Friday, February 18, 2011

The King of Pain Explained. An Absence of Northern Lights.

The weather outside is, well, a pain in the neck actually. All of the paths I used to walk on have melted and then frozen, so many of them are pure ice. The snow beyond the paths has melted down and refrozen into a solid crust too -- a crust almost hard enough so you can walk on it, but, alas, not hard enough to run on. Footing is treacherous, the moonlight is beautiful, and I have not yet seen the promised Northern Lights...

For work today (and tomorrow, and I am sure Sunday) I am copyediting the galleys of the upcoming Tenth Anniversary edition of American Gods. Which is just what I was doing this time ten years ago.

Hello Neil, I was just wondering, who did you base 'King of Pain' on from "Three Septembers and a January" Is he Thomas Paine?

I find it strange, why is he incorporated into the same comic as the Emperor of America?

Thomas Paine is indeed in Sandman, but he's in "Thermidor", the issue before "Three Septembers and a January". No, the King of Pain was a real person, and is drawn as he was described, from the San Francisco of the time of Emperor Norton.

He's in the book because, well, who would you send to negotiate with an emperor but a king?

I'll try something I've not done before here, and embed a little of the book I found him in, Herbert Asbury's The Barbary Coast, in here from Google books.

And today's February pastblast request:

Hi, Neil,
Belated congratuations on your wedding! All the best to you and your lovely wife.

When you asked about the blog's greatest hits, two entries immediately came to mind. One was the Skippy show, and the other was the one in which you describe taking Maddy to school - Monday, December 05, 2005. You described something that I've since heard repeated by others (ex: a friend is married to Susan Sarandon's brother, and my friend has described Sarandon's children begging her not to go to the Oscars - "But Mom, it's so EMBARRASSING! Can't we just stay home?!"), that no matter how cool the rest of the world thinks you are, your children will always think you are a geek.

Words of wisdom :)

I just re-read the entry in question and I'm putting the whole thing up, mostly because I was astonished to discover that the NPR links from 2005 still work.

It's from

Up at the crack of dawn this morning to take Maddy to school. She doesn't like me taking her to school normally, because it's embarrassing, what with me driving her in the Mini, but today, Mary in Italy with Holly and my assistant Lorraine taking Lisa Snellings to the airport, I crawled out into the grey world and took her to school. Wearing a thick dressing gown and big slippers, because I wasn't getting dressed at that time in the morning for anyone. It was strangely poetic that the passenger door decided to freeze shut (it was minus 2 F), meaning that Maddy had the entire journey to school to confront the dread embarrassment of the idea that, on arrival at school, I would get out of the car in dressing gown and slippers and then she'd have to get out on my side. We negotiated, and instead of dropping her off outside the school, I found a discreet spot in the car-park, and she slipped out there, pretending as hard as she could that she didn't know me.

Did Talk of the Nation with Neal Conan in the afternoon -- I've always done it at KNOW in St Paul before (except for when I was in DC in September 2003), but all their studios were in use today, so I drove to Eau Claire instead, to WHWC, and did it there instead. if you want to listen to the conversation.

The first time I ever did Talk of the Nation it was around 1993, and I was on with Scott McCloud. We were meant to be talking about comics, but at the beginning of the interview, the then-host said that he'd read some of my comics (he named Death The High Cost of Living and Signal to Noise) and he didn't think that women would like them, which meant that the entire phone-in consisted of women comics-readers calling in to tell the host exactly what they thought of him.


Hi Neil,
How did you achieve that really cool effect with the blue eyes in the photo you posted in your blog?
p.s. I just finished Anansi Boys today and I really enjoyed it. Oh, and thanks for the lime. You gave it to my wife, Kat, at the Manchester signing. We've still got it and are contemplating how to preserve it.

It's an accident, but a cool one, and was only in that photo. The glasses have a slight blue tint to them anyway, but I'm facing the snow, and they're bluishly reflecting back snow, branches and a photographer in such a way as to look like eyes -- the "pupil" is reflected legs...

Hi Neil

I have looked in many places but can find no answer to the quesion "What was the lime for on your desk at the Mnachester signing?" I meant to ask at the time but blurted out something tedious instead.
These are the little things that eat away at my fruitless days, any hope of an answer?

If the message before yours is to be believed, it was for Kat.


And finally, Mitch Benn has started a podcast of funny songs. It's a lot like his old BBC Radio 7 show except, as he explains, he's allowed to put his own songs in too. (In this case, a Tom Waits style song about making a sandwich before you get drunk) and put in songs that swear. Oddly enough, most of the songs he's found on this opener are a bit sweary. It's the kind of podcast I like - I can subscribe to it in iTunes and Google Listen, and it'll be there for me when I want it. You can listen to it or download it at

And (given that I know a lot of people who make music read this blog) he's looking for funny songs for future podcasts. So if you don't like his selections on his first one, you should suggest some to him. Or, if you make music, send him some (he's at, or @mitchbenn on the Twitter).

Labels: , , ,