THE FOURTH TOM TOMORROW NEWSLETTER
It's been a long time since I sent one of these out, so a lot you will be receiving this for the first time. The purpose of these newsletters is mainly to keep online readers up-to-date on the World of Tomorrow, and to give me a chance to answer my most frequently-asked questions. And to give me a chance to bitch and moan about this and that, and, oh yeah, to push my massive catalog of merchandise (which consists of two books and six t-shirts -- Charles Schultz, watch out).
As always, if you don't want to be on this list, email me and let me know. If you have done this in the past and are still on the list, please understand that I'm doing the best I can to manage a database of several thousand names but sometimes I make mistakes; I didn't leave your name on to deliberately annoy you.
Those of you who have received these newsletters in the past may be wondering ... why hasn't there been one for almost a year? Well, kids, there are a number of answers to that question. One problem has been technical; my old computer was a bit outdated -- actually it was the same model Abraham Lincoln used to compose early drafts of the Gettysburgh Address -- and I was, if not inept, not exactly ept, either, at using it. I've upgraded to a Powerbook and things are much easier. It's also been kind of an overwhelming year -- on top of my usual strip, I've been doing various freelance projects (including an Endpaper for the New York Times Magazine) and travelling extensively ... in the last year, I've given talks and/or attended conferences in Des Moines, St. Louis, Baltimore, Nashville, Memphis and Philadelphia, and made a couple of trips to New York as well. Somewhere in there I also spent several days camping in the Nevada desert with about five thousand other people, all of whom had gathered to cavort, frolic, and ultimately burn a large wooden man. (You may have read about the Burning Man festival in Spin magazine recently.) I've seen a lot of other peculiar things in the last year, as well. For instance, there was Holy Land, an abandoned folk art/scale model of Jerusalem on a hilltop in Connecticut, marked by a giant cross which at one point lit up at night, as well as a huge "HOLY LAND" sign modeled after the one in Hollywood. I believe a convent or religious group thought they were going to have a major tourist attraction on their hands; what is left is a spooky hilltop strewn with crumbling religious messages carved into stones and decaying knee-high buildings and shrines.
In Memphis, where the local paper, the Memphis Flyer, was kind enough to bring me in for a weekend and show me around town, I of course toured Graceland ... You may not know this, but Elvis was actually an avid reader -- and to illustrate this fact, they have several books from his library on display, including a couple of books on boxing and wrestling and -- I am NOT MAKING THIS UP -- Elvis' personal copy of the 1972 Physician's Desk Reference.
Stranger than Graceland, however, was Graceland Too ... a house in a small town about an hour outside of Memphis, home to an obsessive Elvis collector named Paul McLeod, and his son, Elvis Aaron Presley McLeod (again, I am not making this up). In fact, a sign outside the house identifies it as the home of the "Universes Galaxys Planets Worlds Ultimate #1 Elvis Fans", and frankly one would be hard-put to contest the claim. Inside, every square inch of the house -- including the ceiling -- is covered with Elvis memorabilia, including the grandmother's room, which doubles as part of the tour, showcasing the McLeod's collection of rare Elvis records. (When I visited, grandmother McLeod sat quietly in front of a space heater as her grandson showed us the room's collection; her presence was not acknowledged). The truly astonishing thing is that Paul & Elvis (McLeod) not only collect Elvis trinkets, but spend their days cataloging every reference to Elvis Presley in popular culture -- for instance, if an Elvis joke is made on the Simpsons, the McLeods will have a tape of the episode, stored, catalogued and cross-referenced. I asked what Elvis McLeod thought of all the people who believe Elvis Presley is still alive, and he sighed. "Some people just can't let go of him," he said, shaking his head.
Another highlight of the year was Philadelphia -- actually I was there twice this year; I gave a talk at Robin's books last summer, to one of the friendliest audiences I've encountered; and then went back in October to take part in a panel discussion at the Free Library with Tony Auth, Signe Wilkenson, and Jules Feiffer. (I owe Signe a large thank you, incidentally, for bringing me both the Philadelphia panel and, earlier in the year, to the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists' convention in Baltimore.)
OKAY, ENOUGH ABOUT YOUR DAMN TRAVEL. WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
Well, you may have seen my recent cartoon on the California Board of Equalization. They've been trying to use cartoonist Paul Mavrides as a test case for their contention that cartoons should be considered widgets, like screwdrivers or sofabeds, and therefore subject to sales tax. Writers are not subject to this tax, but apparently the bureaucrats have decided that those of us who write with images as well as words do not qualify as writers. It's capricious, arbitrary and unfair (why is a xeroxed copy of an author's manuscript understood to be sold for the ideas it contains, but a xeroxed copy of a cartoon being treated as tangible goods?), and the First Amendment implications are truly disturbing (to collect a sales tax, one must have a state-issued sales license -- in other words, those of us who work in this medium would have to be licensed by the state in order to practice our craft.) There's a final hearing on Jan. 10; there's more info from my web page (which is http://www.well.com/user/tomorrow). (I contributed a couple of sound bites to a story on this subject on NPR on Dec. 12, which can be accessed at their Real Audio site on the web).
THIS JUST IN:
This just came in on the fax -- it's a back-cover quote for my next book, from Noam Chomsky, which to my knowledge makes me the only cartoonist ever to have been blurbed by Prof. Chomsky, who writes: "What is happening before our eyes is coming to blur the distinction between description and irony. Even a Jonathan swift might be paralyzed by inability to surpass the daily headlines. For years, Dan Perkins has found a way to shine a bright light on what our world is coming to be, with a rare combination of humor, whimsy and dead seriousness. His work entertains, enlightens -- and inspires."
FINALLY (for now) --
It's time for shameless self promotion (but I DO get asked about this a lot ...) So, for the record: I have two books right now, Greetings From This Modern World and Tune in Tomorrow, both from St. Martin's Press. They can be ordered directly by calling (800) 288-2131, or any bookstore can special order them for you (and any bookstore clerk who tells you otherwise is lying so you'll go away and not complicate their day). My third book, The Wrath of Sparky, will be out in August of 1996.
And, as I mentioned above, there are currently six Tom Tomorrow t-shirts, from a company called Post-Industrial Stress Design in Tacoma, Washington. They can be contacted by phone at (800) 331-7173, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you much for writing -- even if I don't always have time to respond properly, I read everything that comes in and appreciate it greatly. HOWEVER -- I would like to ask one small favor -- that you write your local paper and let THEM know that you enjoy the cartoon; that kind of feedback is what keeps me in print and even a single letter can mean a lot to a publisher.
Special note to readers in Iowa: The Des Moines Register is apparently running my work pretty sporadically these days -- please write or call them and COMPLAIN VOCIFERIOUSLY!! Their phone number is 515-284-8000; fax is 515-286-2504. (I don't have their address immediately at hand but you can probably find it on their editorial page). It's very important that you let them know you want to see the cartoon every week; I suspect they may be trying to phase it out (if they haven't already) and a lot of reader response right now is the only thing that's going to keep it in.
Till next time ...