Tuesday, February 12, 2013
CARD'S ON THE TABLE
DC Comics is being targeted by an online campaign for the publisher to drop one of its writers. DC, one of the publishing arms of Time-Warner, Inc., owns the Superman character and has recently hired science fiction author Orson Scott Card to write a series of Superman stories, "Adventures of Superman" for its digital-exclusive publishing endeavors.
Card, who has dozens of novels, short stories, stage plays and non-fiction works to his credit, is perhaps best known for his Ender's Game series of novels and short stories, the eponymous first of which is currently being adapted into a feature film by Summit Entertainment. He is also known for his conservative social activism: Card is a board member for the National Organization for Marriage (which formally campaigns against gay marriage policy in the U.S.), and he has reportedly written a number of essays sharply criticizing gay marriage and other LGBT rights issues.
Some in the comic book fan community (notably, a recent editorial published on ComicBookResources.com) are calling out Card as a bigot and suggest that DC cancel Card's contract, citing in part the Superman character's lean toward social tolerance (a famous Adventures of Superman radio serial was produced in the 1950s pitting the character against the Ku Klux Klan). To this end, an online petition has surfaced directed toward DC comics calling for Card's ouster. Some are even calling for a boycott of DC Comics should the publisher continue its relationship with Card. Still others have cited freedom of speech issues, and that Card's political views should not be a determinant on being able to write Superman stories.
Apropos of nothing, while perusing biographical informatoin on Mr. Card, it seems that he is of the Mormon faith (reportedly a direct descendant of LDS founder Brigham Young)– which is his business, of course. But I think it’s important to look into the backgrounds of various authors before people consider themselves “shocked” that he or she might have certain social views that the observer may disagree with.
As a communications graduate, this author can't help but to notice that this unfolding situation actually presents an interesting challenge (of sorts) from a public relations standpoint. Many comic book fans wish that they could work for DC or Marvel. So if you were working for DC in their PR department, and you were tasked with handling this should the press come calling (comic-industry press, fan websites, mainstream news outlets), then how would you handle this? Bear in mind, whatever your personal take is on Mr. Card or his political views, this is about servicing the client (DC Comics). Your bosses say “we’re publishing the series as is, uninterrupted. Handle this.” Okay, now what?
Thursday, January 31, 2013
DEATH BEFORE DISARMAMENT:
America's Reluctance to Confront Gun Legislation
“Just throw your guns in the air, and buck-buck like you just don’t care!” Onyx, “Throw Ya Gunz”, 1993
In Chicago, teenager Hadiya Pendleton, who performed at President Obama’s second inauguration was murdered this week by gunfire. In Detroit, nearly 400 gun-related criminal homicides were recorded in 2012. In Phoenix, an office-building confrontation has, as of this writing, left one person dead and two injured by gunfire. The gunman is currently at large, and in the meanwhile, U.S. Congress is poised to debate new, nationwide gun policy. Dismally—and perhaps predictably—despite President Obama’s signing of 23 executive orders directly aimed at gun policy, the prospect of comprehensive gun control legislation is widely speculated to fall apart before it even begins.
It is abhorrent that intellectual dishonesty tends to dominate of the hand-wringing that goes on with both elected officials in this country as well as much of the general public about evolving our national gun policy into something that’s much more progressive and practical than the hodgepodge of state-by-state statutes that exist now.
Much of the dishonesty is coming from public officials. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has yet to definitively say what specific measures—if any—he supports regarding new gun policy, including revisiting a ban on assault rifles. Incidentally, Reid routinely receives a ‘B’ rating by the National Rifle Association’s assessment of sympathetic legislators. He has never being officially endorsed by the NRA, though it has been documented that he has accepted campaign donations from them. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has similarly demurred on saying what he and the Republican House members are willing to embrace on gun policy.
“I take seven (kids) from (Columbine), stand ' em all in line, Add an AK-47, a revolver, a nine, a Mack-11 and it oughta solve the problem of mine, and that's a whole school of bullies shot up all at one time...” Eminem, “I’m Back”, 2000.
In fairness, however, the dishonesty goes well beyond public officials, and lay squarely with the public in general. For sure, guns are virtually deified in the national mythology shared by many Americans. The Puritan expatriates who originally founded Plymouth Colony; the rebel forces of the original 13 colonies fighting against the British; the pioneers of Western expansion; the “bombs bursting in air” of our national anthem. Indeed, when one takes into account the war campaigns against Native Americans and the forced enslavement of Africans, the gun was perhaps the most potent instrument—not the shovel, the scythe, the saw, the hammer, or even the mighty pen—to be used in the founding of the country and enforcement of its worldview. Then again, this last point isn’t likely to be uplifted in the average Independence Day speech.
“When I pop the trunk, hit the deck, John Wayne couldn’t even stand the reign of the Tec…” Beatnuts, “Rein of the Tec”, 1993
Hearing gunfire going on just outside your house means one thing if you live in a rural town or outer-rim suburbia, and the source of the action is Dad or Grandpa (or nowadays, even Mom) teaching Junior how to take out tin cans at a distance with the Winchester (and it certainly helps if your ‘back yard’ is at least a few acres in diameter). Hearing gunfire means something else altogether if you live in an urban neighborhood and the source of the action is one or more knuckleheads with a beef (whether real or imagined) whose first, second and last means of conflict resolution is to shoot and kill the offender—and woe to anyone who stands within the bullet’s travel radius, intended target or no.
“Rat-tat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat like that (what?), never hesitate to put a ni**a on his back..” “Rat-tat-tat-tat”, Dr. Dre (w. Snoop Dogg), 1992.
There is a spiteful arrogance that informs the attitudes of all those who aren't willing to acknowledge that gun proliferation is a problem at all—or if it is, that only mass-armament is supposedly the only practical solution (essentially the position of NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre). Unfettered escalation of gun manufacturing, gun access—and gun usage—cannot be divorced from being acknowledged as a core component of America’s ongoing gun-related tragedies.
Similarly sinister is the notion that the current conversation about guns should exclusively about mental health. To the degree that mental health is certainly a major issue worthy of consideration this author feels compelled to point out that political conservatives regularly rail against expansion of health care coverage, ongoing grudges against the Affordable Care Act merely being the most obvious of its manifestations. For decades now, governors and state legislators from both major parties have cut funding to publicly-supported mental health facilities. Prevention resources never seem to be a priority, but building more prisons to house the often mentally-ill perpetrators of violent crime doesn’t seem to cause much a stir.
“So what’s the use, go and ban the A-K? My sh*t wasn’t registered any fu*kin’ way…” Ice Cube, “The Ni**a You Love to Hate”, 1990
Where the premise of self-defense is concerned, pragmatism is also lacking. More often than not, the “…from my cold dead hands” coterie offer only an absolutist position that rejects outright any form of gun-restriction legislation whatsoever, based on the premise that an Orwellian nightmare scenario will immediately begin to take place. Whenever anyone mentions the phrase “gun control”, the immediate kneejerk reaction is to assume that this means banning all firearms in all forms and issuing a nationwide confiscation campaign. Ironically, this stance provides a mutual rallying point for rural and suburban survivalists, neo-Nazis, Tea Partiers, youth gangbangers, organized crime, and Afrocentric militants alike. Curious.
“And who’s behind puttin’ the guns to the young ones; the ones that make ‘em is the ones that take ‘em…
Rugged for no reason, down it’s duck season; I don't want my mama on the street wearing armor…” Public Enemy, “Give it Up”, 1994.
Rugged for no reason, down it’s duck season; I don't want my mama on the street wearing armor…” Public Enemy, “Give it Up”, 1994.
This week, some honesty was delivered by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. Both delivered testimony to a Senate subcommittee speaking of pragmatic but firm gun policies. Giffords was gravely wounded in 2011 by a shooter who also took six lives in an abrupt killing spree outside a grocery store in Tuscon: http://tinyurl.com/bzk9qvo
“I got seven Mac-11s, about eight .38s, nine 9-mills, Mac-10s, the sh*ts never end…” Notorious B.I.G., concert freestyle, circa 1993.
If the let-the-status-quo-be rationale is to prevail, then it should be declared publicly that Americans are willing to give inanimate, death-dealing constructions of metal, plastic and wood more of an inherent right to exist than, well, the humans who reside here.
As of this writing, it has been roughly six weeks since a one-man shooting spree at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of 27 people, including 20 children (the gunman, Adam Lanza, had earlier killed his mother and committed suicide as first responders arrived, bumping up the total body count to 28). In 2001, It took 35 days for the Patriot Act to be signed into law after being introduced less than two weeks after the events of the terror attacks of September 11. Shame on America if it cannot enact national gun reform in the aftermath of the latest, albeit staggered out, mass loss of its citizens.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
FIND A SOLUTION
It's a new year, but some old issues unfortunately have tragically come to a head in the past month. In Newtown, Connecticut, a disturbed young man, Adam Lanza, committed a heinous act of seemingly wanton murder, laying siege to an elementary school, killing 26 people on site, and at home, killing his mother Nancy as well, before finally shooting himself dead as police authorities arrived. President Barack Obama subsequently charged Vice-President Joe Biden to lead a task force that would come up with comprehensive proposals for public policy legislation related to gun access and mental health, to present before the new Congress.
This author wrote the following in response to the mass-shooting which grievously wounded Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. In full acknowledgment of the horrific human tragedy that unfolded in Newtown and in other recent gun-related violent crimes, it seems appropriate to reiterate the issues therein:
Mental Health- The 2010 Health Care Act must be defended against repeal efforts by those in opposition to it. In particular any statutes concerning mental health coverage should be scrutinized and bolstered with amendments. Publicly funded mental health facilities in the United States facing drastic budget cutbacks and outright closings has been a quiet, disturbing trend in the past 15 years. Mental-health coverage in self-purchased or employer-paid health insurance through private firms is often modest, at best, with high-co-pays and deductibles. Lack of mental health access has, in part, reputedly led to a spike in homeless populations, particularly in Southeast Michigan.
Gun Control- This ongoing issue in American politics is always contentious and brings out very emotional responses. But if there is going to be any genuine progress in addressing gun proliferation in our country, elected officials must be bold enough to take a stand on enacting new regulations. More stringent background checks are needed to make sure that a person is not of unsound mental health. The trend of self-described collectors owning high-powered weaponry is extremely disturbing. The purchase and ownership of military and paramilitary weaponry by civilians must be analyzed and curbed. The mantra of gun-rights absolutists and lobbyists that any and all firearms are okay for anyone to own should not be allowed to define our culture. If there is anything to be learned from the recent tragedy, it is that disagreement with others, even drastic disagreement, should not be a justification for violent aggression against our neighbors.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
NEEDY FAMILIES GET HELP FROM RITE-AID, HUMAN SERVICE AGENCIES
Representatives from Rite-Aid Corporation and social service agency representatives in Detroit held a press conference Tuesday announcing a resource program targeting low-income families in the city of Detroit. The event was held at Matrix Human Services Mt. Zion Service Center on Detroit's east side. Two women who are clients of the Detroit Healthy Start program were on hand for the conference. They and other client families enrolled in the program will be receiving infant-care supplies and other child-health resources, as donated by the Rite Aid Corporation. Among the items donated by Rite Aid included over 100 "gift" bags (including diapers, baby shampoo, and other health and hygiene items) as well as several baby cribs. Members of the Detroit Healthy Start program and the nonprofit Institute for Population Health were on hand for the event. Comments were made by representatives of all the principal organizations involved.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
RESEARCH SURVEY This is a free survey about students and video game playing. This is an anonymous survey, no money or commitments involved. If you can fill this out that would be a great help in my research. Please click below to continue: Click here to take survey
Friday, July 20, 2012
"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster."-- Friedrich Nietzsche
At least 12 people are dead and dozens are wounded in the aftermath of a one-man shooting rampage in the city of Aurora, Colorado. According to a police officer on the scene, James Holmes, 24, identified himself as "the Joker" when confronted by authorities after Holmes entered a packed movie theater showing the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises and started shooting at the audience. http://tinyurl.com/733xbsd Subsequently, Holmes reportedly surrendered to police without a fight, and is currently in custody. Despite his declaration of affiliation with the iconic Batman arch-villain, Holmes had entered the theater in costuming more closely resembling the current antagonist in the Rises film, the terrorist leader Bane.
In recent months, Holmes was a graduate student studying medicine at a local Colorado university. In keeping with "super villain" modus operandi, reportedly, Holmes has boobytrapped his apartment with elaborate riggings, and authorities are incrementally attempting to enter his now-empty residence. Taking into account this tacit connection to "fanboy" culture, I can see the future of conventions being almost irrevocably altered. Up until now, people would have elaborate costuming, brandishing fake weapons-- people would pretend to be shot, stabbed or mock-faint, and nobody thinks anything of it. But now...
Locally, a Michigan theater chain has now banned masks and costumes-- http://tinyurl.com/7rawxsp
I won't be seeing the movie this weekend. I'm not sure when i'll be back in any theaters at all. In full disclosure, for the past 3 - 4 months, whenever I'd head into a multiplex to see something, usually sitting somewhere in the middle area, I would have negative fleeting thoughts, in many respects based out of awareness of the local violent crimes here in Detroit: "what if somebody came in here and started something... should I sit near the exit.. or is that a too-convenient target" (I remember a couple years ago walking out of a theater when some knuckleheads claiming gang ties started arguing in the seats right in front of me, right before the movie started. I have no idea what, if anything, transpired next...)
On these recent movie excursions, my head would dart around. Nothing unusual. Wait... Some guy's ducking down and is really intently fiddling with his cell phone.. he gets up and.. he leaves. I'm not sure whether he comes back. Meanwhile, I'd change to an aisle seat and allow myself to relax. "Okay, Hype, you're just being paranoid..."
But now... I just don’t know. In the past 24 hours, a maniac with a Bane outfit and weapons purchased over-the-counter really does do that thing that Mama Hype has “warned” me about for years about being ‘caught up’ in with people who are all-the-way too-deep into the sci-fi/comics/fantasy/dungeons-n-dragons world (not that the suspect’s hobbies have been firmly established, but anyway... ) Relating to personal career issues, in the past six months I’ve already sold about 80% of my comics and haven’t been to a comics store at all in that time.
I just can’t compartmentalize like some folks can when it comes to events like this (go see the movie! Go shop! Otherwise the bad guys win!) Pop culture and a horrific crime have been inexplicably, perhaps irrevocably, combined, likely with lasting cultural consequences. This is going to stick with me for a long while.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
BLOOD AND LORE: CABIN IN THE WOODS REVIEW
“…nobody wants to see vampire killers… or vampires… Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins.”
Peter Vincent (Roddy MacDowall), Fright Night (1985)
If someone unexposed to horror films from the past 35 years or so were to watch a marathon of several of these films back to back (and let’s say none of them were sequels), how many would it take before he or she began to predict what’s going to happen next? For an American film audience culture that has by now endured the irony-heavy Scream franchise and the gloomily unironic spate of “torture porn” from auteurs like Eli Roth and others, can there truly be any genuine shocks in horror anymore? Cabin in the Woods film attempts to answer that question with a wink and a nod.
The new film features five college-aged protagonists, each fitting a certain stock cliché to be found in assorted horror films: the jock/de facto leader (Chris Hemsworth ), the dumb blonde (Anna Hutchison), the nerd/token minority (Jesse Williams), the druggie (Fran Kranz) and the nice girl (Kristin Connolly.) The (slight) twist is, not all of the characters inhabit these roles from the get-go, but are manipulated into them.
A creepy gas station attendant (is there any other kind?) gives an oblique warning (to the students and the audience) as the quintet heads up to the titular cabin for a weekend of unsupervised fun. Before the film is over, threads from Deliverance, Friday the 13th, Ju-On/The Grudge and more are touched on in various depths. The Saw films, which are already on their seventh (or is that VIIth?) installment, are also clipped for some thematic DNA.
The film was co-written by Joss Whedon (Marvel’s The Avengers) and directed by Drew Goddard—the latter of whom wrote and/or directed several episodes of Whedon’s Buffy and Angel TV series as well as the conspiracy-heavy TV drama Lost. Both collaborators bring a satirical sensibility to this horror entry. Cabin reveals its core conceit in its opening scenes (though less-knowing viewers may be hard-pressed to connect the dots early on), and so perhaps the film has less bite (pun intended) than it would have were it to wait until later. Still, the twists, when they happen, are more intriguing than draining, especially by the climax, which manages to be nihilistic and liberating at the same time.
Cabin functions as a witty indictment and apology of sorts for the clichés of contemporary horror cinema and the slasher subgenre in particular. Depending on how cynical the viewer is, the only way to really ruin this experience—would be to have a sequel.