Beta-fresh answers, uploaded occasionally

Lets face it, our favorite comic strip is often obscure or inconsistent, and key characters are sometimes left stranded for years. Long-suffering readers are within their rights to demand some clarification. Use the "Ask GBT" form to email us your questions, and we will answer those we can on the Blowback page, and also archive the answers here.

Q: Did you receive a lot of feedback on the May 4 "French" Sunday strip?
-- J. B., Lakeside, MONTANA | Storyline | July 25, 2003
A: Mon dieu! You betcha. The May 4 Sunday strip, in which Mark Slackmeyer and Zonker addressed "France bashers" in French, inspired a flood of e-mail responses that was impressive in its volume, variety, and passion. Many of the more outraged correspondents wrote under the misconception that GBT is either a native of France or Canada. He was born and raised in New York state. A sampling of the feedback, pro and con, appears below. And here's a link, in case you missed THE STRIP AND ITS ENGLISH TRANSLATION.

Thank you for articulating what I have been feeling concerning all the France-bashing going on in the country lately. There has been so much across-the-board bashing (Democrat, Republican, whatever) that I had begun to doubt the appropriateness of my own outrage. Thanks for the laugh and the lift.
-- S.P. Lee, Ivins, UT

Why don't you move to France and e-mail your strip back to the U.S.? It would lower the pollution rate in our country by at least 1 percent. I am saddened to see people like you take advantage of and abuse our freedom by using their public prominence to verbally "spit on" our Flag and our Leader. I pity you and your ilk.You have only my scorn.
-- Don S., Redding, CA

I believe that, because of today's strip you will join the Dixie Chicks in terms of treatment by America. Yes, your strip will no longer be played on C&W stations! However, all I can say is: Je suis d'accord avec le 5/4/03 Doonesbury complet?ment.
-- Joe Merola, Blacksburg, VA

My name if French also, but I am an American! Where were the French while my brothers and sisters in the American forces were liberating Iraq? Complaining, because their business contracts would be null and void soon. Yes, they helped liberate us from the British over 225 years ago (after our forces took most of the beating). That is once in two millenium. On the other hand, we have gone in to kick out invaders of France twice in one century. All we asked for was support, but had it shoved back in our faces. If you love France so much why don't you just pack up and go live there?
-- Steve S., USN

Thank you! What a great strip. Never have I been so ashamed to be an American as when I encounter "freedom fries" or folks who won't buy French wine. I was in France last year on business on the anniversary of 911 and our French colleagues were wearing black suits with American flag pins on their lapels. I cried my eyes out when the minute of silence was observed. Viva la France!!!
-- Jen Rice, Seattle, WA

After twenty years of being a fan and buying all the Doonesbury crap, this Conquer-Monkey now knows it's okay to be insensitive and rude to people you don't agree with -- so fuck France, and fuck you.
-- T. Englet, Houston, TX

Je ne ferai pas mal ? mon copain qui m'a r?veill?, je vais l'embrasser tendrement en public pour montrer mon appr?ciation pour son sens de responsabilit? civile. Autant que j'aimerai vous offrir la m?me chose, je pr?f?re compromettre mes principes d'internaute pour vous ?crire ce couriel en but de vous f?liciter sur votre commentaire. Vous avez raison, vous avez les couilles d'un Viking. Je suis canadiens, mais j'ai recenti une folle baffle sur mon h?ritage, ainsi que celui des am?ricains de d?cendance fran?aise, au moment ou la population des ?-U sonna la cloche sur les produits qui portent le nom de la France. Bravo, M. Trudeau!
-- Dominic M., Toronto, CANADA

The U.S. is a great country and there's no room for bashers of the great U.S. What the hell is your problem? Do you not support this country? If you don't like it then move back to France.
-- R., Woodinville, WA

Would it be too expensive to put this up with its translation on billboards around the country? It's getting spooky out there -- somebody needs to sound the alarm!
-- M. Marmor, Chicago, IL

As Ann Coulter so accurately explains in her book Slander, the only thing liberals like yourself can do when discussing issues like the war on Iraq or the French sellout to Saddam Hussein is to call people names. That's of course because you are always so completely wrong on the issues and have nothing else to say! Your strip shows how consistent you liberals always are! Name calling! What a great way to discuss the issues.
-- Mark Bedor, Studio City, CA

Today's strip does make a good point about freedom. I always enjoy your strips -- they help leaven my conservatism. Yes, conservatives are open-minded and can and will listen to new ideas. Impossible as it may seem, we can and do think for ourselves. Keep up the good work!
-- R.C., Round Rock, TX

Ou ?tes-vous si provincial que vous ne reconnaissez pas l'?ne d'un singe dans le miroir? Vive the land of the free and the home of the BRAVE - America!
-- B. Priez, a patriotic Franco-American

As an American progressive who lives in Canada and makes his living translating from French into English, I gotta say I loved your anti-France-bashers strip. In recent weeks you have given me a way to show my U.S.-bashing friends that we're not all jingoistic, self-regarding conquer monkies
-- A.D., Kitchener, Ontario, CANADA

You probably get lots of hate mail, so add this to the pile. While I always despise your absurd strip, this Sunday takes the cake. My grandfather sacrificed for the French there in WWI, my three uncles served in WWII in different areas. Should the French be free? Of course. But free actions have consequences, and the French have showed themselves to be ingrates, morons and dirty dealers. We only owe them so much for our revolution. I am free to despise the French now, and I will boycott their products, and urge my representatives to punish them in any way we can. I am not surprised this absurd, inaccurate comic comes from a Frenchman.
-- John Cotter, Centereach, NY

Your bravery is inspirational in the McCarthyistic times we are going through, where even the slightest criticism of government policy seems to be considered treasonous over there. It's only in monarchies and totalitarian states where the word of the leader is unquestionable law. In democracies you're supposed to criticize the government and expose its flaws. That's the whole damn point of the system! Keep up the good work and don't let the bullies of the world grind you down.
-- John L., Wellington, NEW ZEALAND

Found your May 4 strip to be very funny. Oh, I don't mean funny ha-ha. I mean funny sicko. I will no longer read Doonesbury, and am complaining to my local newspaper about this insufferable exploitation of their goodwill and the insult to myself and all patriotic Americans.
-- Bruce Goehring, TX

I just wanted to say "Bravo!" for last Sunday's cartoon. Il faut dire la verit?! Je suis am?ricaine, mais je n'aime pas ce que nous faisons maintenant aux fran?ais. Ils ?taient toujours nos amis, mais je ne sais pas pourquoi beaucoup d'am?ricains pensent que nos amis ont besoin de faire ce que nous disons! C'est vraiment bizarre! J'ai peur que nous allons perdre tous nos amis ? cause de notre orgueil.
Bon journ?e
-- Margaret Varner, Milledgeville, GA

Congratulations! Looks like you finally found a way to get people to read your work. Now you and your strip will be remembered for being full of hate. You and Saddam seem to have the same way of thinking -- do and say whatever it takes to get in the news and the history books.
-- Frank W., Phoenix, AZ

I adore the x on the end of my name, and the French heritage that goes with it, but lately I have caught grief for it. I've had people tell me that they have to boycott me as part of an anti-France stance and tell me off for France's disagreement with the Bush administration's Iraq policies. Do I agree with this war? No. Am I less than patriotic? NO. Thank you for pointing out how xenophobic a vocal portion of America has become and the utter idiocy of France bashing.
-- Michelle Therese Genevieve Goubeaux

Say clown, where do you get off with "patriotic Franco-American"? You have always been against America. Your slimey-liberal anti-American views are well known. Why not get the hell out of here and practice your crap with the Canadians or the Frogs. And don't give me any of that 'freedom of speech' stuff. You intend to do harm to the American way of life.
-- Sam B., SF, CA

As another Franco-American, your cartoon provided the one moment of glee I have had in recent months. As a woman with a French heritage, I have been hurt and horrified by the extent of the vicious and racist attacks on France -- not even couched as "the government of France" but "the French". As an American, I am embarrassed by this type of behavior, which I thought would never return after the KKK went underground.
-- A.P. Punzavitz, Annapolis, MD
Q: What's up with Trudeau running a big Howard Dean campaign the last few weeks. Is Trudeau in the tank?
-- M. Mahoney, Sacramento, CA | Storyline | September 03, 2003
A:Damn near. Here's the skinny for full-disclosure buffs: GBT and Dr. Dean were childhood buddies, having first met at summer camp. During a camp wrestling tournament, the puny Trudeau pinned the athletic Dean twice, an humiliation (attention, biographers) that has haunted Dean ever since. After attending Yale together, the two lost track of one another until Dean became governor of Vermont and told a reporter that he'd developed his sense of humor hanging out with Trudeau. Trudeau wrote him to protest, because during his teenage years, GBT didn't actually have a sense of humor. This may explain why reporters don't think Dean has one, either. Actually he does, at least around Trudeau, so GBT gave him $2000 (maxing out early) on the promise of relief from daily Dean-For-America fundraising spam, a promise that his friend has yet to make good on. Dean has also refused to soften his position on gun control, drug reform, or any other issue of importance to GBT, so a lot of good it's done.
Q: In Doonesbury last week Alex tried to organize a flash mob for Howard Dean at the Seattle Space Needle. Was that for real?
-- H. Jones, New York, NY | Storyline | September 26, 2003
A:Initially no, eventually yes. In an interesting case of politics imitating comic strip, Alex?s flash mob plan was immediately adopted by Deanies, who boosted it on the Net. An estimated 150 mobsters and gawkers, along with local TV news crews, showed up at the Space Needle at the appointed time. For complete coverage, check out the Seattle Times or AP story.
Q: Could you please make the TOTAL RECALL coupon (to recall Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger) from the 9-28-03 Sunday strip available on your site in a larger, printable format? I'd like to mail one in -- and also forward it on to my friends.
-- W.H., LA, CA | Storyline | December 04, 2003
A:The DTH&WP is pleased and proud to do its part to help keep California's new tradition of way-participatory democracy alive by providing this supersized copy of THE COUPON in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.
Q: What's up with this $10,000 reward thing?
-- A. Mitchell, Amenia, NY | Storyline | March 09, 2004
A:For the past several weeks, trolling-for-trash journalists have made repeated forays into the continuing mystery of George W. Bush's Air National Guard service (to catch up on developments, read Salon's "Bad news doesn't get better with age", The Decatur Daily's "Former Dannelly worker: Bush not AWOL", The Nation's "W's AWOL Spin Update!", and -- of particular interest -- The Memphis Flyer's "On Guard -- Or Awol?"). With just eight months left in the presidential campaign, GBT is hoping to speed the disclosure process along by offering a $10,000 reward to coax a witness to step forward and confirm President Bush's story, thereby putting the whole sordid mess behind us. For details, go to our special Bush's Guard Service page. We also encourage you to take a moment to vote in our current Straw Poll on the subject.
Q: Can we read some Bush Guard testimony? Who won?
-- Patrick P., Lompoc, CA | Storyline | September 16, 2004
A:Alas, none of the over 1600 entries we received qualified for the proferred $10,000.Three carefully and arbitrarily selected runner-ups were posted on the Straw Poll site, where DTH&WP readers passed judgement on them. Here are those submissions, and the prizes they have won -- followed by a generous and representative sampling of the entries that overflowed our in-box. We truly appreciate the efforts of all those who selflessly joined us in our efforts to take the Bush Guard story out of play.

FIRST RUNNER-UP (original of the 2-26-04 Doonesbury strip, signed by G.B. Trudeau):

I can't verify Bush's presence in Alabama, but as a dental professional I am intrigued with his dental records. Generally, an individual with a large bank account doesn't have any missing permanent molars without receiving a fixed bridge (#3 is missing, yet no bridge is placed between #2-4, #2 has a crown, but #4 only has a three surface restoration). The American public needs to see his posterior bitewings from 1973 and a current series of bitewings to better judge the authenticity of the information provided.
-- Barbara Vanderveen, Galt, CA

SECOND RUNNER-UP (signed copy of Doonesbury collection Got War?)

Bush and I were together during those months on a mission so secret it's taken years of therapy for me to remember. We were on board an alien vessel during the time in question, emissaries of the Pentagon on a successful mission to obtain "mental weaponry" far in advance of anything the Soviets had. Our memories were then wiped clean, except for the deepest recesses of the unconscious. I weep for the president's struggle with this trauma, and am coming forward to share my pain in interviews, book contracts, and the like. God bless America.
-- Matthew Wills, New York, NY

THIRD RUNNER-UP (fully-branded Duke swizzle stick)

I am an employee of the Nigerian government Toastmaster's Club. I am in hiding while rebels loot my country. In 1972 I was a colonel in the Alabama Air National Guard and flew many aircrafts. I was Bush's wingman. I was with him for his dental exams. I warned him against medical physical exams. You must keep this in strictest confidence. If you wish to pursue this business venture, then I shall need your fax and baking preferences.
-- Dr. Abdula E. Fraudena, Lagos, NIGERIA

Note: Management apologizes to those contestants whose testimony does not appear in the following sampling. In some cases, recent FCC rulings were an inhibiting factor. Essays over 10,000 words in length were not posted out of respect for those using dial-up modems. Special thanks to everyone who offered to sweeten the kitty. If we'd had a winner and all of you had followed through, the USO would have received an additional $16,590. If you would like to contribute directly, write to: Edward Powell, President, USO World Headquarters, 1008 Eberte Place SE, Suite 301, Washington Navy Yard, D.C. 20374.

Click here to read Bush Guard testimony

Q: I'm shocked by the current storyline. B.D. losing a leg? What was Trudeau thinking?!?
-- Lela A., Portland, OR | Storyline | May 08, 2004
A:This is what GBT told ABC News on 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos' last Sunday:

The strips are about sacrifice, about the kind of shattering loss that completely changes lives. In B.D., I've placed a central character in harm's way, and his charmed life takes a dramatic turn on a road outside Fallujah. In the opening panels, he's in shock, hallucinating, with voices cutting in and out. Medics call this time the golden hour, that small window of opportunity when lives are most easily saved. B.D. is medevaced out, and in the third strip, the point of view is reversed, revealing just how grievous his wound really is. We also see his hair, its presence almost as startling as the absence of his leg.

What I meant to convey is that B.D.'s life has been irrevocably changed, that another chapter has begun. He is now on an arduous journey of recovery and rehabilitation. What I'm hoping to describe are the coping strategies that get people through this. There is no culture of complaint among the wounded -- most feel grateful to be alive and respectful of those who have endured even worse fates. But for many, a kind of black humor is indispensable in fending off bitterness or despair, so that's what will animate the strips that follow.

I have to approach this with humility and care. I'm sure I won't always get it right, and I'm also sure people will let me know when I don't. But it seems worth doing. This month alone, we've sustained nearly 600 wounded-in-action. Whether you think we belong in Iraq or not, we can't tune it out; we have to remain mindful of the terrible losses that individual soldiers are suffering in our name.

Q: In a column called "Dissent Stinks if It Exploits the Pain of GI's", Bill O'Reilly criticized the current B.D. storyline, accusing Garry Trudeau of "using someone's personal tragedy to advance a political agenda". What's GBT's response to O'Reilly's assertion that he "crossed the line".
-- D.T., Hartford, CT | Storyline | May 10, 2004
A:While it's hardly a secret that Trudeau opposes the war in Iraq, he doesn't view it as a contradiction to value the warrior -- and the sacrifices he's making in our name. In a response to O'Reilly, Trudeau pointed out that he's been doing it for years. During the first Gulf War, Trudeau wrote over 200 consecutive strips about Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan, the Pentagon assembled a show of those strips to tour in theater. Shortly thereafter, Trudeau was invited to Kuwait by a commander who had first read Doonesbury in Stars & Stripes in Vietnam and thought the cartoonist should meet his men. Upon arrival, Trudeau received two medals of commendation from different units in Kuwait. Most of the soldiers who followed the strip seemed to appreciate the attention paid to the day-to-day conditions of their lives, whether absurd or inspirational or tragic.
Q: Isn't this week's Sunday section out of sequence -- not to mention inappropriate?
-- C. Pulver, Hartford, CT | Storyline | May 26, 2004
A:Yes. Due to boneheaded creator scheduling, this week's Sunday section appears before B.D.'s arrival at Walter Reed Hospital (the facility referred to in the strip), and while he's still at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

As to the unfortunate coincidence of the last panel's artwork (drawn in April) with the recent grisly tragedy in Iraq, Trudeau shares your chagrin: "Most Sunday sections are prepared five to six weeks in advance, and today's strip was unfortunately overtaken by events. To 'hand someone his head' is a common expression, not normally associated with actual violence. I regret the poor timing, and apologize to anyone who was offended by an image that is now clearly inappropriate."

Those newspapers around the country who print their Sunday sections late were offered a substitute strip.

Q: In regards to your present strip with BD recovering in hospital, what the heck is a physiatrist? I thought on the first day you had just misspelled something, but now fear there is a great joke going over my head.
-- Richard Williamson, London, UK | Storyline | July 08, 2004
A:No joke. GBT has been receiving enthusiastic e-mail from the physiatrist community, happy that B.D.'s relationship with Dr. Nitz has focused attention on their important, awkwardly-named and little-known profession.

We've borrowed the following explanation of the physiatrist's role from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilition Web site, where you can go to get more information.

What is a Physiatrist?

A physiatrist (fizz ee at' trist) is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatrists treat a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries. They see patients in all age groups and treat problems that touch upon all the major systems in the body. These specialists focus on restoring function to people....

Physiatrists treat acute and chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders. They may see a person who lifts a heavy object at work and experiences back pain, a basketball player who sprains an ankle and needs rehabilitation to play again, or a knitter who has carpal tunnel syndrome. Physiatrists' patients include people with arthritis, tendonitis, any kind of back pain, and work- or sports-related injuries.

Physiatrists also treat serious disorders of the musculoskeletal system that result in severe functional limitations. They would treat a baby with a birth defect, someone in a bad car accident, or an elderly person with a broken hip. Physiatrists coordinate the long-term rehabilitation process for patients with spinal cord injuries, cancer, stroke or other neurological disorders, brain injuries, amputations, and multiple sclerosis.

Physiatrists practice in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and in private offices. They often have broad practices, but some concentrate on one area such as pediatrics, sports medicine, geriatric medicine, brain injury, or many other special interests.