I'll be on WBAI tonight discussing the Rubin Museum's Wheel of Life comics project

Illustration, Publicity, Work

Tonight, starring at about 9:40 pm, I will be on WBAI 99.5 FM here in NYC discussing the Rubin Museum’s Karma-Con series. Along with fellow cartoonists Katie Skelly and Rubin Museum curator Beth Citron, we’ll be guests on WBAI’s Asia Pacific Forum. We’ll talk about the cartoonists’ Wheel of Life project and the ongoing exhibition “Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics.”

On April 18, myself and a group of other local cartoonists/illustrators will unveil our reinterpretations of segments of the Tibetan Wheel of Life (also known as the Wheel of Becoming, a representation of Buddhist beliefs about life, death, and rebirth). I was given my section last week (at the very enjoyable “Studio Salon“), and I’m in the middle of completing it. My section is the world of Humans, and I’m having fun trying to depict the various suffering we go through in our attempt to reach enlightenment. Here’s a sneak peak of how it’s looking so far…

Wheel of Life: Humans

Check one off the bucket list: Brian Lehrer

A.D., Influencing Machine

I’ve been listening to the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio on a regular basis since I moved back to New York City in 2000. During that time — from the election fiasco of 2000, to 9/11, the war in Iraq, the 2004 elections, the ’08 elections, the "Ground Zero Mosque," "Wikileaks," and right on through the killing of Osama bin Laden — I’ve relied on Brian’s show for a fair, sober examination of the issues.

He’s always on top of the news and never strident in his opinions. He has a warm, easygoing manner, and is adept at asking his guests tough questions without resorting to cheap "gotcha" journalism. At first, his approach challenged my old way of looking at the world. I had been taught to demonize the "enemy" (whoever that might be), and although I haven’t moderated my own left-of-center politics, I’ve come to see that sometimes different political positions come from different philosophies, not necessarily evil intentions. (Though there are evil folks out there!)

To that end, I especially appreciate Brian’s ability to talk to pundits of all political stripes — and his ability to find areas of agreement between the poilitical right and left. (I know it’s all very "pie in the sky" of me, but I’ve come to believe in the "common ground" approach to real, everyday politics.) Some might find Brian’s show too middle-of-the-road, but, as Brooke Gladstone points out so eloquently in our book The Influencing Machine, there are a myriad of other options out there, from WBAI to Fox News, and everything in between.

I don’t want to go on too long here, but it’s not exaggerating to say that, through Brian’s show, I’ve come to a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of local, national, and international events — and hopefully become a better citizen of the world.

So it was all the more exciting for me to be a guest on the Brian Lehrer Show earlier this week. As part of WNYC’s pledge week, the show did a multiple-segment examination of The Influencing Machine — and on Tuesday I got to join in the conversation. It was truly thrilling to sit in the studio with Brian and Brooke and discuss the book and nonfiction comics. Brian was obviously prepped about my work, because he set me up with a couple of questions which broadened the discussion to include my previous book, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. I know A.D. appreciated the plug!

They’ve archived the segment on their show page; you can listen to it here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/2011/may/24/reporting-stories-and-influencing-people-5-media/

2010 Ford C. Frick award winner Jon Miller


San Francisco Giants radio play-by-play announcer Jon Miller yesterday was declared the winner of this year’s Ford C. Frick award. That means he’s going to the Hall of Fame! As a long-time baseball fan, I couldn’t be happier with his recognition. I’ve come to appreciate quite a few radio play-by-play announcers over the years, from Hank Greenwald & Lindsay Nelson, to Vin Scully, to Phil Rizzuto & Bill White, to Ed Coleman & Bob Murphy — but I like Jon Miller the best.

Miller has an uncanny ability to illustrate the action, to bring the game to life. It’s a true art, and through him I’ve really come to appreciate it. Miller’s terrific sense of humor is his chief tool (I love his banter with the other Giants announcers, especially the end of the game wrap-ups), but I also enjoy his easy, colloquial style, his appreciation of the weather, the stadium, and the fans. Not to mention his home run and double play calls.

I especially admire Miller’s sense of perspective. No matter how serious the situation, how dire things look for the Giants, he always reminds us baseball is after all a game: entertainment, a diversion. Baseball games are long (and occasionally tedious), and Miller’s anecdotes and stories of other gigs and other games enliven what could otherwise be dull radio. (Miller also does hilarious impersonations of other announcers, including a dead-on "Vin Scully".)

I think the moment I most enjoyed was the leisurely afternoon game he was calling where he spotted a guy with a radio headset sitting in the stands next to some friends of Miller’s. I’ll never forget the hilarity as Miller described the scene and got the attention of the guy, who was, of course, listening to him on the Giants flagship station KNBR! I imagine Miller might have gotten in a bit of trouble that day for "breaking the rules," but it was a treat to listen to, and really brightened my day.

Overall, Miller conveys a strong attachment to the Giants and their players, but combines that with an uncompromising honesty. He’s no "homer," unwilling to criticize the team or point out a bad play. That’s probably the highest compliment an announcer can receive, and I think Miller has struck the perfect balance. His Hall of Fame induction is well deserved.

P.S. After becoming a Giants fan as an 11-year-old kid in 1978, I left San Francisco for New York in 1980. Despite living out here in Yankees-Mets country, I stuck with my San Francisco team through thick and thin. (And most of those were pretty thin years.) As luck would have it, I moved back to San Francisco in the summer of 1997, which is where I discovered Miller and his unique announcing style. Knowing what little I do of Miller’s career, it seems our paths were somewhat similar in that we both had spent at least parts of our childhoods in the Bay Area and then returned later in life — in 1997! Though I moved back to the East Coast in 1999, it was a great pleasure sharing those three seasons of ’97–’99 with Miller and rest of the Giants’ announcing crew. Now, in New York, I am able to listen to many Giants games online, through mlb.com. I don’t get to tune it to quite as many games as I’d like, but thanks to a DSL connection and the fact that I’m self-employed and work at home, it’s turned out surprisingly well.

A.D. on the radio

A.D., Publicity

I wanted to let you know about a couple of radio appearances I’ll be making tomorrow (Thursday, Sept. 3). If all goes according to schedule, A.D. character Leo McGovern and I will be on the syndicated NPR show "Tell Me More." Normal host Michel Martin is away, but we had the good fortune of being interviewed by long-time NPR news anchor Linda Wertheimer! In New York, "Tell Me More" is on WNC AM 820 at 2pm and again at 10pm; outside of NYC look for listings in your local area.

I recorded the "Tell Me More" interview today, and it will air tomorrow right around the time I will be appearing LIVE on another syndicated radio program: Jack Rice’s show on Air America. I’m supposed to go on air with him at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon. Let’s hope the two segments don’t overlap; it’ll be very odd to be appearing on the radio simultaneously on two different stations. I’m not sure if you can hear Rice’s show In New York, but you can listen live online; outside of NYC, you can find your local affiliate by visiting the Air America website.

Also, if the stars align, A.D. character Kwame Webster and I will be appearing on the Tavis Smiley Show this weekend. We got bumped last week by coverage of Ted Kennedy’s death, but hope to make it on the program this time around.

By the way, if it’s not obvious, I’m a huge NPR fan; I basically have it on all day while I’m drawing. Talking to Linda Wertheimer was both familiar and surreal: I’m used to hearing her voice all the time, but never actually talking to me! Anyway, Pantheon publicity maven Sara Eagle and I had a lot of fun at NPR’s New York studios. And they were nice enough to present me with a goodie-bag on my way out. Check it out:

Josh and Linda
Linda and Josh

Josh at the mic
At the mic