Lincoln Peirce is a cartoonist/writer and the creator of the comic strip Big Nate. It appears in more than two hundred U.S. newspapers and online daily at comics.com.

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

Sign up for the Big Nate newsletter!

Cartoons and The New Yorker

I’ve never met Barry Blitt, but I’m a huge admirer of his artwork.  He created the hilarious cover of the most recent edition of The New Yorker, one of my favorite magazines.  I enjoy reading the articles and columns in the magazine, but just as important to me is the fact that The New Yorker is one of the only periodicals remaining that features cartoons and illustrations on a regular basis.  And the cover is always a drawing or a painting, never a photograph.  I always especially enjoy Barry Blitt’s covers.  He’s a great caricaturist, has an instantly recognizable style, and — best of all — is very, very funny.  This cover illustration, called “Belly Flop,” depicts Republican Presidential candidate and billionaire blowhard Donald Trump making a characteristically understated entrance into a pool of other presidential hopefuls.  Clear the decks, everybody.

Magazine illustrations are not my thing, but I did make one attempt, almost twenty years ago, at selling a drawing to The New Yorker.  I called it “Greetings from New York City.”  (I’m almost certain I’ve blogged about this before, by the way.  My apologies for repeating myself.)  Anyway, this drawing is somewhat reminiscent of the kind of doodles I like to do in my little sketchbooks.  It’s symmetrical, black & white, and jam-packed with obscure details.  Somewhere buried in my desk, I still have this drawing.  And I still like it.  Back then, I submitted it to the magazine and within only a couple of weeks, I got a very nice handwritten reply from a New Yorker editor complimenting me on the drawing, but confirming (as I already suspected) that it wasn’t quite right for them.  That’s okay.  I gave it the old college try.

That’s a phrase that might apply to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.  I’m not sure he has a real chance of winning, but he’s going to try very hard.  And that’s great news for cartoonists.  Editorial cartoonists love public figures who are fun to draw and/or have outrageous, larger-than-life personalities.  Trump fits the bill on both counts.  Drawing his hair alone will keep plenty of cartoonists employed for months to come.  Here’s what Barry Blitt had to say about The Donald:

“Donald Trump has entered the fray of Republican Presidential candidates with all the grace of a bully doing cannonballs and belly flops at the local swimming pool,” said Barry Blitt about his cover for next week’s issue. “I’ll certainly be watching the first televised debate, just around the corner, on August 6th. Trump never fails to provide hours of slack-jawed amazement.”

Fri, 07/31/2015

Baseball Hall of Fame

If you’re a baseball fan, you probably know that this past Sunday, four recently retired players were enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. And if you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, as I am, you DEFINITELY know that one of those players was the great Pedro Martinez, who spent seven wonderful seasons with the Red Sox, helping the team win its first World Series in 86 years back in 2004. Tomorrow night at Fenway Park in Boston, the Red Sox will formally retire Pedro’s number 45. A large plaque bearing his number will be mounted on the roof facade in right field, joining other retired numbers like Ted Williams’s #9, Carl Yastrzemski’s #8, and others. And the exciting part is…I WILL BE THERE! It will be exciting to see the festivities in person, and there will undoubtedly be a lot of love for Pedro on display. He left the team after the 2004 season, but he remains one of the most popular and charismatic Red Sox players of all time.

The word “charisma” isn’t one you’d associate with a very different kind of ballplayer — namely, JOE SHLABOTNIK. Joe Shlabotnik was a fictional baseball player featured in Charles Schulz’s immortal comic strip, Peanuts. He was also, for reasons that are never quite clear, the favorite player of the strip’s main character, Charlie Brown. Joe Shlabotnik was first mentioned by name in Peanuts in 1963. Readers never saw Joe, of course — adults do not appear in Peanuts — but Schulz made it clear right from the start that he was not a very good ballplayer. The panels shown here are the beginning of a Sunday page in which Charlie Brown composes a fan club newsletter chronicling Joe Shlabotnik’s baseball exploits. We learn that Joe is currently playing for a team in the Green Grass League and is batting .143, that he has made several “spectacular catches of routine fly balls,” and that he “threw out a runner who had fallen down between first and second.” Charlie Brown, of course, shares these facts in a genuine, un-ironic way. Although it was funny to read about Joe’s disastrous performance on the baseball diamond, Charlie Brown’s devotion to him was actually quite touching.

Sports are like that. Obviously, the best players receive more than their share of adulation. But over the years, some of the players I’ve become most fond of are the journeymen — the players whose skills are somewhere between poor and moderately good, and who usually play for several teams over the course of their careers. Some of my favorite Red Sox journeymen over the years have been:

Rich “El Guapo” Garces, a stocky (okay, he was actually pretty fat) middle-innings relief pitcher;
Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, a starting pitcher on the Red Sox of the mid 1980’s;
Bob “Beetle” Bailey, a backup catcher who almost never played;
Dalton Jones, another little-used backup catcher;
Bernie Carbo, who cemented his legendary status by hitting a pinch-hit 3-run homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series against Cincinnati;
Rogelio Moret, a pitcher for the Sox from 1970 to 1975. His career ended in bizarre fashion in 1978 when he was discovered in the locker room of his team at the time, the Texas Rangers, in a catatonic state, holding a bedroom slipper in his pitching hand.

All these players had their moments of glory. They might not have been great major leaguers, but the fact that they made the major leagues at all qualifies them as among the very best athletes in the world. It also means that all of them were better than Joe Shlabotnik!

Tue, 07/28/2015

Etch-A-Sketch

I’m not sure how long I’ve had this item lying around my office, but tonight as I was tidying up my shelves, I noticed this mini Etch-A-Sketch. (A full-sized Etch-A-Sketch is about 9 inches wide and 8 inches tall; this one is only 3.5 inches by 3 inches.) I don’t know how well you can see the image on the screen, but it’s my attempt (after a couple of false starts) at drawing Big Nate. It’s not without its problems — especially the hair — but considering that this is probably the first time I’ve used an Etch-A-Sketch in 40 years, I’d give myself an A for effort and a solid B minus for execution.

Anyway…what IS an Etch-A-Sketch? It’s a toy that most people who grew up in the USA are probably familiar with. If they’re like me, they know that the toy features a single line etched in some sort of gray screen; that the way to control that line is by twisting the two white knobs controlling the horizontal and vertical aspects; and that shaking the toy vigorously, or simply turning it face-down, results in the screen being wiped clean. But they probably have no idea of how an Etch-A-Sketch works. And neither did I…until I looked it up on wikipedia! Here’s a bit of what I learned:

Etch A Sketch is a mechanical drawing toy invented by André Cassagnes of France and subsequently manufactured by the Ohio Art Company.

The toy can be considered a simplified version of a plotter. The inside surface of the glass screen is coated with aluminum powder, which is then scraped off by a movable stylus, leaving a dark line on the light gray screen. The stylus is controlled by the two large knobs, one of which moves it vertically and the other horizontally. Turning both knobs simultaneously makes diagonal lines. To erase the picture, the user turns the toy upside down and shakes it. Doing this causes polystyrene beads to smooth out and re-coat the inside surface of the screen with aluminum powder. The “black” line merely exposes the darkness inside the toy. Filling in large “black” areas allows enough light through to expose parts of the interior.

Ah ha! This explains one of the Etch-A-Sketch’s most maddening qualities: whatever you draw must be rendered as one continuous line, because it’s impossible to lift the stylus off the screen the way one would lift a pencil off a piece of paper.

I had no idea until a few minutes ago that the Etch-A-Sketch was invented in France. The inventor, Mr. Cassagnes, took his creation to the Nuremberg Toy Festival in the late 1950’s and eventually succeeded in selling the toy to the Ohio Art Company. It was introduced in the US in time for the Christmas season in late 1960. It soon became one of the iconic toys of its era. It is in the National Toy Hall of Fame, and was included on the Toy Industry Association’s list of the top 100 toys of the 20th century.

It’s fun to fiddle around with an Etch-A-Sketch every now and then, but the limitations of the stylus mean that it doesn’t feel like real drawing. But don’t tell that to people who’ve made a career out of creating incredible Etch-A-Sketch art. They’re capable of creating masterpieces like the Mona Lisa pictured here.

Looks like I have some practicing to do!

Fri, 07/24/2015

The Jolly Green Giant

There’s a pretty decent chance I’ve told this story before in the 5-year history of this blog…but if I have, it was so long ago that you probably don’t remember reading it any better than I remember writing it.  So away we go!

Last week I told you a bit about comic strip weddings because, when I wrote that entry last Thursday evening, we were about to fly to Florida to see our nephew get married.  One of the fringe benefits of any wedding is that you often have the chance to visit with friends or family members you haven’t seen in a long time.  That was the case this past weekend.  One of my brother’s closest friends was at the wedding; and even though he and my brother see each other on a regular basis, I haven’t spent time with him for a dozen years or more.  So it was great fun to get reacquainted and reminisce about our childhood adventures in Durham, New Hampshire.  His name is Scott, but we still call him by the nickname he used as a boy:  “Munch” or “Munchkin.”  Munch isn’t a cartoonist, but nevertheless he was one of my first cartooning heroes.  Here’s why:

Basements in New England are frequently damp and musty, but our family’s basement in our house on Coe Drive was a cut above.  It stayed dry even during heavy rainstorms, and it was cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  It consisted of a laundry room, my dad’s woodworking shop, and a playroom for us kids.  We spent an awful lot of time in that playroom with Munch, his two brothers, and a few other neighborhood friends.  I was always the youngest kid in the group, so I was happy just to be included —especially when the activity of choice was drawing cartoons.

At the time — this was probably around 1969 or 1970 —  commercials for Green Giant frozen vegetables were all over television.  They featured a giant animated “jolly green giant"— he literally was green from head to toe.  He punctuated each commercial with his trademark laugh — ho, ho, ho — and he was as familiar to us kids back then as the Geico gekko is to TV viewers today.  Anyway, a bunch of us boys were drawing cartoons one day when Munch announced:  “I’m going to draw a cartoon of the jolly green giant."  For some reason — maybe because I was only 6 or 7 years old, or because I was familiar with the green giant from all those TV commercials — this really excited me.  Munch went off by himself with a piece of paper and a couple of crayons, and got to work.  After a few minutes, he told us that he was finished.  With a flourish, he produced a piece of paper on which he’d drawn an enormous green foot…and nothing else.  I remember feeling disappointed, and I asked:  “Where’s the rest of him?”  Munch shrugged and said:  “He was too big to fit on the page.”  

Well, all of us found this completely hilarious.  I mean, we were literally rolling on the floor.  And it made an enormous impression on me.  I’d seen cartoons in the newspaper and in comic books, of course.  But that day in our basement was the first time I’d ever witnessed someone tell a joke using a cartoon.  I already knew I liked to draw, but after Munch’s “jolly green giant” gag, I now also knew that I wanted to make people laugh like that.  Everyone has signposts in their lives — important moments that stay fixed in your mind long after other events have slipped away.  This was definitely a signpost for me.

I told Munch about it last weekend, and I think he must have enjoyed hearing the story.  He got his hands on some paper and crayons and recreated the original cartoon he first drew about 45 years ago. That’s the image you see here.  I have no idea what happened to that original drawing.  Like most relics of childhood, it probably got lost or thrown away.  But I'll make sure I don’t lose this replica.  I’m going to keep my hands on this foot!

Tue, 07/21/2015

Comic Strip Weddings

I’m writing this blog on the eve of a trip to Vero Beach, Florida to attend the wedding of our nephew. With the subject of marriage so close at hand, my thoughts recently turned to comic strip weddings. There have been plenty of them over the years. Just off the top of my head, I can remember wedding storylines in Gasoline Alley, For Better Of For Worse, Cathy, and — any day now! — Stone Soup. But I chose three specific weddings to picture here, from three very different comic strips: Blondie by Chic Young, Li’l Abner by Al Capp, and Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau.

Folks who have been reading for years about the suburban, middle class life of Dagwood Bumstead and his wife, Blondie might not be aware of a couple of facts. First of all, the comic strip Blondie has been around since 1930. Second, Blondie wasn’t married to Dagwood when the strip began. In the beginning, creator Chic Young featured the comic antics of a carefree flapper named Blondie Boopadoop. (Her unusual last name was derived from the nonsense refrain of a popular song in the late 1920’s, “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”) In these early strips, Blondie was a bit of a party girl, and one of her suitors — who soon became her steady boyfriend — was an earnest young fellow named Dagwood Bumstead. Dagwood was a wealthy young man from a high-society family, and when he declared his intention to marry Blondie, his parents disinherited him. When Dagwood wed Blondie in February of 1933, he gained a bride…and lost his family fortune. That’s why, for the 80+ years that have followed, Dagwood and Blondie have lived in modest, middle-class surroundings. And Blondie, of course, long ago gave up her wild ways and settled into life as a wife, mother, and — in recent years — small business owner.

The second image shown here depicts what is probably the most famous wedding in comic strip history: that of Abner Yokum and Daisy Mae Scragg in Al Capp’s masterpiece, Li’l Abner. Unlike Chic Young, who married off Blondie and Dagwood after only a couple of years, Al Capp made his readers wait and wait until Daisy Mae finally got her man. The strip began in August of 1934, but Abner and Daisy Mae didn’t tie the knot until 1952. That’s 18 years! Daisy Mae’s pursuit of the sweet-natured but dimwitted hillbilly, Abner, was one of the strip’s main themes. The world that Al Capp created — the fictional hamlet of Dogpatch, Kentucky — was populated by dozens of eligible young women, but readers of the strip knew that Daisy Mae was Abner’s perfect match. In fact, everyone realized it except Abner himself. Al Capp is said to have regretted caving in to public sentiment and marrying off these two characters, but there’s no denying that it was big news when it happened. As you can see here, it was on the cover of LIFE magazine. The sorry fact is, though, that the strip was never quite the same after Abner and Daisy Mae got hitched. None other than Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame declared it “the biggest mistake in comic strip history.”

There have been several weddings in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury during the strip’s tenure, but the one shown here is the most recent. The bride is Alex Doonesbury, daughter of the strip’s titular character, Mike Doonesbury and his ex-wife, J.J. Alex’s husband-to-be is Leo DeLuca, aka Toggle, a veteran of the Iraq War who has returned stateside with a case of expressive aphasia and a loss of sight in one eye. Trudeau has been a friend and supporter of military men and women during his strip’s long run, and I think Toggle is one of the most memorable characters he’s ever created. At the moment, Doonesbury is one sort of a hiatus. Trudeau is producing Sunday strips only, but no dailies, while he works as the head writer and show runner of Alpha House, the political satire he’s created for amazon TV.

Will there ever be a wedding in Big Nate? Doubtful. Nate and his friends will never grow up, so they’re not eligible for nuptials. There has been an “off-screen” marriage — Nate’s art teacher, Mr. Rosa, got hitched a number of years ago — but I’ve never depicted a wedding taking place. The only real possibility, I guess, would be if Nate’s dad were to find the woman of his dreams and ask her to marry him. But don’t hold your breath. I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon!

Fri, 07/17/2015

Nate's Love Interest

 

 

If you follow BIG NATE, either in your local newspaper or online, then you probably saw Monday’s strip.  When summer rolls around, I usually create a storyline that takes place at the fair.  Nausea-inducing rides, tattooed carnies, and Nate’s chronic money mismanagement are always good fodder for a week or two of strips.  But this year, I decided to add something new to the equation.  As the last panel clearly shows, Nate is about to have a chance encounter with a young lady.  And if those hearts springing from his noggin are any sort of clue, it looks as if he might be experiencing “love at first sight” syndrome.  The only question is:  who’s the girl?

I’ll answer by saying that she’s NOT a character who’s appeared in the strip before.  In fact, even though I drew this strip over two months ago and am typing this blog entry on Monday, July 13th, I haven’t even given her a name yet.  That might give you a hint about how this episode could unfold.  Then again, it might not.

Nate’s love life — or lack thereof — is far and away the subject that generates the most reader commentary over at gocomics.com.  Some readers ask from time to time if I’m planning to reunite Nate with Angie, a girl he met in summer school.  (In the storyline, Angie was attending summer school because she’d just moved to Nate’s town and had to make up some work she’d missed during the process.  Nate was attending summer school because — well, why do you think?)  Other readers ask me to bring back Kelly, who entered Nate’s life when they ended up at the same summer soccer camp (they were both goalkeepers).  Many, MANY readers seem convinced that Nate and Gina are destined to be a couple, citing the adage that “It’s a fine line between hate and love.”  And plenty of younger readers, familiar with the characters from the novels as well as the comic strip, are just as certain that Nate and Dee Dee belong together.  (I have to admit, I’ve given this some serious thought.)

One thing they all agree on:  Nate should stop wasting his time on Jenny.  And I agree.  I think I’ve written here before that it’s time Nate moved on from his longstanding crush.  The fact is, Jenny’s never given Nate any indication that she likes him, and Nate has too much swagger to spend the rest of his life chasing after a girl who has no interest in him.  Plus, after so many years, I’ve told all the jokes I can tell about the Nate-Jenny-Artur love triangle.  So there will be no more Nate & Jenny storylines.  It’s high time Nate had a new love interest.  The question is:  who?

Could it be the girl in panel #4 of the strip shown here?  The honest truth is:  I’m not even sure yet myself!

Tue, 07/14/2015

Big Nate Is Turning 25!

You may not know this — especially if you’re a kid who’s only recently discovered BIG NATE in recent years — but my spiky-haired friend here will be 25 years old in less than six months!  The comic strip debuted on Sunday, January 6th, 1991.  Universal Uclick, the company that sells Big Nate to newspapers and maintains the comics website gocomics.com, will probably make some sort of announcement about this as Nate’s official birthday draws near; they’re very nice about congratulating all their cartoonists when they win awards or achieve milestones — or, in my case, when they’re just fortunate enough to stick around for awhile.  There are also plans to publish a 25th anniversary book, and that’s what sent me scurrying to my file cabinet today, where I discovered this promo for the strip back when it was first launched.

You see, my agent, David, is going to write part of the aforementioned book.  His contribution will be sort of an insider’s view of the history of Big Nate.  So he called me yesterday and asked me to summon up a few memories of the time leading up to Big Nate’s debut.  How long was I trying to get syndicated before Big Nate was published?  What other strips did I submit to syndicates during that period?  Was it exciting?  Confusing?  Etc., etc.  I started writing down some random thoughts earlier today, but quickly realized that events that occurred 25 years ago are not exactly vivid in my mind.  Looking for some help to jog my memory, I unearthed a folder in my cabinet labeled “BIG NATE PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL.”  One of the items in the folder was the ad you see here, a promo for the strip courtesy of United Feature Syndicate, the company I started with so long ago.

Nowadays, there aren’t too many new comic strips appearing in newspapers.  But back then, all the major syndicates launched two or three strips per year — sometimes even more.  That meant selling a strip to newspapers in the roughly 3 months leading up to the official launch date.  And selling a strip meant that advertisements had to be designed and disseminated, so that newspaper editors would know that a new strip was on the horizon.  This ad appeared in EDITOR & PUBLISHER, a magazine devoted to the newspaper industry.  When this ad appeared, Big Nate was just a few days away from its launch date.  And, as I was reminded when looking at the ad, it was a very good launch.  A new strip getting sold to 135 newspapers before it’s even appeared in print is good news for all concerned — the newspapers, the syndicate, and especially the cartoonist.  I was thrilled, because it seemed to me that having so many newspapers on board at that stage indicated that I could have a huge hit on my hands.

It didn’t quite work out that way, though.  United Feature Syndicate’s best salesman, a fellow who’d singlehandedly sold Big Nate to almost 80 newspapers and was a huge fan of the strip, died unexpectedly.  The company had nobody in place to fill his position, and without him on the scene to advocate for Big Nate, many of those newspapers dropped the strip.  Big Nate survived (many comic strips don’t), but it didn’t become the sensation I hoped it would.  It was a modest success for about the next 18 years — until the first Big Nate novel was published by HarperCollins.  The novels did something I’d been trying to accomplish for many years:  they brought Big Nate to an entirely new audience and jump-started the strip’s popularity.  Not many comic strips go from rags to riches after 18 years in print…but it happened for Big Nate.  I’m extremely fortunate.

I was new at this 25 years ago, so I didn’t know that I should insist on looking at and approving all promotional materials.  If I had, I would have insisted that the red shirt in this ad be replaced by Nate’s traditional yellow shirt with blue shoulders.  I would have made his face less pink.  And I would have pointed out that the highlights in Nate’s hair should be white.  In the ad, they’re the same color as his skin.
 

Fri, 07/10/2015

Horoscopes

Some people place a lot of faith in horoscopes; others think they’re complete poppycock.  I’m closer to the poppycock side of things, but I still find astrology kind of fascinating.  I’d never consider basing any kind of major decision on the random writings of some newspaper astrologist, but like many people, I do get kind of a thrill when I read something in my horoscope that seems accurate or prescient.  How did I make consulting my horoscope part of my daily routine?  Easy answer:  in most of the newspapers I’ve read during my lifetime, the astrological forecast is printed on the comics page or close to it.  After reading the comics, my eye naturally wanders over to the horoscopes (and to another of my favorites, the crossword puzzle.)

But in this internet age, horoscopes aren’t just in the newspaper; they’re all over the place online.  Tonight, as I tried to figure out what to blog about, I glanced at an astrological website and noticed that it included not just daily horoscopes, but MONTHLY forecasts.  July is just getting started, so I decided to see what the stars and planets might hold in store during the next four weeks or so.  And here’s what the stars and planets told me:

If you're a writer or in the communications or sales industry, you might finish up a major project near July 1. Whatever the details behind it are, you'll feel inspired and optimistic about the outcome. Another possibility is that you'll have a deep and meaningful conversation with your sweetheart. You might be afraid to reveal your emotions initially but soon realize you have nothing to fear at all.  Hmm.  I’m afraid I’m not very close to finishing up a major project.  The fact is, I’m just STARTING a major project:  the final art for BIG NATE BLASTS OFF.  I’ve only done 18 pages worth, which means I have 200 to go.  As for having a deep conversation with my sweetheart:  my wife did ask me tonight to take out the garbage and recycling.  So I’ve got that going for me.

If you have any children and need advice, why not seek the help of one of your siblings? It appears that you'll receive heartfelt, sound advice from your brother or sister early this month. On July 15, you might consider going back to school to study for an advanced degree, license or certification. You might have plenty of ambition and energy to move forward with this decision but you'll need to be patient. The red tape and other paperwork needed to put this into motion might be quite frustrating. Still, it'll be worth it.  At the moment, I’m not in need of any advice about my children; but if I were, I’d certainly seek out my brother for heartfelt, sound advice.  I don’t think I’d ask my sister, though.  I don’t have a sister.  I also have no plans to go back to school for an advanced degree.  My school days, I’m delighted to say, are over.

On July 25, Venus turns retrograde and until July 31, an old friend might come back into your life. After July 31 and until September 6 you might struggle with feeling less than appreciated from higher ups. This might also be a time to consider whether or not you're using your talents to the best of your ability. Honest examination now about where you are professionally can lead to greater rewards after September 6.  So now I know that on July 25, Venus turns retrograde.  You know what else happens on July 25?  I’m going to Fenway Park to see my Boston Red Sox play the Detroit Tigers.  Sadly, this horoscope says nothing about whether or not the Sox will win that day.  Given the way the season is going so far, I’m not planning to get my hopes up.

So there you have it — my horoscope for July.  Not a lot of specifics there, just a hodgepodge of vague suggestions.  That’s okay, though.  I don’t really need a horoscope to provide guidance and direction.  I’m too stubborn to follow those kinds of suggestions.  That’s a common trait of us Scorpios.

Mon, 07/06/2015

Whirlwind Trip to San Francisco

Hello!  I'm going to keep this entry somewhat brief, because it's already quite late and it's been a long day of traveling.  I just flew from San Francisco to Newark, NJ to Portland, Maine (missing my regular Monday night Men's League hockey game in the process), so I'm kind of tired.

San Francisco was great fun, though.  I was there for the American Library Association convention, where I signed books, ran into a few cartoonist/author friends (like Mo Willems, Dav Pilkey, and recent entry into the middle-grade novel world, Ruben Bolling), and spoke at a reception sponsored by the Will Eisner Family Foundation in honor of librarians who've been awarded grants for their support of comics and graphic novels.  San Francisco also happens to be the home of one of my very favorite people -- my cousin Laurie -- and she met my wife and me for dinner on Friday night.  We also took in a ball game on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Park, home of the defending World Series champs, the San Francisco Giants.  They beat the Rockies 6-2 behind the outstanding pitching of Madison Bumgarner, last year's World Series MVP.  (By the way, the pictures shown above are 1.) the view from our hotel room, and 2.) the view from our seats at the game.)

So as you can see, we squeezed a lot into just a couple days in San Francisco.  I would have liked to see more of the city, because I haven't spent much time there before, but that will have to wait for another trip.  It's time to get back to work.  With the exception of a family wedding in mid-July, I won't be doing any traveling for awhile.

Before I sign off, I'll leave you with two fun facts about San Francisco that relate to Big Nate:
•    For many years, there was a restaurant in San Francisco called Big Nate's Barbecue.  It was owned and operated by former NBA star Nate Thurmond.  (See photo below.)
•    Remember how a fortune cookie played such a big part in the first novel, Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself?  Well, the fortune cookie was created in San Francisco in 1914 -- not in a Chinese restaurant, but in a Japanese Tea House!

 

Tue, 06/30/2015

On To You

Time for another email exchange with Kozo, my pen pal from Japan.  Here's the email he sent me along with this "Andy Capp" cartoon:

Hi Lincoln,
 
I sometimes fail to understand rather simple English.  What does Andy mean by “ She is on to me”?  Is this a common expression?
 

And here's how I responded:  

Hi Kozo,

Thanks for your question!  It's easily answered.  When someone is "on to you," it means they suspect or know what your true intentions are.  For example, let's say a man is planning to rob a bank.  He walks in and out of the bank several times, pretending he's just a customer when in fact what he's really doing is planning the details of his robbery.  After walking in and out of the bank for the fourth or fifth time, he notices that a police officer is following him.  The man might think to himself:  "That policeman is on to me."  In other words:  even though the man is pretending to be a bank customer, the policeman suspects that he is planning to rob the bank.

So in the cartoon, Flo remarks that, in her opinion, fishing just looks like an excuse for Andy to sit around drinking beer.  Others may fish because they like eating fish, or because they enjoy the challenge of it, or because they just like being outdoors.  But Flo obviously knows her husband very well, and she knows none of those reasons explain why Andy is fishing.  He's fishing because he likes sitting around drinking beer and doing nothing.  When Andy says "She's on to me," he's privately admitting that Flo is right.  He doesn't care about fishing.  He just wants to relax and drink beer.

Hope that helps, Kozo.  Write anytime!

Best wishes,

Lincoln


For those of you unfamiliar with "Andy Capp," it's a British comic strip.  It was created in 1957 by a cartoonist named Reg Smythe, and it has continued since Smythe's death in 1998.  It's currently credited to a trio of Mahoney, Goldsmith & Garnett.  "Andy Capp" (a bit of a pun on the word "handicap") started as a single-panel feature but Smythe eventually turned it into a true strip.  Andy, the title character, is a chronically unemployed fellow whose hobbies include darts, snooker, and drinking beer.  His wife, Florrie (often called Flo) works as a house cleaner.  In the early days of the strip, Andy's chronic drunkenness was the strip's dominant theme, but as attitudes about alcohol use changed over time, the focus of the strip shifted away from Andy's intoxication and toward his overall laziness.  "Andy Capp" was one of my favorite strips when I was a boy -- partly because I liked the drawings, and partly because, like my friend Kozo, I learned some things about language.  Before I began reading this strip, I'd never heard words like "vicar," "snooker," or "charwoman."  

That's all for this time.  Tomorrow I fly to San Francisco for the American Library Association annual conference.  Cheers!

Fri, 06/26/2015