There are so many really sound arguments against psychic prognostication that I just don’t even feel like ranting on that topic. My statements on the subject in recent years have been terse variations on the theme of “10,000 professional psychics in this country and not one of them calls the FAA before 9/11?” Feh.
Anyone who wants good rationalist commentary in that vein should be visiting http://www.randi.org, one of my great heroes.
Instead, I’ll comment on the interesting discomfort I felt while trying to decide if I should give the caller in this strip an Italian-sounding name.
One issue from a gag standpoint was whether or not it would telegraph the punchline. I decided that wasn’t likely to be a problem.
The issue from a social standpoint was more complicated. One element of a good, solid punchline in my strip is when it sheds light on some previously unimportant-seeming detail in an earlier panel. For that reason, the name thing does add a little weight to the impact.
But leaning on an ethnic stereotype… I try to avoid that, at least at the level where it’s me speaking and not a character whose views might differ from mine. In the end, I had to decide that if the caller were unnamed or generically named (“Mr. Miller”), that the impact of the joke would suffer. And if it were an ethnic, non-Italian name (“Mr. Onuzuka”), it would muddle the punch. It’s not about making a connection between Italians and organized crime, but about using the existing cultural connotation to abbreviate the joke.
If I’ve offended anyone, I apologize, but do not retract. Telling jokes is my craft, and offending some is a hazard of the trade.