Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dave Sim's blogandmail #23 (October 4th, 2006)

All this week the Blog & Mail is brought to you by

Diamondback Decks!

That's right! For a limited time only the last remaining supply of Diamondback Decks
is FINALLY being made available to YOU
The Discriminating Cerebus Yahoo Consumer For only $10 Each Autographed by Dave Sim and Gerhard


Wow! What an amazing Blog & Mail tie-in THIS is going to be!


Oh, the Following Cerebus cover. Jeez, that seems like a long time ago. Ger came in with a fully pencilled cover on tracing paper, so I had all day Tuesday—except for an interview with a journalist visiting from Germany—

see this Sunday's Blog & Mail for more on the interview with Andreas Platthaus of
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

There's more for you…in the SUN-DAY BLOG & MAAAAILL

(sorry I'm still trying to figure out how much advertising I can squeeze into each Blog & Mail—I think that's probably overdoing it) to do as many figures on it as I could before he left with it again at 5. It looks really good. Ger's an M.C. Escher enthusiast, so I suggested he do an M.C. Escher homage and boy, he sure did. Then he wanted to take a picture of the rejected cover to post here and I told him I think it's a better idea if I talk about pictures on the Blog & Mail but we don't show any pictures except in Following Cerebus. He mulled that over and said, "Well, I still need to take a picture of it for that" and went outside in search of sunshine to shoot the picture in.

Where was I. Oh, right…what an amazing Blog & Mail tie-in THIS is going to be!

See, I created the game of Diamondback way back in 1979 because I've always hated card games. All card games. At various points in my life, I have learned how to play Poker, Euchre, Crazy 8s, Go Fish, and numerous other card games I can't even remember now and promptly forgot how to play them ten minutes after the game was over. A seriously strange brain quirk. I just don't retain any card game past my first time playing it. I think I've learned how to play poker a half dozen times and Euchre at least three times. So, I think that's what it's all about—I hate card games because I can never retain them.

So, a bunch of the uber Yahoos (Margaret, Jeffs Seiler and Tundis, Matt Dow and Jason Trimmer) decided to have a Diamondback tournament at their hotel at the St. Bonaventure opening of Ye Bookes of Cerebus last year and they invited me to come by and play if I wanted. Well, it was only polite to come by and WATCH but the last thing I wanted to do was play. And then watching proved to be kind of boring as well (all right, all right, it was REALLY boring) because I invented Diamondback to be a terrible card game. It's like an ultra-simplified form of poker that goes way too quick and really requires absolutely no skill whatsoever. So here I am in the lobby of this hotel which the uber-Yahoos had taken over for their Diamondback tournament and I notice that Matt's wife Paula is reading a copy of Us Weekly. And I'm having to pretend that I'm interested in this stupid card game that I invented. Anyway, Paula finished reading the magazine and put it down and I said, "Do you mind if I look at that?" And everyone is looking at me really strangely, expecting me to make a joke or something. But, no, it is a little-known fact about Dave Sim that he is a sucker for celebrity gossip with big glossy photos. I don't let myself have them, but if there's one sitting there, I'll glom onto it right away. This was right in the middle of the whole Brad and Angelina and whatsername from Friends (sorry, Jennifer Anniston) dust-up, so this was my chance to read up on it. And of course to look at whatever new pictures of Brittany Spears were being flogged by the paparazzi, Paris Hilton getting drunk somewhere, the Olsen Twins, Lindsay Lohan. That's really all it is, I decided. Pretty girls and women who are pretty girls and women, you know, for a living. Part aesthetic moment and part morbid fascination with how quickly their looks tend to go south these days. I mean, Lindsay Lohan is starting to look like Natalie Wood did in her forties and Lindsay Lohan is, what, twenty?

Anyway, it definitely took these hard-card-playin' uber-Yahoos by surprise as I devoured the magazine.

And it definitely took me by surprise when Paula showed up at SPACE [Bob Corby's Small Press Alternative Comics Expo] this year with a stack of US Weekly back issues she had been saving up for me. I didn't bring them home with me, but trust me, I went through every page of each one (in chronological order) in my hotel room. Thanks again, Paula.

Why do I bring this up now? That's a good question. Why do I bring this up now? Oh, right, I got a package from Matt Dow in the mail that contained a book written by his maternal grandmother, Topsy Gregory, called To Stuff the Olives. And I felt so guilty about the fact that his Boner the Runt Dog sketch letter is still sitting here that I felt compelled to read the whole thing right away!

Matt writes in his letter "Anyway I've been meaning to send you a copy of my maternal grandmother's first book, To Stuff the Olives for awhile now. It's the story of how my grandparents packed up their eleven kids and went on a month-long bus ride from Wisconsin to California back in 1956 (and you thought Cerebus and Jaka's road trip was stressful!). But then Jeff Seiler mentioned that you had books from two years ago that you haven't gotten to read yet, so I wasn't gonna send it."

[Two years behind on reading the books I get in the mail from people for free? That's true. Recently, however, I've found myself reading the occasional book that comes in: usually if it's a short one. The first one I made an exception for was the Joint Center for Operational Analysis report Iraqi Perspectives Project: A View of Operation Iraqi Freedom from Saddam's Senior Leadership that Uber-Uber Yahoo Sgt. Flowers sent me. I'm not even sure I'm supposed to have it since the bibliography on a few of the chapters includes Classified Intelligence Reports, but it was certainly good reading and makes me even more optimistic that an invasion of Iran would be even more successful than Operation Iraqi Freedom has been (and, yes, quite apart from the New York Times still sulking their liberal sulk, Operation Iraqi Freedom remains the single most successful major campaign in military history at just about any level you would care to name). And then, of course, I read Islam Reviewed which Al Nickerson sent me and which I discussed at some length last Sunday]

Matt continued: "Then, when I finally picked up a copy from my Grandma, I saw the back cover and said, `Well, if this ain't a sign to send it, nothing is.'"

The back cover quote was from Psalm 128:3 "May thy wife be as the fruitful vine, thy children as olives round about thy table." So that's where the title came from—they basically took the olives around the table and stuffed them into a school bus. No big surprise on the quote. Only a husband and wife with absolute faith in God could do something like this with every confidence it would all come out okay and they have more than their share of miraculous escapes—the one that sticks out in my mind is a tire inner tube that held together all the way across the desert before disintegrating the moment they were within range of the only place for miles around that was able to fix it.

Grandma has a way with words, as when she catches first sight of their future temporary home:

Just then, with fiendish timing, in rolled a yellow school bus, steered by a forty-one year old man with twelve dependents, who is planning to take off from work and loaf for four whole weeks next year. Through the screen door I saw the beatific expression on the Roamer's face. The bus crunched past the kitchen door and stopping in the back yard.

Gregory kids poured from the front door, the north yard, the attic and the garage. Their papa called out joyously, "Here's our bus, kids. She purred like a kitten all the way home."

"The fat cat all our life savings; why wouldn't she purr?" I asked Florence, who was gathering up her purse and car keys.

I'm reading this and I'm going, "I know this voice. This flat Midwestern, matter-of-fact intonation." And that was when I figured it out: Ernest Hemingway. Matt Dow's grandmother writes like Ernest Hemingway! She has a little trouble with her punctuation and paragraph breaks and things like that, but TECHNICALITIES! TECHNICALITIES! I tell you, if we could find the modern-day Max Perkins to edit her stuff, this woman could be HUGE! Just the descriptions of how they managed to fit sleeping arrangements for thirteen people onto one school bus—I'm thinking Hollywood. I'm thinking MAJOR Hollywood.

I would strongly encourage all interested agents and producers (and, of course, all you Yahoos) to contact Topsy Gregory directly at and get their own copy of To Stuff the Olives. $10.95 and it's even autographed. Or, at least, mine and Ger's copies were.

Seriously, it's an interesting, fun book, first published in 1970, there was a second printing in 1978 and this third edition in 2004. And it certainly makes a generation that insists that you have to have both parents out working full time to pay for a house and 1.5 children look more than a little materialistic and timorous by comparison. Topsy barely bats an eyelash on being informed that their life's savings has been invested in a school bus and even though they're pretty much poor as church mice, there isn't an unhappy anecdote in the entire book. Where has this spirit of family and adventure gone? I kept wondering. And that was when I would flip to the back cover quote and understand.

Still feeling guilty about Matt's Boner the Runt Dog sketch still sitting here, let's see how many Matt & Paula references I can squeeze in this week!

Sorry, as it turns out the Limited Time Offer

On the Diamondback Decks EXPIRED while you

were reading the above posting!


I really, really apologize. I just got so carried away talking about Mrs. Gregory's book that the clock ran down without me even noticing it.

Ah, well. The week is still young.

Let's see how tomorrow goes.


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.