Famous Last Words

Last week, a man standing trial for a double homicide in Utah wrote an e-mail to the Ogden newspaper, the Standard Examiner.  In it, he commented on some of the evidence in the case and the credibility of one of the witnesses against him.

As a former lawyer, I can tell you that this is an attorney’s worst nightmare.  An attorney doesn’t want his client talking to anyone, much less the press.  That is especially true in a serious case such as this, in which the defendant is facing the death penalty.

Even worse, this is Utah, where one of the methods of execution is by firing squad, a particularly grisly practice permitted almost nowhere else.

Why do I bring all this up?

Because at the end of his e-mail, this accused murderer made one additional little comment to the newspaper:

“While I have you here, my friends and I would like to request that you bring back the comics, Pearls Before Swines and Garfield. Thank you.”

Sure, he spelled “Swine” wrong, and fine, he mentioned Garfield.  But the point is that this accused double-murderer knows a good comic when he sees it.

My only complaint is that he opened the letter with the trivial matter of trying to avoid the firing squad, thus burying the important stuff at the end.

But hey, a fan’s a fan.

So let that be a warning to any newspaper that dares to drop Pearls.

I know people.

I’m Taking the Winnebago to San Diego

I’m off to San Diego’s Comic-Con to speak on Friday, July 23 at 2 pm.   I’m on this panel about Peanuts:

2:00-3:00 Peanuts Turns 60— On October 2, 1950 the Peanuts comic strip launched in seven American newspapers. Little did anyone know the impact this comic strip would have around the world for decades to come. Nearly 60 years later, Peanuts appears in over 2,200 newspapers, in 75 countries and 21 languages. The animated specials have become a seasonal tradition and thousands of consumer products are available in every country around the world. Moderator Jerry Beck (animation historian/cartoon producer/consulting producer to Warner Bros., Universal, and Disney), Comic-Con special guest Jeannie Schulz (widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz), Paige Braddock (creative director of Charles M. Schulz’s studio in Santa Rosa), Andy Beall (fix animation lead for Ratatouille, Wall-E, UP), Stephan Pastis (creator of Pearls Before Swine), and Marge Dean (general manager, W!ldbrain Animation Studios), present an in-depth foray into the work of Charles M. Schulz and what new things fans can look out for from Peanuts. Warner Premiere is joining the celebration with a sneak peek of something all new from Peanuts that fans won’t want to miss. Room 25ABC

So stop by if you can, and afterwards, I’ll try to sign stuff for you.

The rest of the time I’ll be drinking beer by the pool.  Don’t stop by then, unless you have a whole lot of free beer in your hands.

And You Thought the Lincoln and Kennedy Assassination Similarities Were Eerie

So I’m reading this book on the early Christian church, trying to figure out how it was that my church, the Greek Orthodox, split off from the Roman Catholics.

The book explains that the early Christian church had five centers, or patriarchates, all of which were considered equal.  They were Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria.  Then one day the Roman patriarchate decided it was better than all the rest and broke off, leaving the rest to fend for themselves.

Sound familiar?

It should.  Because 1,000 years later it happened again.

Only this time it was Justin Timberlake and ‘N Sync.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Cartooning 101

I’m often asked for advice on being a syndicated cartoonist.

Here’s some.

I was just finishing the last panel of a Sunday strip I was working on this morning and decided to take a sip of coffee.

No, I didn’t knock the coffee cup onto the strip.  I’m not that stupid.

I took the sip of coffee just fine.

Then it leaked out of my mouth.

All over the final panel.

Which now looks significantly different than it did pre-coffee.

So for all of you aspiring cartoonists out there, here’s a tip from the pros:

Don’t drool.

The Phantom Sandwich Menace

I don’t trust new people.

I want my doctor to remain the same.  My barber to remain the same.  And the woman who makes my sandwiches at the grocery store deli to remain the same.

Which she didn’t.

It was someone new there yesterday.

Unhappy but composed, I ordered the same sandwich I always do.

“Turkey sandwich, please.”

She got out a piece of paper to write down the details.

“What kind of bread would you like that on?” she asked.

That was annoying because the regular woman already knows.

“Soft roll,” I said.

“And what would you like on it?”

“Just lettuce, tomato and mustard.”

“That’s it?” she asked.

“That’s it,” I said.

So I went to get some potato chips and when I came back the sandwich was complete and wrapped in brown paper.  She had made it very quickly and had been rather nice.

Which got me to thinking.

Maybe I judge people too quickly.  Maybe I’m too harsh.

When I got home, I opened up the sandwich to make sure she got everything right.

And there, exactly as I had asked, was the lettuce, tomato and mustard.

And nothing else.

Not even turkey.

And it was at that moment I realized just how literally she had taken my comment, “Just lettuce, tomato and mustard.”

Proving that trust in a new person carries with it its own reward:

A $6.99 mustard sandwich.

A Dip Into the Email Bag

I’m a little behind in email.  About eleven months to be exact.  But I just found this one sent to me last August:

From:     (Name deleted)
Subject:     grammar
Date:     August 22, 2009 10:41:08 AM PDT
To:     Theratandpig@aol.com

I am writing to complain about the grammar in your comic strip.  Most of it is okay but this business of “What do you GOT there, Pig” is so grating and so wrong.  We try to teach our children the correct way to speak and then you use such an improper phrase to begin your strip.  Of course, it should be “What do you HAVE there, Pig?”.

This is not the first time you have used this exact phrase.  Please use proper grammar and make your strip enjoyable for all.  Thank you.

Normally, I don’t feel compelled to respond to emails such as this one, but the poor guy had sent the email almost a year ago, and I thought the least I could do was give him the courtesy of a reply.

So I did:

Subject:     Re: grammar
From:     Theratandpig@aol.com
Date:     June 23, 2010 10:36:39 AM PDT
To:     (Name deleted)

Dear (Name deleted),

That ain’t nothing,
My teachers learned me the same way, and I talk good.


In Praise of John C.

Rarely is the act of a stupid person so traceable.

From the dents they put in your fender to the trash they toss on your lawn, you never know which of the stupid people did it.

They’re tricky that way.

If nothing else, generations of stupidosity have refined the stupid gene to at least cover its own tracks.

Not so with John C.

John C. (whose last name I’ve abbreviated to keep him from suing Stephan P.) has his moronity on full display at my grocery store.

That is because John C. did not use the plastic stylus to sign the electronic signature pad.

He used a Sharpie.

So every time I or anyone else uses a credit card at my grocery store, we must sign our name over his.

Sometimes I even follow the lines of his Sharpie and sign his name to my receipt.

It must be a great convenience for him each time he uses his credit card at my grocery store and sees that there is no need for him to sign again.

For like the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians and the cave paintings of the Anasazi, John C. has left his mark.

Sure, it might not inspire awe, but it makes you sad.  And eliciting emotion is a hallmark of good writing.

Best of all, in this internet age of  anonymity, John C. has chosen to stand up like an alcoholic at an AA meeting and shout to everyone at my grocery store: “My name is John C., and I do stupid things.”

That, my friends, is accountability.