As a skinny freshman way back in February 2007, I picked up a copy of The Michigan Daily and turned to the opinion page. I hated the Daily back then, and if you ask me for an honest answer, I still kind of do. But, with that hatred came a certain joy that one can only experience when he or she holds up a Daily article to a friend and says, “What the hell is this idiot thinking?” I didn’t enjoy the Daily, but I enjoyed hating the Daily — a sentiment that I’m sure at least a few of you out there have today.
But there was one tiny piece of this paper that didn’t read like it had a golden stick up its ass. If you’re an old fart like me and remember John Oquist’s Live on your Feet, Sam Butler’s The Soapbox or Erin Russell’s Joy, you know that the 2006-2007 school year was a golden age for Daily cartooning. Fully expecting to be greeted by one of these genuinely funny, superbly illustrated cartoons, what I instead saw led me down a three-year path that sadly and thankfully ends this week.
Sparing too many details, it was the worst cartoon I’ve ever seen. I’ve truthfully forgotten the name of the artist, but it motivated a shy kid who’d never drawn a straight line in his life to say, “I can do better than that.” So, I sent a few sample comics to eternal Daily contributor Imran Syed, then the editorial page editor and now a columnist, and Out to Pasture was born. Three years, 50 pounds and 120+ comic strips later, I’ve come full circle.
Now, people hold up my columns to their friends and say, “Koslowski is an untalented loser!” Call me masochistic, but I couldn’t be having more fun.
Out of all the hate-filled e-mails and comments I’ve received over the years, my absolute favorites are those which impugn my lack of humor and artistic ability. To all those critics — you’re totally right. But remember, I somehow tricked the Daily into publishing me and tricked you into giving a damn. Just like me all those years ago, you have a choice: keep firing anonymous pot-shots on the comment boards, or do something about it. Heed my advice — you should probably remain uninvolved because it’s a hell of a lot of work.
I can confidently and proudly say that Out to Pasture requires less effort to produce than any other part of the Daily — and yes, that includes the Crime Notes. Even still, it takes a special kind of effort to churn out a strip at 4 a.m. after a night of real work only to have it be hacked to pieces on the comment boards, or worse yet, axed by your editor. It takes someone who doesn’t just tolerate criticism, but embraces it.
I’ve happily remained on the fringe of Daily culture during my time at the paper, but the staff has gained my utmost respect in their ability to embrace their critics. Rarely do you see praise for any part of the Daily outweigh its criticism — and that’s a good thing. When a paper becomes complacent with its product or when its readership stops caring enough to complain is the moment it starts to go under. Just ask the Ann Arbor News.
I mean this next point in the best way possible, but some folks that work at the Daily are really sick in the head. People devote the best years of their lives to this paper only to expose themselves to criticism and scandal, all while making less money than if they spent their work hours metal detecting in the Diag. I couldn’t do what my editors do, nor would I want to.
So, what’s the point of this rant beyond being another sappy senior send-off? If just one of you reads this column or this Thursday’s ultra-special-last-Out to Pasture-ever and thinks, “God, Koslowski’s a hack. I’m going to join the Daily so I can do it better than him,” then my time here has meant something. The circle will begin again, and we’ll assure that our children have a daily campus newspaper to bitch about. And who knows, maybe you’ll actually have talent and win the $10,000 Charles Schulz College Cartoonist Award like Erin Russell did in 2007. In the interim, I’ll send my two bovine friends to that big slaughterhouse in the sky. I know I speak for more than myself when I say, “It’s about damn time.”
Chris Koslowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.