Tag Archives: Politics

Review: SNOWDEN by Ted Rall

Snowden-Seven-Stories-Press

How important is the truth to you? In the new graphic biography, SNOWDEN, published by Seven Stories Press, Ted Rall presents to us not only the story of a whistleblower but an American intelligence system gone haywire. In Orwellian fashion, your laptop, home computer, smartphone, or television screen are being used as monitoring devices. As Rall states, “The National Security Agency’s goal is to gather every fact, every communication, about everybody on Earth.” And despite the best efforts of Edward Snowden to expose the abuse of power, the NSA continues to pretty much do as it pleases. Unlike the media’s personality-driven story, this story is only partly about a whistleblower.

Edward-Snowden-Ted-Rall

Ted Rall is known for his provocative political cartoons. For this book, he aims for clarity and a step-by-step approach. He does not draw horns and a tail on each of the bad guys. He tones it down for the sake of better conveying the facts. It’s a delicate balancing act as he goes about describing the enormity of the abuse, impressing upon the reader the large number of people who knew about it but remained quiet, and attempting to paint a portrait of the ideal personality to blow the whistle.

NSA-Surveillance

Given the number of key facts that need to be presented in an organized, and accessible fashion, Rall does a supreme job of giving the reader a primer on how their privacy is being violated and why a young man named Edward Snowden deserves to be given a chance to make his case.

Edward-Snowden-James-Clapper

The pace of the narrative is just right. It amounts to a panel per page. You feel a serious urgency tempered by a steady hand. It seems like each page has boiled down what it has to say to a very compelling level. Many pages can easily act as memes. One excellent example focuses on the duplicitous testimony before Congress by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He makes the ridiculous distinction that it’s alright to store an innocent person’s data as long as it’s not read.

Ted-Rall-Snowden-2015

Ted Rall has never drawn a convincing portrait of anyone. His depictions don’t really resemble Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or George W. Bush as much as look like a bunch of generic meat puppets. That helps create enough of a distance when dealing with these political fixtures. Maybe this story was a little different as it sees a former boy scout and defender of country turn into the most wanted man on the planet. Rall seems to have been moved by that fact.

Ted-Rall-Snowden

We mostly see Snowden depicted pretty much like any other Rall character but, at times, there is a less rushed, more careful, depiction. And, without a doubt, there is a certain specificity, and even warmth, for his cover art portrait of Edward Snowden. I think that was essential and will help draw readers into a most compelling read.

SNOWDEN is a 224-page trade paperback, published by Seven Stories Press, and available now. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Comics, Edward Snowden, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Seven Stories Press, Ted Rall

Review: ‘Locomotive / IDEOLO,’ published by Centrala

"Locomotive / IDEOLO," published by Centrala

“Locomotive / IDEOLO,” published by Centrala

“Locomotive / IDEOLO,” published by Centrala, is one beautiful and simple idea brought to life for all its worth: take a beloved famous Polish poem for children and then adapt it for adults. The poem is “The Locomotive,” by Julian Tuwim (September 13, 1894 – December 27, 1953) who is remembered for his satirical and subversive poetry. Listen to “The Locomotive” in Polish and, even if you don’t speak the language, it evokes the strains and struggles of the mighty steam-powered monster. What designer Małgorzata Gurowska and journalist Joanna Ruszczyk have done with this book is provide a unique format upon which to meditate on Tuwim’s poem.

Julian-Tuwim-Locomotive

I found this book to be a great form of therapy as I lingered upon each page. Gurowska and Ruszczyk provide an intoxicating mix of light and dark content. We have animals that appear to be undergoing an organized exodus while other animals have been neatly packed as surplus. And the same goes for humans. On the train cars, as we begin, it seems that we have everything we would ever need for anything: a celebration, a riot, the next all-out war. As we proceed from train car to train car, the stakes grow higher, the urgency more crushing. Countless suitcases are stored away never to be reunited with their owners. Troops are deployed. War is imminent or already unleashed.

And amid all the mounting tension, there is a cry for change. The political commentary is sly and well-placed challenging the reader to face difficult questions about national identity, racism, anti-Semitism, and attitudes towards ecology and animals. The design is impeccable and does a great job of evoking a highly regimented state of alert. The clean and sharp silhouettes of rabbits, soccer players, and suitcases will hit you with their significance. Contemplate each page and then spread out the entire book, just like an accordion, to fully appreciate it.

From Julian Tuwim’s THE LOCOMOTIVE:

A big locomotive has pulled into town,
Heavy, humungus, with sweat rolling down,
A plump jumbo olive.
Huffing and puffing and panting and smelly.
Fire belches forth from her fat cast iron belly

“Locomotive / IDEOLO” is a 188-page hardcover and is appropriate for ages 9 and up. Visit our friends at Centrala right here.

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Filed under Centrala, Comics, Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Poetry

DVD Review: EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION

Evergreen-The-Road-to-Legalization

“A compelling, provocative and enlightening glimpse into the complex and sometimes contrary world of cannabis legalization in the United States. All of the controversy, infighting and emotion that is inherent in democracy is included in this fast moving example of what it takes to exact reform under the iron fist of pot prohibition. Any serious reformer, cannabis enthusiast or student of history will want to take the time to view this historic time capsule of a film.” – Vivian McPeak, Seattle Hempfest

Seattle’s annual Hempfest is this weekend, August 14 thru 16. It’s an exciting time for Hempfest as history continues to be made on the road to one day fully bringing to an end the prohibition of cannabis in the United States. With that in mind, there’s a great documentary on the initiative that made recreational marijuana legal in Washington state.

EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION is an essential documentary on the tangled road to legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state. We follow the key players and get an in depth look at the campaign for, and against, Washington Initiative 502 (I-502) “on marijuana reform,” an initiative to the Washington State Legislature, which appeared on the November 2012 general ballot.

Keep in mind that medical marijuana is a different issue. There are 23 states in the U.S. that have legalized it starting with California in 1996. Washington state legalized it in 1998. The distinction is all the more significant given that the push to legalize recreational marijuana would end up threatening the position of medical marijuana. This is where the conflict arises among folks who would seem to be on the same side. A great focus for the opposition to I-502 was its nearly zero tolerance provision regarding driving under the influence of marijuana. This placed medical marijuana users in a no-win situation no matter how well they might argue against it.

This is a lesson in politics as much as marijuana. In order to make this initiative palatable to the average voter, the creators of I-502 believed that sacrifices and compromises had to be offered up. What the documentary makes clear in various segments is that the I-502 machine was geared to be the best possible chance to pass reform. This means victories by increments. And it also means making a case that will appeal to the widest audience.

Now with the stage set, there are three main figures that keep this political drama interestng. On the I-502 side, we have two charismatic leaders: Alison Holcomb who represents the legal work behind crafting the intiative; and Rick Steves who helps the campaign by taking from his capital as a well-known travel expert and allows himself to be the face of I-502. If the opposition had a face, it was definitely that of John McKay, a longtime advocate of medical marijuana.

We find Mckay is a somewhat disagreeable personality but consistent and quite reasonable. What he has is an authentic connection to the subject. Both Holcomb and Steves make no bones about not being cannabis users. Only in a documentary like this do you have the luxury of being able to scrutinize that disconnect. In one segment, we see Steves playing to a conservative crowd in Eastern Washington. He caters to their prejudices by saying in a mocking way, “Hey, if I want to hit my bong and stare at the fireplace for the next three hours, that’s my right.” This gets hearty applause. The damage continues to be done in regards to any real education on marijuana. However, a number of vital votes may have been won that night.

We see Holcomb in another segment in a similar mocking way suggesting she should create a marijuana leaf design on the top of her latte. If she knew anything about marijuana, she would have been able to speak to marijuana’s sativa strain being a great alternative to caffeine. No, instead, the lattes she regularly consumes are quad shots with considerably jittery results as opposed to the clean and non-jittery high of cannabis.

And so it goes, we find that the I-502 supporters are not there to fully embrace weed. But that is, oddly enough, perhaps all for the best to get things done. The motivation for change is simple and compelling: the tragic number of people in jail for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. And these numbers are significantly African-American. I-502 would prove to be a less than perfect solution. But, after it won voter approval, it immediately helped in changing how we make criminals, and ruin the lives, of many people. Prior to the effective date for the new referendum, 220 marijuana cases were dismissed in King and Pierce counties. No one can argue with that kind of progress. However, the imperfections and compromises of I-502 will lead to the end of medical marijuana dispensaries by 2016. Not a small price to pay for the sake of progress.

How do you stand on the issue of marijuana? This documentary will help in getting a better sense of the legal fight still ahead. For now, we can take some solace on progress being made. I will provide you with coverage of this year’s Seattle Hempfest. So, come back for that and a whole lot more. After viewing this documentary, it adds to the enthusiasm to witness and be part of the social change all around us here in Seattle.

EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION is available now on DVD with plenty of bonus material including a resource guide for helping support the fight for marijuana’s legitimacy. Go to the official website right here.

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Filed under Cannabis, Marijuana, politics, pop culture, Seattle, Seattle Hempfest

Comic-Con 2014: A Celebration of Walt Kelly and POGO

Pogo-Walt-Kelly-Comic-Con-Panel-2014

The pure magic of Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” comic strip defies easy description. It appeared in newspapers around the country and galvanized thought among the thoughtful. His strange and beautiful comic strip was, in its day, “Doonesbury,” “The Simpsons,” and “The Jon Stewart Show” all rolled into one, times ten. Its satirical bite was so effective that newspapers would opt for either the innocent joke version or go for the political version of the comic strip. Has Walt Kelly been relegated to the margins? That is where many an odd genius will dwell only to be rediscovered. Thanks to Fantagraphics Books, the Pogo comic strips are getting their due.

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Filed under Comic-Con, Comic-Con 2014, Comics, Pogo, Political Cartoons, politics, Walt Kelly

FCC.GOV/COMMENTS: Today Last Day to Tell Cable Companies Where To Go

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Net Neutrality, (HBO)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Net Neutrality, (HBO)

There they are, all your telecom friends: Time Warner Cable, Comcast, AT&T, Cox, and Verizon. If you leave it to them, they will get their internet fast lane, they will keep little start-up companies on a slow lane, and they will charge you if you want a faster internet connection from the slower one they have created for you. Care to comment?? Today is the last day for public comment as the FCC decides the next step toward the end of the internet as we know it. Leave your comment now at fcc.gov/comments.

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Filed under Cable, Corporate, Corporations, Internet, Net Neutrality

Preview: ‘World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014,’ edited by Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, Release Party in NYC, June 19, 2014

"On The Tea Party Trail" by Peter Kuper

“On The Tea Party Trail” by Peter Kuper

“World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014,” edited by Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, with an introduction by Bill Ayers, is essential reading. Activism and comics are a natural together and this impressive collection is a shining example. It is a balancing act to make sense out of what can appear to be utter chaos. Of course, it’s this chaos that demands close scrutiny since it is likely orchestrated by others in power with a ruthless need to manipulate, cheat, and steal. Sure, you’ve heard of The Tea Party and you may think you know what they’re about. But do you really? Well, they’re not real. They were created by the Koch brothers. And maybe you know that. But, just like Thomas Nast “exposed” the corruption of New York City politics one hundred years ago by distilling dense information into compelling cartoons, so too do cartoonists today, like Peter Kuper, provide that same valuable service.

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Filed under Activism, Anthologies, Comics, Peter Kuper, PM Press, World War 3 Illustrated

On Isaiah Berlin’s ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’

Isaiah-Berlin-The-Hedgehog-and-the-Fox

Roy and I were just hanging out at the offices of Comics Grinder when we began to consider the current crisis in the Middle East. I had told Roy that Hillary Clinton was talking, actually warning, about the possibility of an Islamist state emerging from Syria and Iraq. This brought to Roy’s mind an essay by Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” The Hedgehog represents Plato and Big Ideas. The Fox represents Aristotle and Small Ideas. It is a classic that explains the virtues of knowing many small things as opposed to knowing, embracing, being blinded by, only one big thing.

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Filed under Essays, Geopolitics, politics

Review: ‘Beyond: Edward Snowden’

Beyond-Edward-Snowden-Bluewater

Bluewater Productions has launched the Beyond series that promises to reveal stories about subjects that some people would rather you did not know. For its debut, we have “Beyond: Edward Snowden.” Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor turned dissident, whistleblower and fugitive, now has his story unfold in this comic book. What you don’t know about the most wanted man on the planet will shock you.

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Filed under 9/11, Bluewater Productions, Comics, Comics Reviews, Edward Snowden, Surveillance

Movie Review: The French Minister

The-French-Minister-Abel-Lanzac

If you are interested in an intriguing movie based on a work in comics besides “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” you will want to see “The French Minister.” This comedy could be your window to offbeat political satire and French comics all rolled into one.

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Filed under Comics, France, French Comics, Movie Reviews, movies, Paris, 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