February 26th, 2007 | Travels and Appearances
Look. I was on a panel with Aline Crumb! That’s her on the left, and Miriam Katin on the right. Miriam wrote a memoir about escaping the Nazis during her childhood in Hungary during World War II. It’s called We Are On Our Own. I haven’t read it yet, but will do so immediately. I really liked her. Aline was talking about her new book, Need More Love, which I also must get. We were on a panel called “Mothers and Daughters,” talking about writing about our families.
Man, the Comic Con was intense. I thought the Angoulême comics festival last month in France was overwhelming. But that was a spa in the desert compared to this shindig. Here. I tried to capture a brief moment for you in film. To get the full effect you should attach your computer to some industrial strength speakers and turn the volume up full blast. I was confused for a while. It wasn’t just comics. Every other person was dressed like an Imperial Storm Trooper, or Princess Leia. There were video games, World Wrestling Federation champions, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. It was a hellish melange of popular culture at its most nerve-shattering.
I know that’s very elitist of me. Or biting the hand that feeds me, or something. But man, I just can’t take all that noise and insanity.
This morning, before I had to go back to the Javits Convention Center for my last panel, I went to the Pierpont Morgan museum to see the Saul Steinberg exhibit. (Thanks to my cartoonist pal Jen Camper for telling me to do this.) Steinberg’s stuff was stunning, of course. But I found myself thinking, as I often do while visiting well-appointed museums founded by rapacious robber barons, about the argument that all these books and artifacts might never have been properly conserved if it weren’t for unfair and probably criminal business practices that exploited poor people. Is that a reasonable exchange?
I saw a show on PBS recently about Andrew Carnegie, which discussed his philanthropy. Carnegie made a vast fortune on steel and railroads in part by exploiting his workers, but then he turned around and gave away much of the profits to all those lovely Carnegie libraries all over the country, as well as to peace organizations and scientific research. Carnegie’s philanthropic principal was that, sure, he could pay his steelworkers more money. But they’d fritter it away on drinking or new clothes or ephemeral things. Instead, he’d build them libraries, which of course were infinitely more beneficial in the long run. It’s condescending and elitist and repugnant…but then I started thinking, well, jeez. Maybe he had something there.
Imagine a world without museums or libraries, where the whims of popular culture reign supreme. We’d all be living in an eternal, infernal Comic Con!
Oh. Uh…maybe we already are.