Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In the news...

My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by Hurricane Katrina. The images from New Orleans, Biloxi and the surrounding area are horrifying. It's sobering to be reminded of how powerful nature can be, and how vulnerable we are. To make a donation for hurricane victims, click here.

Christopher Hitchens has an interesting article in the Weekly Standard. He forcefully argues the case for the war in Iraq, using his customary broad and erudite analysis. He claims the liberal dream that became a reality with the fall of Communism in the late 1980s soon disintegrated, to be replaced with far more fearsome dangers in Bosnia and Rwanda -- and Iraq. In contrast to the Bush administration, Hitchens succinctly explains why the Iraq war was justified; somewhat less convincingly, he lambasts the war's critics, including Michael Moore. Despite Moore's tempestuous personality and evasive relationship with the truth, to quote Pistol in "Henry V," "I love the lovely bully." The most interesting line in Hitchens' piece? "I am one of those who believe, uncynically, that Osama bin Laden did us all a service (and holy war a great disservice) by his mad decision to assault the American homeland four years ago." Had this not happened, Hitchens asserts, we would have had a Talibanized nuclear Pakistan to add to our now-decreased list of threatening nations.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Walk this way

Dating Debacle 7
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
This is the sixth installment of the Dating Debacle cartoon story. Two more to go!
Also, I have been published in the August 2005 issue of Moment magazine. I bought the issue yesterday, at the Borders on School Street in Boston.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tea for two

Dating Debacle 6
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
Here's the fifth installment of the Dating Debacle cartoon story. The coffeeshop depicted is one of my favorites, Cafe Algiers in Harvard Square.

Friday, August 19, 2005

"A jaded heart and an empty head"

That's what Meghan Cox Gurdon, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says is the result of the insipid content of magazines for young girls in this country today. The magazines that she examines include Girls Life (the magazine of the Girl Scouts), Teen People, Cosmo Girl and Bop. Television programming for girls (for children in general) is just as bad: "Watch television aimed at the young and it is difficult to escape the disquieting sense that too much children's programming exists to -- well, program children," she writes. "Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel teach children through precept and relentless example how to preen, how to diss and how, if dark-skinned, to talk Ebonics."

I'm not an expert in girls magazines. However, last week, I was talking about children's TV programming with some other folks in Cambridge, and we were comparing the programs we liked as kids with the fare for today's youth. In the past, the programs tended to come out before the merchandise; today, the programs exist to sell the merchandise. I was even told that in the 1970s, Saturdays were sacrosanct: no advertising during the morning cartoons that so many of us Gen-X and Gen-Y folk grew up watching. Instead, kids got educational fare between shows, like "One to Grow On" (which I remember) and "Conjunction Junction" (which I don't). What to do if you're a kid today?

Today's Journal also has an interesting Review & Outlook piece on the fact that there are now 27 million single people in this country. It focuses on the younger demographic. "Even if you discount the college graduates who paint the town every night before crashing happily at their first pad," the author writes, "you're left with a huge number of people who have found companionship and lost it or are still looking for someone to share their life with." Most, the author continues, "probably are missing something, and we don't mean the better health and the longevity boost that scientists have associated with marriage and other forms of intimate living."

Let's face it, people are pickier these days. And there are so many of us out there. I've tried no shortage of online dating sites -- Match, the personals (before they were farmed out to Yahoo!), JDate, and now Craigslist. We live in a disposable culture, our attention span shortened by the Internet. It's easy to continuously reject less-than-sterling suitors in hopes of finding perfection.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"Let’s begin again, get the big broom."

I'm not sure why Arts and Letters Daily does this, but every so often my favorite website runs articles months (or, in at least one case, years) out of date. Yet these articles often are gems; videlicet this interview with Camille Paglia. Robert Birnbaum does a creditable job going one-on-one with Paglia, though given her loquaciousness, it's inevitable that this becomes more of a monologue.

I started reading Paglia while in college. I enjoyed her opinion pieces for Salon, as well as several of her books. In the Birnbaum interview, she speaks accurately, as usual, while doing a book tour for "Break, Blow, Burn," her discussion of 43 of her favorite poems.

Paglia uses the interview to discuss her thoughts on education. "There is no more quality," she tells Birnbaum. "So we are not giving the kids anything to sustain them. Heaven forbid there should be anything about religion or sex. The far right keeps the sexual out — nudes from the history of painting. And the left keeps anything from religion out. The things that are the most substantive are not there." She stays on message when prescribing a remedy: more exposure to the "mother ship" of the Western canon, but also more knowledge of the great art of all civilizations.

And what of the political state of the country? Her comments, again, are interesting: she upbraids Thomas Frank for contending that red-staters vote against their interests. Choosing capitalism, she argues, is explainable. "Even if you are not rich," she says, "you see other people getting rich and you want a system that can produce rich people."

Prospects for artists and writers? They seem grim, because it's becoming too expensive to live as a bohemian, because we all cling to our coteries, and because we creative types aren't doing enough living. And maybe it's something about this country. "The arts have never taken root in America," she declares. "Ever since Puritan New England — this is a business-oriented culture as opposed to Europe where it’s a part of the cultural heritage of the nation." Is emigration the answer?

Not necessarily. She says that "socialism in a nation ultimately does lead to economic stagnation and eventually of the creative impulse, in terms of new technology and other things." Do those "other things" include art and writing? If they do, that contradicts her praise of the British educational system and media.

That observation aside, I enjoyed her interview immensely, as I do with most of her writings. It was also a pleasure to learn how much she likes Yeats ... though, while she cited "The Second Coming" and "Leda and the Swan," I would argue that "Easter 1916" is his most powerful poem.

Unrelated note: My friend David Arenson has started a blog ... give it a read.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"The play's the thing..."

Hamlet Cartoon
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
As I may have mentioned, I attended the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's performance of Hamlet twice this summer. The company's tenth annual performance of summer Shakespeare was excellent, the best I've seen, and I've seen four (the three previous were Henry V, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing). Here is a cartoon I drew about the play.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Malls as "safe spaces"

This article ran in the Boston Globe earlier this week, but it's an interesting subject that deserves more discussion. Was the management of the Holyoke and Springfield malls justified in restricting access to local youth? Kaila Kuban, a UMass doctoral student, disagrees, writing, "What I am asking us to consider is not only the very blatant age discrimination at work here but also the implicit classism and racism."

Sure, it's unfair for stores in malls to target youth through merchandising, and then for mall management to limit the hours in which young people can visit. And is it appropriate, in criticizing youth for their allegedly violent behavior, to invite military representatives to malls to recruit said youth?

Kuban has brought up some good points, including the idea that malls could be a "safe space" for young people who live in unstable families. However, communities deserve stronger "safe spaces" like community centers, religious centers, etc., where youth can participate in more fulfilling opportunities and have access to role models that they will probably not find in malls. Of course, it's healthy for kids to have fun, too; I enjoyed walking around the Meadow Glen Mall in Medford when I was younger.

Also of interest: Theodore Dalrymple writes on Ibsen in City Journal. Having read both "Hedda Gabler" and "A Doll's House" (and having seen the latter on stage while in college at Harvard), I was interested to read Dalrymple's insights. Yes, the great playwright's characters make decisions that are great for the individual but disastrous for the larger community. He quotes Nora Helmer upon her realization that she must leave her family: "I don’t want to see the children. ... As I am now I can be nothing to them." Dalrymple adds, "And with these chilling words, she severs all connection with her three children, forever. Her duty to herself leaves no room for a moment’s thought for them." It's no surprise that children of divorce who read this play may have far less positive reactions than many feminists of the 1960s.

I'm not trying to criticize feminism or Ibsen. I only wish to point out that, yes, marriage is a flawed institution, but ending a bad marriage can be only a partial solution and may create new problems, especially when children are involved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I'm back!

After nearly a month, I have a new posting. My friend Philip Klein has a blog now, so take a look at it, faithful readers. Even if he and I usually occupy different ends of the political spectrum.

Also, there's a delightful article in The Nation on sports by Dave Zirin. Bravo, bravo. Zirin manages to criticize the foibles of sports while remaining passionate about their beauty. One of the finer pieces of writing about sports that I've seen.

Saw the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company perform Hamlet on the Boston Common ("Ay, madam, it is common") on Saturday. Overall, the acting was wonderful. Kudos to Jeffrey Donovan for his role as Hamlet, and to Jeremiah Kissel for his fine rendition of the First Gravedigger's lines. In the conversation between Hamlet and the Gravedigger, the audience gets an excellent impression of the country bumpkin's street smarts (or barn smarts?) juxtaposed with Hamlet's scholarly snobbishness.