Friday, August 14, 2009

Danish Muhammad cartoons banned in the U.S.A. again!/ Spreading the light and speaking the truth about Yale University Press

The cartoons in question

[The various statements/quotes in orange are taken from a New York times article about this subject]

Yale University Press has published a new book about the Danish Muhammad cartoons, but banned its author Jytte Klausen from including the actual cartoons themselves. Writing a book about the Danish Muhammad cartoons without showing them, is like writing a persons autobiography without mentioning their name. Everything would be in the book except what the book is actually about. When published in Danish newspapers various self proclaimed Muslims took to the streets rioting and in the end at least 200 people were killed. According to John Donatich, Yale university Press director, 2 dozen experts who refuse to be identified were consulted. Their recommendation was to remove the Danish cartoons, and all images of Muhammad from the book. That's why Klausen's book: "The cartoons that shook the world" doesn't actually have any cartoons in it. Klausen: reluctantly accepted Yale University Press’s decision not to publish the cartoons. But she was disturbed by the withdrawal of the other representations of Muhammad. All of those images are widely available, Ms. Klausen said by telephone, adding that “Muslim friends, leaders and activists thought that the incident was misunderstood, so the cartoons needed to be reprinted so we could have a discussion about it.”
I understand the actions of a few doesn't represent the entirety of the Muslim word. If anyone makes excuses for the murders and riots, that would be something I wouldn't understand. No amount of explaining would enlighten me on that subject. It's not about the images being available it's about having the courage to stand in solidarity for freedom of speech, or not. Klausen went on that: the cartoon protests were not spontaneous but rather orchestrated demonstrations by extremists in Denmark and Egypt who were trying to influence elections there and by others hoping to destabilize governments in Pakistan, Lebanon, Libya and Nigeria. The cartoons, she maintained, were a pretext, a way to mobilize dissent in the Muslim world.

Mr. Donatich said that the images were still provoking unrest as recently as last year when the Danish police arrested three men suspected of trying to kill the artist who drew the cartoon depicting Muhammad’s turban as a bomb. He quoted one of the experts consulted by Yale — Ibrahim Gambari, special adviser to the secretary general of the
United Nations and the former foreign minister of Nigeria — as concluding: “You can count on violence if any illustration of the prophet is published. It will cause riots, I predict, from Indonesia to Nigeria.”
If your tired of people mocking Christianity just cut someones head off, and less people will be saying bad things about Jesus. The same principle applies whatever your religion, or sect affiliation may be. Saying a cartoon published is inciting mayhem and murder, is the same as saying a woman wearing a short skirt is inviting rape. It's the 'you asked for it' defense blaming the victims of violence, instead off actually blaming the miserable Godforsaken sons of bitches responsible. That is as evil as any wrong thing in this world.

The condescending paternalism of Yale University Press and those who share it's beliefs seems to be murders can't help their actions from inflamed passions. Bullshit. As if without those cartoons being published their would be peace in all the current hell-holes of the world. Reza Aslan a scholar and author who wrote a book about the future of Islam removed his blurb from the back cover. These are his comments: The controversy has died out now, anyone who wants to see them can see them,” he said of the cartoons, noting that he has written and lectured extensively about the incident and shown the cartoons without any negative reaction. He added that none of the violence occurred in the United States: “There were people who were annoyed, and what kind of publishing house doesn’t publish something that annoys some people?” “This is an academic book for an academic audience by an academic press,” he continued. “There is no chance of this book having a global audience, let alone causing a global outcry.” He added, “It’s not just academic cowardice, it is just silly and unnecessary.

The reasoning of the censors reminds me of Frederick Wertham and his arguments in Seduction of the Innocent: If it wasn't for comics encouraging juvenile delinquency all American children would be little angels. Long before comics came on the scene you had 'kids' who would grow up to be the future convicts of America. Long before the Danish cartoons you had bloodshed in the streets with religion as an excuse. Voltaire didn't say it Beatrice Hill did, but the sentiment is: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". Plenty of high minded progressive thinkers paid lip service to those ideas, until angry apostate mobs [These murders can't truly believe in their religion, and practice such a perversion of peace] started taking it literal. For myself I've never pretended to be that far up on the morality scale, I'm more of a enlightened self-interest kind of fellow. I can't support muzzling someone I disagree with, cause I know the same thing could happen to me. You. Anyone else. I'd rather tolerate those I didn't like than have myself, or others I agree with silenced. The slippery slope isn't a straw man fantastical creature, it's real. First the cartoons gone, then the columnists muted, and finally book burning is back in the U.S.A.

The cartoons are freely available on the Internet and can be accurately described in words, Mr. Donatich said, so reprinting them could be interpreted easily as gratuitous.He noted that he had been involved in publishing other controversial books — like “The King Never Smiles” by Paul M. Handley, a recent unauthorized biography of Thailand’s current monarch — and “I’ve never blinked.” But, he said, “when it came between that and blood on my hands, there was no question.” So once upon a time Donatich had some testicular fortitude, and after this book is published he plans on growing another pair again. I don't believe in blood libels. Unless your killing people yourself, gave the orders for it to be done, or cheer it on in your heart, their is no blood on your hands.
Yale University Press is worried publishing the pictures in a book would 'incite' even more mob violence, the defense for exclusion is their readily available on the Internet. If they're so available already, why not publish the pictures in the book written about them? Out of Internet postings, Danish newspapers, and a book published by Yale for academia -I think the book is the least likely to be read. If the publishers think their book would be the last straw to start another wave of violence -that is the definition of hubris. The reach of Yale University Press is only strong enough and long enough to censure their authors freedom of speech. I worry about the people this censorship might give ideas to -and I don't mean murdering mobs half a world away.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Zuda review Bow & Arrow Detective Agency/ Why make the Jackie-O stripper look like a dude in drag???

Bow & Arrow Detective Agency is another Zuda contestant done by George Gousis & Antonis Vavagiannis. It's art that didn't match up well with a series of horrible jokes. Here is the synopsis: MURDER! EXCITEMENT! SUSPENCE! THIS IS THE STORY OF BOW & ARROW! The story follows two detectives in a murder investigation, which leads to a huge web of international conspiracy to cover up one of religion's societies and 90's pop music secret. The noir setting mixed with surreal humor makes this a very unique tale that examines all the clich├ęs of crime fiction. It all begins on a rainy night. Right above a 50s themed strip club, a Jackie-O look alike discovers her roommate is dead. Being turned down by the police, she decides to call the local detective agency. There she meets with Philippe Arrow, the weathered old private eye forgotten by time. And Maximilian Bow, his loyal but eccentric sidekick. The two detectives, intrigued by the heinousness crime and the police's reluctance to deal with it, begin the investigation. It will lead them deeper and deeper in a world of conspiracies, murder and utter idiocy! Do you dare to follow them?

Why couldn't she have been a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like?

Doing a comic book that's invoking Woody Allen's style across mediums isn't going to win my support. This comic is unreadable in small screen, and the font doesn't look particularly nice in full view. Aside from Jackie-Oh not looking much like a stripper, it's a well done opening to a murder mystery. The genre expectations of Noir detective stories were met in the initial pages. The screen layouts were well done, with good work from the artist in making each panel increase readers interest the story for a nice cumulative effect. Case #108 would have been fine if it wasn't for the two detectives readers met on screen 3. Bow is instantly annoying in looks and dialogue which made the poor font even more horrid to look at. Arrow dressing like he's in a time warp ,with the phone to prove it, made me wonder just what era this story is set in anyway? The character designs make the unfunny jokes their spewing even worse. You can have detailed art in a comedy, but the jokes have to be funny. Humor is subjective, like everything else, but every joke/gag in this comic missed me. It is joke, after joke, after joke, in this comic -it doesn't stop. Another big problem is you have a story starring a comedy duo, but no straight man to play off of. Arrow is too weird of a anachronism, and he has a touch of the Bugs Bunny about him. Bow's character design makes him stand out like a sore thumb in this comic, and I couldn't stand his various 'comic relief' lines. The coloring is very realistically proficient, but that's a problem with a comedy. The coloring (and screen layout) on screen 6 was very well done, the dead girl looked positively gruesome. It looked too much like a Noir true to its genre to be part of a comedy hybrid played for laughs with the 'death of 1o,000 paper cuts'. The duo's outfits and figures of speech really left me wondering just where in the hell where we? Everything but the two main characters says after the '60s. Arrow looks like a reporter stereotype from the '30s, and Bow makes Jesus Christ Superstar references. The reveal of the clues were handled well on screen 7, but then that gets wrecked by a sight gag on screen 8. The comic ends with Macarena lyrics being a key clue. I guess were somewhere in at least the '90s... It doesn't add up to being Absurdest humor, it's creator induced confusion. It's hard to laugh when you don't know what in the hell your reading.

Waiting for the big reveal that might not ever come

if it's same to assume readers might have a few big questions about your comic, it behooves you to if not answer them, then address them. The creators have mentioned how Arrow got together with Bow will be revealed in the future. It could be their is some big story arc/flashback that's going to lead into the reveal of that mystery. Problem is Jackie-Oh never thought to question why Arrow is with the comic side kick Bow. The reasons didn't have to be spelled out in the 8 screen admission, just a acknowledgment by the creators readers would have these questions about the story. Just going with the flow isn't too grabbing to readers, the origin of their partnership could have bridges the gaps between art and dialogue. Bow and Arrow also tried too hard to be funny, instead of dialogue that aided the story readers got the set-up to the next joke. Even the classic 'who's on first' routine gets old after a while, and their are some really old saw slapstick in this comic. Once you reach a certain level of realism in art madcap zaniness isn't possible. In a comic the art and story have to blend together for a great read, and that didn't happen here. Based on its current rank people do seem to enjoy the type of humor here, but I never could connect enough to care what happens next.

Zuda review If you see the hills/ Anyone else disapointed they didn't jump?

If you see the hills is another Zuda contestant, its writer/artist is Sal Field. Two angsty kids hang out on a roof, but not the ending I had hoped for. Here is the synopsis: The sound of the city is a distant noise high up on the roofs, where sixteen-year-old Katja spends her afternoons in this coming-of-age teen drama. Sure, "these are the times that you will miss," but being a teenager can be a struggle as you deal with growing up and all the changes that come with it. It certainly is for Katja, who like most teenagers, hates going to school. And why wouldn't she? Most of her teachers are drunk deadbeats, and once she graduates, the chances of finding a job look slim in her hometown (or anywhere else, for that matter). Spending her spare time at home, usually fighting with her unemployed mother, just isn't very tempting. So with no other place to go, Katja and her friends Sasha, Natalya and Luka hang out on the roofs of the city; the only place where there aren't any adults around, and they’re allowed to find out who they are and what they want to be when they grow up. With only the blue sky above them, and the depressing gray city below them, Katja and her friends feel free and forget their dreary lives for a while. Here in the sun they spend almost all their free time, watching cloud shapes, pondering about life, falling in love and daydreaming about changing the world...

If you can't draw nice roofs, don't set your story on top of a building

I stopped being interesting in 'coming of age' stories, when I came of age. If a creators entire 8 screen submission is going to be on a roof top, you need to kick ass 'Gerhard styl'e when it comes to backgrounds. The city below them doesn't look depressingly gray, it actually has no personality at all. In this comic the detail was nil, their should be no excuses for having bland architecture in this story. If the city is so run down, why are all the shingles in such good repair? The lead characters are just as bland as the scenery around them. Character expressions aren't understated so much as non-existent. It's 8 screens of minimalist conversation culminating in a 'on the fritz' cell phone joke. Katja mentions someone crazy who tried to kill her, but all the two characters do is talk about it. A flashback to this might have made me interested. Then their is some Dawson's Creek style dialogue about copying math homework. Besides buildings with no character you also see character's faces with no personality. The friends both have 'cow's eyes' with no apparent awareness of anything including the dialogue their speaking. When editing out the non-existential parts of this story Sal Field cut too close to the bone. I didn't even see the clouds it talked about in the synopsis. Katja talks about her 'messed up family, how much school sucks, all their teachers being stupid jerks' -why couldn't we see any of that in this story? The main characters keeps referring to how bad the town is, but it doesn't look that bad to me as a viewer. It's a comic, the creator doesn't need to: tell, tell, tell, events can be shown, shown, shown -in the art. I'm not just going to take Katja's word for it the town is as bad as she says, it needs to be shown in the art. Maybe the creator is being ironic and the town isn't as bad as the teens think... In either case 8 screens on the roof is not selling me on this title.

No, it's not that funny

For the most part this month in Zuda you either have too much of everything, or not enough of something. Going through the 8 screens you keep expecting 'something' to happen, and it never really does. If you see the hills can't really be labeled 'decompression' because the story never seems to really begin. Katja and Sasha must have got stoned off-panel to explain the lack of emoting they display. The last panel on screen 8 switches to a long shot so readers don't even see them laughing, just a unimpressive HAHA sound effect. This comic is not my go-to genre at all, it doesn't do anything well enough to make me care about these characters. If more of what viewers read about in the synopsis was in the comic, it would have been a better read. If either character would have jumped off the roof, I would have cheered! The only thing that happened in this comic was a insipid conversation. Their should have at least been more angst in the friends interaction and less boring to read apathy. Why couldn't Sasha have at least made a pass at Katja? Sometimes you just don't get the appeal, that's what happened to me with If you see the hills.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zuda review Antique Books/ The title should have been in French, 'Livres anciens'

Antique Books is another August Zuda comic, the creator is Scott Boyce. Here is the synopsis: Nola's Antique Books was located at the dark end of Old Vic Avenue, where the trees were twisted and blocked out most of the sun, and warded off most of the foot traffic. It was the kind of shop you had to wonder about. How did it stay open? What kind of books could keep it open? And what strange people lived upstairs? Mirabel knew the answers to all those questions. She had worked her way through college there. She spent years behind that old oak counter and the place could still make the hair on the back of her neck stand up. But lately, the strange owners upstairs had gotten stranger. The old withering mother, seemingly older than anyone should ever grow to be, seemed to be slipping away. In her half-French, half-English ranting, she seemed to want to say something - a warning that never made sense. Mirabel just pushed her uneasiness down. She was at her own wit's end trying to figure out the answer to her own question: what now? College was finished, but no career yet to speak of. What now? Could the same life, job, partner be the right thing? She let all these thoughts overwhelm in her head, when the old lady finally lets go and brings her warning to life. A long buried, ravenous, vicious force was released into the world in the bedroom above Mirabels' head. Things only get worse when the security doors meant to protect the books seal her in.

It's not a foreign language comic, but I liked that element of it

If this comic would have been in color (even expressionist color), it would have got a fav from me. It doesn't look like a black and white comic. It looks like it's waiting on a colorist to step in, and make everything come together. I got a 'white out' effect from all the blank space. Interesting screen layouts still ended up having art that didn't stand out from the oppressive white background. Having a story that started and stopped didn't help this competitor either. Just when you start wondering what's going to happen next, you find out the next screen is a boring new tangent. Antique Books starts off well enough with a introduction to the lead character -Mirabel. Then on screen 3 something really interesting does happen, a well done introduction to a crazy old woman with a Cassandra complex. I liked the ranting in French and English it had that appeal of a foreign language comic. Wanting to find out what was really said pulled me into the story, and finding out later on in the screens was a good reveal. On screen 2 I enjoyed the repeated sound of "La Luna" in the panel. Two screens in and you definitely have that something creepy is going on vibe established. I don't know what the hell happened with screen 3? For some reason Boyce chose the least appealing layout possible, maybe his favorite color is white? Getting teeny, tiny, P.O.V. shots isn't the way to draw readers into the story. Stuffed Owls are a let down in creepiness compared to a French/English 'it's coming' style rant. The story stopped here for a ascetically unpleasing main character interlude. It reestablished the point that had already been made on screen 2, only doing a poorer job of it. Unless Hedwig is in hiding amongst them, Boyce needs to forget about those damn owls. After the owl reference, screen 4 again picks up the story. It actually does reveal more of Mirabel's character with a few good text box thought balloons. It goes over her typical day, and ends with a nice panel of her looking completely dejected. With Screen 5 I really enjoyed the half translation, half stream of consciousness thoughts of Mirabel. Readers also see some pretty effective facial expressions to help convey her feelings.

The art has a European flavour to it

Scott Boyce's art work reminds me of Benoit Springer and Enki Bilal. It's really hampered by the lack of color and poor layouts. Sometimes all those little panels work, sometimes they don't, -screen 6 they don't. It sets up Mirabel's problematic love life with too much white backgrounds everywhere. Either cut down on the dialogue, or cut the number of panels to make it work for readers. Too much negative space killed the effect, but seeing Mirabel reading the tea leaves was a nice nod to the other-worldly. Everything good in this comic is muted without color. The tea looks the same as all that blank space to the left of it. A slow start that seems dragged out over 8 screens will also lose reader interest. We see a monster at the end of this comic, and no it's not the reader. The creature is coming down the stairs, and Mirabel never bothers to turn around, thinking it's the old woman. Due to the lack of color it's hard to tell where the stairs stop, and the monsters body begins. It has a lot of teeth, and what looks like a elongated bicycle seat on its head. For some reason the creator chose this as the last scene cliffhanger. Why not go for more dramatic punch by having Mirabel attacked, or seeing the monster? It could have been a great chance to stop building up to something, and finally get on with the story. No color. Antique Books didn't take advantage of it's good points, and didn't make good use of the 8 screens allowed. I hope to see Scott Boyce back in Zuda, with a entry that's a better fit.