This year I was out and about in the N. American part of the world so people could see what someone who writes comics about scientists looks like, hear
me talk, and maybe have me sign copies of Feynman. Exciting and exhausting. (I did a quick estimate of
distances traveled, and if I had covered cities I went to during the two-week push from September 25 – October 9 at a constant rate I’d have been
moving at an average of 15 miles/hour every minute of every day. Finally, a 4-minute mile pace!)
What used to be an itinerary is now a collection of notes and impressions. Enjoy. And if I saw you while I was on the road, thank you for stopping by or hosting me or just being nice to me while I passed through.
Toronto Comics Art Festival
Wonderful, as it always is, and made more wonderful by the enthusiastic response Feynman got there. We gave away a lot of copies to folks who answered Feynman/library/Robertson Davies/Margaret Atwood/astronaut trivia questions, and it turns out that giving books away is fun. You’d think a librarian would know this…
New Orleans, LA
American Library Association
First Second worked me like a rented mule at this year’s ALA annual
conference, and I loved every minute. Well, maybe not the minutes spent
running between scheduled events, but all the rest was terrific. I got
to meet many wonderful authors — John Scalzi, Marcus Sedgwick, and
Carrie Vaughn were particularly gracious and a delight to spend time
with — and librarians as well. Too many of those to count.
signing ran about twice as long as scheduled, which was a
positively-charged shock. The panels I presented at were well attended
and fun. And I could go on about the dinner with science fiction
luminaries (and me) at Antoine’s on Friday night, or how I was booked
solid from 10am to 11pm Saturday, or the speed-dating event with the
young adult librarians on Sunday morning that was actually kind of fun,
but your eyes would glaze over before my enthusiasm ran out. So, ask me
in person some time…then I’ll be able to see your eyes and know when
to stop talking.
- I also had some mighty fine meals
(Antoine’s included) and even though New Orleans is not a haven for
vegetarians, it did okay by me, and the desserts treated me just fine.
- So. Thanks Emily and Gina and Mark and Kathleen and Ksenia and Lucy
and…well, suffice it to say that one couldn’t wish for better
corporate overlords than Macmillan/First Second/Tor.
5:30 – 7:30pm at the The Green Library, in the Bender Room on the Stanford campus – 355 Galvez St., Stanford, CA 94306
Thanks to Bob and Christina and Leland, this was a great start to the concentrated portion of the tour. We had a delightful (and delicious) lunch with a physics student group (thanks Alex!) and the talk and signing that evening was with a standing room only crowd. As expected, some folks who knew Feynman were in the audience, and they made the discussion particularly enjoyable for everyone.
Speaking of which, it’s quite possible that the renowned Donald Knuth was in the audience, since I just learned that Feynman just made his list of recently read books. Here’s what he said about it: “[V]ivid, witty, hilarious, poignant: I laughed, I cried, I learned; demonstrates the unreasonable effectiveness of a graphic novel.”
- So, thank you Dr. Knuth! Leland and I had an effective and not at all unreasonable day, and a wonderful start to the tour.
Los Alamos, NM
5:15 – 6pm at The Bradbury Science Museum – 1350 Central Avenue, Los Alamos, NM 87544
What to say about Los Alamos, Peggy Durbin of Otawi Station Bookstore, and the students at Chamisa, Mountain, and Aspen schools and the group at the Bradbury Museum and the signing and wow. Only a run-on sentence will do, apparently. I had a wonderful time there, learned a ton, met many lovely people, and even though bringing Feynman to Los Alamos was like bringing coals to Newcastle, I was welcomed, treated like a king, and would go back in an instant.
(I also had my first run of the tour, and I’m here to tell you that 3500 miles of air travel that dropped this Michigander off at 7300 feet of altitude made a four mile jaunt much less jaunty than I expected. My only consolation is that I must have built up a few extra red blood cells. At least I hope so.)
4 – 7pm at Austin Books & Comics – 5002 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78751
- I signed stuff at a comics store that rivals the best I’ve ever seen…including local favorites Vault of Midnight and Green Brain. Thanks Brandon and crew. Your support of my goofy books about science actually humbled me. And for those Austin-ites who missed the signing the following day (see below) or didn’t get a book because we sold out at the presentation (good news for the sponsors and me), Austin Books has signed copies for you. Yes, you!
6 – 7pm at Welch Hall 2.24 on the UT Austin campus – the corner of Speedway and 24th Street, Austin, TX 78712
- Stanford set the bar high for college campus visits, and UT raised it. I met with three student groups, all very smart and enthusiastic. Sacha Kopp is a marvel, and the way UT’s physics program has expanded in recent years is the proof. I was apprehensive about meeting with so many students in a classroom setting — what do I have to say to them that they don’t already know? — but it worked out great.
- And then… On to the librarians where I gave myself whiplash by not recognizing, and then fully recognizing, Jenny Flaxbart. Um, hi Jenny! They were a blast to talk to, and we switched from librarianship to comics and back many times. Just like life…and I felt at home in the setting, which was welcome after all the travel of the past five days.
- And then and then… The evening event. A team effort of the physics folks and the library, they brought in a crowd. Almost (more than?) 200 people to come listen to a guy talk about science comics on a Friday night, just after a heat wave finally broke so it was actually bearable to be outside? Who would have thought. I spoke too fast, signed too slowly, and had a ball. Apparently others did as well. So, another day which left me drained but delighted. I feel so lucky.
Noon-5pm at the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall – 601 Independence Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560
Wow. We sold everything they had in stock in about 4 hours. Many people bought 2 and 3 copies — not because they were going to be collector’s items, but for gifts. Lovely! I saw an old friend of Kat’s (Mecki) and a couple comics acquaintances as well: Mike and Warren. I also met many other fine folks, such as Christine (Xtine), Frank, Dee, and more I can’t remember now. Jim, the cashier, was very helpful, giving me a roll of quarters so I could celebrate the day’s success by doing laundry. This cost me about an hour of travel time (more actually, but I shouldn’t count the part where I was reading and failed to notice my Metro transfer stop…twice, in fact) and $5 in quarters. But at least I don’t feel like a prima donna for spending that same $5 to have one (count it, one) pair of underwear cleaned by the hotel’s service. Who does that? (I know, I know…people with even less time than I had at my disposal. And the hotel was great. But still, $5 for underwear?!)
New York, NY
6:30 – 8pm at The Way Station – 683 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11238
The fabulous Dave Roman and I read from our books. Eric almost got an egg into a milk bottle using science, but decided to do it funnier instead! They had a Tardis, and there are pictures of it (and us) on Dave’s Facebook page. Bigger on the outside, anyway. It really was bigger on the inside. Hurray. Also, excellent Mexican with Dave and Raina and Eric and so many others. Fun!
New Haven, CT
7pm – ?? at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium on the Yale campus – 355 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06109
Presentation and Q&A. People brought books, and I signed the ones I wrote!.A fun evening in a wonderful setting…we’re getting a consistent theme here! Even better, the planetarium show after my talk was great, and the hosts (Heidi and Michael) were excellent. The next day Heidi gave as early tour of the Peabody, which was doubly nice! Saw the world’s only brontosaurus, lots of other fossils, and minerals and dioramas which were quite impressive in their seamless integration between the foreground and background. A lot of artistry there.
The only odd thing was the Brownian Motion Bus System of Yale. After 6pm, apparently there are stops that aren’t stops any more, and no fixed route. For non-locals like Kat, Dave, and me, it was baffling. On the very very positive side, eat at Claire’s Corner Copia. I did, twice in 18 hours. Wonderful!
7 – 8pm at The Public Library of Brookline – 361 Washington St., Brookline, MA 02445
- The presentation and Q&A, hosted by the incomparable Robin Brenner, was mellow and fun. Got to meet her parents, her friends, see lovely Brookline, and she had a banana and sandwich for me when I arrived, knowing I’d not had time to eat. So nice. Thanks Robin, and Robin’s friend whose name begins with a D but I can’t remember the rest now because I’ve been too many places and met too many nice people in two weeks!
5:30 – 7pm at MIT 4-370 – 182 Memorial Drive, Cambridge
We got kicked out of the Stata Center. Apparently this happens all the time, since it’s so high end and hip that MIT staff schedule it frequently and hope some higher-up doesn’t bump them. We got bumped, and ended up in a classroom, which was great. I got chalk dust on my shoes and pants, we had 45-50 people, sold a bunch of books (and signed more), and overall it went well. That’s a place I really wanted it to go well, too, so, hurray. Lots of comics folks showed up (Cathy Leamy, E.J. Barnes, Maris Wicks and Joe Quinones too).
Speaking of Maris…Maris! Maris Maris Maris she took us to her (it will always be hers in my mind) aquarium and we met penguins doing catastrophic molting and petted sharks and rays and saw amazing animals and learned a ton and forgot almost all of it but it doesn’t matter because MARIS KNOWS. What an afternoon. 100% Wicks and 100% wonderful.
New York, NY
4:30 – 6:30pm at Columbia University’s Butler Library
After a quick visit to the First Second offices where we toasted each other and the absent members of Team Feynman with some bubbly, it was on to Columbia. Calista came with! (Which means besides having good company, I didn’t have to pay obsessive attention to subway stops.) It was open to the public, and the public came. The talk went well after some initial technical stumbles. People laughed, some older attendees fell asleep and snored, others asked questions, many bought books. Just as it should be. And…a surprising attendee with a close relation to Feynman himself was there. Wow. I’m delighted she didn’t introduce herself until the very end since her presence would have made me very nervous. And special thanks to Karen for organizing this.
8 – 10pm at the Bushwick Book Club – Goodbye Blue Monday, 1087 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11221
You had to be there to appreciate this, so all I can say is Holy cats: Susan had baked “build your own Feynman diagram” pretzels! Holy cats: they held a raffle for a free book (thanks Gina) and a guy who was really keen to win it won it. HOLY CATS: THE SONGS! Songs about Feynman, based on the book. Every one of which was funny in spots. Most were touching in spots. Some seemed polished and some raw and spontaneous but all, as in 100% of them, were amazing. Wow.
7-8:00pm at the French Family Science Center 2231 @ Duke – 124 Science Drive, Durham, NC 27708
A longer-than-anticipated run to and on the Al Buehler trail started my visit, and it was a pleasant, piney, and hilly trail which reminded me not at all of Dances With Dirt, which is where I had been just hours before heading to Stanford for the start of the tour. And then back to the room to iron clothes again. At this point I was surprised to notice that I don’t mind doing this much. And then… a quick slice of pizza with Randy (or at least in the company of Randy) and off to the French Science Center, named after Melinda French, who took the name Gates when she married a few years ago. It’s a nice building and auditorium. Go figure. Small-ish crowd of about 20 but all were friendly and the talk went well, I think. The snacks and reception afterward were quite good…interesting chats with folks and then out for a little while with Kevin (whom I had met at Heroes years before) and a couple of grad students, Irene and Abhijit. A great way to close.
So, the numbers so far:
9/25/2011 – 10/9/2011
6 train stations/long-distance trains
23 subway stations/trains
5 lbs lost (too busy to eat enough, I guess)
hotel rooms: 300, 28, 582, 217, 1703, 617, 708, 807, 164
~12,000 miles traveled by vehicle, ~47 miles running
And the names: Patrick, Bob, Christina, Leland, Peggy, Michele, Sacha, Jenny, David, Brandon, Bryson, Sacha, Roxanne, Emilie, Karen, Travis, Christine (Xtine), Frank, Dee, Jim, Mike, Mecki, Geo, Jenn, Dave, Raina, Heidi, Michael, Robin, D__, Diane, Cathy, E.J., Maris(!), Joe, Theresa, Rob, Calista, Gina, Colleen, Mark, John, Nichole, Ellia, Susan, Karen, Torsten, Nick, Josh, Cecil, Randy, Kevin, Irene, Abhijit, and many others. And Kat, who met up with me for a few days in the middle, and reminded me who I was.
Ann Arbor, MI
5:30 – 7pm at The Gallery @ Hatcher Graduate Library on the University of Michigan campus – 913 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
The hometown audience was very kind and fun. The questions were excellent (Tim P. started it off right!) and many people brought, or bought, books. Extra thanks to Karen, Mary, and Nick for making the evening a success!
7 – 9:30pm at Schuler Books & Music – 2820 Towne Center Blvd, Lansing, MI 48912
This was a terrific event, thanks to Whitney Spotts (who organized it), Sekhar Chivukula (who provided the real physics), Alex Azima (who set up the experiments and provided the diffraction gratings), and the Café Scientifique crowd (who asked lots of questions). What a great bookstore, too! And Dan and Debbie and Mason…thanks for coming out on a rainy night — it was great to see you.
7 – 8:30pm at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center – 1890 Buford Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108
This was part of the University’s “College
of Continuing Education” series (it had a course number and
everything!) so I talked about
science and comics with Jim Kakalios, which was great news for everybody. Even though we were competing against talks on Bob Dylan and Hitler, we had a great crowd. Special thanks go to Margy for inviting me and making everything run so smoothly, Jim K. for being smarter than me but generous about it, and everyone who came (Zander and Kevin of Big Time Attic! my brother, sister-in-law, sister, and parents! you?!) who asked questions and stuck around to get books signed. I had a ball.
2 – 4pm at the Green Brain – 13210 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, MI 48126
A swell time, and I mean it. I always enjoy visiting Dan and Katie’s store, and getting a chance to do so while talking about Feynman doubled down on the fun. I even got to do a bit of the physics bit that I’d prepared, but almost never get to use, so thanks, questioner who wanted to know more!
I forgot to bring my remote, though, and the one they had didn’t work with my laptop. So, I had to make hand gestures to indicate the next slide, and to nobody’s surprise Dan and Katie (both of whom took turns at the controls) had a hard time differentiating between my natural hand waving and the sign to move ahead. They persevered and it worked out fine. We figured out after the fact that I should have made the old-fashioned filmstrip beep sound every time instead. Live and learn.
Miami Book Fair International – [Re-written because Moveable Type ate the original version, in part because of my error. Sorry historians…this is more boring than the original.]
Anyway, Kat and I went to Miami, saw lots of authors (James Gleick! Dava Sobel! Susan Orlean! Amir! Matt Phelan! and so many others) and had a great time. It’s a wonderful festival, and you should go. As for my events…
Thursday, Nov. 17
10am – 4pm in Room 7128 (Building 7, 1st Floor)
The School of Comics and Graphic Novels: I led off, and people still stayed to listen to the rest. So that went well. Chris, Michael, Nadja, and Gene all taught me — and the teachers and librarians in the audience — a bunch. It was a great event, thanks to Carol Fitzgerald and John Hogan.
Friday, Nov. 18
10am in Batten (Building 2, 1st Floor, Room 2106)
Jim Ottaviani on Feynman: I talked about Feynman, and only Feynman! There were about 250 students in the room, and they paid attention. A miracle, or the power of comics? I say yes.
Saturday, Nov. 19
3:30pm in the Prometeo Theatre (Building 1, 1st Floor, Room 1101)
Lives Real and Imagined: On the schedule were
Michael Kupperman on Mark Twain’s Autobiography: 1910-2010; Kate Beaton
on Hark! A Vagrant; and Ray Fawkes on One
Soul. Kate wasn’t able to make it to Miami, which is a bummer for everyone concerned. But it meant this was merely well-attended and not standing room only. Michael K. brought down the house with his reading, and Ray did a low-tech introduction to his book that captivated everyone. The lights were hot, so we probably looked sweaty up there, but that’s the only down-side. I thought this went really well.
7 more days
4 more airports
2 more cabs
One last hotel room (421)
the names: Carol, John, Chris, Gene, Michael, Nadja, Matt, Dan, John, Grace, Nicole, Ray, Michael, Judi, Amir, Cheryl…and Kat, again, and (thankfully) always.
I’m glad I did it, I thank everyone who was kind to me along the way, and I’m glad it’s done and I don’t have to get on an airplane for a good, long, time.