 2003


Penguin and Maguire Still Are Gettin’ Higher

The web seems to be up to its pinfeathers in penguins, if only because Linus Torvalds likes penguins. There’s even an Open Source Penguin Game (which does NOT run on Windows, big surprise). Penguin Games are like Reindeer Games, but at the OTHER Pole.

I can’t blog about cartoon penguins without mentioning:
Sparky in This Modern World by Dan “Tom Tomorrow” Perkins, who’s not just a left-wing wacko, he’s a left-wing wacko with a weblog! Sparky hasn’t been in the strip much lately; focus groups probably show that Bush and Cheney are considered funnier.
Berkeley Breathed’s Opus (NOT to be confused with Mr. Holland’s Opus, please!). I still get the unrepentantly incorrect giggles from Opus’ first appearance (when the talking penguin was just learning to speak). “Pear Pimples for Hairy Fishnets!”
Taking the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing meme to the polar icecap, the Far Side’s Gary Larson didn’t just do funny cows.
Then there’s that unexplainably web-popular Pokey the Penguin. Minimalist or amateurish? Surreal or just unfunny? All of the above?
As web comics go, I prefer Todd and Penguin. At least the part of me that appreciates raw cuteness does.

But even penguins have a dark side. Like the villian in Batman… and the fact that some people best remember Burgess Meredith for THAT role. Or the villian in Wallace and Grommit. (Still, the most evil thing in Aardman cartoons are those teeth!) And that exploding penguin on the telly in Monty Python. (There’s a plush version of that now available. Apparently the plush penguin opens up into a plush explosion.) And there’s that smoking penguin that sold Kool Cigarettes. (Did you know that his name is Willie?)

Now, a Frozen Food industry association is doing a summer promotion to name their new ‘cool’ penguin mascot. I wouldn’t try to sell them on ‘Tux’… or ‘Tennessee Tuxedo’ either.

Because there’s a writer who published The Thesis That Got Me Kicked Out of College, in which he explores the links between cartoon penguin Tennessee Tuxedo, author Tennessee Williams and singer Tennessee Ernie Ford. Don’t you just hate institutions of higher learning without a sense of humor?

So, what does it all mean? Not much, except that penguins are a diverse and varied group, and should not be thought of as just black and white. They have a little orange on their beaks and feet, too…