Tagged: Art, character design, Commentary, Illustration, marginalization, people sketches, sketchbook, sketchbook drawing, starbucks Display Comments Add a Comment
Even allowing for the fact that we’re not supposed to like any of the characters in Uncanny Avengers (only this week, Wolverine calls Japanese mutant Sunfire “a walking atomic bomb” and nobody bats an eyelid – not even Sunfire, whose mother died in Hiroshima!), the book is going to startling lengths with some of the characters. Particularly Havok, who gives a speech in the most recent issue which is incredibly alarming.
The message of this speech has absolutely horrible implications. Whilst it’s possible to see what the character is going for – which writer Rick Remender may or may not be intending to associate into the scene – the actual content of his speech is shameful. Hopefully the book is intending for readers to side against the character, but it’s remarkably hard to tell at this point.
The idea that ‘mutant’ is an ‘m-word’ is comprehensively wrong. The idea that equality is reached via erasing differences is wrong. And the message this scene puts across is that minorities – for, of course, mutancy in the Marvel Universe is used as a metaphor for the struggles of persecuted minorities round the world, be they of a different sexual orientation, gender, race, religion – should want to become invisible and fit into their surroundings. It’s a message that minorities should feel ashamed of who they are, and seek to become, quote “normalised”.
If the word ‘mutant’ is swapped out in this scene for “gay” or “African-American” or “Muslim”, the scene becomes downright offensive. Hopefully, this should all be leading towards some kind of twist of some kind – but at the moment, it’s astonishing how brave this book is in making the lead characters appear to be utterly awful people.Display Comments Add a Comment
Tonight in SoHo, a panel of comics all-stars will discuss the Carol Tilley’s Seducing the Innocent, which purports to expose industry bete noire Frederick Wertham as a fraud. What’s more important for us today, however, is understanding why he was right.
Tilley’s article has received a fair bit of play in recent months, and understandably so. Besides bringing to light new details from the recently opened Wertham archives, the article also affirms the fundamental righteousness of the comics community and other free-speech progressives continuing to oppose calls to censor pop culture. As Jeet Heer and others have noted, Wertham is the community’s own super villain, a totem of the arrogant self-deception threatening all that is good.
Yet the misbegotten pursuit of virtue can go both ways. While we tug at a few stray details in our effort to prove the man whose research helped end segregation was nothing but a lying racist prig, we tend to overlook how Wertham’s intuitive grasp of comics, society and law was actually more insightful than our own. To recognize this is not to concede that his programmatic agenda in regard to comics was correct–in fact, it can help us understand how our community can respond more effectively to similar challenges today.
Was Wertham a fraud?
Given the meme now circulating as to Wertham’s campaign of deliberate deceit, it’s worth pausing for a moment to note a couple caveats about the charges themselves. First, as Tilley notes, her charges against Wertham aren’t actually new, at least in their broad strokes–there were critics of Wertham’s evidence and techniques back when his influence was at its peak.
Which in itself should not be a surprise. There’s a fine tradition in academia and the sciences of criticizing the methodology of the previous generation, and Wertham, a German immigrant pushing 60 at height of the anti-comics furor, exhibited an approach to information gathering and interpretation that was cutting-edge in the 1920s but seen as woefully inadequate by then modern standards.
Plus ca change and all that, of course–today’s empirical scholarship is itself a reaction against the alleged inadequacies of analytical patterns from a couple-three decades ago, which in turn criticized the approach then current among many of those who were attacking Wertham. While such critiques can have their merits, they can also descend into pettiness and character assassination in ways that reflect agendas outside of the pursuit of more accurate research, as exemplified by critics’ glib dismissal of Wertham as “imperious,” priggish and guilty of such horrendous sins as citing examples from comics that were five years old.
In fact, one could even turn the same critique against Tilley’s article. Instead of aggregating all of Wertham’s factual claims and calculating how many of them had a credible basis, the article slags the man’s entire reputation for veracity on the basis of a few anecdotes. Moreover, these anecdotes themselves arguably don’t fairly represent what Wertham claimed. For example, Wertham acknowledged that he was drawing the work of other colleagues and junior researchers, so the fact that a couple of his stories came from cases he didn’t handle personally is no more the sign of a clueless fraud than popular books by psychiatrists today that include anecdotes from a clinic or colleagues.
Yet there’s a danger in this sort of devil-in-the-details bloodsport, as illustrated by the rejection of one of Wertham’s contemporaries whose work was similarly rejected due to its alleged lack of research rigor and fudging of details. Today we celebrate Marshall McLuhan as the prophet of the electronic age, but at the time academics savaged McLuhan’s work as that of a fraudulent hack. Whatever the flaws in his approach to gathering and presenting data–and yes, they were many–McLuhan’s capacity for pattern recognition was nonpareil.
The example of McLuhan is particularly relevant to the Wertham case, inasmuch as Wertham, like McLuhan, was engaged in making an inventory of the effects of comics as a medium.
Consider the accusation that Wertham skewed his research by focusing on comics-to-crime correlations while hiding other factors. In fact, in Seduction and elsewhere Wertham was forthright in asserting that he wasn’t making a comics-to-crime direct correlation. His argument was actually more subtle. As Wertham repeatedly explained, he was making a broader point about how even small influences within a social environment can have disproportionate effects.
Although we don’t tend to use the same language, Wertham’s argument’s are more familiar and accepted than we admit. Wertham’s understanding of comics as a medium that shapes our perception, identity and actions is McLuhan before he became McLuhan, albeit with one important exception that we’ll discuss later. Nowhere is this more evident in Wertham’s assertion that comics were making the younger generation illiterate, an assessment that McLuhan and his disciple Walter Ong would soon systematize in their landmark discussions of the shift away from a linear textual culture.
Wertham’s disavowal of direct correlation in favor of indirect systemic effects reflects the emergence of dynamics systems theory, which at the time was continuing the development that had begun in the early 19th century and the birth of modern social science. In this regard, Wertham’s metaphor of social health anticipated our current analytical vocabulary in interesting ways. Take, for instance, his description of comics as a “bacillus” that had spread throughout our social environment. Today we would call this going viral.
Where Wertham differed from a media or systems theorist was his preoccupation with social order and legal responsibility. Bart Beaty has already done a stellar job of describing Wertham’s place in the shift from reform-minded progressive research to the more (ironically) Germanic scholarship of the contemporary academy, but rather than focusing on how Wertham was superseded it’s worth focusing on how he was trying to advance our understanding beyond the dominant frameworks of the early twentieth century.
Wertham’s emphasis on health metaphors had a different resonance in the 1940s and 1950s than they have today. They marked a subtle shift away from the genetically based eugenics that had dominated Western progressive thought in the decades leading up to World War II and even a few years afterward. Wertham’s argument, expressed not just in his comics work but his research in support of desegregation, was that non-whites and the poor were not inherently defective. Segregation, prejudice, mass incarceration–the mainstream’s response to poverty, crime and difference was not only counterproductive, it failed to respect others’ core humanity as well as the corruption wrought by the mainstream environment itself.
While certain particulars can be seen as outmoded, the core insight continues to be relevant today, from urban strategy based on the broken windows theory to the use of architecture, zoning and social design to enhance community life. Wertham’s approach is also consistent with the current struggle within legal theory with such issues as America’s incarceration culture to the culpability of human agency in light of the subconscious shaping influences of our social environment and cognitive processes.
Comics as change
This brings us to Wertham’s specific allegations about comics. Once again, if Wertham’s a fraud, he’s a damn clever one. While we might disagree with his critique of some of these effects (most notably his views of human sexuality, which at the time were the clinical norm), his assessment of values and themes evident in comics was for the most part correct.
Comics fostering a sense of unbounded imaginative transformation? Sure, for Wertham it’s sinister, but if the core description is bunk we might have to rethink our affection for Calvin and Hobbes.
The gay subtext in comics? Today you can get tenure writing about how Warhol aptly distilled it his 1962 painting Superman – Puff; art galleries and charities regularly explore the theme; and Michael Chabon won a Pulitzer with a novel that in part turned this subtext into text. A similar point can be made in regard to Wertham’s finding sado-masochism in Wonder Woman (a direct hit, confirmed by what we later learned about Moulton) as well as the sexually exploitive depiction of women more generally.
Superman as a fascist corporate power icon? Yes, it’s easy to call out Wertham for missing Siegel’s and Shuster’s judaism, but his central point regarding icons of corporate control is textbook proto-Foucault (and proto-Frank Miller, proto-Watchmen, proto-Kingdom Come …). We should also acknowledge–following the lead, if I recall correctly, of Craig Yoe–that Wertham called attention to DC’s systemic mistreatment of creators years before the comics community itself.
On a deeper level, what connects all of these assessments–including the assertion that comics can be a factor in antisocial behavior–is Wertham’s conviction that comics as a medium have the power to change who we are. Just as McLuhan saw artists as prophets of a culture where people have fluid identities with multiple roles, Wertham sees comics as a medium that both depicts and transforms.
For an example of the same point made in more positive terms within comics itself, we need look no further than a comic that came out today–Grant Morrison’s Action #18, which expresses his decades-long theme of comics as a medium that creates a new reality, making the impossible possible. Sometimes the effects are destructive, even nihilistic, but properly understood the same transcendent impulse can enable us to become something more.
Dismissing Wertham as a hack and fraud may make us feel good about ourselves and our community’s past, but outside of that it has little probative or strategic value as a means of countering censorship today. The same goes for the adamant insistence that comics have no relevance to antisocial behavior. In contrast to Morrison’s more honest and accurate metaphors, our model of comics in academics and advocacy tends to be anodyne. Comics have power, yes, but only the power to be comfortable, familiar and safe.
However, comics, like all media, are dangerous. By insisting otherwise, we come across as naive and self-serving, much like ideological researchers whose empirical research always just happens to align with their agenda. We also do a disservice to comics themselves, which are valuable precisely because of their capacity to foster systemic change.
Instead of engaging in a futile campaign to persuade people that the fusion of words and image is not what is, we would do better to concede the point. For instance, Wertham presented an intriguing opening with his uneasy blend of cutting-edge media theory with his most glaring retro mistake: the more traditional, linear depiction of comics as an instruction manual that served as a textbook for crimes. Trying to refute this on its own terms was a self-defeating distraction. There was far more potential in explaining how comics are indeed powerful and disruptive, so much so that they only way to deal with them effectively is not to impose restrictive laws, but to teach kids how the medium works.Display Comments Add a Comment
Just reading a piece about the release of the re-make of the latest re-make of"The Great Gatsby." Personally, a large proporation of the film remakes that I've seen rarely matched up to the original. This leads one - me - to wonder why producers/directors/film production companies feel the necessity to update a film that on the whole, was good orginally.
In the way of background information and according to Wikipedia, the story, "narrated by Nicholas "Nick" Carraway, a 30 year old Yale graduate and WWI veteran from the midwest, who takes a job in New York as a bond salesman. He rents a small house on Long Island, in the (fictional) village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaiare who holds extravagant parties."
Checking further with IMDB, the first film version dates back to 1926 and starred Warner Baxter as Jay Gatsby and Lois Wilson as Daisy Buchanan. Furthermore, much to my surprise, a stage production opened at the Ambassdor Theater on February 26, 1926, ran for 112 performances and directed by George Cukor.
The next film version in black and white, was made in 1949 starring Alan Ladd and Betty Fields. I always liked Ladd as an actor and although I never saw the film, most likely he did a decent job. The next incarnation in 1974 was the one that I saw and being an admirer/fan of Robert Redford, I thought it was...okay. Didn't particularly care for Mia Farrow as Daisy and thinking back, there was very little chemistry between the two stars.
Last but not least, it appears there was yet another version in 2000 (wasn't aware of this) with Mina Sorvino and one Toby Stephens in the lead roles.
That brings us up to the latest incarnation to be released in May 2013, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Carrie Mulligan. Somehow, di Caprio, at least in my mind, doesn't have that suave, sophisticated personna necessary to play Gatsby. Then again, who knows.
This is all leading up to the question originally posted here, as to the necessity of yet another re-make of the re-make of.... One re-make is acceptable or even two re-makes but five? The point being made here is that script writers should be searching for their own ideas, rather than turning out scripts based on the story lines and scripts created by other script writers.
In as far as the newest and hopefully the last version of this story, I'm going to pass but for people who are intrigued to know what the film is about, here is the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1343092/?ref_=sr_1
Kickstarter has been a talking point in the comics industry ever since its conception, most recently and prominently for the fallout between Mark Andrew Smith and the problems he’s been having with his Sullivan Sluggers book. My experience with the platform has been limited: I use it purely as a pre-order service and since May last year (when I first began using the site), I’ve backed a total of 9 projects, 8 of which have been successfully funded. Of these 9 -all of which have been comics- I have so far received 3 books, each one at least 4 months later than initially promised.
Many more generous and patient people than myself are happy to lend their backing to a project simply because they find it interesting or as a way to show their support for the creator, and don’t mind weathering out any delay in the release of the end product. I’m of the notion that when you undertake an endeavour such as crowd-funding a book, you research it thoroughly, analyse any risks and generally go in to it as prepared as possible. If you give a ballpark estimate of when you hope to ship a book out, it should remain in that ballpark, major catastrophes aside. The relationship between backers and a creator is one of goodwill and trust, and any problems that occur should be relayed with honesty and open-ness.
Which is all to say I’m now even choosier when selecting projects I’d like to see realised. With that in mind, I’m pointing you in the direction of Lars Brown’s excellent-looking Penultimate Quest, a simple, no-frills Kickstarter, with a book that’s complete and ready to go, and an extremely modest target of $350, which is currently galloping nicely along at $2267. Here’s more from Brown:
This Kickstarter is to fund a small print run of my new book, Penultimate Quest book 1. My plan is to distribute it on my website, larsbrown.com, and conventions that I’m able to attend. It is 90 pages long.
I started Penultimate Quest in January 2012, at the time I conceived it as a jokey, stand alone mini comic… later in the year I started to kick around the idea of making it into a full length story. The idea of a never-ending dungeon was tantalizing and it carried with it a special challenge of explaining its origin and placing it all in a satisfying story. With my notes in place I began work on the full story in December and now have the first part complete.
If you would like to read the comic it is all available online at my website, larsbrown.com. Thank you.’
I love the story concept and art on this and have happily pledged for a book complete with sketch. Funding ends March 22nd, with $15 getting you a copy of the book within the US, plus an additional $10 anywhere else in the world (which is very reasonable when taking into account the shipping hike. I’m slightly obsessed with the increase in US shipping costs as it’s cutting me off from a load of comics, so I hereby reserve the right to mention it in every post from now to May).
You can back Penultimate Quest here.Display Comments Add a Comment
TweetI’ve been busy lately, sorting and boxing up well over a decade’s worth of comics. Having spent extended periods of time in 4 different towns in that stretch, it’s quite a pile to sort (10 long boxes and counting), but it’s interesting to see physical evidence of your buying patterns over the years. It’s clear [...]Display Comments Add a Comment
Comic book podcasting has become more and more popular over the years, but House To Astonish remains the one to beat. Hosted by Paul O’Brien (hey, that name’s familiar) and Al Kennedy, the fortnightly show is a funny, insightful look at the current top comic books and the world around them. As part of their never-ending mission to interview the world (not true: they don’t typically run interviews), Al came down to Thought Bubble this year to mingle with the stars.
In the process, he put himself in my crosshairs, and we sat on a cannon (true) to talk about how House To Astonish was started, what it’s about… and how Mark Waid was integral to the whole thing starting out.
Steve: How’re you finding Thought Bubble so far?
Al Kennedy: I got thrown out the bar last night at 3am, which is always a good way to start a convention. They moved us out the bar and into the foyer, and then out the foyer and into the street.
Steve: ….So! You were both bloggers before you started House to Astonish. You did 100 Days of Comics, and Paul writes The X-Axis. How did you get started in comics commentary?
Al: I decided to set myself a writing challenge, where I’d write about something every day. I figured that comics would be something I could easily find things to talk about, so every day I did an essay about something to do with them. It was more an exercise in writing discipline than me having 100 burning things to say about comics, but I really enjoyed doing it as well.
Once it wrapped up, Paul and I had known each other for many many years.We were sat in the pub one night and talking about online comics journalism, and thought “well why don’t we do one of these new-fangled podcasts?” Back when we started it was a far less packed field, and that’s where the thing came from.
Steve: Who else was around?
Al: iFanboy… and John Siuntres was already doing his thing… a few others!
Steve: Do you view it podcasting as a community, or does it feel like you’re all in competition?
Al: I think that the field is broad enough and people are doing enough different things to allow for different voices to be heard. I know that there are some groups of podcasters, where if you listen to one, you’re likely to listen to all of them. I know we share an audience with Graeme and Jeff at Wait, What?, for example. There’s certainly some crossover with Evie and Aaron of Awesomed By Comics, as well as Chris and Euge/Chris and Matt at War Rocket Ajax – although I think their audience is larger than ours!
Steve: Many other podcasters focus on reviews and interviews, but House to Astonish starts with a news roundup. Was that always the idea? That the podcast would focus on criticism and commentary?
Al: Yes. We decided to steer away from interviews for the most part… although… I am here to do some interviews… because the thing about doing interviews is that you have a very high bar to clear in John Siuntres. He’s absolutely brilliant, and if you go into podcasting with an aim to do interviews, you’d better be able to keep up with him.
Originally we were going to do a round-up of what people are saying on blogs and message boards as well as an editorial-style polemic we’d deliver each episode. But instead it turned out that we went on tangents and talked nonsense. So we start with news stuff, three reviews, and then some mucking around at the end.
Steve: Do you think of yourself as a journalist? Does podcasting sit alongside journalistic sites like, say, Robot 6, or Comics Reporter?
Al: I don’t see us as journalists. I think we’re commentators, which is a different thing. In terms of comics journalism, there are a few really terrific sites which cover the majority of aspects of the comics industry, and beyond that I don’t think we have that much to offer in terms of actual reportage. We talk about the news and hopefully share some, but we’re both reviewers – Paul obviously has been doing the X-Axis for 15 years, and I’ve done my own bits and pieces through 9th Art and 100 Days. But we don’t report or investigate, and get scoops and news, so I don’t think it’s journalism.
I like to think that especially in light of legal issues – Paul and I are both lawyers in our day jobs – we try to look into stories and work out what is actually going on, and what the ramifications are. We do go beyond the press releases where we can. History is written by the winners, so when you see a legal verdict reporte, there’s often a framing around it which backs whoever won the case. Which is fine, but you need to be able to look beyond it as well. I think just regurgitating news is not helpful to people. If they just wanted to see press releases, they can just go online and find them. I think we offer a discursive aspect beyond mere repetition, and do it with good humour and a bit of insight
Steve: I think that’s the case with your review, as well. Unlike perhaps some other podcasts, you don’t just review the same 3 comics every episode – you’re going beyond the standard choices and picking new comics to review. Is that a conscious decision – to review things other people don’t?
Al: Absolutely. We each order a lot of first issues, which we will not follow up on. We don’t read many issue 2′s. We go through a lot of first issues and starts of new story arcs, new creator teams etc, because we like to keep it varied and bring different things to people’s attention. I know Paul and I are also both Marvel kids at heart, but we do try to make sure at least one of the three books isn’t a big two title, or is non-superhero.
We try also not to have two books by the same publisher, as well. Sometimes it’s unavoidable – we could easily, this week, do three Marvel Now books. This week there’s a new issue #1 for Fantastic Four, Thor, X-Men Legacy, All New X-Men, but we’ll only do one of them, and focus elsewhere for the other two. Colder was also out this week, and that was excellent. 47 Ronin was excellent.
There are a lot of options, and I think it does a disservice when you review the same three books every time.
Steve: Do you ever think to go further and do digital work, or webcomics?
Al: We have done it to some extent with Bandette from Monkeybrain, which was terrific. We tend to have quite a well-trodden remit in that we usually pick three print books. People have asked us to review webcomics and serials, but I think it requires a different approach. Somebody asked if we would review Penny Arcade – but it’s a different format. It’s a three-panel strip, and it’s not the same as reviewing a print issue.
Steve: Do you find with reviewing that it can sometimes be hard, if you know the creators involved? How do you go about reviewing a comic if you know the writer or artist?
Al: I was actually talking about this a few weeks back. I don’t know if you saw this, but there was a furore about games journalists being too close to studios and publicists.
Because we only do three books an episode and we’re not in America, doing interviews, we tend to not have as much contact with creators as some other have. I am good friends with Kieron Gillen, but we’ve been friends since before he was a comics writer, and we tend not to review stuff by people we know. Sometimes we do, but we would never review it because they are our friend and we want to give them some publicity. If we do interview someone we know we make sure we’re upfront about it, and call them a friend of the podcast.
I think you have to be upfront, declare the interest you might have, and then be as objective as you can.
Steve: You finish with a feature called The Official Handbook to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, in which you scour the old Marvel handbooks for an obscure character, and then walk listeners through their history, which tends to be really really weird. How did you come up with that idea?
Al: ….this is all lost in the mists of time…
We knew we wanted to do something to round the podcast out which was funny, and we’re both nerds for the official handbook – I have every one that’s been published. We decided it would be fun to look through the handbooks and come up with characters who are silly and ridiculous, and wonder how they could be rehabilitated I think Wizard magazine used to have a feature similar, called Mort of the Month, where they’d pick an old character and slag them off. What we try to do is take that further and wonder if there’s anything we can do to rehabilitate them.
Speaking of the mists of time — I found recently a bit of paper which had all the names we came up with when first trying to name the podcast, and I think I’ll put them up for the 100th episode.
Steve: How did you decide on House to Astonish?
Al: House to Astonish itself came from the Amalgam Comics. In the wake of Marvel vs DC they did a series where two characters would be smooshed into one body – like Darkclaw, who was a mix of Wolverine and Batman. He fought a cross between joker and sabretooth called Hyena. There were some great ones, and they obviously enjoyed doing it – they took Ice Cream Soldier from Easy Company, mixed him with Izzy Cohen from Howling Commandos, and came up with Ice Cream Cone.
Apparently a load of titles were pitched, and Mark Waid pitched House to Astonish, which would mix House of Mystery and Tales to Astonish. I think I read that in 1997 and thought it’d be a fun name.
Steve: How do you think the podcast has developed over the years you’ve done it?
Al: We haven’t changed anything! We’re basically creatures of habit.
We’re better at it, and more confident, I suppose. There were more pregnant pauses and talking rubbish when we were starting out- not that the rubbish quotient has gone down, but we talk better rubbish now. One thing we tried to always do was keep it short – one hour is about as long as you’d want to go.
Joining Comics Should Be Good has been an honour, and it’s terrific to be a bit more well-known and respected than when we started. Our impressions are… better?
I think we’re part of a community now. We’re part of a firmament. we’ve been around so long we’re probably not going away now. In that we’re like Action Comics – once you hit a certain number, you’re here to stay.
Many thanks to Al for his time. And as luck would have it, a new episode of House to Astonish was released only a few hours ago! You can find it at the website, and find Al on Twitter @housetoastonish. Paul is also on Twitter, at @ifdestroyedDisplay Comments Add a Comment
The recent, latest online activism against an online idiot encouraged me to write something which I had been thinking about for awhile.
The philosophical musing began when I discovered the following on Wikipedia:
Eternal SeptemberFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia(Redirected from Long September)
Eternal September (also September that never ended) is the period beginning September 1993, a date from which it is believed by some that an endless influx of new users (newbies) has degraded standards of discourse and behavior on Usenet and the wider Internet.
The term eternal September is a Usenet slang expression, and was coined by Dave Fischer. The term is so well entrenched that one news server calls itself Eternal September, and gives the date as a running tally of days since September of 1993 (e.g., Sep. 03, 2012 is “September 6943, 1993, the September that never ends.”). This server was formerly named Motzarella.org.
Usenet originated among American universities, where every year in September, a large number of new university freshmen acquired access to Usenet for the first time, and took some time to acclimate to the network’s standards of conduct and “netiquette“. After a month or so, these new users would theoretically learn to comport themselves according to its conventions, or simply tire of using the service. September thus heralded the peak influx of disruptive newcomers to the network.
Around 1993, the online services such as America Online, CompuServe and Demon Internet began offering Usenet access to its tens of thousands, and later millions, of users. To many “old-timers”, these newcomers were far less prepared to learn netiquette than university students. This was in part because the new services made little effort to educate their users about Usenet customs, or to explain to them that these new-found forums were outside their service provider’s walled garden, but it was also a result of the much larger scale of growth. Whereas the regular September freshman influx would quickly settle down, the sheer number of new users now threatened to overwhelm the existing Usenet culture’s capacity to inculcate its social norms.
Since that time, the dramatic rise in the popularity of the Internet has brought a constant stream of new users. Thus, from the point of view of the pre-1993 Usenet user, the regular “September” influx of new users never ended. The term was used by Dave Fischer in a January 26, 1994, post to alt.folklore.computers, “It’s moot now. September 1993 will go down in net.history as the September that never ended.”
Some ISPs have eliminated binary groups (Telus in Canada) and others have dropped Usenet altogether (Comcast, AT&T, AOL). This led some commentators to claim that perhaps September is finally over.
I was a university student who used the Internet before AOL, Compuserve, and the World Wide Web caused the beginning of the “Eternal September”. I had to learn netiquette. Even when AOL and other online services began to link to the Internet, the users were still paying to use those services, and could be identified, even if they used a screenname (usually required, because of a limit on length) or an account number (CompuServe).
Now? Anyone can go online, create an pseudonymous email account, and post away. If one account is blocked, another can be created.
So, how do you make the Internet a better place for polite discourse? You probably can’t. But here are some possibilities:
1. Hardwire metadata into each online transaction. A person’s location, the connections used, the computer’s identification number… Sure, these can be spoofed via proxies and offshore servers, but you make that a legal requirement, and thus give authorities another tool for prosecution. System administrators can block problem users, and report them to a central agency, in much the same way banks report individuals to credit bureaus. The user would be notified, and an appeal process would be available. Of course, the electronic evidence trail would be quite specific and damning. If a computer is blocked but used by various people, (such at a university or family) then the owner would be required to discipline the user.
1.5 Allow internet users, via various Internet services, to automatically block anyone with a suspect reputation. An individual could even filter by various criteria. Just as Google Chrome warns of suspicious sites, so could social media sites issue a warning when receiving email, instant messages, or other communications from irreputable individuals or computers (such as boiler room scams).
2. Pseudonyms are sometimes required. An individual might be at danger for posting information to the Internet which a government might consider seditious. A person might have created a following on another website and become known by that screen name, just like a writer is known by a pen name.
3. The Internet comment system is the electronic equivalent of a newspaper’s “letters to the editor” column. While it is difficult to monitor comments on every article or web page, there can be alternatives. Comment feeds can allow readers to rate other comments, and the comment system can hide or promote accordingly. If the system is widespread, and uses services such as Facebook, Google, Disqus, Twitter or Yahoo for a commenter to login, then those systems can track the reputation of the user. Of course, this can be abused if others bully a specific user, but then those individual can be identified as well. (The system can even be programmed to check for people who stalk or bully an individual repeatedly.)
4. Teach children the importance and responsibility of writing. “Don’t write anything you don’t want being read in public” was a common warning back when that only meant paper and pen. Now with instant caching and searching, it’s an even more critical skill. Teach students how to write clearly, how to argue and debate politely (if deviously), and how to avoid being viewed as a jerk.
I don’t know what the future holds. The Internet makes it so easy to find information, but it also makes it extremely easy to preach to the choir, to avoid anything which might shatter a fantasy or belief. I would hope that extremes would be mitigated, in much the way they were a century ago when local newspapers would promote specific agendas without advocating extremes.
I don’t know if that will change. Some big event, like Oklahoma City, fomented by extremists, won’t make an impact (we didn’t learn the lesson then, and politics has become even more partisan since). Most likely, it will require a lot of different interests working together to make a positive change, but when no one is listening to anyone else, how do get people to work together? Maybe interfaith initiatives can provide some guidance, but the problem with being a peacemaker is that you usually get shot from both sides of the battlefield.
Myself, I’ll continue to (try to) be tolerant and calm when confronted by impassioned commentary. (Most of the time, I just walk away and ignore, refusing to read comments on Yahoo News, for example.) It’s not easy, but life rarely is.
Now, I’m allowing comments, so be polite, intelligent, and understanding. Constructive criticism is welcomed, and I enjoy discourse if it makes me think.
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In October 2011, Phoenix Jones, a vigilante superhero, was arrested by Seattle police. His costume and crimefighting was not dissimilar to that of Batman: martial arts, body-armored suit, crime-fighting gear.
Most fans place Batman high on “all-time” lists partly because of his lack of superpowers. He has a lot of money, lots of training, and a brilliant mind. Like the sidekicks of the Silver Age of Comics, readers identify with him. We might not come orphaned from a distant world, meet a mysterious wizard who grants us powers, or suffer industrial accidents which trigger a latent genetic code, but we could, with enough time and money, become Batman.
So, while it might be a shock, in retrospect it might not be a surprise that someone would be inspired by the Joker, another character who ranks high on “worst villain” lists. His origin is uncertain… did his chemical bath trigger his insanity, or was it just an incident which pushed him over the edge? Yet, aside from a mis-wired brain, he has no superpowers, and even fewer devices than Batman. (Although his Golden Age and animated versions do have schemes which rival those of Rube Goldberg and Wile E. Coyote.)
As always happens when something like this happens, the police, media, and society always search for influences and triggers. What media did he enjoy? What paper and electronic trail did she leave? Where there psychological symptoms? Was there an inciting incident which pushed the suspect over the edge? Did the individual retreat to a fantasy to cope with reality? Did they have multiple personas, either online or on the street? What caused them to do what normal people would never do? (Thankfully, our definition of “normal” hasn’t changed, and we are still sensitized to horrific tragedies.)
In this situation, fantasy did have a large influence. He seems to have been inspired by “The Dark Knight”, even in his random actions shooting some theater patrons, but not others. Of course, given his mental state, if he had not been inspired by the Joker, he most likely would have found a different locale or method.
Criticism will be placed on Hollywood and how it influences society (Money Train, Scarface, The Matrix). Rarely is it praised for influencing society, except, perhaps, when an action hero celebrity saves someone in danger. Will there be discussion on how art reflects life, how art comments on society, how art can influence society? Most likely not… that’s boring Ivory Tower philosophical talk. Talking heads prefer to talk about more interesting things which entice viewers to watch and comment.
Why today? Well, way back in 1982, Heidi published her first piece of comics journalism (at least, the earliest I could find) in the July 1982 issue of the Comics Journal, titled “Archetype Meets Angst” (p. 35). Since most of the comics industry will be at Comic-Con this July weekend, I figured I’d surprise her with this post, and allow everyone to congratulate her, and maybe buy her a burrito.
Heidi would go on to write many more articles for the Journal and its sister publication “Amazing Heroes” in the heady days of the Black and White Boom/Bust, mini-comics, and self-publishing. She worked at the Hollywood Reporter, and eventually became the comics editor at Disney Adventures, introducing talented cartoonists to a huge readership of children. (It was at DA that the first color version of Jeff Smith’s Bone was published, possibly convincing Scholastic to print the entire series in color years later.) She was a founding member of The Friends of Lulu, which advocated for more female involvement in the comics industry, either as fans or professionals. Heidi had a brief stint as an editor at DC Comics, working on both the Johnny DC line as well as Vertigo. While at Vertigo, her editorial acumen midwifed Brian K. Vaughan’s “Y the Last Man”, which would win five Eisner Awards. She’s even been published herself! (And appeared in comics, as well, courtesy of Alex Ross!)
Not afraid of new technology, she has been active online since the early 1990s (and maybe sooner… Compuserve had an active comics forum long before AOL became a household name). She tweets, facebooks, blogs… in a variety of guises and formats.
So I noticed the thirty-year anniversary. Heidi had gobsmacked me last October with an appreciation, so I thought I’d return the favor! Heidi is widely known, generally (and sometimes grudgingly) respected, and one of the Tzadikim of the greater comics community. So I secretly contacted the Future Mr. Beat, Ben McCool, and explained my plan. I needed his support, not only as a sounding board, but also because my Rolodex is rather weak. I set up an email address (MessagesForHeidi at Gmail) and asked him to spread the word. Below you’ll find various testimonials, presented in the order they were received. If youDisplay Comments Add a Comment
Joseph Cropsey—American political philosopher; distinguished service professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago; dedicated teacher; and coeditor of the “Strauss–Cropsey Reader” (History of Political Philosophy), a staple in universities for fifty years—died last week at the age of 92.
Cropsey completed his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1952, with a dissertation on the work of Adam Smith, one of his lifelong scholarly interests (in addition to interstitial aspects in the works of Plato and Karl Marx, the figure of Socrates and issues of philosophical sobriety, and the limitations and entrapments of modern liberalism). By 1957, Cropsey was at the University of Chicago (after stints at the CCNY and the New School) as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, following Leo Strauss, who would become his most significant collaborator, and assist in his intellectual turn from economics to political philosphy.
The University of Chicago News Office reports on their intellectual partnership:
Strauss encouraged Cropsey to examine texts deeply. “When Strauss was at the head of his class, sitting up there, he would at a certain point say, ‘What does this mean?’ When I have to deal with a text of Plato, I have constantly to be asking myself, ‘What does that truly mean?’ Until one comes to grips with the question, one has not done one’s duty to the object or to oneself,” he told Dialogo.
Cropsey continued teaching at Chicago until 2004, garnering the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, serving on 134 PhD dissertation committees, and directing the John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy.
In addition to the History of Political Philosophy, Cropsey authored and edited numerous volumes. Among those are Thomas Hobbes’s A Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England, an invaluable later writing by Hobbes, and Plato’s World: Man’s Place in the Cosmos, which culminated Cropsey’s lifelong work on the philosopher.Add a Comment
Taken about a week ago I thought this photo had a look of Biblical proportions.
Many of you already know I’m a cinephile possibly from mentioning it on previous posts. I’ve only recently become a fan of the late Yashujiro Ozu. Two of his films resonate with me, Late Spring 1949, the first of his later films and An Autumn Afternoon 1963 his last film. These films have made such an impression on me I’ve watched them at least a half a dozen times each, finding the commentary on the DVD very informative and helpful to understand and appreciate these films. I’m not usually an old film buff, and often find many films of the similar time too dated for me to appreciate. These two films however seem to transcend that and reveal the essence of what it is to be human and that’s art.
So sad to hear about the passing of Christine Brooke-Rose. What a radiant shining light glimmering above the slog! We can’t imitate the wordplay (“affrodizzyacts,” though we try). Her words: “Let us play: there are more theories in heaven and earth.” Her friend Roland Barthes’s words: “The writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages.” Who said it best?
Amid the sadness, though, a chance to revisit the life:
“There is a timeless, apocalyptic quality in Mr Pound’s poetry which one suspects even his adverse critics find disturbing, but which most poets respond to, even if they do not understand. Who knows, his may be the only comprehensible poetry to the twenty-first century, under a new economic order, undreamt of now. We may, for that matter, all be speaking Chinese in western Europe then, and thinking ideogrammatically, with nothing left of older civilization but the fragments he shored against our ruin. It might just possibly be he who will ‘have his name on record . . . Thrones, courage.’”
—from B-R’s review of Pavannes and Divagations: Thrones: 96–109 de lAdd a Comment
Consider the house. The good doctor (a nephrologist!) Edith Farnsworth first commissioned architect Mies van der Rohe to construct her one-room weekend retreat adjacent to the Fox River at a dinner party in 1945. Farnsworth had earlier purchased the land that became the lot that became the Farnsworth House from Colonel Robert R. McCormick, then-publisher of the Chicago Tribune (heralded by political cartoonists of the day as Colonel McCosmic—a Commie-chasing, New Deal-loathing, socialism-fearing, World-of-Nations-knocking isolationist unlikely to syndicate Eleanor Roosevelt’s column “My Day” anytime soon). Is there an adage about dinner parties? Things between Edith and Mies didn’t really work out. It’s a complicated story involving malpractice suits; transparency in the client-architect relationship; escalating construction costs due to scarcity of materials, fueled by the Korean War; and the larger, nationally staged social dramas of the McCarthy era, in one case manifesting in vitriol from House Beautiful magazine. Prior to the clamor, previous to the house’s completion in 1951, and before dear Edith sold the house to Lord Peter Palumbo, took off to Italy, and began working with Eugenio Montale, a model version of the Farnsworth House was included in the 1947 MOMA exhibition (#356) “Mies van der Rohe,” organized [...]Add a Comment
Literary critic, esteemed professor, rhetorician, and scholar, Wayne C. Booth was born to Mormon parents in American Fork, Utah, on February 22, 1921. A young Booth served on a mission for the church before completing undergraduate work at Brigham Young University (1944) and graduate studies at the University of Chicago (1950).
Also ninety years ago this week, the word "robot" was ushered into the global idiom with the premiere of Karel Čapek's R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), a play that debuted on the stages of Prague (1921) before launching a four-month run at Broadway's Garrick Theater in the winter of 1922-23.
After an early teaching stint at the University of Chicago, Booth taught at Haverford and Earlham Colleges before returning to the University as the George M. Pullman Professor of English in 1962, a position he would hold for nearly three decades (though continuing to teach on occasion even in his 80s). Just prior to his appointment, Booth published The Rhetoric of Fiction, a work which considers the literary text in light of both author and audience, applying Aristotelian theory and concepts to advanced discussions of how we make sense of the fictional form. For generations of scholars, the terms Booth advanced in order to analyze complex orders of showing and telling—the "implied author," for example, or the "postulated reader"—became commonplace components of the critical lexicon.
Čapek didn't credit himself with coining the word that became "robot"—instead, in an article printed in Lidové noviny (first articulated in response to the Oxford English Dictionary's etymology), he attributed the word's origins to his brother Josef. Karel had initially wanted to use the Latin word for "labor," rather than Josef's suggestion of robota, which literally translates from the Czech as "serfdom" or "drudgery," and connects to a traditional literature filled with Golem-like creatures.
Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction produced two editions, was translated into seven languages, and won awards from the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the National Council of Teachers of English, among other accolades. Booth continued to publish works of enormous influence on narrative theory and literary studies, including A Rhetoric of Irony, Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, The Vocation of a Teacher, The Knowledge Most Worth Having, and several editions of The Craft of Research. Booth also championed teaching and collegiality, serving as Dean of the College from 1964 to 1969, helping to moderate unrest during the Vietnam War period. He coedited Critical Inquiry for many years; delivered one of the University's Ryerson lectures; was awarded Guggenheim, NEH, and Ford Faculty Fellowships; served for one year as the president of the Modern Language Association; and was recognized by the American Association for Higher Education as one of six professors who made "a difference in higher education." To this day, the University hands out the Wayne C. Booth Graduate Student Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in his honor.< Add a Comment
Recent page from my sketchbook. Some may have noticed my absence from the blogosphere recently. Not only was I too busy when I had a moment I had to pause and reflect about the news coming from Japan. So in this post I want to convey…my thoughts are with friends and others who are there.
Welcome back to TRAFFIC: Japan in Peril, an exchange of thoughts on the nation's future in light of the recent Pacific coast earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. This afternoon, we asked John Whittier Treat, professor of East Asian languages and literature at Yale University and acclaimed scholar of Japanese studies, and Margaret Morganroth Gullette, noted cultural critic, age activist, and award-winning journalist, to comment on Japan's current crisis and its links to the nation's past atomic experiences—and the uncertain future of its aging population.
TRAFFIC taps the expertise of leading figures from across the disciplines—whose prescient views on current events help to shape the way we interpret the world around us—on themes of contemporary global interest.
From John Whittier Treat, author of Writing Ground Zero: Japanese Literature and the Atomic Bomb:
On Fukushima and Japanese Rearmament
Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, with six reactors one of the largest in the world, is also one of the oldest. The Tokyo Electric Power Company began the process of building this plant in 1960, bringing it on line ten years later despite citizen concerns over placing reactors in known earthquake-prone zones (it is timely to note that our own Diablo Canyon nuclear facility in California was built to withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake; Japan's last Friday was 8.9). In fact, trouble began not long after Fukushima joined the grid: fire broke out in 1976, though news of it only reached the public thanks to a whistle-blower. Other accidents occurred in 1978, 1990 and 1998. Now, this past weekend, we know that some people in the plant have already died, others have received potentially lethal doses of radiation, increased numbers of residents are being evacuated, and doses of iodine are being readied for many others. Even if a meltdown of a nuclear core—or two—is averted, Fukushima has already joined the ranks of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl to comprise an unholy trinity of the world's worst nuclear power catastrophes to date.
Fukushima Prefecture, however, is not an analog to Pennsylvania or the Ukraine in all respects. Fukushima is Japan, where the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing act of World War Two exposed tens of thousands of Japanese to radioactivity that sometimes killed them in later years, sometimes left them pitifully enfeebled, and sometimes, they feared, altered the genes they passed on to their children and grandchildren. This makes what we elsewhere in the world are now witnessing as "news" a vivid memory for the Japanese as well as their present-tense event. Genpatsu 'nuclear power' immediately recalls the older word genbaku 'atomic bomb' with a surplus of history and horror that our English translations do not.
Last December, and in response to a perceived growing threat from its nuclear-armed near neighbors, the Japanese Diet voted across all party lines to move closer than it ever has towards abandoning its long-standing "nuclear allergy" when it doubled its defense budget. At the time, few voices at home were raised in protest. More than half a century had passed since August 6 and 9 that long hot summer of the Japanese Empire's defeat; the world had changed, Japan faced new enemies, and they do seem suddenly emboldened. Article 9 of Japan's postwar "peace constitution" notwithstanding, Japan's new arms-building program seemed deAdd a Comment
Here’s some initial photos I received of the 2011 Vietnam International Illustration Exhibition sponsored by The Korea Society of Illustration Research in Hanoi. Once again I’d like thank my friend and major coordinator of this and previous exhibits Jae Chang. It was suggested this year’s exhibition location was more exotic, less modern atmosphere compared with the previous exhibitions in Kagoshima, Japan 2010 and the 2009 exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand. I imagined it would look something like what you see above. I’m told more photos will be forthcoming. I’ll share them on this post when I receive them.
Artist, critic, poet, performer . . . model? While David Antin's iconic image has adorned the covers of many of his most famous publications—from the stark black and white photograph of the author in a safari jacket on talking at the boundaries (New Directions, 1976) to the Colonel Kurtz-on-the-roof shot of Antin accompanied by an assistant in stonewashed denim jacket on A Conversation with David Antin (Granary Books, 2002) —few might realize the careful consideration behind this striking framing (though Caroline Bergvall has a great piece at Jacket on A Conversation that leads with an exploration of the cover image). Many of these images were shot by the American photographer and longtime Antin collaborator Phel Steinmetz and Antin's most recent collection Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005, proves no exception—in fact, the decision to run a black and white cover was even an homage to the use of Steinmetz's earlier images on Antin's previous volumes.
We asked Antin to share his thoughts on the discussion that went on behind the scenes before he decided on the image that now graces the cover of Radical Coherency. Antin responded in his characteristic conversationalist tone, imbuing his thoughts on this process with larger reflection on what this particular kind of image might embody:
When it came to thinking about a cover for Radical Coherency, I called on my usual team—Elly and Phel. Elly [Eleanor Antin] had designed my first book definitions and consulted on all the others, and Phel Steinmetz had shot the photo images for four of my earlier books. So we got together over coffee in our dining room and started to work it out. Radical Coherency was not like any of my other books. It was a Selected of past works from 1966 to 2005. So I wanted a cover that carried the sense of me looking at my past. That meant it was going to be a photograph with me in it. Elly thought it should be shot in the southern California landscape around our house. "You're a Southern California poet and that's where you live." I thought it could be a shot of me coming up our rugged driveway and Phel agreed but thought a shot taken behind the house might be just as good. We decided to try both places. But then Phel said he had an idea he was toying with but didn't know if it would work out. He would take two shots of me—one a full length, facing the camera, and the other a close-up over my shoulder—that he could combine to give the sense that I'm looking at myself. We all liked the idea but I wondered whether the over the shoulder shot would read clearly as me. "You just wear that old Safari jacket," Elly said. "The one you've been wearing since Phel shot the cover for talking at the boundaries back in '76. Who else looks like a bald poet in an old safari jacket?" Phel took the shots and came back with different scale versions of the two of them, laid them out on our dining room table, and we picked the two we liked best. But in the frontal shot I was carrying the safari jacket, not wearing it, and the over-the-shoulder shot was too close up for certain recognition. Studying the combined image, I realized I wasn't sure which shot represented the present and which the past, and even whether the Buddha-like image of the over-the-should Add a Comment
Not since Star Trek waffles (I’m not kidding) has a movie had so many unconventional food tie-ins as Captain America: The First Avenger. Clearly this called for a review in the interest of science journalism. So while visiting my parents for the Fourth of July weekend, I decided an expedition into patriotic tie-in food was required and resolved to try and review it all, a project which revealed one vitally important fact – apparently Americans really, really like patriotic donuts.
On July 3, I set forth in search of the fabled Captain America donut, and at all three Dunkin Donut locations within ten miles of my parents’ house, I was told they were entirely sold out of the themed pastries. No donuts, not even for ready money. No donuts at the inn.
Apparently every time they baked more, they sold out again. Unprompted, one clerk told me that business had been great, and pressed a button on her register which displayed how much cash was currently inside. Over $2,500. No donuts now, she said, but come back tomorrow.
At around 11:30 on July 4, the star-shaped Captain America donuts were entirely sold out at the nearest store, but there was one red Captain America donut left. At the larger store two or three miles down the road, both were in stock. I had no difficulty procuring the Captain America Cherry Coolata of wacky commercial fame or the Super Soldier Swirl ice cream, though this may be less a lack of demand and more the fact that they don’t need to be baked fresh.
Obviously, together all of these confections are too much sugar for any one sane human being, so I brought my parents in on the taste test. They had the advantage of being unblinded by any sentimental attachment to Steve Rogers, or, in my father’s case, any fuzzy feelings toward flag-themed items. “Anyone who puts up a flag is probably actually a Communist,” is his take on the subject, and he’s only mostly joking.
Captain America Cherry Coolata
Aesthetics: It’s a cherry slush. It looks like… a cherry slush.
Aesthetic rating: *
Taste: More of a mild sour cherry flavor than a plain cherry flavor and not as sweet as most slush.
Thoughts from the peanut gallery: (Dubious look, shrug.) “It’s not as overly sweet as most things like this. That’s good at least.” – My mother.
“It tastes like fake cherry, it has a bitter quality I don’t like, I turn my snoot up at it.” – My father.
Taste rating: **
Price: $2.99 for the smallest size.
Calories: 240 calories for the smallest size
Should you buy it? If you love slush drinks or artificial sour cherry and don’t care if it’s a bit overpriced, it’s fine but nothing special.
Verdict: We poured it down the drain.Display Comments Add a Comment
Fernando Coronil, distinguished professor of anthropology and Latin American studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, passed away last week after a hard-fought battle with lung cancer. Numerous colleagues have remembered the committed internationalist and critic of globocentrism, noting his capacious intellect, incisive scholarship, and passion for teaching, while still others have mourned the passing of a beloved mentor and friend. We remember Coronil as the author of The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in Venezuela, which examined key twentieth-century transformations in the nation's polity, culture, and economy, recasting theories of development and highlighting the relevance of these processes for other postcolonial nations. Below follows a more personal tribute from our own executive editor David Brent, who worked intimately with Coronil on The Magical State, and who offers a few good words on Coronil's remarkable life:
A Tribute to the late Fernando Coronil (1944-2011)
As anyone knows who has read Fernando Coronil's The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in Venezuela, or even just the endorsements of it on the back cover of the paperback edition, it is an exceptionally significant work not only for Latin American studies or anthropology in general but for all the other social sciences. It has also been a highly successful book for the Press in terms of its critical reception and its sales. After nearly 15 years in print, it is still being adopted for many courses both in the United States and abroad.
Fernando was a wonderful but sometimes slightly frustrating author to work with. I first met him sometime in the early '80s when he was already a rather senior graduate student at the University of Chicago. I found him to be a most impressive, charismatic, and warm person; just shaking his hand made me feel special and alive. At the urging of several faculty members, we discussed the possibility of publishing a revised version of his 1987 doctoral thesis The Black El Dorado: Money Fetishism, Democracy, and Capitalism in Venezuela. After reviewing at least two redactions of the thesis, the Press offered him an advance contract for The Magical State in February 1991. The contractual delivery date for the final manuscript was originally March 1992 but when it became clear that that was unrealistic it was revised to what turned out to be the equally unrealistic date of September 1992.
Fernando and family were of course already ensconced at the University of Michigan and he had many new and exciting projects to work on (including building the History and Anthropology Program there), students to supervise, and numerous other publications. Each time we met in person—which was at least once a year at a conference or a party—Fernando would beg my patience and even forgiveness for his tardiness; I remained supportive and enthusiastic, not out of politeness, but because I sincerely wanted him to finish his book and to publish it! In retrospect, I must say that his excuses for repeatedly missing deadlines were never tiresome and even after over four years of waiting I never lost confidence in him or the booAdd a Comment
In a better world, I would not have learned of Joe Simon’s 98th birthday today via Facebook at 8 PM.
In a better world, there would be multiple news articles streaming through Google News chronicling the amazing contributions Joe Simon has made to comics, an American art form.
In a better world, network news would report on how he co-created Captain America, how he helped pioneer the genres of romance and horror comics. There would be a slightly embarrassing picture of Brother Power the Geek and Prez.
In a better world, publishers of his work would celebrate his past work on their homepages. In a better world, comics news sites would offer week-long posts chronicling his achievements, lauding his influence on the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, and reviewing his latest creation.
Instead, the world is a bit imperfect. But superheroes show us that the world can be a better place, not because of fantastic superpowers, awesome weapons, or fancy costumes, but because the person underneath the union suit strives to be a better person, helping others to better themselves. Stories can inspire, stories can resonate, like mysterious Vita Rays which beam directly into a reader’s subconscious. The Grand Comics Database lists over 3100 credits for Joe Simon, and that’s a lot of inspiration, whether he wrote, drew, edited, or published comics. He still inspires, as seen recently.
Morris Philipson, former director of the University of Chicago Press (from 1967 to 2000), passed away on November 3, 2011, at the age of 85. We asked some of Philipson's friends and colleagues how they would remember Morris, and their thoughts follow below:
I worked at Chicago for ten years, from 1973 to 1983, half that time directly for Morris. He was brilliant, exacting, mercurial, funny, and loyal to the authors and people at the Press who held up his high standards. Like many others who went on to run other publishing companies, he taught me through example (mostly good) how to be a publisher. More than that, he shaped the Press's publishing program in ways that few directors attempt or manage. Those were glory years: The Lisle Letters, which more timid publishers would have abandoned; Derrida, whom he apparently understood; Mythologies; the Verdi Edition, which he supported even if his taste didn't run to high opera. The Chicago Manual of Style, Kate Turabian, the list goes on. He was willing to support his editors even when he was skeptical, a philosophy that led to the grand and enduring success of A River Runs Through It. The letter that Norman Maclean wrote to Knopf, who had turned it down (and that was reprinted in Harper's in 1993) says it all. Morris's death has brought back warm memories of my first publishing years and close colleagues who have stayed and moved on. We were fortunate to experience that remarkable era first hand.
—Wendy Strothman, The Strothman Agency
Morris Philipson's death is a deep sadness for me.
Our relationship dates back to the early 1970's when I joined Gallimard, and it went through different phases. For a long time, it was purely professional: Morris came regularly to the Frankfurt Book Fair, we saw each other in Paris, and he took a special interest in the authors I was publishing, such as Georges Duby, Jacques Le Goff, and Michel de Certeau.
He was very surprised to discover in me the historian of Les Lieux de mémoires (seven volumes), of which he was so fond that he planned to translate four volumes. Morris embarked on this adventure with ardor, with the help of his editor David Jordan. It created a real intellectual friendship between us.
My partner, who was American, played a large part in making our friendship stronger, because she also liked Morris the writer, whom I thus discovered.
His presence enriched my editor's career. I owe him a lot and I will long miss his thoughtful friendship.
—Pierre Nora, editorial director at Editions Gallimard
How I will miss talking with Morris. His sharp wit, his extraordinary, affectionate knowledge of books—their insides, their outsides (he knew well how often people did indeed judge books by their covers), the minds of the authors, the minds of the readers. The hilarious anecdotes from the old days chez Knopf, and the canny insights into the works and private lives of famous contemporary authors. He spoke about the projects he was working on with such joy and erudition, and when I sounded him on my own books in progress he invariably gave me tactful but telling advice and a treasure trove of places to look for what I was seeking. I can vividly conjure up the long, happy summer evenings sitting with Morris and Susie in the delicate garden behind their elegant townhouse on Dorchester Road, or, later, sitting with Morris alone, in restaurants and theaters, with Susie a palpable invisible presence, so strongly missed. Yet always, even in the last weeks of his life, it was easy to make him burst out in a laugh. He was a true connoisseur of the literary life, indeed of life tout cAdd a Comment