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Hey, Big Apple– Thanks For Sharing Your Pollution!!

February 6, 2015

One of my magazine clients is Connecticut Green Guide. It focuses on environmental issues. The last time out, they needed an illustration for an article which contained good news and bad news.

The good news: air quality in Connecticut improved in 2014 for the second straight year.

The bad news: there was still a lot of pollution, thanks to New York City traffic. City smog drifts eastward into Connecticut, polluting the air. Its impact can be particularly severe during a summer heat wave.

Did Connecticut figure out a way to solve their NYC smog problem? Nope. They got lucky. They had cooler than average summers the past two years. Last summer was particularly cool. That was true for all six New England states.

Here’s the illustration. Note the “solar-powered fans.” Is there such a thing? I don’t know. The editor suggested I put them in to emphasize Connecticut’s commitment to green technology.

The illustration contains an amusing error. It’s sitting there in plain sight, but it’s not easy to see– can you spot it?

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Two Connecticut highway transportation guys standing next to solar-powered fans which are blowing back New York City smog automobile gas fumes stream of traffic pollution in background at least less pollution than last year

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Here’s a detail image. Note: the error is not visible in this detail image.

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detail image of two Connecticut highway transportation guys standing next to solar-powered fans which are blowing back New York City smog automobile gas fumes stream of traffic pollution in background at least less pollution than last year

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I always give my clients several ideas to choose from. This 3-panel sketch shows a kite that’s finally able to “fly high,” thanks to cleaner air.

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3-panel illustration cartoon showing kid flying kite years 2012 through 2014 kite flying higher happier in later years because less air pollution

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Many cities now have fitness trails where walkers and runners can stop at stations and do various exercises. I thought it might be amusing to have a station where all you had to do was take a deep breath. Something that requires good quality air, of course.

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sketch showing man walking dog through woods stop at aerobic fitness station taking deep breath enjoying better quality air since less pollution

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Here’s a cartoon map of New England. The maple leaf designates Canada to the north. You can also see part of New York State and New Jersey. The little guy in the boat got included to help balance out the illustration. Mean ol’ New York City is blowing smog in Connecticut’s face.

The three northernmost states are smiling, happy to be up where the air is clear. Well, mostly. The big guy on the right is the state of Maine. The red arrow is pointing to New Hampshire, home of yours truly.

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cartoon map of six New England states New York City blowing air pollution into Connecticut guy fishing off Cape Cod Canada maple leaf, Maine New Hampshire Vermont Massachusetts Rhode Island New Jersey

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Here’s the finished illustration again. Last chance to spot the error and win a free solar-powered toenail clipper…

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Two Connecticut highway transportation guys standing next to solar-powered fans which are blowing back New York City smog automobile gas fumes stream of traffic pollution in background at least less pollution than last year

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Here’s the thing: every car is headed away from the city. We see exit signs for inbound traffic, but there isn’t any– not a single inbound car.

Now you might be thinking: well, there is an inbound lane– it’s just empty, that’s all. Alas, that’s supposed to be one of those concrete safety barriers– so I not only forgot to include inbound traffic, I forgot to include any inbound lanes!!

Here’s the ironic twist: What I drew as a concrete barrier looks like an empty strip of road. It tricks the eye. You see two streams of traffic, but you don’t notice they’re both going in the same direction. The exit signs don’t look funny because we expect to see signs like that on a freeway.

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detail image of two Connecticut highway transportation guys standing next to solar-powered fans which are blowing back New York City smog automobile gas fumes stream of traffic pollution in background at least less pollution than last year

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    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

How’s the air quality where you live?

Are you familiar with cases of secondhand smog?

Ever seen a one-way freeway before??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2015 11:46 AM

    I did not spot the error until you pointed it out and then it was obvious. Even though I looked closely, I think we definitely see what we expect to see at times. I was fooled.

    Having lived with abundant rural fresh air, no light pollution let alone air pollution, for over a decade, I was uncertain how I would adjust to living in the suburbs. Having lived on the outskirts of London for a period, I was worried the outskirts of Philly would be similarly grim in terms of pollution. Happily, the air quality is not too bad here. I am having to get used to noise and light pollution again but I will take that over crappy air quality. I do, however, find that any period of time spent in an urban environment leaves me feeling grotty and gross.


    • February 9, 2015 4:31 PM

      “Grotty & Gross”– gosh, my old nickname! I haven’t heard that since high school. Well, OK, maybe once or twice… : (

      Hi, Laura! Thanks for sharing your, um, “environmental impact” experience. Glad the air’s not too bad in the Philly ‘burbs. Interesting that you mentioned light pollution. That’s one we often forget about. Every so often one sees a nighttime photo of Earth taken from space. Bit of a shock to see all the “urban corridors” lit up, especially in North America and Europe. By contrast, Africa and large swaths of Russia and China are almost completely dark. Little did Thomas Edison dream what his little light bulb would do…

      Great to see you, thanks again for sharing your experience! : )


  2. Eric Meisfjord permalink
    February 6, 2015 11:51 AM

    I can NEVER get those “find six different things between these two drawings” puzzles. Dang. Nice illustration, sir. Makes the point well. I just assumed all the cars were members of General Waverley’s old battalion, heading for Pine Tree for the big President’s Day show.


    • February 13, 2015 10:13 AM

      Haw!! Yeah!– there were always six differences between the two pictures. Not 5, not 7, always 6!! Why was that, I wonder? Seems an odd mathematical requirement. Haven’t seen one of those puzzles in years. I used to find 6 things, but one or two of ’em were only imaginary. I was seeing things because my brain hurt, and I just wanted the whole business to be over and done with… : (

      Your quip about General W’s old battalion made me spit out my porridge. It was a lot to clean up, but it was worth it. I’m still laughing. Thanks for the jolly comment, and I’ll see you in Pine Tree for the show. I understand the Haynes Sisters are doing something with cherry trees and stovepipe hats…


  3. February 6, 2015 6:08 PM

    It’s always fascinating to watch a genius at work! Even what you call error, is there for a reason! I bow to thy talent!
    Smog? What smog, up here – above the clouds we are smog-free! 😉
    Smog visits us mostly during warm months and especially with south or southeast winds. Not nice but when tall buildings were booming in Athens they didn’t follow a plan by a brilliant architect. Athens is surrounded by mountains and there is one big opening to the sea [imagine a petal shape]. He said [which only sounds logical] that tall buildings shouldn’t be built near the opening to the sea as this would block air streams. Hence: smog!
    Wishing you a beautiful weekend, my dear friend! 🙂


  4. February 7, 2015 2:04 AM

    I love all your illustrations. I completely missed the amusing error, so I’m glad you told me! 🙂 What I was most surprised about was that smog from New York affects your state. Here in Ohio, almost all winds run W / NW to the East. I assumed that would be true on the east coast as well, but I suppose when the westerlies hit the incoming easterlies off the ocean, they funnel everything up to you! Thanks for the climate/geography lesson!


    • February 9, 2015 5:43 PM

      Thank you, dear Maddie! “Kindness” is your middle name. Your folks clearly had a premonition as they gazed upon their cute widdle baby girl who’d stolen the doctor’s pen and was jotting down story notes on her medical chart… : )

      Everything I know about the weather, I’ve learned from television weather reports– no wonder I’m a dope! But judging from the weather maps on the 6 o’clock news, it does seem that most weather systems drift from west to east across the U.S. I think that’s generally true of winds as well. Connecticut being just east of New York City, they’re gonna see a lotta secondhand auto emissions… : (

      Up here in New Hampshire, we’re pretty far removed from big-city pollution. Our clean air and water make perfect breeding grounds for black flies and mosquitos, which are so necessary for healthy bucolic living… : (

      Thank you for your charming contribution to Dr. Armstrong’s Meteorological Workshop!! : )


      • February 10, 2015 7:37 AM

        Ha! Look how kind and diplomatic you are when I am a dolt. I kept looking at your illustration and reading your comments, and I was befuddled as to how you would have so much smog from New York. Well, now that you point out your main illustration was in Connecticut and not New Hampshire, it all makes sense. Let’s just blame my fog on a nasty head cold and too much cold medication! 🙂

        And you may keep those black flies up there! I had enough of them for a lifetime with one visit to Canada.


        • February 10, 2015 10:10 AM

          Now, now, dear Maddie, you’re being too hard on yourself– I won’t permit it! There’s something about New England that invites confusion. A big state, a teeny-tiny state, and four small states that look like nasty jigsaw puzzle pieces! It’s all too weird, who can keep ’em straight?? I forget which one I live in myself some days… : )

          Sorry about your cold– hope ya feel better! Been a tough winter for colds and flu– but it sure beats black flies, which fall in the ‘Plague’ category… : )


  5. February 7, 2015 2:25 AM

    Dear Mark, thanks for sharing your secrets with us. It is always most amazing to me how inaccurate we look.
    I remeber one year when I made clay sheeps as crib figurines. I looked at them and knew something is wrong but I couldn’t tell what it was. Therefore I went to a farmer to have a close look at some sheeps. Then I found out I’d made the ears utterly wrong. Bound upward 😉 Well I mean, I live very rural and had seen a million sheeps before.

    Another amazing example is when a shop closes down. I trudge along the street I know there was somesthing else in before but what???

    So thanks for open my eyes 🙂


    • February 13, 2015 10:40 AM

      My dear Tutti! Thank you for your comment, and for sharing that wonderful story about the sheep! I was roaring with laughter. I was laughing with you, however, not at you. That’s because I’ve had the same experience. Here’s the story:

      I was drawing caricatures at a party many years ago. A woman asked me to draw her riding a camel. Absolutely, I said. Everyone knows what a camel looks like, right? Right. I did a quick pencil sketch, and knew immediately I was in trouble. And the more I revised it, the worse it got. It came out looking like a cross between a horse and a giraffe. That poor woman!! Like I say, it’s been years, but I think of it still… : (

      And I know what you mean about shops or buildings that get torn down, or maybe they go out of business, and the signs are removed. You’ve passed them a million times over the years. Now you scratch your head and mutter: Something was there– what was it?? Then it’s time to remove your brain and take it to the dry cleaners. At least that’s what I do. (It doesn’t help.)

      Nice to see you, dear Tutti– always an exquisite pleasure!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  6. February 7, 2015 5:49 AM

    Love the green smog! I don’t know if it’s because it’s not yet 6 am, but the only thing I could spot was a few trees not having their trunks touching earth?
    Have a terrific weekend breathing clean air 😉
    AnnMarie 🙂


    • February 9, 2015 9:50 AM

      Yes indeed, green smog is so much more appealing than dull, boring old gray smog. And I’m sure Kermit The Frog would agree… : )

      I wouldn’t worry about seeing trees whose trunks don’t touch the ground. That’s exactly what I see every morning when I look out the window before I’ve had my first cuppa coffee. Caffeine seems to correct this strange geophysical anomaly… : )

      Always a pleasure, AnnMarie– many thanks for your cheery comment! : )


      • February 9, 2015 10:34 AM

        You’re a funny guy! Hey, you should create fantastical comic art. Oops, you already do that!
        There are many mornings I see floating trees and I’ve already had much java. Uh oh… 😉
        Happy Monday, Mark!
        AnnMarie 🙂


  7. February 7, 2015 10:09 AM

    Ganzo! (i like it in tuscany)


    • February 9, 2015 9:56 AM

      Is there anything better than checking one’s comments and finding a “Ganzo!” from Tuscany?? I seriously doubt it!! Many thanks for putting a big smile on a face in New Hampshire, USA!! : )

      C’è qualcosa di meglio che controllare i propri commenti e trovare un “Ganzo!” dalla Toscana?? Dubito seriamente!! Molte grazie per mettere un grande sorriso sul volto di New Hampshire, USA!! : )


  8. February 7, 2015 11:21 AM

    Mark … Your humorous illustration does make its point. It’s too bad Connecticut has to suffer as a result of pollution created outside its state. (how many of those commuters, though, live in Ct. and work in NYC – thus contributing to the problem?)

    My suggestion would be to use not only the solar-powered fans to blow the pollution back to NYC, but to create a concrete barrier that’s several miles high to keep the smog from entering Ct. Hmmm? 😉


    • February 12, 2015 10:22 PM

      Hi, Judy! You make an excellent point– as is your custom! I’d completely forgotten about all Connecticut’s “bedroom communities.” You’re absolutely right: lots of people live in Connecticut and commute back and forth to jobs in NYC. I think many of them take the train, but hey, some of ’em must drive, which means they’re contributing to the problem. Physician, heal thyself! Er, I mean: Commuter, forsake your evil, air pollutin’ ways!!

      A concrete sky-barrier to keep out the smog… Hmm. I’ll have to think about that one for a bit. I’m sure there’s a flaw in that plan, as the booking agent told the wolfman who wanted to take a moonlight cruise… : )

      Your good-humored comments are always a joy, Judy– thank’ee!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  9. February 13, 2015 6:00 PM

    your blog looks amazing =)


    • February 14, 2015 2:34 PM

      Thank you very much indeed! You have just put a big smile on my face, and it looks good on me… : )

      Many thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again soon! : )


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