Newsletter (2-3-95)

Some of this info is out of date.

Fri Feb 3 '95


Yes, I know that it's been four or five months since the last one -- and given that the mailing list has doubled in size since then, many of you will be receiving this for the first time, much to your surprise since you'd probably long since given up and assumed you were somehow the victim of a cruel hoax ... but here it is. And the only promise I'll make about number four is that it'll come out before the early twenty-first century.


Um... I've been busy ...?

I spent a lot of time this fall giving my talk & slide show at bookstores throughout Northern California and Oregon. My publisher holds me in such high esteem that as long as I set up such events myself and arrange for my own transportation and scrounge up publicity on my own, they will go so far as to occasionally try to deliver the books on time. But it's an amazing thing to get out and meet readers in the flesh. I'm happy to report that most events filled the rooms to capacity, though there were exceptions ... such as the tiny used bookstore in a small town where I spent two hours sitting in a back room as locals wandered in to gawk at the cartoonist and make conversation about the well known creator of Peanuts, "George" Schulz, among other things. The photographer from the local paper wanted to get a picture of me signing books, but since five people total came in the whole time I sat there, he had to round up two teenage girls from the bookstore to watch as I signed a book for my girl- friend, who posed as an awestruck fan. The teenagers literally ran away immediately after the shutter clicked.

It's life in the fast lane of Big Time Cartooning.

At my reading in Santa Rosa (which was arranged by the paper there, the Independent, to whom I owe great thanks -- particularly to editor Jim Carroll) I was standing in front of the podium, a few minutes into the show with a crowd of maybe 100-150 people, when I heard a door open behind me. Assuming it was a bookstore employee I turned around to see a woman glaring at me. "Do you *need* that microphone?" she asked.

It wasn't a question I had expected to hear, but I try to be an accomodating person, so I faltered for a moment trying to work it out. Do I *need* the microphone? Hmmm ... Well, I'm pretty soft-spoken and there's a big crowd here ... do they have another presentation going on somewhere else in the store? Is there a microphone shortage in some war-ravaged third world country and the relief agency is here to collect donations? I couldn't quite figure out how to answer her. But before I could say anything, she went on to explain, "We're having a meditation class -- and we can hear every word you're saying!"

I smiled pleasantly and said that yes, I did need the microphone, and pushed the door shut on her. "They're having a meditation class," I explained to the audience. "Hope THIS isn't too loud..." And I, well, might have made one or two more gratuitously loud noises during the rest of the presentation. (Of course, my karma caught up with me when the mike then went dead just as the Q&A began...)

The booksignings were over by the end of October, though I did take part in events around the SF Book Fair, including the Rock Bottom Remainders All Star Review. Some of you may be familiar with the Remainders, the "rock band made up of authors." It's organized by a woman named Kathi Goldmark, who is a musician with a day job as a literary escort, driving authors around when the come into town on a book tour (at least, those authors whose publishers actually organize book tours for them. Ahem.) So for the book fair, Kathi apparently decided once again to hey kids, put on a show. A few of the authors who make up the Rock Bottom Remainders took part -- such as Amy Tan, who dons a dominitrix costume and sings "These Boots Were Made For Walking" -- but the show was made up mostly of what one newspaper writer called the "local second string." I initially intended to participate on backup rhythm guitar only, but Kathi talked me into singing. I was at least smart enough to realize that my best bet was with a song that would allow me to bluff my way through on attitude -- since I sing as well as Metallica satirizes politics, to paraphrase Dave Barry ... appropriately, as the song I chose was "Gloria", which, as Remainder Roy Blount informed me in some- what menacing tones, "Dave Barry OWNS!!" At least when the RBR's play. And while I certainly, ah, wasn't the highlight of the show (my personal nomination for that honor would have to be Jessica Mitford singing "Bang Bang Maxwell's Silver Hammer" which is now available as a single from Don't Quit You Day Job Records), it was an astonishing experience nonetheless ... with the call and response part of the song made sublime with the participation of Bay Area book rep Walter Mayes (better known to many local parents as Walter the Giant Storyteller) -- thanks Walter. The whole thing was capped for me when Kathi faxed a note from Greil Marcus (a member of the Remainders' Critics Chorus, who took part in this show with their inimitable version of Louie Louie -- using the FBI's version of the lyrics) commenting that my "bitter, pissed off demeanor" suited the song better than the "bonhomie" of Dave Barry. I was actually just terrified and trying to remember the Extremely Complicated Lyrics ("And then she walk down my street ... and then she knock on my door ...") but don't tell Greil.


were given in Iowa. A group called Iowa Citizen Action Network flew me back to talk to their conference, and I did a couple of bookstore events while there. I think people on the coasts have a tendency to assume that everyone in the Midwest is a Republican, an assumption with which I take umbrage (since *I'm* from the Midwest), and I'm happy to report that my Iowa audiences were as large and diverse and interested and friendly as any of my audiences have been -- *and* were willing to come out in zero degree weather. If there were any dittoheads in attendance, they remained quiet, being clearly outnumbered. (I've just landed a speaking agent, and hope to do more travelling and talking in the months to come, incidentally. I will post updates in such further newsletters as I might happen to put out before the 21st century.)


I was interviewed by a crew for the Frontline documentary on Rush Limbaugh. Sounds like I might make a brief appearance in the finished doc -- perhaps even rivalling my now-legendary MTV's Real World appearance ("Persistence!" I said, with a mouthful of burrito, to Judd the Young Cartoonist.) Update: The segment did get cut.


This is the repetitive part, but as I mentioned earlier there are a lot of new names on my newsletter list thanks to that little mention in Wired. I am of course very grateful to have been mentioned in Wired and would certainly want not to alienate Wired by noting that while I may be the only cartoonist who even knows what a Clipper Chip is, my work does not run in Wired because it does not quote LOOK FUTURISTIC ENOUGH, i.e., is not created on a five thousand dollar computer system using the latest nifty software. Nor would I want to make any disparaging remarks about form over content or note that William Gibson wrote Neuromancer on a MANUAL TYPERWRITER. No, if I did anything like that I might be accused of having, well, a pissed off and bitter demeanor.

Actually, the computer I use to access the Net and put out this newsletter is I believe the same model that Abraham Lincoln used to write early drafts of the Gettysburg Address. (I'm considering finally upgrading this year and am open to any suggestions or advice ... or donations of shiny new computer systems by the philanthropically-inclined.) (Tom Tomorrow, what's on YOUR Powerbook?) In the meantime my work is on the net thanks to the kindness of others. Month-old cartoons are available through the Well ( Comments on the technical aspects of this should be directed to, who manages the page, and to whom I am most grateful. My most recent cartoons can also be accessed each week, though for a nominal subscription fee, I think five bucks or so a year, through a different server -- email for info on that.


Funny you should ask. There are two: Greetings From This Modern World, and Tune in Tomorrow -- both from St. Martin's and both still in print. Any bookstore can special order them from you, and any bookstore employee who says otherwise is lying to make you go away so they can go back to reading the new issue of Rolling Stone. Harsh measures may be necessary in such cases; I leave this to the reader's discretion.


Not today, not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life ... we're working on a few t-shirts, including one with Sparky's anti-cute-office- humor slogan, "I HATE THIS JOB AND I WISH THE BOSS WOULD DIE!!" The irony of merchandising this anti-merchandising catchphrase is not lost on me. All I can say is: Is this a great country or what?


and, in all seriousness, thanks very very much for writing ... but while I am grateful and sometimes awed by the feedback ... calls or postcards or email where possible to the *newspaper* where you read my cartoon is what keeps me in print. *Those* are the folks who need to know that you enjoy the cartoon and want to keep seeing it each week. So if you have the time -- let *them* know!