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A lot of cartoonists—and many blogs, ahem—have taken to PAtreon as a means to finance the creation of comics. There are quite a few (a round up post is called for, maybe later this week) and Patreon doesn’t make it clear who makes the most, the way Kickstarter does, but Jason Shiga recently hit $1000 a month for his Ignatz winning webcomic Demon. Given his analytic background, there’s much of that in the post, but here’s an excerpt:
The business press and general media often lament that firm executives are exhibiting “short-termism”, succumbing to the pressure by stock market investors to maximize quarterly earnings while sacrificing long-term investments and innovation. In our new article in the Socio-Economic Review, we suggest that this complaint is partly accurate, but partly not.
What seems accurate is that the maximization of short-term earnings by firms and their executives has become somewhat more prevalent in recent years, and that some of the roots of this phenomenon lead to stock market investors. What is inaccurate, though, is the assumption that investors – even if they were “short-term traders” – would inherently attend to short-term quarterly earnings when making trading decisions. Namely, even “short-term trading” (i.e. buying stocks with the aim to sell them after few minutes, days, or months) does not equal or necessitate “short-term earnings focus”, i.e., making trading decisions based on short-term earnings (let alone based on short-term earnings only). This means that in case the media observes – or executives perceive – that firms are pressured by stock market investors to focus on short-term earnings, such a pressure is illusionary, in part.
The illusion, in turn, is based on the phenomenon of “vociferous minority”: a minority of stock investors may be focusing on short-term earnings, causing some weak correlation between short-term earnings and stock price jumps / drops. But the illusion is born when this gets interpreted as if most or all investors (i.e., the majority) would be focusing on short-term earnings only. Alas, such an interpretation may, in the dynamic markets, lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy – whereby an increasing number of investors join the vociferous minority and focus increasingly on short-term earnings (even if still not the majority of investors would focus on short-term earnings only). And more importantly – or more unfortunately – firm executives may start to increasingly maximize short-term earnings, too, due to the (inaccurate) illusion that the majority of investors would prefer that.
A final paradox is the role of the media. Of course, the media have good intentions in lamenting about short-termism in the markets, trying to draw attention to an unsatisfactory state of affairs. However, such lamenting stories may actually contribute to the emergence of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Namely, despite the lamenting tone of the media articles, they are in any case emphasizing that the market participants are focusing just on short-term earnings. This contributes to the illusion that all investors are focusing on short-term earnings only – which in turn may lead a bigger majority of investors and firms to actually join the minority’s bandwagon, in the illusion that everyone else is doing that too.
Should the media do something different, then? Well, we suggest that in this case, the media should report more on “positive stories”, or cases whereby firms have managed to create great innovations with a patient, longer-term focus. The media could also report on an increasing number of investors looking at alternative, long-term measures (such as patents or innovation rates) instead of short-term earnings.
So, more stories like this one about Rolls-Royce – however, without claiming or lamenting that most investors are just wanting “quick results” (i.e., without portraying cases like Rolls-Royce just as rare exceptions). Such positive stories could, in the best scenario, contribute to a reverse, self-fulfilling prophecy – whereby more and more investors, and thereafter firm executives, would replace some of the excessive focus on short-term earnings that they might currently have.
It’s a rite of autumn —The Walking Dead’s new season debuts on AMC, and Walking Dead graphic novels start selling like crack again. Here’s the feed from the Amazon graphic novels best seller’s list. Note that The Oatmeal has sold a gazillion copies, and Roz Chast is back in the top ten following her National Book Award shortlisting.
Per the usual pattern, Walking Dead GN sales will slow when the 8 episode season ends, and pick right back up when it returns next year. I know Robert Kirkman has made a buttload of money from the hit TV series, but he, Charlie Adlard and Tony Moore have also made a buttload from the books alone, given the Image deal.
(BTW, for long term Amazon trend analysis I refer you to Beat contributor David Carter’s weekly blog on the topic, which someday I will feature here every week. Lots of other interesting things on his site, as well.)
Open access (OA) publishing stands at something of a crossroads. OA is now part of the mainstream. But with increasing success and increasing volume come increasing complexity, scrutiny, and demand. There are many facets of OA which will prove to be significant challenges for publishers over the next few years. Here I’m going to focus on one — licensing — and discuss how the arguments seen over licensing in recent months shine a light on the difference between OA as a movement, and OA as a reality.
Today’s authors face a number of conflicting pressures. Publish in a high impact journal. Publish in a journal with the correct OA options as mandated by your funder. Publish in a journal with the correct OA options as mandated by your institution. Publish your article in a way which complies with government requirements on research excellence. They are then met by a wide array of options, and it’s no wonder we at OUP sometimes receive queries from authors confused as to which OA option they should choose.
One of the most interesting aspects of the various surveys Taylor & Francis (T&F) have conducted on open access over the past year or two has been the divergence between what authors say they want, and what their funders/governments mandate. The T&F findings imply that, whilst there is generally a shared consensus as to what is meant by accessible, there are divergent positions and preferences between funders and researchers as to what constitutes reasonable reuse. T&F’s surveys always reveal the most restrictive licences in the Creative Commons (CC) suite such as Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivs (CC BY-NC-ND) to be the most popular, with the liberal Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence coming in last. This neither squares with the mandates of funders which are usually, but not always, pro CC BY, or author behaviour at OUP, where CC BY-NC-ND usually comes in a resounding third behind CC BY and CC BY-NC where it’s available. It’s not a dramatic logical step to think that proliferation may lead to confusion, but given the conflicting evidence and demand, and potential for change, it’s logical for publishers to offer myriad options. At the same time elsewhere in the OA space we have a recent example of pressure to remove choice.
In July 2014, the International Association of Science, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) released their ‘model licences’ for open access. These were at their core a series of alternatives for, and extensions to the terms of the established CC licences. STM’s new addition did not go down well in OA circles, as a ‘Global Coalition’ subsequently called for their withdrawal. One of the interesting elements of the Coalition’s call was that, in amongst some very valid points about interoperability, etc. it fell back on the kind of language more commonly associated with a sermon to make the STM actions seem incompatible with some fundamental precepts about the practice of science: “let us work together in a world where the whole sum of human knowledge… is accessible, usable, reusable, and interoperable.” At root, it could be interpreted that the Coalition was using positive terminology to frame an essentially negative action – barring a new entry to the market. Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion on the new STM licences. We don’t have any plans to adapt them at OUP (we use CC). But it was odd and striking that rather than letting a competitor to the CC status quo exist and in all likelihood fail, some serious OA players felt the need to call for that competitor’s withdrawal.
This illustrates one of the central challenges of the dichotomy of OA. On one hand you have OA as a political movement seeking to replace commercial interests with self-organized and self-governed communities of interest – a bottom-up aspiration for the common good, often suggested to be applied in quite restricted ways, usually adhering to the Berlin, Budapest, and Bethesda declarations. On the other you have OA as a top-down pragmatic means to an end, aiming to improve the flow of research and by extension, economic performance. The OA pragmatist might suggest that it’s fine for an author to be given the choice of liberal or less liberal OA licences, as long as they meet the basic criteria of being free to read and easy to re-use. The OA dogmatist might only be satisfied with the most liberal licence, and with OA along the terms they’ve come to believe is the correct interpretation of their core precepts. The danger of this approach is that there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ and, as can be seen from the language of the Global Coalition in responding to the STM licences, that can very easily translate into; “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”
Against this backdrop, publishers find themselves in a thorny position. Do you (a) respect author choice, but possibly at some expense of simplicity, or do you (b) offer fewer options, but potentially leave members of the scholarly community feeling dissatisfied or disenfranchised by your standard option?
Oxford University Press at the moment chooses option (a), as we feel this is the more inclusive way to proceed. To me at least it feels right to give your customers choice. But there is an argument for streamlining processes, avoiding confusion, and giving users consistent knowledge of what to expect. Nature Publishing Group (NPG), for example, recently announced that as part of their move to full OA for Nature Communications they would be making CC BY their default, and only allowing other options on request. This is notable in as much as it’s a very strong steer in a particular direction, while not ruling out everything else. NPG has done more than most to examine the choice issue – changing the order of their licences to see what authors select, sometimes varying charges, etc. Empirical evidence such as this is essential for a viable and credible resolution to the future of OA licensing. Perhaps the Global Coalition should have given a more considered and less emotional response to the STM licences. Was repudiation necessary in a broad OA community which should be able to recognise and accept different variants of OA? It would be a shame if all the positive impacts of open access for the consumer come hand in hand with a diminution of scholarly freedom for the producer.
The opinions and other information contained in this blog post and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.
Ever wonder what categories are the most popular in graphic novels? Think it’s all manga and superheroes? Well, as you can see on the chart to the left, it’s fairly diverse. How did I come up with these percentages? Simple… First, there’s this group called BISG. They make sure all the standards that booksellers and…
Ever wonder what categories are the most popular in graphic novels?
Think it’s all manga and superheroes?
Well, as you can see on the chart to the left, it’s fairly diverse.
How did I come up with these percentages?
First, there’s this group called BISG. They make sure all the standards that booksellers and publishers use work. One thing they standardize are called BISAC subject codes. These help booksellers to categorize what they sell, either online or onshelf.
Books In Print is a big database run by R.R. Bowker, who also manage EANs and ISBNs for Anglo-American publishers. If it’s got an EAN, they list it. Even for the rinky-dink publishers you’ll never hear of.
With a little trial and error, and hacking of URLs, I figured out a way to search BISACs for specific years. That’s a work in progress, and I’ll publish that data at a later date.
But it’s quite easy to search for EVERYTHING by a specific BISAC code, regardless of date.
Here are the numbers for the above chart:
TOTAL Everything Else
Some caveats: BISACs are assigned by publishers. A title may have more than one BISAC subject code. A title may have a “graphic novel” BISAC, yet not be a graphic novel. (For example, a Golden Book easy-to-read Spider-Man story book.) Version 2 of the BISAC subject codes dates to November 1997, which predates the modern era which started in 1999 with the importation of Pokemon titles by Viz Media.
(Library subject headings are just as muddled. Some titles use “Comic books, strips, etc.”; some use “Graphic novels”. But if we standardize the search terms, one can still study trends.)
Note that graphic novels for kids outnumber superhero titles for a general trade audience…
Manga’s numbers have decreased over the years (2013, Manga only had 14% of the titles), and “everything else” has grown (36% in 2013).
What’s it all mean? Stay tuned… I need to fill in the years from 1970 to 2011.
Here’s the raw data for each BISAC subject I could find, including ones since deactivated. (Yes, they still show up…)
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / General
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Anthologies
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Comics & Cartoons
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Educational
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Graphic Novels / General
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Crime & Mystery
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Erotica
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Fantasy
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Horror
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / General
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Media Tie-In
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Science Fiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Superheroes
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Romance
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Crime & Mystery
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Erotica
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Fantasy
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / LGBT
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Historical Fiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Horror
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Media Tie-In
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Nonfiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Romance
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Science Fiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Sports
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Yaoi
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Religious
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / History & Criticism
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Literary
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Nonfiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Contemporary Women
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / LGBT
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Historical Fiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Religious
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Adaptations *
ART / Techniques / Cartooning
HUMOR / Form / Comic Strips & Cartoons
HUMOR / Comic Books, Strips, etc.
JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Christian / Comics & Graphic Novels
JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / General
JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / Manga
As you can imagine, we’re not the only website counting down Halloween month. Chris Schweizer, comics educator and the man behind the delightful Crogan’s Adventures series from Oni, is posting a mostly daily monster picture and here’s today’s the Florida Swamp Ape. You can see the rest in the link like this Ghost Rider in the Sky:
Renowned horror/fantasy artist Templesmith has been experimenting with hand-painted covers for several books, and this is an original one of a kind oil painting done on a copy of The Walking Dead Volume 1. The painting was varnished, and I don’t know if you can read the book inside, but it seems to me that this is a pretty darned sweet collectible…especially for Halloween.
Today we stroll down memory lane to 2005. People were going to theaters to see Anakin lose his limbs in Revenge of the Sith, the last Star Trek movie wrapped up, and Harry Pottermania was well underway, And four young comedians were making us laugh on SNL as repertory players, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig.
At Marvel, House of M was all the rage, as Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel explored a world drawn the imagination of the very powerful mutant known as The Scarlet Witch…events which would spill over the Marvel U for years to come.
In this image by Jorge Molina, Magneto, Wolverine, Gambit, The Hulk Psylocke, Ms. Marvel and that darned Spider-Man are all battling…something. And you’ll notice that Magneto is battling a raging…something else entirely.
While nerdlebrity comics lines are common now—from Shia LaBeouf to DMC—a pioneer in this regard and still one of the best in terms of quality is Burlyman Comics, which is owned by the Wachowskis, the directing siblings behind The Matrix, the much beloved Speed Racer and the upcoming Jupiter Ascending. The company has been around for about a decade and launched about a decade ago with Doc Frankenstein by the Wachowskis and Matrix storyboard artist Steve Scroce, and Shaolin Cowboy by the all around genius Geof Darrow. Burlyman put out 7 issues of Shaolin Cowboy before fading away—the seriesfollow the adventures of a nameless Shaolin and his mule in an apocalyptic American West—a concept that seems maybe too simple until you know that Darrow is drawing it with all his hallucinogenic detail. The tagline “A buddy picture with a body count” explains it all.
When Burlyman more or less disappeared, Dark Horse picked up the series, starting last year. But now the original 7 issues, long out of print, are coming back in a collected edition…from Burlyman. According to pr, the issue includes “ass-ologues by the Wachowskis” and many other extras—including art and alternative covers (what they used to call variants‚ by Moebius (Jean Giraud), Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan, Ricardo Delgado, Scott Gustafson, And John Severin. At a mere $19.99 it sounds like a bargain.
Retailers note, the FOC on this is the 23rd, order code OCT141229. On sale date is December 3rd.
And in case you need any more persuasion here’s a preview—to say it is mind-boggling does not do it justice.
Frederic Wertham’s name is akin to the devil incarnate in the comics world. Wertham was one of the ringleaders of the anti comics movement in the early 1950’s with his book Seduction of the Innocent. Carol Tilley, scholar, professor and librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has written extensively about the subject gave a panel on Thursday morning at NYCC under the auspices of the American Library Association.
Dr. Fredric Wertham Reading Shock
These are smart people and if you think you’re entitled to geek status, these people not only know their comics and love them but can also place them within the context of history and culture. And if your second thought is—oh librarians, and yawn…dull—far from it. Carol is not only smart and funny, uses lots of interesting visuals but her talks are also lively and thought provoking.
In looking at what we’ve lost Carol pointed out that in the early 1950’s about 95% of elementary age kids were reading comics. Teens and adults were also reading comics. From the moment comics arrived on the scene in the early 1930’s kids loved them and the titles proliferated. Once Superman started throwing villains and automobiles around the number of genres and titles became prolific. After World War II comics became more mature and there were 600 new titles in a decade. That’s a lot of comics.
Wertham’s campaign against comics was part of the death knell that led to the much smaller percentage of kids reading comics today. Comparing the smaller percentage of 7 million in sales today to over 1 billion in the early 1950’s tells the tale. That the prejudice against comics led to the reduced readership is important for everyone in the industry to understand.
Carol not only has done research in the usual avenues but has also researched specific teenagers from that period who responded to Dr. Wertham’s message of anti-comics. She gave some fascinating examples of kids crusading against racial stereotypes and a young woman who set up a lending library for comics during this period as well as the cogent arguments presented by teens who wrote to Dr. Wertham in response. Carol pointed out that social media is nothing new since comics have long supported social media through the fan letters printed in comic books.
Carol Tilley: What We’ve Lost, Where we’re headed.
One of the major results of Carol’s scholarship and research is the fact that Wertham fabricated some of his statistics in his zeal to eradicate comics. In other words there was no necessity for the Comics Code, which was in existence until 2011.
From the very beginning of comic books librarians used the image of Superman urging kids to read. Today’s librarians celebrate comics because they encourage children to read. This is one of the basic foundations of the inception of early comics. Carol’s challenge to the librarians in the group was to point out that in the Wertham scare the ALA did nothing and to ask them what would they do if something similar to the Wertham campaign happened today? Who says comics are silly and shallow—not in this panel.
We all know that Amazon’s acquisition of Comixology changed the digital comics landscape. While the benefits that Amazon can bring for Comixology are evident, and still developing, it wasn’t without some steps backwards. When Comixology stopped making in-app purchases due to Amazon/Apple tensions, many publishers saw a drop in digital comics sales.
As we’ve noted before, other players are stepping in to promote their services.
So it should come as no surprise that ComicsPLUS, the digital comics app from iVerse that has long been the second player in the digital comics world, is getting a big makeover starting in November. iVerse CEO and owner Michael Murphey gave us a peek at the new app at New York Comic Con, and it has several shiny new features, including a new uView enhanced reading experience; enhanced search functions; a streamlined interface that offers comics series not only in chronological order but also a “Storyline” view that offers all the books in a given storyline. And the new app will also offer the ability to import any drm-free PDf, ebook or iTunes file into the service where it can be streamlined via uView and be searchable under its name.
uView is the ComicsPLUS version of “Guided View” and I’m told it does not conflict with the patent that Disney holds on that version of “enhanced viewing experience,” to give the non trademarked name for panels that zoom and flow on a tap. It’s entirely user controlled, and based on the preview Murphey gave me, it’s dead simple to use – you basically pinch and zoom to get panels moving in your preferred way. I’m not sure now many comics readers will want to go through all their comics and “uView them up” – but publishers or creators can also use this system themselves. In other words, yet another job for the intern.
I asked Murphey if this would lead to an iVerse version of Comixology’s “Submit” program and he pointed out that “we don’t turn people away.” Although they occasionally reject material that has problematic content, anyone can sell their comics via ComicsPLUS, and uView will offer a way for creators to take control over the viewing experience.
The “Storyline” feature is perfect for people who follow mainstream comics events. The revamped iVerse interface offers a very streamlines view of issues in a series, with the newest one on top. You can also see all the issues that tie in to a storyline—in reading order. Like I said, this is very useful if you’re catching up on Final Crisis or any Big Two event from the last 15 years. It would also be useful for something like Love and Rockets which has a twisting storylines that even experts have a hard time following. (Note, Fantagraphics books aren’t available on iVerse, I’m just spitballing here.)
The search function is basically a smoother application, and the goal is eventually to have a more “Netflix-like” interface. So if you read Punisher, for instance, you could be offered “more comics featuring amoral hitmen.”
Finally, there’s the import function, which for a digital hoarder such as myself could be useful. Basically any legally purchased book you own in epub or pdf format (possibly others, my notes are a bit hazy here) can be imported into the ComicsPLUS app and indexed along with your purchases in the app.
iVerse is definitely putting some muscle into this update, which will roll out starting in November. Some of the features will go live in early 2015. Of course, there is still the matter of publishers: iVerse offers Dynamite, Valiant, Marvel trades and many other publishers. But not DC at this point. Valiant has the biggest parnership with iVerse thus far, having put their entire library on the platform.
Is there room for another digital comics platform? I’m told that Apple would be thrilled to have their piece of the digital comics pie again: Comixology was frequently the top grossing app for iPad, and it firmly put digital comics on Apple’s radar. It was Amazon’s dislike of giving Apple their 30% cut of in-app purchases that led to them being removed from Comixology’s app. (You can still buy comics directly on the CX website, however.) So yeah, there are some pennies to be made there. If digital comics become some kind of status symbol in a tug of war between Apple and Amazon, it means more money thrown into the pot.
I’m also told several publishers are considering being available on multiple platforms for obvious reasons. Amazon’s feuds, price wars and heavy handed tactics are all well and good when you want to buy cheap pants, but you don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the equation.
iVerse has developed into a player in the library market so it will be interesting to see where this goes.
Voting for the 2014 Atlas Place of the Year is now underway. However, you still be curious about the nominees. What makes them so special? Each year, we put the spotlight on the top locations in the world that make us go, “wow”. For good or for bad, this year’s longlist is quite the round-up.
Just hover over the place-markers on the map to learn a bit more about this year’s nominations.
Make sure to vote for your Place of the Year below. If you have another Place of the Year that you would like to nominate, we’d love to know about it in the comments section. Follow along with #POTY2014 until our announcement on 1 December.What do you think Place of the Year 2014 should be?
Image Credits: Ferguson: “Cops Kill Kids”. Photo by Shawn Semmler. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. Liberia: Ebola Virus Particles. Photo by NIAID. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. Ukraine: Euromaiden in Kiev 2014-02-19 10-22. Photo by Amakuha. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Colorado: Grow House 105. Photo by Coleen Whitfield. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr. Nauru: In front of the Menen. Photo by Sean Kelleher. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr. Sochi: Olympic Park Flags (2). Photo by american_rugbler. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr. Mount Sinjar: Sinjar Karst. Photo by Cpl. Dean Davis. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Gaza: The home of the Kware family after it was bombed by the military. Photo by B’Tselem. CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Scotland: Vandalised no thanks sign. Photo by kay roxby. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. Brazil: World Cup stuff, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (15). Photo by Jorge in Brazil. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.
As an Africanist historian who has long been committed to reaching broader publics, I was thrilled when the research team for the BBC’s popular genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are? contacted me late last February about an episode they were working on that involved mixed race relationships in colonial Ghana. I was even more pleased when I realized that their questions about the practice and perception of intimate relationships between African women and European men in the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then known, were ones I had just explored in a newly published American Historical Review article, which I readily shared with them. This led to a month-long series of lengthy email exchanges, phone conversations, Skype chats, and eventually to an invitation to come to Ghana to shoot the Who Do You Think You Are? episode.
After landing in Ghana in early April, I quickly set off for the coastal town of Sekondi where I met the production team, and the episode’s subject, Reggie Yates, a remarkable young British DJ, actor, and television presenter. Reggie had come to Ghana to find out more about his West African roots, but discovered instead that his great grandfather was a British mining accountant who worked in the Gold Coast for several years. His great grandmother, Dorothy Lloyd, was a mixed-race Fante woman whose father—Reggie’s great-great grandfather—was rumored to be a British district commissioner at the turn of the century in the Gold Coast.
The episode explores the nature of the relationship between Dorothy and George, who were married by customary law around 1915 in the mining town of Broomassi, where George worked as the paymaster at the local mine. George and Dorothy set up house in Broomassi and raised their infant son, Harry, there for two years before George left the Gold Coast in 1917 for good. Although their marriage was relatively short lived, it appears that Dorothy’s family and the wider community that she lived in regarded it as a respectable union and no social stigma was attached to her or Harry after George’s departure from the coast.
George and Dorothy lived openly as man and wife in Broomassi during a time period in which publicly recognized intermarriages were almost unheard of. As a privately employed European, George was not bound by the colonial government’s directives against cohabitation between British officers and local women, but he certainly would have been aware of the informal codes of conduct that regulated colonial life. While it was an open secret that white men “kept” local women, these relationships were not to be publicly legitimated.
Precisely because George and Dorothy’s union challenged the racial prescripts of colonial life, it did not resemble the increasingly strident characterizations of interracial relationships as immoral and insalubrious in the African-owned Gold Coast press. Although not a perfect union, as George was already married to an English woman who lived in London with their children, the trajectory of their relationship suggests that George and Dorothy had a meaningful relationship while they were together, that they provided their son Harry with a loving home, and that they were recognized as a respectable married couple. No doubt this had much to do with why the wider African community seemingly embraced the couple, and why Dorothy was able to “marry well” after George left. Her marriage to Frank Vardon, a prominent Gold Coaster, would have been unlikely had she been regarded as nothing more than a discarded “whiteman’s toy,” as one Gold Coast writer mockingly called local women who casually liaised with European men. In her own right, Dorothy became an important figure in the Sekondi community where she ultimately settled and raised her son Harry, alongside the children she had with Frank Vardon.
The “white peril” commentaries that I explored in my AHR article proved to be a rhetorically powerful strategy for challenging the moral legitimacy of British colonial rule because they pointed to the gap between the civilizing mission’s moral rhetoric and the sexual immorality of white men in the colony. But rhetoric often sacrifices nuance for argumentative force and Gold Coasters’ “white peril” commentaries were no exception. Left out of view were men like George Yates, who challenged the conventions of their times, even if imperfectly, and women like Dorothy Lloyd who were not cast out of “respectable” society, but rather took their place in it.
This sense of conflict and connection and of categorical uncertainty is what I hope to have contributed to the research process, storyline development, and filming of the Reggie Yates episode of Who Do You Think You Are? The central question the show raises is how do we think about and define relationships that were so heavily circumscribed by racialized power without denying the “possibility of love?” By “endeavor[ing] to trace its imperfections, its perversions,” was Martinican philosopher and anticolonial revolutionary Frantz Fanon’s answer. While I have yet to see the episode, Fanon’s insight will surely reverberate throughout it.
The theme of this year’s meeting is “International Law in a Time of Chaos”, exploring the role of international law in conflict mitigation. Panel discussions will examine various aspects of both public international law and private international law, including trade, investment, arbitration, intellectual property, combatting corruption, labor standards in the global supply chain, and human rights, as well as issues of international organizations and international security.
ILW is sponsored and organized by the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA) and the International Law Students Association (ILSA). Every year more than one thousand practitioners, academics, diplomats, members of the governmental and nongovernmental sectors, and students attend this conference.
This year’s conference highlights include:
This year’s keynote from Lori Damrosch, Hamilton Fish Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, Columbia Law School, and President of the American Society of International Law. “Democratization of Foreign Policy and International Law, 1914-2014” Friday, 1:30PM (Room 2-02A)
Top practitioners in the field discuss “International Investment Arbitration and the Rule of Law”, Friday 4:45PM (Room 2-02A). (Sign up for our Free Investment Claims Webinar on October 20th to brush up on VCLT in BIT arbitrations in time for this panel.)
Looking for career advice? Attend this roundtable discussion on Saturday afternoon “Careers in International Human Rights, International Development, and International Rule of Law,” Saturday, 3:30PM (Room 2-02B)
§ Congrats to Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth for winning the Stranger’s Genius Award for Literature. Many would say Gary is strange, many a genius so it all cosmically came together. The Stranger is Seattle’s resident culture paper, and each year it gives out its Genius Awards. Groth prevailed over Ms. Marvel’s G. Willow Wilson and poet Shin Yu Pai.
As this market has shown again and again over the decades, consumer interest in “events” is a fickle thing. Sooner or later every publisher hits a few foul balls, or the public gets tired of oversaturation, or the story just doesn’t work, or whichever of the myriad of reasons… and the retailer is the one left holding the bag. It used to be that when, say, “Secret Wars II” turned out to be a pile of lox, we weren’t that over-extended with orders in the pipeline — 2-3 issues out, sure, but that’s very different from “order forty-six different comics and tie-ins before you’ve had any real amount of time to judge how the first one did.”
People have been saying events are done for as long as there have been events. This also applies to variant covers. Normally I would just say it was ever thus and move on, but this is a changing industry. Where are we going? Damned if I know.
§ Zainab Akhtar and Steve Morris both went to the Lakes Festival this weekend, and they both blogged about it. I understand The Lakes is held in a small picturesque town and the goal is to make it a sort of Angouleme type fest were comics take over the town. I sounds adorable, but read on. Steve had A Quick Nip Round The Lakes Comic Art Festival and noted the many comics themed displays around the town:
Having captured several strongpoints across the city centre, the Festival had not only won a battle of occupation – but one of propaganda. Everywhere you walk (not that there are MANY places to walk in Kendal, which is a teeny tiny nice little place) the shops had transformed themselves
Foremostly, my whole experience was coloured by people’s reaction toward me. Kendal, and the Lake District by large, is a very white, very middle class region. We saw -I think- maybe 6 people of colour in the time we were there (yes, I counted), and the festival, being located in the town center, on a Saturday with bright, dry weather- was busy, as was the surrounding area. I got stared at a LOT, and if you’re visibly ethnic minority, you will instantly understand the hostile, open up-and-down hard stares of which I speak although some people prefer a eye-contact off. We went into a fish and chip shop for lunch at one point, and people turned their chairs around to simply gawp/glower. As far as I could tell, it seemed to be the headscarf and being overtly Muslim, because the few poc I did briefly pass didn’t seem to be under the same scrutiny, but I could easily be wrong about that. It was deeply unpleasant.
The comics part of the visit was welcoming and tolerant, she notes, but she doesn’t plan to go back either.
§ R. Orion Martin has a look at another facet of the vast and unknowable world of comcis culture with a history of Lianhuanhua: China’s Pulp Comics. You probably didn’t know that China had a comics culture but of course, they do.
In 1985, there were 8.1 billion pulp comics (lianhuanhua) printed in mainland China. Most lianhuanhua were black and white paperbacks with a single illustration and a few lines of text on each page. They looked similar to the Big Little Books published in the United States from the 1930s to 1950s, but they were published in quantities that make the US comics market look tiny. Brian Hibbs analyzed the 2012 BookScan report and found that there were about 9.5 million comics sold in the US throughout the year. In the mid-80s, some lianhuanhua titles had single printing runs of more than 1 million copies. We usually don’t think of China as having a rich tradition of making comics, and discussions of Chinese comics focus on manhua, the Chinese comics that were inspired by Japanese manga. While it’s true that most of the comics being produced now are manhua, this was not the case for much of the 20th century. From their beginnings in the 1920s until their popularity bottomed out in the 1990s, lianhuanhua were some of the most widely read literature in the country.
§ Speaking of world comics, someone sent me this link, which is in Turkish, but Google Translate tells me it’s about the Turkish comics festival being held in December.
Partly, the issue is the characters themselves. Many of the revealing costumes are based off characters who were originally designed, at least in part, to be sexually provocative, for example, princesses, superheroes in spandex and sexualized anime school girls. As a result, many onlookers view them as the sexy characters they emulate rather than individuals wearing costumes, who should be treated with respect. But most real-life cosplayers are more concerned with the authenticity of the costume than sexual attention.
Hm. I’m not sure that de-sexualizing cosplay is any better than the reverse. It’s pretty obvious that many cosplayers (of all genders) are sexy and they know it. That doesn’t mean they should be touched, catcalled or made fun of, of course. I’m sure someone else has written way more wisely than myself about this, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
But, you might say, there are lots of crime comics out there. Heck, Jason Aaron, the writer of Southern Bastards, has penned a good many himself. Scalped and his Punisher run, to name a couple. Southern Bastards is something really special, though, because of the way Aaron and artist Jason Latour embrace its setting so deeply and wholeheartedly. Specifically, the book takes place in Craw County, Alabama, but it also serves as a deep dive into the culture of the South as a whole. There are aspects of the story that could only occur in a the setting of a small, Southern town. The creators, both Southerners themselves, do an amazing job of presenting a story that could be compelling to anyone but hit exactly the right notes for people who have lived in or near places like Craw County.
How rapidly does medical knowledge advance? Very quickly if you read modern newspapers, but rather slowly if you study history. Nowhere is this more true than in the fields of neurology and psychiatry.
It was believed that studies of common disorders of the nervous system began with Greco-Roman Medicine, for example, epilepsy, “The sacred disease” (Hippocrates) or “melancholia”, now called depression. Our studies have now revealed remarkable Babylonian descriptions of common neuropsychiatric disorders a millennium earlier.
There were several Babylonian Dynasties with their capital at Babylon on the River Euphrates. Best known is the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty (626-539 BC) associated with King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) and the capture of Jerusalem (586 BC). But the neuropsychiatric sources we have studied nearly all derive from the Old Babylonian Dynasty of the first half of the second millennium BC, united under King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC).
The Babylonians made important contributions to mathematics, astronomy, law and medicine conveyed in the cuneiform script, impressed into clay tablets with reeds, the earliest form of writing which began in Mesopotamia in the late 4th millennium BC. When Babylon was absorbed into the Persian Empire cuneiform writing was replaced by Aramaic and simpler alphabetic scripts and was only revived (translated) by European scholars in the 19th century AD.
The Babylonians were remarkably acute and objective observers of medical disorders and human behaviour. In texts located in museums in London, Paris, Berlin and Istanbul we have studied surprisingly detailed accounts of what we recognise today as epilepsy, stroke, psychoses, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), psychopathic behaviour, depression and anxiety. For example they described most of the common seizure types we know today e.g. tonic clonic, absence, focal motor, etc, as well as auras, post-ictal phenomena, provocative factors (such as sleep or emotion) and even a comprehensive account of schizophrenia-like psychoses of epilepsy.
Early attempts at prognosis included a recognition that numerous seizures in one day (i.e. status epilepticus) could lead to death. They recognised the unilateral nature of stroke involving limbs, face, speech and consciousness, and distinguished the facial weakness of stroke from the isolated facial paralysis we call Bell’s palsy. The modern psychiatrist will recognise an accurate description of an agitated depression, with biological features including insomnia, anorexia, weakness, impaired concentration and memory. The obsessive behaviour described by the Babylonians included such modern categories as contamination, orderliness of objects, aggression, sex, and religion. Accounts of psychopathic behaviour include the liar, the thief, the troublemaker, the sexual offender, the immature delinquent and social misfit, the violent, and the murderer.
The Babylonians had only a superficial knowledge of anatomy and no knowledge of brain, spinal cord or psychological function. They had no systematic classifications of their own and would not have understood our modern diagnostic categories. Some neuropsychiatric disorders e.g. stroke or facial palsy had a physical basis requiring the attention of the physician or asû, using a plant and mineral based pharmacology. Most disorders, such as epilepsy, psychoses and depression were regarded as supernatural due to evil demons and spirits, or the anger of personal gods, and thus required the intervention of the priest or ašipu. Other disorders, such as OCD, phobias and psychopathic behaviour were viewed as a mystery, yet to be resolved, revealing a surprisingly open-minded approach.
From the perspective of a modern neurologist or psychiatrist these ancient descriptions of neuropsychiatric phenomenology suggest that the Babylonians were observing many of the common neurological and psychiatric disorders that we recognise today. There is nothing comparable in the ancient Egyptian medical writings and the Babylonians therefore were the first to describe the clinical foundations of modern neurology and psychiatry.
A major and intriguing omission from these entirely objective Babylonian descriptions of neuropsychiatric disorders is the absence of any account of subjective thoughts or feelings, such as obsessional thoughts or ruminations in OCD, or suicidal thoughts or sadness in depression. The latter subjective phenomena only became a relatively modern field of description and enquiry in the 17th and 18th centuries AD. This raises interesting questions about the possibly slow evolution of human self awareness, which is central to the concept of “mental illness”, which only became the province of a professional medical discipline, i.e. psychiatry, in the last 200 years.
The University of Vienna has put up an online Datenbank literarischer Bildzitate, a database of some 1,500 references to works of art in modern German literature, searchable by author, artwork, artist, and text.
(See the search page, which makes it reasonably obvious what's on offer.)
I'm not sure how comprehensive this is (yet) -- Bernhard referenced specific works of art in only one of his novels ? -- but it's still fairly interesting and even somewhat useful.
The list was interesting to me on many levels, but one significant one that struck me immediately was the absence of mixing and mastering (my main areas of work in audio). A relatively short time ago almost half of these categories did not exist. There was no streaming, no project studios, no networked audio and no game sound. So what is the state of affairs for the young audio engineering student or practitioner?
Interestingly, of the four new fields mentioned, three of them represent diminished opportunities in the field of music recording, with one a singular beacon of hope.
Streaming audio represents the brave new world of audio delivery systems. As these services continue to capture more of the consumer market share they continue to diminish artists ability to earn a decent living (or pay an accomplished audio engineer). A friend of mine with 3 CD releases recently got his Spotify statement and saw that he had more that 60,000 streams of his music. His check was for $17. CDs don’t pay as well as vinyl records used to, downloads don’t pay as well as CDs, and streaming doesn’t pay as well as downloads (not to mention “file-sharing” which doesn’t pay anything). Sure, there may be jobs at Pandora and Spotify for a few engineers helping with the infrastructure of audio streaming, but generally streaming is another brick in the wall that is restricting audio jobs by shrinking the earning capacity of recording artists.
Project studios now dominate most recording projects outside the reasonably well-funded major label records and even most of that work is done in project studios (though they might be quite elaborate facilities). Project studios rarely have spots for interns or assistant engineers so they provide no entree positions for those trying to come up in the engineering ranks. Not only does that limit the available sources of income, but it also prevents the kind of mentoring that actually trains young engineers in the fine points of running sessions. Of course, almost no project studios provide regular, dependable work or with any kind of benefits.
Networked audio systems provide new, faster, and more elaborate connectivity of audio using digital technology. While there may be opportunities in the tech realm for engineers designing and building digital audio networks there is, once again, a shrinking of opportunities for those aspiring to making commercial music recordings. In many instances, these networking systems allow fewer people to do more—a boon only to a small number of audio engineers working with music recordings who can now do remote recordings without having to be present and without having to employ local recording engineers and studios to complete projects with musicians in other locations.
The one bright spot here is Game Sound. The explosive world of video games is providing many good jobs for audio engineers who want to record music. These recordings have become more interesting, higher quality, and featuring more prominent and talented composers and musicians than virtually any other area of music production. The only reservation here is that the music is intended as secondary to the game play (of course) and there is a preponderance of violent video games and therefore musical styles that tend to fit well into a violent atmosphere. However, this is changing with a much broader array of game types achieving new levels of popularity (Mindcraft!).
I do not fault AES for pointing to these areas of interest for audio engineers (other than the apparent absence of mixing and mastering). These are the places where significant activity, development, and change are occurring. They’re just not very encouraging for those of us who became audio engineers because of our deep love of music and our desire to be engaged in its production.
Headline Image: Sound Mixing via CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay
The obligatory 'judging the Man Booker Prize'-piece comes from Sarah Churchwell at The Guardian's book blog, where she writes about The joys of judging the Man Booker prize.
(I enjoy these, but I'd love it if one year they did get the judge who just hated the experience to spill all the ugly beans about the process.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emmanuel Carrère pseudo(?)-biographical 2011 prix Renaudot-winning Limonov -- rather desperately subtitled in the US edition: The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia.
As longtime readers know, I'm not a big fan of biography in any form, and I note with some amusement that my review barely even mentions any of these supposedly 'Outrageous Adventures' Limonov had -- I found and consider them completely uninteresting (and Limonov -- despite some obvious talents -- a vacuous poseur: I can't imagine a less interesting person or subject matter, all noise and affectation).
I didn't even notice until after I finished writing the review, but it didn't even occur to me -- though of course it should have: presumably a not insignificant percentage of readers are curious about the book because they want to know about Limonov.
But, yeah, I really shouldn't be reviewing biographies -- even if this can also be considered something else entirely (and is much more interesting when considered as such).
(This is also the second recent prix Renaudot-winner that I've reviewed in less than two months -- Our Lady of the Nile is the other.)
In 2014 Oxford University Press celebrates ten years of open access (OA) publishing. In that time open access has grown massively as a movement and an industry. Here we look back at five key moments which have marked that growth.
2004/05 – Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) converts to OA
At first glance it might seem parochial to include this here, but as Rich Roberts noted on this blog in 2012, Nucleic Acids Research’s move to open access was truly ‘momentous’. To put it in context, in 2004 NAR was OUP’s biggest owned journal and it was not at all clear that many of the elements were in place to drive the growth of OA. But in 2004/2005 NAR moved from being free to publish to free to read – with authors now supporting the journal financially by paying APCs (Article Processing Charges). No wonder Roberts adds that it was ‘with great trepidation’ that OUP and the editors made the change. Roberts needn’t have worried — NAR’s switch has been a huge success — its impact factor has increased, and submissions, which could have fallen off a cliff, have continued to climb. As with anything, there are elements of the NAR model which couldn’t be replicated now, but NAR helped show the publishing world in particular that OA could work. It’s saying something that it’s only ten years on, with the transition of Nature Communications to OA, that any journal near NAR’s size has made the switch.
2008 – National Institutes of Health (NIH) Mandate Introduced
Open access presents huge opportunities for research funders; the removal of barriers to access chimes perfectly with most funders’ aim to disseminate the fruits of their research as widely as possible. But as both the NIH and Wellcome, amongst others, have found out, author interests don’t always chime exactly with theirs. Authors have other pressures to consider – primarily career development – and that means publishing in the best journal, the journal with the highest impact factor, etc. and not necessarily the one with the best open access options. So it was that in 2008 the NIH found it was getting a very low rate of compliance with its recommended OA requirements for authors. What happened next was hugely significant for the progress of open access. As part of an Act which passed through the US legislature, it was made mandatory for all NIH-funded authors to make their works available 12 months after publication. This was transformative in two ways: it meant thousands of articles published from NIH research became available through PubMed Central (PMC), and perhaps just as importantly it legitimised government intervention in OA policy, setting a precedent for future developments in Europe and the United Kingdom.
2008 – Springer buys BioMed Central (BMC)
BioMed Central was the first for-profit open access publisher – and since its inception in 2000 it was closely watched in the industry to see if it could make OA ‘work’. When it was purchased by one of the world’s largest publishers, and when that company’s CEO declared that OA was now a ‘sustainable part of STM publishing’, it was a pretty clear sign to the rest of the industry, and all OA-watchers, that the upstart business model was now proving to be more than just an interesting side line. It also reflected the big players in the industry starting to take OA very seriously, and has been followed by other acquisitions – for example Nature purchasing Frontiers in early 2013. The integration of BMC into Springer has happened gradually over the past five years, and has also been marked by a huge expansion of OA at the parent company. Springer was one of the first subscription publishers to embrace hybrid OA, in 2004, but since acquiring BMC they have also massively increased their fully OA publishing. It seems bizarre to think that back in 2008 there were even some who feared the purchase was aimed at moving all BMC’s journals back to subscription access.
2007 on – Growth of PLOS ONE
The Public Library of Science (PLOS) started publishing open access journals back in 2003, but while its journals quickly developed a reputation for high-quality publishing, the not-for-profit struggled to succeed financially. The advent of PLOS ONE changed all that. PLOS ONE has been transformative for several reasons, most notably its method of peer review. Typically top journals have tended to have their niche, and be selective. A journal on carcinogens would be unlikely to accept a paper about molecular biology, and it would only accept a paper on carcinogens if it was seen to be sufficiently novel and interesting. PLOS ONE changed that. It covers every scientific field, and its peer review is methodological (i.e. is the basic science sound) rather than looking for anything else. This enabled PLOS ONE to rapidly turn into the biggest journal in the world, publishing a staggering 31,500 papers in 2013 alone. PLOS ONE’s success cannot be solely attributed to its OA nature, but it was being OA which enabled PLOS ONE to become the ‘megajournal’ we know today. It would simply not be possible to bring such scale to a subscription journal. The price would balloon beyond the reach of even the biggest library budget. PLOS ONE has spawned a rash of similar journals and more than any one title it has energised the development of OA, dispelling previously-held notions of what could and couldn’t be done in journals publishing.
2012 – The ‘Finch’ Report
It’s difficult to sum up the vast impact of the Finch Report on journals publishing in the UK. The product of a group chaired by the eponymous Dame Janet Finch, the report, by way of two government investigations, catalysed a massive investment in gold open access (funded by APCs) from the UK government, crystallised by Research Councils UK’s OA policy. In setting the direction clearly towards gold OA, ‘Finch’ led to a huge number of journals changing their policies to accommodate UK researchers, and the establishment of OA policies, departments, and infrastructure at academic institutions and publishers across the UK and beyond. The wide-ranging policy implications of ‘Finch’ continue to be felt as time progresses, through 2014’s Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) for England policy, through research into the feasibility of OA monographs, and through deliberations in other jurisdictions over whether to follow the UK route to open access. HEFCE’s OA mandate in particular will prove incredibly influential for UK researchers – as it directly ties the assessment of a university’s funding to their success in ensuring their authors publish OA. The mainstream media attention paid to ‘Finch’ also brought OA publishing into the public eye in a way never seen before (or since).