Old friends popping up out of the blue

I’ve been cleaning the house up this week. Nothing much, it’s more messy than dirty. But I want it to look decent for a friend I haven’t seen in 40 years. Yup, 40 years! We were kids the last time we saw each other for goodness sake!

He emailed me a couple of weeks ago. My name popped in his head after all these years and he did an internet search and he found me. We talked on the phone, and he’ll be in town maybe this week. He lives in Orlando now and he’s back and forth to Miami often.

Strange when I think about it. 40 years – a lifetime. I had a whole life since I saw him last, so did he.

This isn’t the first time this happened, a friend I know since we are three years old contacted me not long ago. He found me on Facebook. We haven’t touched base in person yet, but he also lives not too far from me, maybe an hour’s drive north. The last time I saw him, I think he was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Amazing. He has a wife and four kids now.

Social media is amazing. But again – this isn’t the first time, but a bit before I was on social media, in 2008 or 2009, I found an old photo of a friend named Tom, yup, another Tom. We were very good friends but he left town after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was such a crazy time that people got scattered all over the place and he ended up going back to California, to San Francisco, where he was born. His family has lived there for generations. I never asked him about it, I have to – did they go there during the gold rush of 1849? How did they end up there so many years ago?

Anyway, I found a bunch of old photos and there was Tom in one. It jogged my memory, I had not seen him for almost 20 years by then. I did an internet search and I found his email address. I emailed him and we connected, he came down to visit and we have been connected since – mostly on Facebook – but we have been connected in person, too. It’s sort of my turn to visit him in California – maybe soon after the pandemic is over.

I find it so weird and interesting that even though decades have passed, we all go back to where we left off – sort of like muscle memory. It’s like no time passed at all. Even all our voices sound the same to all of us after not hearing them for so long. And the funny things we remember about each other come right back. Certain things come up or tv shows come on or whatever, and something flashed in your mind and you remember certain people at certain times doing certain things. A news story or event or a certain neighborhood or building brings certain people to mind.

My friend in Orlando asked if I remembered him. I was taken aback when he asked. Why wouldn’t I? He’s part of the fabric of my life.

Be an Arts Hero

This cartoon from earlier in the pandemic is being rerun today as part of the Be An Arts Hero campaign, which is Monday, March 15. Cartoonists from all over the world are participating to bring awareness to the arts. Cartoons will start spreading across social media at 9 am eastern time.

The AAEC (Association of American Editorial Cartoonists) has been asked to spread the word about Be An Arts Hero, a push by the arts and cultures sector for direct government support of creatives during the time of coronavirus.

Be An #ArtsHero is joining a national effort of Arts Workers, urging the Biden/Harris administration to support the Arts and Culture sector. Together, cartoonists contributed to this political cartoon initiative.

An original cartoon (or a repurposed or existing cartoon on the subject), is to illustrate a unique point of view on the particular struggles of editorial cartoonists during this crisis.

I chose to repurpose the one shown above, which was first published towards the beginning of the pandemic.

Hashtags and tags include: #ArtsWorkersUnite, #ArtsHero #First100Days, and @JoeBiden, @KamalaHarris, @WhiteHouse, and @BeAnArtsHero. So if you look for them after today, you’ll see the cartoons all over social media and at BeAnArtsHero.com.

The arts and culture stats sheet can be seen here. You’ll see the large economic impact the arts have on our country.

Redoing an old cartoon

Today’s comic is an old one. I originally did it in the late 1990s, and I liked the sound, the alliteration better. The one on the right is the old one – AOL/A&P, two things from the past. I know AOL is still around, but it’s not as common as it was in the ’90s. Just thinking about it and I hear that old fashioned dial tone sound it used to make when booting up. Remember that?

Another thing – many parts of the country say they are standing on line, rather than in line, which I guess is important for the gag, but I know you get it either way, right?

Emojis are my spell checker

Ever use emojis as spell checkers? What I mean is that a lot of the time if I’m not sure of the spelling of a word while texting, I spell it until the emoji pops up, then I know that is the correct spelling.

Recently I did it with avocado, not sure if it spelled “avocado” or “avacado.”

When the emoji popped up, I knew the correct spelling, which of course, I could have used the emoji instead of the word.

I have a neighbor who has avocado groves. Every time he texts, he puts three avocado emojis at the end of the text. I guess he feels it is subliminal advertising.

Emojis are the hieroglyphs of today. Will we end up using them as our language one day? I know so many teens do. What’s old ancient is new again. They don’t even teach cursive writing in schools anymore!

European Woman Examines Egyptian Hieroglyphics – Sean Sexton, 1900

NCSFest

On Saturday I watched the NCSFest all day. It was a a cartooning festival put on by the National Cartoonists Society Foundation. It was storming outside, so it was a perfect day to stay inside. You can see over nine hours of the fest here on YouTube, watch the whole thing or pick and choose by scrolling through. The schedule is here so you can see what comes on when.

The main seminar/talk I was interested in was The Superstars of Instagram, I wanted to see how they work and mainly how they get so many followers. The Awkward Yeti, for instance has 1.8 million followers! I interviewed Nick Seluk, The Awkward Yeti cartoonist once, you can see that here.

I also liked the talk on Creating a Successful Online Cartooning Business.

There was a lot of good stuff. Jim Davis, the Garfield cartoonist spoke from his studio and so did cartoonists explaining their process from doing comic strips and panels to creating books.

In between, the yearly Reuben Awards, which are the Oscars for cartoons/cartooning, were announced. The ceremony and events were canceled this year due to the pandemic. Awards are given or best newspaper comic strip of the year, best comic panel, best greeting card comic, best online comic strip, etc. The Daily Cartoonist has a list of winners here. There is then the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year, which went to Lynda Barry.

I love this photo of Lynda, a real artist. The desk looks so comfortable, like you can just sit down and create. I am messy, but since I do all my work digitally on a Surface Pro, it isn’t strewn with all these wonderful tools and inks and pens and such. I literally have to turn on the computer and wait for it to set up. I can’t just get comfy and into it like Lynda here.

Garry Trudeau says that cartooning is like a public utility – you just expect it to be there when you want it.

Social interactions

I’m trying to think what life was like before social media or before reader interaction. Even when I started blogging in 2005, there were comments. Good or bad, you always knew what the reader thought.

As much as I say I don’t like comments or interactions on social media, I think I do. Basically because it’s nice to see people responding to my comics. It’s not that I need likes and shares, but it’s nice knowing that people are seeing the work and enjoying it (or not) enough to leave a simple thumb’s up.

I have a friend who is against social media, and it sort of reminds me of him saying something like, “Is life about how many likes you get?” No, no it’s not, but when you write a book or paint a picture or produce a movie, you do want people to like and respond to your work.

Which makes me think of what life was like for cartoonists before social media, and maybe even today for those who are published daily in the newspapers. They create the comic and it’s published and then what? Crickets? There is an audience, but no instant response like you would have with a live audience. But I guess that’s how tv and movies have been for years, you put it out there and don’t instantly get the audiences response. Do they like it? Are they watching?

With social media, it’s instant and the reader is part of the process, right there – live.

One place where I don’t interact is on Instagram – not the comments section, I do interact there, but I’m talking about the private messages. The main reason is because most of it, 9 out of 10, are spam. But I did make a mistake last week of responding to a reader and it ended up being a bad thing – he was one of those stalker types who wanted to argue, so I regretted reading his messages and then responding to them. I won’t do that again.

But other than that, it’s nice to get a response of some sort, even a simple thumb’s up. Sort of like getting applause on a stage or something, knowing the audience is out there.

I hate when that happens

This cartoon ran yesterday. People really liked it. It was shared hundreds of times on social media. Only there is a mistake – Patagonia is spelled wrong! An amateur mistake to be sure. A reader pointed that out to me so I panicked and changed it to the one you see here below.

It’s not the same, the shading in the background had to be changed to accommodate the change. But it’s bothering me because it’s such a popular cartoon and all those people who shared it, shared a misspelled cartoon. I don’t think they know, but I know and it bothers me, a lot.

I had every country in the world to choose from and I chose a country I didn’t know how to spell. Murphy’s Law.

My comics goals

comicsFor most of my life, I daresay for all of my life, my goal was to have a daily comic strip on the newspapers. A syndicated comic strip was my life’s dream.

For a few years – maybe 10 or so, I dropped that dream, I started a business and concentrated on that. I’m not a businessman or into that, but that was my life. I think I didn’t see a future in comics for anyone and I felt that the dream was dead.

But then it resurrected and my goal was to be published and be in print. I only had that goal in mind. I felt that comics were created for newspapers and that is the only place to be if you created a comic strip or panel. It was like producing a movie – you want it on the big screen. But things change.

Now I am not interested in being in print, which was a shock and horror moment for me to even conceive of this. It was so out of my normal thinking. But in reality, the readers are online. I myself have stopped reading comics in newspapers years ago. For one thing, I never care for the selection the newspapers have and I can pick and choose what I like.

Even with movies, there is a brand new world out there. You get more viewers for most movies on Netflix and Amazon than you do in the theaters. And that is how comics are.

My goal is to have millions of followers on social media – especially on Instagram. Yes, I said millions! And this is not a strange concept. Many cartoonists have millions of followers and many have hundreds of thousands! That’s where people are reading comics.

I have quite a nice following on Facebook and it’s growing on Instagram. I also publish on my own website. Eventually I would like to be part of GoComics and I’ve been working on getting press lately. I think if I get local or national press, it will give me a big bump in readership.

I’m paperless!

miami-heraldI cancelled my Miami Herald subscription. First time in my life! I don’t think I have ever not had a newspaper delivery even as kids my parents always got a newspaper or two delivered. But I am tired of the lack of service by the delivery person and the constant increase in price.

It bothers me because I want to support the newspaper and I will probably subscribe digitally, as I have done with other newspapers, which I mentioned last week. But I haven’t been reading it. I don’t even pick it up and bring it inside most days and I’ve only used it for the tv listings, which of course, I can easily get online.

When I was a kid, there were so many options, I could easily get seven or so newspapers a day if I wanted. I usually got those to read the comics.  Now I read the comics online.

I do hope newspapers all survive. They are part of our lives, part of daily life. So many of us still do read the newspapers, but we don’t realize it. But when you are reading stories and clicking on things all over the internet and on social media, most likely you are clicking on daily newspapers and reading stories that interest you. I think I must follow 100 newspapers and tv stations from all around the country on Facebook. And I pick and choose what to read as they post the stories.

I will continue my new practice of subscribing to local newspapers from around the country online. It’s not expensive, you get the actual newspapers to flip through as an e-paper and I’m supporting them and seeing what’s up around the country. I believe that the circulation of newspapers this way is up, but they are having a hard time monetizing it. I’m not sure why it’s such a problem to transfer advertisers from the printed page to digital. The audience is online.

I like what Jason says

“Don’t curate your art to what gets likes. Curate it to what you like.”

jason-chatfieldThat’s a quote from cartoonist Jason Chatfield from a recent interview in Medium. Jason is the Ginger Meggs comic strip cartoonist and also a New Yorker caroonist. Ginger Meggs is a 100 year old comic strip from Australia, that Jason took over in 2007.

I like what he says about the art and cartooning being what the creator likes rather than the audience. I do seem to concern myself with the audience. But I do get a bit giddy when a cartoon is completed, so I guess I do like what is being put out there.

About The New Yorker magazine, he says – “be prepared for rejection,” which is what I am up against whenever I send them submissions. But they get so many submissions and they probably just whiz by them.

Another thing that Jason says is that he ignores social media. While he posts on social media, he ignores the comments. It would be nice to do that too in many cases, but I think the whole point of social media is to be social, so reading the comments and interacting with readers is just part of the process. If I don’t like a comment I just ignore it.

I met a syndicated cartoonist a few years back who has the comments blocked on his GoComics site. So he publishes daily, but gets no feedback, which works for him but again, everything has comments these days – Facebook, blogs, news articles – comments are sort of what’s expected.

So anyway, enough about Jason, Jason, Jason. I just thought some of the things he said were quite interesting.