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The puzzlingcat cartoon

Su Lum

On June 6, The Aspen Daily News ran a comic strip (“Rhymes with Orange” by Hilary Price) which I didn’t understand at all. The first panel showed three cats: one on the bottom, the second standing on its shoulders and the third on the second cat’s shoulders with a marking pen in its paw, poised to write something on a blank white board.The second panel showed all three cats (and the marking pen) tumbling down.The third panel showed all three cats standing in front of the blank board with their front paws clasped behind their backs, one saying, “Think they’ll buy it?””Rhymes with Orange” is one of my favorite strips and, while Price’s humor is often subtle, she’s not incomprehensible, so I thought maybe I was just being dense. But I took the cartoon to work and no one at The Aspen Times could make heads or tails of it (so to speak) either.Since the Web site, http://www.rhymeswithorange.com is right on the cartoon, I posed the question directly to its author. What a new world this is, where everything down to the explanation of a comic strip is but an e-mail away!I was astonished that Hilary Price e-mailed back that very same day: “My thought was this – someone had written on the white board ‘Fed Cats.’ The cats then try and change the message to ‘Feed Cats,’ and they are hoping that the person who the message was for will think they should feed the cats instead of knowing they fed them. So – too obscure?”Now we were all wrangling over the meaning of the e-mail. Some thought she meant that the reader was expected to INTUIT what had been written on the board and what the cats were trying to change it to (very obscure!), while others thought that The Daily News had screwed up and fed/feed should have been written on the board.It takes a couple of weeks for a comic strip to get posted on the Web site and, when it appeared, it was a happy ending. The words on the board were in color (just an E being written by the marker in the first panel and feEd cats in the last), but the cartoon was run in black and white and The Daily News didn’t adjust its plates for it.So we were exonerated from being thought morons by the artist, were able to blame it on the Other Paper and, best of all, “got” the joke.I was telling my friend Bruce Berger about it and he said he’d published a little poem that rhymed with orange: THOSE UNHEARD Past the knowncadence, end-stopped with an orange,lie harmonies composed for ang- els alone.Talk about obscure! Get it? f(or ange)ls?Su Lum is a longtime local whose first reading word was “Egad” in the Major Hoople comics. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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