Heading to the Reubens

I hope the hotel likes cats because apparently ours is coming with :-)

Seriously, it's time to head to New Jersey for the Reubens. This year, partly because of my airline boycott, but for other reasons as well, we are driving. And I'm actually looking forward to the time on the road. While road trips can be tedious, they can also be great adventures. In fact, as I think back over my various travels, my airline travel stories are generally ones of aggravation and annoyance while most of the best and funniest memories have been the trips where we drove.

There was the trip to Florida in 2005 - our Honda Odyssey was brand spanking new, so new in fact, that we were unaware of a few little things about it. The salesman had been excellent about showing us all the little secret storage compartments and the copious number of cupholders, and how the rear seats folded into the floor and how to rearrange the middle seats. He had not told us about the built in "security system". That little gem we discovered for ourselves on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.

Apparently, if everyone except one person gets out of the van and one person hits the autolock button on the keyring and then the last person in the van opens the door from inside, the car alarm goes off.

And keeps going off.

And a red light (which is not pictured on the dashboard schematic in the owner's manual) starts flashing.

As we didn't even know the car had an alarm, we were pretty confused. I think I remember one of the kids asking if the car was going to explode and was trying to warn us to get away from it.

Even more confusing was the fact that it turns out the system is on a timer. So when everything stops honking and flashing after five minutes and you think you're safe - five minutes after that it all starts up again. In a parking lot full of tourists. Who are staring at you. And who are pretty sure you are a certifiable idiot as you are whipping through the manual desperately trying to figure out how to shut this thing down and your husband has the hood open to see if there's anything helpful in there and your kids are running around in circles screaming "We're all going to die!"

So you do the only sensible thing you can think of, which is to pile everyone back into the honking van, slam the doors, and drive honking back down the mountain away from said tourists while frantically dialing the dealership for help.

The last hilarious bit was when, after pulling into a gas station and finally connected to someone at the dealership he says to tell my husband to get out, go around to the passenger side and unlock the door with the key. There is no keyhole. "Oh." he says. Five minutes later we will finally resolve the situation by hitting the "lock" and then the "unlock" button on the keychain. This educated not only us, on the future disarming of the system, but the guy at the dealership as well.

Or the time in Michigan when we had our gigantic suitcase - the old fashioned kind that measures 36x48 - bungeed to the top of our little Honda Civic. I'm on I75 which has a speed limit of 75 or 80 mph so I'm going at a pretty good clip. John is asleep in the passenger seat and some of the bungees break loose. The wind catches the suitcase and whips it off the top of the car sideways. The chords on my side have held, so the suitcase is now dangling next to my driver's side window. Picture the opening credits of the Flintsones when they put the big steak on the car and the whole thing tips over. I still insist that if John - who is a foot taller than me and weighs, well, more than me, had been driving, we would have wound up on two wheels.

As it was, I managed to ease the car over to the left shoulder. John woke up and said "I'm pretty sure we can't stop here."

I just pointed out my window to the precariously positioned suitcase. Enough said.

There are many, many stories like that from my times on the road. I'm not sure if we'll get any more from this trip but if we do, you'll be the first to know.

It's Here!

OK, so I splurged and bought an ipad. John and I have a big anniversary coming up and I rationalized this as a sort of joint anniversary present. For the record, I did hold out for the second version with 3G wi-fi.

And, as you already know if you follow my blog regularly, I wanted one really, really bad.

Seriously, this is a huge deal for me. I clung to albums and cassette tapes until about 1992 before I finally caved and bought a CD player. Who knows when I would have bought a DVD player if my father hadn't gotten me one as a gift (I still have about 150 VHS tapes taking up shelf space - a source of constant irritation to my 16 year old son). I didn't buy an ipod until it finally seemed like a good idea for my oldest son's birthday in about 2005. And I have held out against cable TV since forever. Ironically, I can now watch almost anything I want on my computer, but that's a blog post for a different time.

So buying this ipad while the proverbial paint is still drying on the marketing campaign is a step waaay outside my zone.

But, as I posted back in January and April, I firmly believe this device and others like it are going to revolutionize print. And, even though we have seen the "digitalization" of print since the advent of the internet, we have not seen a revolution in content delivery.

Up until now, portable print has been primarily still analog in the form of actual paper. Laptops were a first step in untethering digital print from the desktop, but laptops are designed more to produce content than to consume it. I very rarely see folks doing actual reading on their laptops. Instead they are usually surfing the web and multi-tasking.

One of the criticisms of the ipad has been its lack of multi-tasking but, after spending a day with it, I find that to be one of its strengths. With one graphic on display at a time I can fully focus on the article I'm reading and check my inbox later. I find that when I am reading things on my desktop mac, I am constantly pulled to that little icon that is my emailbox.

The two main reasons I got this ipad were for digital newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and also the ipad's color capabilities.

First, how does it handle articles?

I chose, as my first foray into ipad news consumption, this article in the Atlantic Monthly. Ironic, no?

So I tried reading it, first on my desktop with an 18 inch monitor, and then on my ipad with a screen that measures 6 x 8. You'd think that the monitor, with its larger screen would win hands down. But no. For one thing, no matter how big your monitor is, content is only delivered to your desktop in one size. And, even if you crop your window to the edge of the article and cut out the banner ads, the print still remains one size. I loved that I could use my fingers to create the size of print that both fit the window on the ipad perfectly and also increased the font size to a nice level of legibility. And, again, with only one thing to focus on - the article - I did not find myself constantly eyeballing other things on the screen. Even just having the side banners go away was helpful.

Another drawback to reading things on my monitor is the way I sit at my desk and the angle of my head and neck. Holding the ipad in my lap (while lying comfortably in my bed, yet)
felt like reading as it was meant to be.

Second, the color capabilities.

This is it. This is what all creators of color content have been waiting for.

The second I went to John's home page, I was knocked out by the vibrancy of it. The sheer clarity of the images. Then I went to my website. Same thing.

So then I really put it to the test and went trolling for comics. First I tried reading Edison on Comics Kingdom. Then Pooch Cafe on Gocomics. Both looked reasonable good and the large screen meant no more scrolling as on an iphone.

But then I signed up for the Bizarro App and the Marvel Comics App.

I cannot even begin to describe for you the difference. This is our conversion from cassette tapes to MP3 files. This is our conversion from analog TV to HD.

The lines are crisp and the colors are beyond vibrant.

And this is why people are going to pay for comics again. Because, while I could read comics like Edison and Pooch for free on a variety of sites, every image there had to meet the low res and file size limitations required to fit the comic onto a large complicated page filled with bandwidth gobbling content.

Removed from those constraints, the Bizarro and Marvel comics shine in all their RGB color glory.

And THAT I will gladly pay for.

Tall Tale Radio Interview - Reubens

For more inside scoop on John's nomination - and much silly digression into movies - check out Tom Racine's excellent podcast here.

Unfortunately, all the bits about our daughter's fascination with Monty Python's Holy Grail since the age of five were after the mic was off :-)

Edison and the Reubens

As most of you know by now, The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee  is up for an award from the National Cartoonist's Society. It has been nominated in the newspaper strip category along with Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller and Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. I have not blogged about the nomination up to this point because I guess, in many ways, I am still trying to wrap my head around it. For John's work to be nominated for any award is such a thrill. For it to be nominated for an award by his peers is even more thrilling. For it to be nominated in the company of such giants in the industry as Wiley Miller, Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman is beyond mind blowing.

Another reason I haven't spoken out publicly is because I am in an unusual position. To my knowledge, other wives of cartoonists don't have public blogs. There are a lot of days where I'm not sure why I have one, to tell you the truth. It started because John's blog (Lab Notes) won't let him enable comments and also because he truly doesn't have much time to write up blog posts on anything like a regular basis. He's lucky if he manages one a month, let alone putting up something every week. So we started this second blog because I had the time and energy to keep up with it.

And why blog about the things I do anyway, you might ask? I guess I try to look at this space as the extra behind the scenes commentary you get on special edition DVDs. I just love watching Monty Python's Holy Grail with the various bits of commentary from all the cast and crew.

So, in that vein, I'm prepared to do a little "fly on the wall" blogging from the point of view of "cartoonist spouse on the street".

First, John has been quoted as saying that, despite the cliche'  quality of this phrase, this is one of those cases where it truly is an honor just to be nominated. And you have to know he really means that. No matter what happens at the Reubens, he has been given a thumbs up from his fellow cartoonists that can never be taken away. 

Second, is my very real hope that the nomination itself - not even a win, just a nomination - might be enough to put the strip over the magic number of newspapers and online subscribers it would take for John to finally be able to quit his other job. 

As I type those words, I feel guilty for wanting the other job to go away because, in this economy we are lucky to still have other jobs while so many people are looking for work. But I cannot begin to describe to you how hard it is to watch John put in these 80+ hour workweeks. Not only does he work 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. pretty much 7 days a week - with occasional breaks for dinner and piano recitals (oh, and roofing) - but both his jobs require continual creativity which is exhausting.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to paint him as some super human martyr. Those of you in the cartooning business know what I'm talking about because, if you're not in enough papers to make a living solely from your strip, you're pulling exactly the same kind of hours. I just don't think folks outside the business have any concept of the time and energy it takes to produce 365 illustrated jokes a year. I know that, before John got syndicated, I hadn't a clue what the workload would be like. Or how hard it would be to dovetail it with the rest of our lives.

All I'm trying to say is, being a cartoonist is a difficult prospect at any time and is an extraordinarily difficult prospect in the current market of media transition. Getting recognition like this is like a ray of sunshine after some very cloudy, rainy, windy days, and is something that I look forward to seeing happen for many other deserving cartoonists working today. There are so many who are doing terrific work that may be flying a little under the public radar. 

Someone asked me if I had practiced my "polite loser" face for when they say "Non Sequitur" or "Zits" - you know, like at the Oscars where they split the screen 5 ways and show all the nominees reaction when the name gets announced and you get this sort of frozen look on the faces of the people who don't win. 

I said "Of course not!" because, 

A) luckily for us they don't televise these awards and the only people who see you are the folks at your table 

B)if I have to practice any kind of face it will be the one that isn't fainting from shock if he wins. I'm going to try very hard not to look like one of those people on the Antiques Road Show whose Grandma's necklace (you know, the one everyone thought was costume jewelry) is worth $250,000.

C)Hellooo - I'm not nominated - he is -no one is going to be looking at me anyway :-) 

So, until I hear the magic words - "And the winner is..." I'll keep floating on the little cloud I've been on as the "supportive spouse" and, no matter who wins, the thrill of the nomination will last forever.