Category Urban issues

Episode 119 – Paid in Full

Virtual Memories Show:
Chester Brown – Paid In Full

“Before I did I Never Liked You I would think about those high school bullies and I would get angry about them. After doing that book, I was no longer angry. I was able to put them in context and see them as just kids. . . . I think you do see things in your life differently when you’re forced to sit down and write it out and draw it out.”

17812419456_051ab31366_zChester Brown has carved a singular path in the cartooning world, starting more than 30 years ago with his groundbreaking mini-comic, Yummy Fur. We got together during the Toronto Comic Arts Festival to talk about the evolution of his work, the response to his 2011 book, Paying for It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John, the many reasons sex workers love him, the perfect Venn diagram of his next book, how he learned to abandon the negative aspects of religion and embrace the good stuff, and more! Give it a listen!

“Ultimately I think we should be working to do away with government as much as possible, and if that means we can do away with government completely, that’d be great. I’m just sure we can get that far.”

More importantly, this episode features the Paying For It Players! Past pod-guest Nina Bunjevac joins Chester to perform a segment from Paying for It! This may be the funniest thing that’s ever happened on the Virtual Memories Show; of course, it wasn’t my idea. If we’re lucky, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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Enjoy the conversation and the performance! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Chester Brown is best known for two non-fiction graphic novels, Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (2003) and Paying for It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John (2011). The former won widespread critical acclaim for its compelling, meticulously researched portrayal of Riel, the charismatic nineteenth century Métis leader, a crucial figure in Canadian history. The book won Harvey Awards for Best Writer and Best Graphic Album and was featured on Quill and Quire‘s list of the five best Canadian non-fiction books of the year, as well as The Globe and Mail‘s list of the 100 best books of the year. Paying for It was also cited by The Globe and Mail as one of the best books of the year.

Chester Brown was born in Montreal, Canada, in May 1960, and grew up in a nearby suburb . At nineteen he moved to Toronto where, in 1983, he began self-publishing his work in photocopied mini-comics under the title Yummy Fur. Those pamphlets attracted the attention of comic book publishers and, in 1986, he began began writing and drawing for the Toronto-based Vortex Comics. The first Vortex issue of Yummy Fur sold well and Brown quit his day job and began working full time as a cartoonist. In the pages of Yummy Fur he serialized a bleakly humorous story called Ed the Happy Clown, which was published as a graphic novel in 1989. It went on to become a cult classic and established his reputation as a prominent cartoonist.

In 1991, Chester signed with the new comic book company Drawn & Quarterly. His The Playboy was released the next year. That was followed by I Never Liked You (1994), an elegant, widely respected memoir about his adolescence. Four years later, his shorter pieces were collected in The Little Man: Short Strips, 1980-1995, which covers his transition from surrealism to autobiographical work.

During the course of his research for Louis Riel, Brown became interested in property rights and libertarianism. In the 2008 and 2011 federal elections, he ran for Parliament as a member of the Libertarian Party of Canada in the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina. He lost to incumbent Olivia Chow.

Credits: This episode’s music is Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division. The conversation was recorded at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photos of Mr. Brown and Ms. Bunjevac by me.

Episode 116 – Magic City

Virtual Memories Show:
Thane Rosenbaum – Magic City

“I’m starting to think that the essays, the fiction, the long non-fiction are all coming from the same place, tapping the same resources, the same human experience, the same fears: all the things that built me, built me to write all of those things, not just one piece of it.”

sweetcoverThane Rosenbaum rejoins the show to talk about his new novel, How Sweet It Is!, the debut book from the new publisher Mandel Vilar Press! We talk about Thane’s family history from the concentration camps to ’70s Miami, his path to becoming a novelist and human rights lawyer, the relative lunacy of First and Second Amendment absolutists, the allure of print, growing up in a city without a bookstore, the fate of European Jewry, and more! Give it a listen!

“There’s a marketplace of ideas, and there’s a marketplace of assholes. It turns out they’re different marketplaces.”

We also talk about balancing fiction, non-fiction and op-ed pieces, what brought Isaac Bashevis Singer to Miami, the days when publishing was a way of life, the ways the “slippery slope” argument prevents people from taking righteous positions, why I should interview Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and more! Go listen!

Return of the Thane!

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About our Guest

Thane Rosenbaum is an essayist, law professor, and author of the novels, How Sweet It Is!, The Stranger Within Sarah Stein, The Golems of Gotham, Second Hand Smoke, and Elijah Visible. His articles, reviews and essays appear frequently in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Haaretz, Huffington Post and Daily Beast, among other national publications. He moderates an annual series of discussions on culture, world events and politics at the 92nd Street Y called The Talk Show. He is a Senior Fellow at New York University School of Law where he directs the Forum on Law, Culture & Society. He is the author of Payback: The Case for Revenge and The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What’s Right. He is the editor of the anthology, Law Lit: From Atticus Finch to the Practice: A Collection of Great Writing About the Law. His forthcoming book is entitled The High Cost of Free Speech: Rethinking the First Amendment.

Credits: This episode’s music is Goin’ Back to Florida by Lightnin’ Hopkins. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Rosenbaum’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Rosenbaum by me.

Episode 109 – The Confidence Man

Virtual Memories Show:
Walter Kirn – The Confidence Man

“He could not imagine what went on in other people’s hearts and minds any more than you and I could imagine what it’s like to live on Jupiter.”

ph-bc-bloodwilloutAuthor and journalist Walter Kirn joins the show to discuss his latest book, Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade (Liveright Press), which chronicles his relationship with con artist/sociopath “Clark Rockefeller”. We talk about how Clark hacked the social software, how attending Princeton and Oxford prepared Walt to be fooled by Clark’s lies, why he thinks Clark was actually a progenitor of the social media age, whether writing his best book was worth losing his faith in humanity, what it felt like to be the Nick Carraway to Rockefeller’s Gatsby, and more! Give it a listen!

“One thing I learned is that I might never have found out about Clark’s lies if he hadn’t made a mistake.”

We also talk about the three things that are most often smuggled into California prisons, what (if anything) can be done to pre-empt sociopaths, the experience of getting trolled by a convicted murderer, the advice he gleaned from Joan Didion before starting up his Great American Novel, what he thinks of New York under DeBlasio, what brought him to Montana and what keeps him there, and where the name “Virtual Memories” comes from!

Walter Kirn on The Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Walter Kirn is the author of eight books and an e-book. His most recent is Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, a memoir of his friendship with the con artist and murderer, Clark Rockefeller. His other books include Up in the Air, Thumbsucker (both of which have been made in to feature films), Mission to America, My Mother’s Bible (e-book), The Unbinding, She Needed Me, My Hard Bargain, and Lost in the Meritocracy. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, GQ, New York, and Esquire, among other publications.

Credits: This episode’s music is The Secret Silken World by David Baerwald. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Kirn’s apartment on a Zoom H2n digital recorder, because the XLR cables I bought from Monoprice turned out to be crap. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Kirn by me.

Podcast – Creativity on Demand

Virtual Memories Show:
Kaz –
Creativity on Demand

“When I started Underworld, there were a lot of comics coming out that were autobiographical and depressing; anything but funny. I decided I was gonna be a little different. I was gonna be the Ernie Bushmiller of underground comics.”

Kaz joins The Virtual Memories Show

From Rahway to Hollywood, by way of Underworld! Kaz joins the show to talk about his career(s) as a cartoonist, animator and artist. We talk about how he fell in love with the collaborative aspect of animation (and how the SpongeBob Squarepants sausage gets made), how the world caught up to the outrageous depravity of his Underworld comic strip, how Art Spiegelman taught him to be an artistic magpie, how he may have made Mark Beyer cry, how it felt to show his parents his work in an issue of Al Goldstein’s Screw, how he learned to make a story turn funny, and what it’s like to supply creativity on demand, and more! Give it a listen!

“I didn’t make any distinction between getting published in Swank and getting published in The New Yorker.”

Kaz joins The Virtual Memories Show

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About our Guest

Kaz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and started drawing comics for Art Spiegelman’s Raw Magazine while still in art school. As an illustrator and cartoonist he’s contributed to many magazines over the years (from Entertainment Weekly to The New Yorker) and started his weekly comic strip, Underworld, in The New York Press. There have been 5 published Underworld collections and editions published around the world. In 2001 Kaz joined the crew of SpongeBob SquarePants as a writer and storyboard director. That lead to his work on Cartoon Network’s Camp Lazlo, where he won an Emmy for writing, and Disney’s Phineas and Ferb where he was nominated this year for an Emmy. Kaz is currently working in Disney TV development and in January will rejoin the crew of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Squarepants as a staff writer. The end of 2015 will see Fantagraphics publish a hardcover collection of Underworld comics titled The Book Of Underworld.

Credits: This episode’s music is Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles by Captain Beefheart. The conversation was recorded in Kaz’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photos of Kaz by me.

The Quotable Wayne White

Ready to record

When I make a post for a new podcast, I usually include a quote or two from the guest. In Wayne White’s case, there were a whole lot of good quotes. I didn’t want to put them all in that post, so here’s a bunch of ’em:

  • “Success really messes with your ego.”
  • “I think most really famous people — politicians and movie stars — are sorta insane.”
  • “Art has to show a level of confidence, or no one will want to look at it.”
  • “The movie has given me the opportunity to do bigger and better things, but as far as a psychological concept that I can use in my art, I’m still trying to figure out a way to make work that expresses what I’ve been through. It was quite a unique experience, being in the spotlight. I’d like to do some work that shares that story.”
  • “Getting on stage and performing is just another art project to me. It’s a way of manipulating people; that’s what art does. It was just another way of getting over an emotion, or a laugh, or an idea, just like a drawing or a painting does.”
  • “Sometimes it looks like I’m going for the laughs, but I’m going for connection, for the emotion. All artists are. What else is there, when you’re looking at a piece of art?”
  • “There’s something in the air out here in LA, with the big words in the landscape, the big open plain with the big monumental something sticking out of it.”
  • “I gloss over my art and say, ‘I just go for the laughs and I’m just a plain old guy, and I like to entertain people,’ because it’s funny and I don’t like to get too serious about it. But there are a lot of thorny issues with it and a lot of subtleties. It looks like I’m just defacing a painting and being funny, but I’m not. There are a million subtle things going on and that’s what makes it art.”
  • “I’ve always loved cartoonists, like Mad magazine. Cartooning informs my work, big time.”
  • “Cartooning is the hardest craft I ever did, because it’s no-shit-everything-has-to-work. With a painting, you can fudge things. Everything in a cartoon has to work, like a car, or it won’t run. I learned a lot about craft and discipline from cartooning, way more than painting.”
  • “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had three separate careers: freelance illustrator, then set designer, puppetteer and animator, and now fine artist. I just bluffed my way into every one of ’em!”
  • “Like Red Grooms, I travel to a city, I hire local young artists and we build cool stuff.”
  • “Like my work, Jeff Koons is a similar kind of notion: Can I just hit it on the head and still make it art? Can it just be a complete, dumb, big idea that someone can get in a second and still be art?”
  • “To me, I like the hand-made, the feeling that the artist made it himself. That’s where the human smell comes in. . . . Some people would say, ‘soul’ or ‘spirit,’ but I like to use the word ‘smell’.”
  • “I’m a frustrated writer; that’s why I do the word-paintings. Of course I write poems that I don’t show anybody. I’ve written lyrics that I’ve pitched to my musician friends, but they’re not interested.”
  • “To live in New York, you have to love the street. The street is your front yard. That’s where you live most of the time. I got tired of that street energy.”
  • “My favorite thing to do is just to draw. That’s where it all comes from, and that’s what gave me the confidence to bluff my way into things, because I could draw. It’s the default position for me, my core.”

Podcast – Success is Embarrassing

Virtual Memories Show:
Wayne White and Mimi Pond –
Success is Embarrassing

“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had three separate careers: freelance illustrator, then set designer, puppetteer and animator, and now fine artist. I just bluffed my way into every one of ’em.'” –Wayne White

Wayne & LBJ

Artist Wayne White joins the show to talk about how his life and art have changed since he starred in the documentary Beauty is Embarrassing (which, if you haven’t seen it, go do so now now NOW!). We talk about the allure and absurdity of hubris, how much of the movie-Wayne maps onto the real version, how LA influenced his word-paintings, how he balances art and commerce, what happens to the giant puppets that he makes for installations, what he thinks of Jeff Koons, why he’s moving toward art-as-public-spectacle, what art form he’s dying to get back to, what his next big project is, when he’s gonna get rid of that beard, and more! Give it a listen!

“Cartooning is the hardest craft I ever did, because it’s no-shit-everything-has-to-work. With a painting, you can fudge things. Everything in a cartoon has to work, like a car, or it won’t run. I learned a lot about craft and discipline from cartooning, way more than painting.” –Wayne White

But first, we have an interview with Wayne’s wife, Mimi Pond! I interviewed Mimi last May (go listen to it!) at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, shortly after the release of her graphic memoir, Over Easy. This time around, we talk about the success of the book, the surprises of the book tour, how the sequel’s progressing, how it felt to win a PEN Center USA Literary Award, and more! (There are also some overlapping questions, and I thought you guys might dig hearing their different perspectives on topics like LA vs. NYC, and becoming empty-nesters.)

“In LA, it’s the law that you must be engaged in writing a screenplay with your hairdresser, pool boy, personal trainer, life coach, dog walker, or yoga instructor.” –Mimi Pond

Mimi also at the drawing table

Enjoy the conversations! Check out more pix from my visit to their home! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guests

Wayne White is an American artist, art director, illustrator, puppeteer, and much, much more. Born and raised in Chattanooga, Wayne has used his memories of the South to create inspired works for film, television, and the fine art world. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, Wayne traveled to New York City where he worked as an illustrator for the East Village Eye, New York Times, Raw Magazine, and the Village Voice. In 1986, Wayne became a designer for the hit television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and his work was awarded with three Emmys. After traveling to Los Angeles with his wife, Mimi Pond, Wayne continued to work in television and designed sets and characters for shows such as Shining Time Station, Beakman’s World, Riders In The Sky, and Bill & Willis. He also worked in the music video industry, winning Billboard and MTV Music Video Awards as an art director for seminal music videos including The Smashing Pumpkins’ Tonight, Tonight and Peter Gabriel’s Big Time.

More recently, Wayne has had great success as a fine artist and has created paintings and public works that have been shown all over the world. His most successful works have been the world paintings featuring oversized, three-dimensional text painstakingly integrated into vintage landscape reproductions. The message of the paintings is often thought-provoking and almost always humorous, with Wayne pointing a finger at vanity, ego, and his memories of the South. Wayne has also received great praise for several public works he has created, including a successful show at Rice University where he built the world’s largest George Jones puppet head for a piece called ‘Big Lectric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep.’ He was the subject of Neil Berkeley’s 2012 documentary, Beauty is Embarrassing.

Mimi Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer. She’s created comics for the LA Times, Seventeen Magazine, National Lampoon, and many other publications. Her TV credits include the first full-length episode of The Simpsons, and episodes for the shows Designing Women and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. She lives in LA with her husband, the artist Wayne White. She is currently working on the sequel to her 2014 graphic memoir, Over Easy.

Credits: This episode’s music is I’m Ragged but I’m Right by George Jones. The conversation was recorded in Wayne and Mimi’s dining nook on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photos of Mr. White and Ms. Pond by me.

Podcast – Our Lady of Organized Vituperation

Virtual Memories Show:
Mary Fleener –
Our Lady of Organized Vituperation

“I was so excited to get an issue of Weirdo in the mail. I ran up my driveway and saw my neighbor and said, ‘Look! I got a letter from Robert Crumb!’ And he said, ‘Who’s that?’ And I thought, ‘Here’s my introduction to the mainstream appreciation of underground comics.'”

lotpViva Cubismo! Mary Fleener joins the show to talk about her career in cartooning, her love/hate relationship with LA (mostly hate now, but there was a little love in the early days), the Zora Neale Hurston story that made a cartoonist out of her, the story of how Matt Groening accidentally derailed her career, her past-life regression while attending the King Tut exhibition in 1978, the roots of her Cubismo comics style, the joys of simplifying her life, the new book she’s working on, the horrors of The Comics Journal‘s message board, and more! Give it a listen!

“When I was going to college, you’d pass the guys selling ‘Muhammad Speaks,’ then you’d run into the Hare Krishnas, then there’d be the La Raza guys, then the Jesus freaks. Everything was in flux. Everybody was getting in cults. Everyone was either asking you for money or trying to convert you.”

FLEENER!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Mary Fleener was born in Los Angeles when smog was at an all time high, Hollywood was still glamorous, and every woman’s ambition was to own a mink coat. Inherited good art genes from her mother and never wanted to do anything else. A collection of her comics was published in 1994 by Fantagraphics as Life of the Party. Her Illustration work has appeared in The SD Reader, OC Weekly, The Village Voice, SPIN, Guitar Player, Musician, and Entertainment Weekly, as well as projects like The Guitar Cookbook, Weird Tales of the Ramones (CD box set), Star Time (the James Brown CD box set), Carlsbad Museum of Making Music – “Hands on the Future” exhibit, and CD covers for The Insect Surfers and Buddy Blue. Her paintings have been exhibited at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Track 16, David Zapt Gallery, Laguna Beach Art Museum Annex, LACE (Los Angeles), COCA (Seattle), Southwestern College, Patricia Correia Gallery, Sushi Gallery and Ducky Waddle’s Emporium. She also enjoys making hand-built ceramics and wheel thrown functional pieces that she glazes and fires in her own kiln. She enjoys painting on velvet, that which we all consider the King of Kitsch, but which also makes her color and “cubismo” style of drawing even more dramatic and mysterious on the plush background of black velvet. She lives is in Encinitas, CA, with her husband, a dog, a cat, and lots of stringed instruments. They have a band called The Wigbillies.

Credits: This episode’s music is Boomcubism by Brian Eno. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Fleener’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photos of Ms. Fleener by me.

Podcast – Slow Learner

Virtual Memories Show:
Jules Feiffer –
Slow Learner

“There are certain things that come up when you age, the abandonment of some old things and the incredible opportunity to do new things. . . . I discovered at the age of 80 I could do what I couldn’t do at 16, 20 or 30.”

Jules & Lynda's selfie

Lynda Barry takes a selfie with Jules Feiffer at SPX 2014

Jules Feiffer’s professional cartooning career began in 1945 and he’s still going strong. He achieved Mt. Rushmore status as a cartoonist, satirist, playwright and screenwriter, and his new book, the 150-page graphic novel Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel (Liveright/WW Norton), signals both a new phase in his body of work and a return to the films noir (and comics and romans noir) that first inspired him. We talked about the new book, why he left political satire behind, how it felt to ‘learn to draw’ in his 80s, why we both hate the term “graphic novel”, how Waiting for Godot made him reconsider the possibilities of a 6-panel comic strip, what he learned about storytelling while working on a long-form comic, and more! Give it a listen!

“People like Lenny Bruce and William Steig gave me permission. And once they give you permission you walk through that door that they opened and then it’s up to you to go further. If I’ve played a role doing that, that’s great.”

Feiffer sings!

Jules Feiffer and a page from his next book

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About our Guest

Jules Feiffer‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip ran for 42 years in the Village Voice and 100 other papers. He is the author of a wide range of additional creative work, including the Obie award-winning play Little Murders, the screenplay for Carnal Knowledge, and the Oscar-winning short animation Munro. Other words include the plays Knock Knock (a Tony award nominee), and Grown Ups; the novels Harry, The Rat with Women and Ackroyd; the screenplays Popeye and I Want To Go Home (winner of the best screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival); the memoir Backing Into Forward; the children’s books The Man in the Ceiling, Bark, George, and Rupert Can Dance; and the illustrations for Which Puppy? by his daughter Kate and the children’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. His latest book is Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel (Liveright/WW Norton).

Credits: This episode’s music is Retrospective (Duke Ellington), Passionella Prelude, and I Yam What I Yam (Robin Williams). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Feiffer’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photos of Mr. Feiffer (and Lynda Barry) by me.

Podcast – Look Day

Virtual Memories Show:
Sam Gross – Look Day

“One thing I tell young cartoonists: a magazine is like going out on a date, and a book is like getting married. If you’re going out on a date, you don’t need a lawyer. If you’re doing a book, you get a lawyer.”

samgross

Sam Gross’ gag panels warped me at a young age (see above), so it was an honor to get him on mic to talk about his nearly six-decade cartooning career. We sat down in his studio to discuss the serious business of gags, how he went from drawing a Saul Steinberg nose to drawing a Sam Gross one, how he continues in his 80s to come up with a week’s worth of new gags for Look Day, how he once got a Vanishing New York tour from Charles Addams, how he revels in the “humor of the handicapped”, and the magazine he misses the most. Give it a listen!

“I don’t know where I’m gonna go next. I’m not a finished product.”

Sam Gross on the Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Sam Gross has been publishing cartoons since the 1950s. His cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker since 1969. He served as the cartoon editor of National Lampoon and Parents magazines, and was president of the Cartoonists Guild. He has published numerous collections, including I Am Blind and My Dog is Dead. You can buy reproductions of his art at the Conde Nast Store.

Credits: This episode’s music is Funny Little Frog by Belle & Sebastian. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Gross’ studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Gross by me.

Podcast – A Sense of Someplace To Go

Virtual Memories Show: Dmitry Samarov –
A Sense of Someplace To Go

“The great [storytelling] advantage to driving a cab is that you have the back of your head to the person. It makes them open up in a way that, if they saw my face, I don’t think they could have. Then they would have had to reckon with me as a person, and I really wasn’t a person to most of them.”

This podcast often hangs out at the intersection of art and commerce, so I was happy when Dmitry Samarov drove up in a cab with his sketchbook!* Dmitry recently published Where To?: A Hack Memoir (Curbside Splendor Press), his second book of essays and art about his experiences behind the wheel of a taxi in Chicago and Boston. We talk about that job vis-a-vis his fine arts background, his compulsion to chronicle his working life in words and images, how he made the transition from ‘zine to blog to book deal, how John Hodgman helped him get his break into publishing, what it’s like to run a website built in 2004, why he fled Parsons School of Design after one semester, and how it felt to leave the cab-driving world behind.

Dmitry Samarov Taxis in to The Virtual Memories Show

We also talk about his family’s emigration from the Soviet Union when he was a child (and his affinity for The Americans), what it was like to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with Chris Ware, and why he hates Boston with the passion of a thousand burning suns. Most importantly, we find out what an appropriate tip is for a cab-ride! That’s worth the price of admission by itself!

* Actually, I drove out to Newark Airport to pick up Dmitry on his book tour

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Dmitry Samarov was born in Moscow, USSR, in 1970. He emigrated to the United States with his family in 1978. He got in trouble in first grade for doodling on his Lenin Red Star pin and hasn’t stopped doodling since. After a false start at Parsons School of Design in New York, he graduated with a BFA in painting at printmaking from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993. Upon graduation he promptly began driving a cab — first in Boston, then after a time, in Chicago. He is the author of two books, Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab, and Where To?: A Hack Memoir. You should go watch five teaser clips of the Chicago Hack series (dir. John McNaughton), which use Dmitry’s art and writing for a half-hour scripted TV series. You should also check out his paintings, and maybe buy some.

Credits: This episode’s music is A Nice Piece For Orchestra by Bernard Herrmann (from the Taxi Driver soundtrack, duh). The conversation was recorded at Chez Virtual Memories on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Samarov by me.

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