Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

General ramblings

Still can't get over how good that article was about the World War II bombings in Germany and Japan. A lot of the European commentators I read, whether in the pages of the Guardian, the Telegraph, or Sign and Sight, have a marvelous knowledge and writing style. Makes me want to traipse off to the Continent...

Wole Soyinka was honored at Harvard on Wednesday. The former Nobel laureate got tributes from fellow prize winners Nadine Gordimer (1991), Derek Alcott (1992), and Toni Morrison (1993), with Skip Gates presiding. It sounds like a wonderful event. My knowledge of Nigerian literature (and African literature in general) isn't very large. I read "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe in freshman year of high school (1992-93) ... other discoveries were Francophone works ("Xala," "L'enfant noir") in a French literature class in my senior year of college (2000). Africa has been somewhat in the news lately with the release of "Hotel Rwanda" and the strife in the Sudan. But I feel we don't know much about its countries and peoples, and I'm not sure how helpful the media is in increasing our understanding.

Stopped by MIT yesterday to check out a model of the Israeli security barrier, which was a part of Palestinian Awareness Week. On Saturday, there's a discussion about the Israel-Palestine crisis that I'll probably attend.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How I Learned to Start Worrying and Loathe the Bomb

This afternoon, I read a chilling article from the German website "Sign and Sight." Author Jorg Friedrich explains that the reasons why the Allies bombed German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden, and why the United States used Fat Man and Little Boy to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was to intimidate Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union.

I first learned of the Dresden bombing from reading Vonnegut's masterpiece "Slaughterhouse-Five" in junior year of college. Bill O'Neill's masterly "A Democracy at War," which I also began that year (but did not finish until about two years later), provided factual information about the bombings and Germany and Japan, making that case that the use of plutonium and uranium bombs against Japan was justified.

The methodical nature of the Allied preparation for the firebombings and atomic bombings is stunning: within the US, fake German and Japanese cities were set up, complete with toys and books that might be found in such cities. The only difference, of course, was that there were no people, and an American serviceman recalled that it was helpful to block out the fact that there would be people living in the cities that the Allies would bomb.

Friedrich describes in awful detail what the bombings felt like: hurricanes of fire in Germany, burning air and water in Japan. And it seems that all of it achieved relatively little in terms of staving off the Communist specter: China and North Korea were -- and are still -- lost. The only result the US could point to is, as Friedrich writes, "if everyone can do it, it is highly unlikely that nobody will." (Does he mean "anybody" instead of "nobody," I wonder -- Mutually Assured Destruction?)

In any event, this was a disturbing article to read and shows that the Allies defeated two evil powers in World War II -- Germany and Japan -- but saw another malignant nation, Stalin's USSR, replace them. And the science of killing people had been upgraded dramatically. Friedrich's writing style is mesmerizing and his knowledge profound. The conclusions he reaches are profoundly depressing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

On gender...

There were several items in the news that interested me. The first is the death, at 58, of feminist Andrea Dworkin. Folks like Camille Paglia may despise Dworkin, but the self-described "radical feminist" is important for her efforts to stop violence directed against women. Dworkin's desire to be -- unabashedly -- herself is also welcome. In this age of Dr. Atkins diets, "The Swan" and Botox, I laud Dworkin for her nonchalance regarding her looks. It reminds me of a Mike Royko column in which the master ridiculed those who felt squeamish about seeing Mary Pickford, wrinkles and all, at the Oscars. Everyone gets old, he reminded them, and we shouldn't put it behind the Potemkin village of a face lift. (That's my mixed metaphor.)

Secondly, my former Harvard classmate Jennifer 8. Lee of the New York Times has written an article about a phenomenon that she calls "man dates." Lee defines this as "two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports," or "two guys meeting for the kind of outing a straight man might reasonably arrange with a woman." Examples of this might include a visit to an art museum or dinner at an expensive restaurant. Lee adds that the prospect of being perceived as homosexual would make some men wary of their behavior on a man date, or even make them shun the practice altogether; however, given the busy nature of people's lives in the Internet era, most men see the development as unavoidable. Indeed, say some gender studies experts, "Before women were considered men's equals ... men routinely confided in and sought advice from one another in ways they did not do with women, even their wives."

This is all so silly that I don't even know where to begin. Lee proceeds from the assumption that all men conform to the stereotype she depicts in her article: Final Four-watching, beer-guzzling, power-lunch-grabbing lunkheads who don't go for more, shall we say, refined pursuits, and certainly not in the company of another man. I am guessing that her experiences in Cambridge and New York would have convinced her otherwise. Secondly, a look at the Western canon could have proven what these gender gurus say: Strong male friendships have existed for hundreds of years. Witness Hamlet talking about Horatio: "Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice/And could of men distinguish, her election/Hath seal'd thee for herself." Or Benvolio and Romeo; or, in "The Importance of Being Earnest," Algernon and Jack.

Monday, April 11, 2005

More cartoons

Roommate Rivalry 2
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
In addition to my Israel-themed cartoons, I'm also developing a series about online dating. You can see the latest one here. It's a subject that's been chronicled extensively in recent years, and I felt like taking my pen to the subject as well.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A newer version

States of Mind revision
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
After a lengthy delay, another cartoon is posted onto my blog. This is a revised version of the preceding "States of Mind," which I've submitted to Moment magazine. I'm thinking of making this a running story.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A world leader departs

Pope John Paul II has died, and millions of people around the world are in mourning. The pope, who was 84, deserves credit for helping to end Communism in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. His frequent travel (129 countries visited) is also laudable -- in the new, connected global society, it was important for Catholics worldwide to associate a face with their religion.

His long tenure (1978-2005) was not blameless. The pope should have intervened more decisively in the priest-abuse scandals of recent years. His adherence to some traditions (he upheld the notions that priests should be celibate, and that only men could become priests) may have alienated Catholics in the "progressive" West. That said, one characteristic that many religions share is a tension between orthodoxy and liberalism. How firmly Catholicism should follow its doctrine will be a crucial subject for the next pontiff. Is it better for a religion to win more believers by a more accommodating regimen, or is it better to have a smaller flock but a more united faith?

It's unlikely that the 117 cardinals who choose the next pope will go for more Vatican II-style liberalism. It will be interesting to see whether or not they select a candidate from one of the geographical regions where Catholicism is gaining followers, such as Latin America or Africa (Lagos, Nigeria, contains one of the largest Catholic populations in the world). Choosing such a candidate would send an important message to the world and would emulate the example set by the Roman Empire when Septimius Severus (reigned 193-211) became that power's first African emperor. This would show that the Catholic Church, like the Roman Empire, has become a truly global institution.