27 Comments

  1. I would say it’s supposed to be a clever metaphor more than a funny joke. As each holiday mascot completes its “leg” of the relay race, it passes the baton to the next one. Apparently the pilgrim got benched though.

  2. I think the item listed in the stands are because the holidays are running their relay through retail stores. With one holiday always being featured to keep people buying.

  3. Retail Holiday creep. @Carl, the lead cherub is Valentine’s Day, in February, taking the baton from baby New Year. It’s chronological. @Mark M, they went with the turkey instead.

  4. Baby New Year got skipped in my town; I went grocery shopping the last week of December, and the seasonal aisle was full of Valentine’s Day candy & teddy bears. And me? I still have two Halloween decorations out on the porch, which I haven’t put away yet. (NOTE: These are in addition to the gargoyles & skeleton wreath, which stay up year-round.)

  5. Ah thanks. I was looking at an un-zoomed image on my phone. From that angle, it looked to me like the turkey was Pumpkinhead’s legs.

  6. I can’t help seeing it the way Carl Fink does: they are in backwards order!

    Yes, this is “fixed” by making it a relay race, where they then are on the same team and not all running at this moment — and, significantly, the next runner stands in front of the one just finishing their leg, and the rear one finishing their leg hands off the baton forwards.

    However, that technical correctness does not completely override the visual impression, which is that Valentiine’s Day is ahead of — i.e. before — New Year’s Day, and so on.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t account for the still-winded runners behind them, who I suppose are also part of this same team (so the relay race has five legs?), and have no reason to be standing this far up on the track.

    This is a fundamental duality of the metaphor of time advancing. Another way to do this could have been to somehow make us a runner and have the holidays be hurdles or milestones we encounter — in the right order. But then you would have a hard time giving them costumes, and anyway, it would be a totally different cartoon. I can’t honestly suggest a way to keep it as basically this same cartoon but fix the chronology metaphor.

  7. I’m with the “they are shown backwards” team. (And the relay-race touches don’t solve it.)

    Also, Phillip, I can’t see it that they are inside the stores, if that’s what you meant. We see shadowy cheering crowds of spectators (or maybe shoppers?) behind the glass doors and windows which sort of puts them inside shops while our runners are on an outside track. Then the track is on a temporary-converted street, there is a margin of sidewalk, and the stores are in their permanent buildings.

    But the sidewalk stops alongside the Shoes store, the stores do not seem to have internal walls, and the top edge is too low for a building. So maybe this is an athletic facility and the signs are for temporary constructed service counters.

  8. It occurs to me: they could fix the chronology thing by simply having the relay runners go right-to-left past our field of view. Or maybe not. It sill wouldn’t solve the problem Mitch4 points out, that relay runners never stand that close together except on the medal platform, if they place.

  9. All I know is, there was a display of cream eggs in the pharmacy yesterday. Guess the Easter Bunny just jumped over everyone else.

  10. Well, I’ll say this: What’s funny about it is the topical commentary — these holidays, in this year (last year), were exhausting to go thru, and that is well comically represented by their symbolic characters being exhausted.

  11. They look in the right order to me. Yes, Valentine’s Day is physically ahead of New Year’s Day on the track, but it’s after New Year’s Day in time – i.e. it runs on the course at a later time – and that chronological ordering makes it reasonable for me.

    Yeah, they’re too close together, but that’s just because the cartoonist has to fit everything in the panel and keep them reasonable size.

  12. I have a very difficult time seeing this as backwards. Halloween was the first to drop earlier in the the track, then Thanksgiving. Then Christmas just a week ago so he’s still an his feet puffing and New Years is about to collapse as he hands the baton the Valentines day.

    That’s the natural order of the holiday and makes utter sense.

    Having the holidays in the other order makes no sense at all unless this supposed to be a single finish foot race and this indicates Valentines day in the lead, but that makes no sense as the people still in the running in the back are more exhausted and have already quit despite being in the back. ANd that defeats the joke of the holidays being an ongoing assault one after another. If it were a footrace it be one barrage of anticipation and a dead heat.

    And the joke makes sense to me too. Every year the holidays hit like string of exhaustive blasts of consumerism one after another in a four month string. Just when you think one is over the baton gets past once again.

  13. I don’t think they’re backwards; they’re just foreshortened in order to make the point of the strip.
    The jack-o-lantern handed the baton to the turkey and the turkey went his distance before passing the baton to Santa, and so on. In “reality”, they each ran a-month-or-two. ,,but to show how close the challenging holidays are, they are being displayed as a run-on of holidays. For no other American holiday (I think) (and including Valentine’s Day), do we have as much preparation stress as for those pictured. Memorial Day, Labor Day, July 4th are literally either a walk in the park or just an early shopping day.

    When I was a boy, I had a go-to Halloween costume. It was a furry black cat outfit made by someone in the family (I came along 9 years after my sisters.). I have never managed to create one for my adult self. (Instead of making it my Halloween resolution; maybe I should spend the year asking friends to help me make one, as a birthday present.)

  14. Philip mentions “running their relay through retail stores,” and I think he’s onto something. At least it pertains to the large crowd of people inside (or at least behind the storefronts). The storefronts built alongside the cinder track are just something we’ll have to dismiss with handwaving. And yes, I guess these are all members of the same relay team, passing the baton for very short race legs; I had been seeing them as competitors.

  15. As for the runners in back who arguably “have no reason to be standing this far up on the track” — I take it that it’s just a very short relay, the holidays pile up so it seems like they are only a few feet / hours apart, but they are still stressful enough to exhaust each runner in that brief span of time/distance anyway.

  16. Everything’s in order. I think we have people commenting who don’t know how relay races work.

  17. Oh my, Brian:
    Everything’s in order. I think we have people commenting who don’t know how relay races work.

    There’s a difference between “knowing how something works” and “producing an immediate visual interpretation of what’s happening”. I’m among those who keep on saying “It just keeps on looking like they must be out of order or something” (because it looks like “a single finish foot race” in Woozy’s useful phrasing), even though I do indeed know how a relay works.

    That’s because of the presentational order. Who do we see first, closest to our viewing point? Cupid. Who do we see second? The New Years baby. Who next? Santa. The opposite of chronological order.

    Yes, there’s an excuse — “You can see the baton, it’s a relay race, they’re members of one team.” But that doesn’t correct the presentational order in which we encounter them. And it falls afoul of the bunching of the runners, which keeps the “relay race” interpretation from from fully working in our visual interpretations and encourages the “single finish foot race” interpretation to keep dominating our spontaneous visual impressions. Yeah, I know, there is some sort of excuse for the bunching too.

    None of these excuses cancels the fact that the visual impression is in the wrong order.

  18. I have to say that the order didn’t concern me any. The initial impression I get is Baby New Year handing off to Cupid, so then I look up the line, see the other figures, and get the joke. Not that everyone has to have the same impression. I think I’d have been more bothered if the race was being run in the other direction, as that’s not the typical observer’s view.

  19. Well that’s fine, Brian-in-StL, you aren’t saying people who see it differently “just don’t know how relays work”.

  20. Susan T-O –
    There is little for New Year’s and next to nothing for Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday of the year.

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