Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Every once in a while, I can't think of a damned thing.

Ergo, I present you a wall of taxidermy.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weekend Drive Society: The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum

Located about an hour outside of Portland, on the Washington side of the Colombia River, is a small but very nice museum exploring the varied history of the Pacific Northwest's greatest waterway and the small towns and industries that dotted its shores. Admission to the Colombia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum may seem a little steep, but when you enter the first exhibit hall and begin to wander it becomes clear that a lot of effort was put into this institution.

Of particular highlight for me was the replica of a fish wheel which once dotted the river trapping salmon in a massive series of interlocking cages. Another exhibit that I felt was interesting, was a display of artifacts from the numerous Japanese immigrants to the area.

The following sideways video, trouble with using a cell phone to shoot a film, shows the view from the top of the "wheel."

My only complaint with the museum is the how some artifacts were handled in their display cases. One case filled with older books was is full view of sunlight which is very damaging to the integrity of paper products. In another display, the humidity and temperature sensors were placed directly on certain objects meant to be preserved, obscuring the view of the artifacts displayed. These mistakes are kind of big deals in my opinion. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Exploring the Japanese American War Experience Through Comics, Part 2

In the previous part of this entry, the history of the Japanese American internment experience was viewed through an external lens. Political cartoonists and the super hero strips of the day all showcased how the Japanese were not to be trusted. But what of the view from inside the barbed wire fence?

While the majority of America felt that all Japanese living in America must have been imperial spies, the reality of the situation was that most were children born on American soil. These children spoke only English, had never set foot on Japanese soil, and had little idea why they were being targeted and forced to be removed from their homes.

In Granada, Colorado, one of many a handful of relocation centers was established hold all people of Japanese decent through the duration of the war. The language of the executive orders uprooting the families was meant to be all-inclusive of those who could be associated with the Axis Powers. However, German and Italian families never faced the same types of blatant discrimination leading to forced exclusion from the rest of America.

However, the imprisoned Japanese tried to make the best of what they could during this time. Schools were established, gardens were planted, and people tried to carry on a "normal life" in very abnormal conditions. Part of normal daily life was getting the news from a newspaper. Published weekly, the Granada Pioneer, provided record of all the going-ons of the camp; births, deaths, bake-sale announcements, declarations from the government regarding their status in the interment camps, were all written up as part of the public record. And of course no reasonable newspaper can be complete without a comics section.

Pretty much weekly, until the Grenada Relocation Center, also known as Amache, closed in 1945 Lil' Neebo ran as the sole comic strip in this stark paper. The creator Chris Ishii prior to the internment worked for Walt Disney. As seen in this single clipping of his work, more of which can be found at the Amache Digital Collections Project which is a collaborative project of the Auraria Library and Colorado Historical Society, his art is very representative of the 40s era Disney work. While I am not certain if this is the case, it is highly likely that Mr. Ishii crossed paths with another famous Japanese American cartoonist, Iwao Takamoto, both during his time working for Disney and during the more unfortunate times interned at Amache. Mr. Takamoto, who I had the pleasure of meeting a few years before he passed away is most well known for creating Scooby-Doo.

Lil' Neebo, as I will present in future essays, presents a comic, yet bitter, view of the internment through the eyes of a prepubescent boy. If curios about the name "Neebo" it's a semi-slang term for "Nisei Boy," Nisei being the literal term for second generation Japanese Americans. In many of the of the strips, Neebo is left stranded as a victim of circumstance, not quite savvy enough to be angry but also not quite scarred to be resentful. If anything, the strips represent a good representation of the confusion of the camps.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blackest Night--Crossover Potential

Yes, I know that in two more weeks the whole mega-crossover is going to end, but I am certain somewhere out there, people are still coming up with their color-coded Guardians of the Universe to battle the forces of evil.

So I was thinking, what human league (no not that one) would be fit to take the reigns of this rainbow coalition?

Well, guess what?

These guys showed up and spoiled the whole party.

Techinically, there isn't a yellow lantern in this batch. But do we really need one when there is something as frightening as the Village People Corps? Eh...God I hope Nekron wins.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Exploring the Japanese American War experience through Comics, Part 1

A few years ago, Marvel Comics released a comic as part of the Civil War Story line that brought to mind a number of issues touch close to home as a fourth generation Japanese American and a son and grandson of Internment Camp survivors. The issue, Front Line #1, featured an interesting back-up story that examined the super hero civil rights story through the lens of a flash back in an unnamed camp in the desolate western America.  At the onset of WWII for America,  thousands families of Japanese heritage were forced to leave their home and in what was one of the greatest mishaps of the twentieth century. Numerous reasons were given; the official government statements justifying the camps proclaimed that this exile would be for their protection, in reality, this mass removal of American citizens from their own home was fueled by growing war paranoia and xenophobic undertones felt all across the country.

Front Line #1 somewhat missed the point as to the societal and cultural impact of this event. Attempting to draw parallels with omnipotent beings having a clash and common civilians being forced to leave all of the freedoms that their country granted them for the sake of a greater good didn't work as a story trope in this instance. Yet this story illustrates a few interesting points of history in regards to how the interment and the Japanese experience has been examined in comic book history.

To begin with, I present this political cartoon by Dr. Seuss.

The common sentiment toward the Japanese living in America at the outbreak of WWII, was one of fear, if not abject hatred. The concept of the model minority or even the tokenist fetishism of contemporary  popular culture (see Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance) had not set in as we see it today. The Japanese on the West Coast were successful immigrants--they were farmers, small business owners, employers, and a force in the economy. White fear and jealousy blamed them for any social ill that might have occurred in the a region while in reality they provided a major cornerstone in local economies. The bombing of Pearl Harbor made anyone with yellow skin and hooded eyes an enemy of the state as this comic illustrates. Whether Dr. Seuss believed this or not, is up to debate; his comics were reflections of the social climate of the time. But every Japanese person on the in Oregon, Washington, and California soon found themselves in prison camps dotted throughout the American west. They were suspect. They could be conspirators. In reality, most were children.

Our major heroes new the Japanese could not be trusted. The Emperor held sway over them even though  the majority were American citizens and had never set foot on Japanese soil. In one particular printed serial of Superman Dailies from June 28th to August 21st, 1943, Clark Kent and Lois Lane visit an internment camp and find that the reason why they have to exist.

Mr. Kent's investigative skills find disloyal Japanese plotting an attack from within the barbed wire confines of this desert prison. Superman takes charge and does what he does, beats the snot out of all of the devious "Jap Rats" once again protecting America. 

In reality not a single Japanese interned during the war was found to be involved in any type of anti-American activities. Many young Japanese Men took up the fight and battled Nazis in Europe. While finding reprints of this serial is difficult, a great deal of commentary exists. A wonderful book, edited by Lawson Inada, Only What We Could Carry, discusses this piece of comic book lore along with many other literary glimpses into the internment.

Superman's heroics during this time presents prime example before people began to reflect on the internment and that, in reality, the US government made a mistake. In the 80s, new heroes appeared with ties to this incident. I will explore those part two of my post.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

The case for public shaming...

18th century illustration of perjurer John Wal...Image via Wikipedia
Today, something briefly came to mind about the state of the justice system in America. I believe we all have felt the insidious effects of the trickling down of greed from members of societies elite as of late and their criminal actions. Enron, Worldcom, Madoff, have all become common day occurrences and yet when these individuals are punished, the fines and the jail time never quite seems to fit the destruction they have caused to working families across the country.

While some of the individuals affected by their actions were just as equally filled with greed and enough ego to challenge most third-world dictators, very often when these economic pariahs collapse we all, well, eat shit. The men who made the millions, billions, and plenty of other illions have already won all their spoils; they have their toys, yachts, penthouses, and high-priced-hookers; when and when they are finally convicted these individuals are at the end of their lives. The party has come to a natural close. These upstanding gents can face jail knowing they had everything; with nothing it means little.

What real penalty can be handed to these people? I truly believe that the stocks and pillory should be brought back as a reasonable form of punishment for these people. Why? Well, if these people felt that they wanted all of the wealth and worth in the world so they could be held up on a pedestal, then as a punishment, they should literally be put on one for all of the public to see. 

While I hated having to read the Scarlet Letter as a teenager, I realize more and more that there is some value in this type of punishment for certain types of megalomaniacs. The common worker robbed of hard earned income deserve a spectacle of these individuals beyond the media parade allotted to these individuals. Perhaps a rotten tomato and the ability to publicly mock the person face to face, or in a riotous crowd in more appropriate. 

The Wall Street Journal has an article about how Madoff was allegedly attacked while in prison, I don't think of this as justice in any sense of the word. I do believe the man should be punished and humiliated. While the pillory  seems contrary to almost all senses of decency that I have honed over the years, and all ethics I with which I have been raised, it seems like a reasonable way to treat what is becoming a more and more common societal ill.
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Out of Context Comics: "For it is Best, Perhaps, We Never Know..."

Ah the late silver age of comics...

Well, perhaps the Phantom Stranger sums it up best with his simple statement quoted above and below in the cut out panel.

But I guess it is good to know that Angel, of Angel and the Ape fame, and Lois Lane can have some sweaty girl-on-girl innuendo laden cuddle time post-saving the entire earth while the heroes of earth ponder the mysteries of...of...well...I guess this ending of the story just degenerates into locker room fantasies or some other thing.

And well, that is what the imagination is for. Or something.

For the whole story...check out Showcase Presents #100. A pretty good read, in my opinion.
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some things just don't make sense

I found an interesting site today called Who's Whose in the DC Universe, which maps out the creators, writers, and artists to all known DC characters. And it reminded me that there is Jerry Lewis is a cartoon.

But before that was Jerry Lewis...and well, even before that there was Bob Hope. But in any instance, we have a Jerry Lewis comic book. Today, it would be the equivalent of having a comic featuring Robin Williams (which thank god there isn't an existing thing), or perhaps like allowing Yahoo Serious to be featured in four-color print. 

Well, without much more commentary, here is a disturbing cover that really needs any more follow-up than that.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Talking Seals...

harbor-seal-morro-bay_7Image by mikebaird via Flickr
I am not certain what brought this to mind today, but I figured this would be a pleasant, odd interlude to the day.

Today, I plan to talk briefly about Talking Seals. Well, one talking seal. And I don't mean the "never-gonna-survive-unless-we-get-a-little-crazy" Seal either. I mean, an ocean-going mammal with flippers and whiskers, shouting commands at zookeepers in aquarium.

Hoover the Seal is probably one of the more unique anomalies of the animal kingdom. Found as a pup, it grew too large for the fisherman who found him and was donated to the New England Aquarium. But somehow it developed the skills of speech. We have all heard of Alex the talking parrot, and Koko is known for "language skills."

This special talking seal died years ago, but if you follow the link you can hear recordings of the animal. It's kind of like watching the Little Mermaid, but a little bit creepier.
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Friday, March 5, 2010

Bludhaven needs a memorial plaque...

So now that Blackest Night is coming to a close, one has to wonder, whatever happened to the Memorial Tower and Eternal Flame?

So when Superman died, and the Cyborg took over for a while, Coast City was destroyed. There was a skirmish there before Hal Jordan lost his shit and turned into Parallax.

Basically this story deals with the giant pit that remained of this city. But it begs the question...

If Coast city was special enough to get a major monument, now since completely forgotten, shouldn't Bludhaven have received something?

Bludhaven was poisoned by a giant falling Chemo in Infinite Crisis. Then it was rendered a inhospitable hole in the ground when Captain Atom came back from the Wildstorm Universe. Hell, the universe basically collapsed into itself in Bludhaven during Final Crisis.

So here we see a giant tower erected in the remnants of Coast City....A shining emblem that this won't happen again. 


Now back to pulling arms off of heroes the way sadistic children pull wings off of flies. 
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Day Called X--The Greatest What-If of Portland

Have you ever wondered what would actually happen if we heard air raid sirens warning of an immediate nuclear war? This concept is quite foreign to many. It almost seems absurd to ponder, but cities planned for nuclear holocaust at one point in time.

The following film, A Day Called X, is well worth watching to get a sense of the civil engineering, the political structure, and the paranoia that once fueled our country as we chased Russian ghosts across the sky. Essentially it maps out an evacuation of the city. The featured players were actual councilmen, citizens, and the mayor of the era.

About ten or so years ago, the bunker featured in the film was "re-discovered." Filled with various rations and other provisions that never quite decayed over time, it essentially represented a time capsule of that era.

Memes, socio-archeological pseudo-investigations, and furries

How far back can we trace the first appearance of something on the internet? Sure, we all have our "memes" as Dawkins coined the term, but how often has someone tried to track down what was "posting zero," "the original upload" of a now viral idea?

With this post, I delve into the world of strange fetishes, and evolutionary theory. Please keep in mind my idle thoughts are highly speculative.

What comes to mind, and I will get to this after a little back history, is the relative ease that etymologists can trace words back to their origins. Even today, new words added to the dictionary must go through a system before getting cleared for entry into Webster's dictionary. For example, social scientists, political scientists, and many others have, on occasion, coined new words just to see how long it takes for a made up term to see print. Whether this linguistic hucksterism is a true test of a word's longevity has yet to be clearly distinguished. But meme's on the other hand, especially internet derived memes, how far can we trace their lineage?

Take for example, Furries. If internet rumors and popular culture are correct (a contradiction in terms that doesn't escape me), this social phenomenon is when fetishists dress up in rented animal costumes to perform coitus. It has become part of humor, bad episodes of CSI, and has well entrenched itself into being a "real" cultural occurence. However, I believe that "Furries" are an example of a meme run wild, a novelty that took life of its own and now is indistiguishable from the farcical to real.

Imagine someone is sitting around bored with a bunch of friends and they come up with what they think the most ridiculous idea in the world might be. One person posts the absurd notion to a fetish site as a prank. But people fail to see through the veil and believe that fetish exists. Essentially, that is our "post zero." The first internet trace of an idea. Here I propose that someone with enough time, resources, and a stomach for the detritus on the itnernet could possibly try and trace back the first occurence of this term.

Given that many fetishists have their own social network that predates the internet, it would be possible to comb through their litterature and communications to see if something like Furries existed prior to the era of new media. The basic concept is easy to follow and detective work--follow the paper trail, or the soiled tissue trail. But it doesn't necessarily matter. Triangulating between fetish texts, online bulletin boards, and netwrok of information, one should be able to come up with a reasonable timeline of the progression of the Furry meme.

While I speculate that this all began as a joke somewhere on a message board or possibly a discrete personal advertisement., tracing how this all translates to actual practice or how it spread to the popular media is more difficult to explain. I believe it has to do with the sensationalism of it all and the relatively benign nature of the idea. Sex while wearing an animal costume is really sensational, but it hardly likely to be harmful to anyone. A more violent activity would have raised more negative attention instead of novel attention.

I unfortunately cannot prove my theory. But I bet you can also talk to the individuals who participate in Furry activities. Almost everyone will say that they had never heard of such an act until _____ date. Or that they were told about by so-and-so, who introduced them to the practice. Here much like modern day epidemiology you can trace back to the first progenitor of a "Furry" group. My bet ist that person only heard about it "online," at first and had to convince others to join in.

So what conclusions can we draw? That Furries were the figments of boredome not manifest as sexual-counter culture? A few easily duped individuals can make society believe anything? Either prospect is frightening if you ask for my opinion.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Keeping up wtih the Jones's

I have the best idea for a new DC Team book. Hear me out...

The first member of the team is a child who was once stranged on a deserted island filled with every book ever written. The child reads everyone and becomes a certified genius. His name: Genius Jones!

The second team member is a older gentleman, a lady's man, a scientist, and a bit of an adventurer. His name: Darwin Jones!

And of course every team needs a rebel, a vigilante, a person who dwells in the darkness. So why not put that hero on the vehicle of all rebels, a mototcycle? Of Course! Let's give this guy a menancing appearance as well, one that strikes fear into the hearts of criminals. Who is this man who is vengance in the night? Batman Jones!

This trio of detectives will solve the unsolved, resolve the unresolved, and remove the blindfold that covers the eyes of Justice so Justice realizes that she is wearing a toga places where gawking teenagers can see her cleavage.

Yep, this comic book trio will change history.

Mr. Greg Rucka will you please write this book.

Presented Without Comment...

Monday, March 1, 2010

All in a Name...

IUPAC logoImage via Wikipedia
Today in my class I learned a lot of neat stuff.

For example, the IUPAC is not the same as Tupac but they are kind of alike in many strange ways. In fact they are quite different. The IUPAC is an acronym for the International Union for the Pure and Applied Chemistry. Tupac was a rapper. The IUPAC supports lots of scientific projects; Tupac rapped about the projects. The IUPAC works toward the creation of scientific reports and creating records; Tupac had his own collection of police reports and a criminal record.

Basically, the list goes on for some time.

So before you pull out your album of "All Eyez on Me," think about where our world would be without Chemistry.

It would probably be in the same place where creationists dwell. Which I think is in Kentucky. Which I can only imagine is a sad place. 
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