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"Jim's Journal" Offered Welcome Cynicism, Apathy

Column by Anders Hove
Executive Editor

Everybody on this campus knows Jim. I don't just mean the comic strip character, but the man himself. Jim is close to us all because we all know him - or someone like him. And we all have an opinion on people like him, too. Some people love them while others detest them fervently. Still others think Jim-like people are just okay.

What makes a Jim-like person? Stoicism, maybe, or apathy. Certainly a quiet demeanor is essential. I know a lot of people like that, but they actually harbor many feelings and passions, if only one can draw them out. Not so with Jim.

But let's be fair here: Can we really dismiss Jim as just another two-dimensional man with no feelings, no opinions, and more to the point, no presidential ambitions? It's a difficult call.

Jim has been with us for just over five years now. He de-buted in the February 1, 1991, issue of The Tech, with no prior fanfare. The first frame we printed contains the line, "Steve got the mail today." That one frame is telling.

Jim, it turned out, spends almost all of his time hanging out with Tony and Steve, or working on his pointless jobs. The people in Jim's life - from Ruth to his annoying bosses - demonstrate that Jim is a fundamentally sensitive and expressive man. His friends like him because he has a quiet rapport with them and with their feelings. Jim likes them because it is through them, vicariously, that he expresses himself.

Like Jim's friends, Jim's many followers - be they admirers or detractors - have plenty of emotion and passion to throw around. When some suggested killing "Jim's Journal" last year, it incited a torrent of reader mail, pro and con. More than anyone else, Jim is a recognized figure on this campus. And people have an opinion on him.

And then there's the matter of Jim parodies. Many editors (including me) have parodied Jim. More famously, The Tech ran a series of "Jim Baker's Journal," a strip chronicling the daily events of George Bush's campaign manager-turned-chief of staff during the 1992 campaign. In addition, we ran several strips of "Jim Tewhey's Journal" in which the ill-starred associate dean for residence and campus activities attended a series of inexplicable meetings with then Undergraduate Association Vice President J. Paul Kirby '92. But why? Aside from their names, what did James R. Tewhey, James Baker III, and Jim have in common?

The answer is cynicism. Tewhey and Baker were both confronted with dopey, clown-like colleagues; they were both entrapped by events beyond their control. In the strips, the two Jims respond to their fatalistic surroundings in the only way appropriate. They respond with apathy and cynicism.

Scott Dikkers created for Jim a world gone inane. In Scott Adams' "Dilbert," the main characters fight inanity with humor and pointless bureaucratic warfare. Unlike Dilbert, Jim does not fight. He accepts his surroundings as a fact, sad or not; he responds with stoicism and apathy.

Jim's world has now come to an end. To say the strip ended with a whimper would be an understatement. The Tech has been running Jim reruns for about one year now and, in the mean time, the syndicated comic strip disappeared. Onion Features Syndicate (the firm that distributed the strip and its attendant collection of t-shirts, books, and paraphernalia) claims not to have heard of Jim at all. It took an e-mail to Dikkers himself to confirm Jim's death. Somehow the ignominy of his disappearance seems appropriate.

Needless to say, Jim's attitude will live on. His implicit cynicism is infectious. Things will be okay.