Category Archives: Commentary

Open Letter to Those Protesting the 2016 Presidential Election: Seek Out Your Electors! And Go to Change.org

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There is one way out of Trump Nation and that involves galvanizing the individuals chosen to be electors to vote their conscience. Everyone who wants to make a difference, go out and protest and focus on one key message: “Electors, Do The Right Thing. Vote for Hillary Clinton.” Will that work? Hell, yes! That’s working with what you’ve got, within the system. In the United States, we have an electoral college system created by the Founding Fathers of this country. The idea is to assure equal representation between all states.

However, it is possible within this system to end up with one candidate receiving the popular vote while the other candidate ends up receiving the higher number in electoral votes. Here’s where it gets very interesting: according to the Constitution, chosen electors of the Electoral College are the real people who will vote for president, when they meet on December 19 in their respective state capitals. And you can reach out to them now and ask them to vote for Hillary Clinton. The message can be general as well as specific to each elector. Seek them out. Follow these steps right here.

Tell your electors, your fellow Americans who will cast the final vote on Dec. 19th, to vote their conscience.

Take it the streets, take it to social media, tell your electors, your fellow Americans who will cast the final vote on Dec. 19th, to vote their conscience. That’s the only route that could prevent Trump Nation. If only the Founding Fathers were here, I am sure they’d agree. It is the only way to turn it around given that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 200,000.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of November 19th, according to new figures released by The Associated Press, Clinton received more than 1.5 million votes than her Republican rival. Clinton received 63,390,669 votes, while Trump received 61,820,845 votes — a difference of 1,569,824, according to The AP. Rounded off to whole numbers, that translates to 48 percent vs. 47 percent.

It’s worth a try, isn’t it? If ever there was a time to break the glass and go for the emergency hatchet, this is it. The Founding Fathers would give that a thumbs up. Trump is a product of the media. So, go out and spread the word to the media. Tell the talk show hosts. Tell anyone who will listen. That’s the best thing I can think to do right now.

For more information, visit change.org. You can sign a petition that will go directly to the Electoral College Electors. Just visit change.org right here.

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Filed under American History, Commentary, Donald Trump, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, politics

Putin leans in. Will only vodka spill, instead of bloodshed?

Illustration by Otto Dettmer, The New York Times

Illustration by Otto Dettmer, The New York Times

Here at the Comics Grinder news desk, things move along at whatever pace seems right. My friend, and editorial assistant, Roy, will occasionally drop off a book or some notes for consideration. One never knows what to expect. But you can always rely upon it being something interesting.

This time around, Roy dropped off a copy of “Vodka Politics” by Mark Lawrence Schrad. It’s one of those refreshingly readable and provocative academic books that he favors.

Before Roy was off to his next adventure, I asked him if he’d gotten the news that Putin is signaling that he’s open to a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.

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Filed under Books, Commentary, politics, Russia

The Power of Cinema: A Movie Review of GIANT

AN AMERICAN DIVIDE.

AN AMERICAN DIVIDE.

“Giant” is not quite as spectacular as “Gone with the Wind,” but it certainly holds its own. Both are colossal movies in star power, production, and size. “Giant,” however, is in a class all its own as it addresses head-on the curious relationship between the United States and Mexico and beyond. It is a powerful indictment on intolerance, expressed boldly and with audacity. And in 1956!

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE.

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE.

The whole movie can be boiled down to one scene. In fact, the movie could very well have been made simply for the sake of this one scene. You may know it, or know of it. It’s easy to do a quick search and watch the clip on YouTube. But, like most things in life, we gain from digging deeper. You simply must see the whole movie to appreciate its significance. Like I say, this movie came out in 1956. We Americans still have much to learn, as a whole country, don’t we? Some people think all we need to do is build a wall.

HOLD ON THERE!

HOLD ON THERE!

By the time we get to that momentous confrontation in a modest roadside diner, the main character of Jordan “Bick” Benedict (played by Rock Hudson) has grown by leaps and bounds as a human being. The suggestion is that so could America, as a whole, and anywhere else there is ignorance and hatred. It was there then. It is here now. We just pretend it doesn’t exist, at least too many of us do. That’s what Bick did. He never acknowledged, let alone cared about, all the Mexican people around him. He was the patriarch of a cattle empire in Texas. That’s all that mattered. Even if Mexicans worked on his ranch and cared for his children, as far as he was concerned, they didn’t really exist. So, if any harm came to them, that wasn’t his problem.

WE HAVE US A FIGHT!

WE HAVE US A FIGHT!

Some people assume all is well with the world as long as they are doing well. They cannot, will not, see beyond what they consider to be important. Maybe it’s a sewing circle, or collecting recipes, or a family pet. In the case of Bick, all that mattered was the family estate of Reata. In Edna Ferber’s novel, faithfully brought to the screen by George Stevens, we find in “Giant” the sweeping epic story of Texas. We follow the Benedict family from about 1930 to 1950 and see how Bick reacts to the great transition from a focus on cattle to a focus on oil. The fate of the Mexican population seems lost in the shuffle but it is always referred to, demanding some kind of answer.

THE FACE OF A NEW AMERICA.

THE FACE OF A NEW AMERICA.

By the time we reach that moment of truth in that diner, Bick must act instead of just react. The precision drumbeat has begun to the rousing tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” on the jukebox just as Bick and his family walk in. The signal is clear, we have something big that’s about to happen. Bick’s eyes have been opened to the world. He can empathize. His own son is married to a Mexican. And they have a beautiful child, Bick’s grandson. When the family arrives at the diner, the diner’s owner is prepared to throw them out but hesitates. He barks an insult and cowardly walks away. A few minutes later, a serious confrontation is inevitable.

In just a few moments, Bick witnesses the diner’s owner manhandle a Mexican family that had just arrived. Bick is now in a position, in his mind and heart, to take a stand. As the music on the jukebox swells, Bick and the owner engage in a fight. First words, then fists, and then total mayhem. It’s the most direct and honest thing that Bick has ever done in his whole life and, to think it possible, in the defense of the Mexicans. While in may seem amazingly sophisticated and enlightened for such a major motion picture to have been made at that time, it really is not too much to ask. The tide was slowly turning towards social change. The general public, whether or not they admit so in public, know right from wrong. In fact, “Giant,” is a widely acknowledged icon. Like its name implies, it is too big to ignore and too big to dismiss.

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Filed under American History, Commentary, History, Movie Reviews, movies, Race, Race Relations, Racism, Social Commentary, Social Justice

WHERE HAVE ALL THE HEROES GONE? Gloria Swanson and a Talk About How We Got Here From There

Gloria Swanson photograph by Edward Steichen, 1924

Gloria Swanson photograph by Edward Steichen, 1924

“Where have all the heroes gone?” asked Sherman. He asked this plainly and earnestly, without even a hint of irony. He looked to be about 16-years-old and not remarkable at first glance, just a kid. He wore a cardigan sweater, had messy hair, a well-worn t-shirt, jeans, and Converse high tops. Maybe a geek but not a proud geek.

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Filed under Commentary, Creative Living, Culture, Essays, Facebook, Henry Chamberlain, Heroes, Hollywood, Internet, Media, movies, Silent Movies, Social Media, Superheroes, writing

BALLARD COMICS #6

Editor’s Note: Marshall McLuhan is gaining ground, much like Nikola Tesla, as a hero from the past speaking for today. He would certainly have something to say about the hotspot that is today’s Ballard, a far cry from the sleepy little hamlet that it once was. McLuhan was sensitive to such things as the character and identity of a place.

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Ballard-Comics-Grinder-Seattle

Ballard-WA-The-Hi-Life-2013

Has Ballard lost something? Well, it’s always been under development, that’s one way of looking at it. Consider the last panel in this comic. You see what was once a grand old fire station. It was converted into one of Ballard’s leading restaurants, The Hi-Life, long before the arrival of all the other new hotspots that make up the new Ballard. It’s certainly a great place and enhances the whole area. All you have to do is try their famously good fried chicken to know they belong right where they are.

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, Ballard, Ballard Comics, Comics, Commentary, Edith Macefield, Henry Chamberlain, Humor, pop culture, Satire, Seattle, Webcomics

BALLARD COMICS: Drawing Ballard in 24 Hours, #4

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October 14, 2013 · 5:47 pm

Cartoonist David Chelsea and his favorite story in EVERYBODY GETS IT WRONG

Jesusland-david-chelsea

What do the critics know? What does anyone really know..unless they take the time to carefully take in the subject? The subject in this case is David Chelsea’s new collection of comics, “Everybody Gets It Wrong! (and Other Stories): David Chelsea’s 24 Hour Comics Volume 1.” Novelist Mary Robinette Kowal put an intriguing question to the master cartoonist. She asked him which piece in his new book is his favorite. His ready reply, “Jesusland.”

Keep in mind that this new collection of comics by Chelsea was created for 24 Hour Comics challenges. That, my friend, is a challenge created by another master cartoonist, Scott McCloud, who first proposed that an entire comic book be created in the span of 24 hours, one page per hour. The book collects the first six (out of sixteen thus far) that Chelsea has undertaken. It’s a very special set of circumstances that you enter into with a 24-Hour Comic. One of the liberating factors is the freedom you have to do whatever you want in real time. And it makes sense that Chelsea would favor “Jesusland” since he was riffing on the current state of affairs: the 2004 Presidential election and the Republicans mobilizing the Evangelical vote to secure Dubya’s second term.

You can read the interview by Ms. Kowal with Mr. Chelsea here.

Visit David Chelsea here.

And pick up your copy of “Everybody Gets It Wrong” here.

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics, Comics, Commentary, Dark Horse Comics, David Chelsea, politics

‘Ender’s Game’ Facing Boycotts Following Author’s Anti-Gay Views

Photo by 91st™ Shawn via Flickr

Photo by 91st™ Shawn via Flickr

“Ender’s Game” is a controversial movie for all the wrong reasons. As Jergen Hemlock reports, it is at risk of losing at the box office because the work it originates from is by Orson Scott Card, known as much for his science fiction as for his anti-gay comments.

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Filed under Commentary, Entertainment, LGBT, movies, news, Orson Scott Card, Sci-Fi, science fiction

WHAT IS A GEEK?

What is a geek? The question seems simple enough but it is in that simplicity that lies an utter complexity. I’m sorry but, for instance, you’re not truly a geek if you “geek out” on discussing your favorite Merlots. Even if you get really nerdy about discussing letting your wine breathe, it doesn’t guarantee you’re a geek. In “Sideways,” Paul Giamatti gives a star turn performance as a miserable guy, at middle-age, with little to show for it. One thing that gives him solace is his encyclopedic knowledge of wine. He’s not trying to be a geek or even aware of the term. In his case, he has a passion that, by default, makes him a, well, wine “geek.”

Why does everyone now want to be a “geek”? I’m  not sure they even know. It’s a cyclical thing, you understand. Something is underground, it is co-opted by the mainstream media, eventually everyone is in on it, and, then, when the general audience tires of it, it goes back from whence it came and thrives once more in the fertile underground until it is yanked back out for a whole new feeding frenzy. But that never means that, during this feeding frenzy, the general audience digs deeper into whatever is currently in the spotlight, like, for example, “The Avengers.”

“Geek” has gone beyond entering the mainstream, its tipping point has been reached, as CNN declared in 2009. It is common knowledge. Like George Washington, Babe Ruth and the Dalai Lama are considered common knowledge. However, it’s not like “geek” is as well known as, say, Britney Spears, which is ironic given that geek culture has been touted as being part of the pop culture. “Geek” has been equated with what is hot most fervently by those trying to profit off some part of it. You know that your favorite niche comic has lost something once it’s being featured on G4’s “Attack of the Show.” But, most likely, your favorite niche comic will go unnoticed by these expert show biz “geeks.” And, if they do catch on to something that has an intrinsically cool quality to it, for instance, “The Walking Dead,” then you grin and bear it or you can go all counterintuitive and be happy for a wider audience. Sometimes popularity is a good thing. Sometime everyone wins. But, getting back to my point, most viewers of this zombie show are not readers of the comics that the show is based on.

Is there something horribly wrong with “Attack of the Show”? Well, let’s just say, live and let live. There’s no harm if a show is helping to bring in a new audience. This is sort of a game of survival of the fittest for any media, big or small, that is connected with geek culture. Let the content providers do it for as long as they care to. Some will stay just for the love it and not even notice or care where they stand within current trends.

So, people who are geeks are not trying to be geeks but just are geeks. The term defines someone who is totally lost in a particular pursuit and, because of that, is oblivious to other things. This term neatly fits in with the tech savvy crowd. And it moved on to cover other subjects that attract a niche audience. To be a geek, by this definition, is to be removed from general social circles. However, as marketing departments would have it, it’s actually way cool to be a geek! That is the disconnect. But when has a marketing department been sensitive to the finer aspects of human interaction? That’s up you, my friend. And, really, you don’t have to be a geek. It’s all a bunch of hype, unless you know better.

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Filed under Comics, Commentary, Entertainment, Geeks, movies, pop culture

Cleveland Amory and the Dawn of Pop Culture

There was Andy Warhol. And there was Marshall McLuhan. But, also leading the way at the dawn of contemporary pop culture, there was Cleveland Amory. This post is going to be personal. It’s going to be one that I highlight and refer back to and I hope might inspire you. Amory’s was a remarkable life. He was gifted with something any blogger would appreciate: a way with words. He was such a keen observer of his times and what lay ahead. When I was describing my blog to a friend awhile ago, I mentioned Amory. It made sense in that instance although I’m not sure my friend caught the significance. It felt like an epiphany to me: I hadn’t thought of Amory in years, and now, it was clear that I should look back to what I knew about him and learn more. I think, as I recall, my friend nodded, as we continued our conversation. For all I know, he had just nodded, did not actually know who Cleveland Amory was! And there lies the purpose of this post. I want you to know, or rediscover, Cleveland Amory and see why he’s such a big deal.

In the beginning,  and that would be at the end of World War II and with the rise of American prosperity, there was pop culture and it was good–but it had a ways to go in defining itself. Cleveland Amory arrived at the party just as it started. Fresh out of college, Harvard no less, Amory wrote his first bestseller, “The Proper Bostonians,” in 1947, which chronicled the world of old families and their old money. Amory was describing a world that held to the highest esteem those that fit into what was then known to be “high society.” Amory, an honest social observer, was not hesitant about questioning the importance or relevance of the “blue bloods.” He was one of them. He was also quick to note their decline and the emergence of a new order, celebrity culture. And with each new bit of insight, Amory took it all with a grain of salt. He was not enamoured by any of it. He was amused by it which makes him such a healthy role model for those who keep up with and write about pop culture. The man had his priorities straight. In the end, what he really found compelling was the rights of animals. He founded The Fund For Animals, which would go on to merge with The Humane Society. Instead of only focusing on social commentary, he was able to parlay his formidable connections and skills to help animals in a variety of ways from harm by hunters, questionable practices in laboratories, exploitation and slaughter.

A book that opened my eyes to the multi-faceted Mr. Amory is the impressive biography written by Marilyn Greenwald, Cleveland Amory: Media Curmudgeon and Animal Rights Crusader. That book has gotten me to thinking about spreading the word about Cleveland Amory. The comic strip below is a taste of what I’m working on. Here is a moment of truth for Amory. He is enjoying one of his peaks of popularity as a regular commentator on “The Today Show.” He is already on the board of directors of The Humane Society and his animal activism is growing. With his platform to say whatever he wished, with no prior approval needed on his commentary, it was just a matter of time before Mr. Amory rocked the medium he was so much a part of on behalf of animals…

Suffice it to say, there are no more annual “Bunny Bops.” It was also the end of Amory’s free rein at “The Today Show.” His scripts would be tightly supervised from then on. His days at NBC were no longer so golden. But that’s when a new door opened at “TV Guide.” My interest in Cleveland Amory goes back to childhood when I read his reviews in “TV Guide” towards the end of his time there as chief critic. I’m just old enough to remember finding him to be a really cool dude in an upper crust sort of way. He was clearly someone of refined sensibilities who had taken upon himself the burden of making sense of the new untested mass medium. He wrote his “TV Guide” columns from the 1960s to 1970s, just as TV was coming into its own. It’s no mistake that “YouTube” takes its logo directly from “TV Guide.” Television and “TV Guide” used to go hand in hand, both leading each other into uncharted waters. Even “Entertainment Weekly,” today’s influential media weekly, can not truly compare with the impact of “TV Guide” in its heyday, with its analysis and support of television. I was just a little kid back then but I was already hip to what “TV Guide” was doing and the one person who most personified the effort to make sense of television was Cleveland Amory. Thankfully, Amory did far more than make sense out of television. He helped us all make more sense of how to live a worthwhile life.

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Filed under Cleveland Amory, Commentary, Culture, pop culture