Today (May 24 if you're reading this on the ROCR.net front page), I'm going to Amsterdam to stay with a friend, so I won't have to get up at some God-awful hour to go to Amsterdam Airport on Sunday morning. From there, I'll be off to Nashville, Tennessee, where I'll be spending the next three weeks with Aggie. New comics may be delayed.
Archive for May, 2008
Following on the previous post in which I rag on the US for denying travelers from abroad basic (one might say self-evident) human rights, it's worth noticing that the erosion of human rights within the Netherlands is proceeding at a steady pace as well. I had several long rants planned on the high-profile arrest of cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot last Tuesday, on the basis of a complaint against him filed in 2005, for inciting racial hatred through his cartoons. I'm not going to post any of that, though; this is not the time and place. Let's just say I don't have a high opinion of Mr. Nekschot's talent, motivations, or general character, and leave it at that. However, when it comes to freedom of speech, what happened to the worst of us could happen to any of us, so to hear that Mr. Nekschot had had a ten-person SWAT team descend upon his house, had his home searched, the tools of his trade confiscated and vague threats of the elimination of his anonymity uttered at him, is very very worrying. I am glad that support for Nekschot is pouring out from across the blogosphere, across the political spectrum and across the intellectual spectrum, from the shockblogs to places like Frontaal Naakt (pretty much the entire site there is devoted to it at this point) and Progressive Gold.
There are of course, varying analyses as to why this is happening, from "The Netherlands is becoming a Caste system in which Muslims are the Brahmins" (which statistics about the income, job opportunities, educational opportunities and general integration into society most Muslims "enjoy" would seem to disprove, but never mind that) to knee-jerk blaming of the Labour party (which wasn't in government when the complaint against Nekschot was filed, but never mind that) , to the one that I subscribe to, which is that the Christian Democrats in goverment want to restrict blasphemous and other undesirable speech, but can't do that without making a show of impartiality, so they pick on a cartoonist who insults Muslims first - who also happens to be an easy target because his work is genuinely loathsome and ugly.
I'm pretty sure that Mr. Nekschot will be cleared of all charges; his work does not incite hatred in any legal sense, though a case can be made that it reflects, and feeds on, existing hatred in himself and his readership. It's firmly in the realm of opinion and satire. So it's too early to say that some kind of turning point has been reached. Yet it is very worrying that the enemies of freedom are apparently trying to get us to that turning point and make an example of someone.
From Scary Go Round - US customs as seen from the point of view of someone who travels in a lot.
For the longest time, I've been telling myself I wasn't going to travel to the United States - not as long as being in transit means I have no rights, not as long as I have to be fingerprinted, prodded, questioned and poked before I'm allowed in, not as long as shit like this can happen, not as long as George Bush is President and the dumb fucks who voted for him in 2004 are still allowed not just to vote, but to drive as well.
He was a carefree Italian with a recent law degree from a Roman university. She was “a totally Virginia girl,” as she puts it, raised across the road from George Washington’s home. Their romance, sparked by a 2006 meeting in a supermarket in Rome, soon brought the Italian, Domenico Salerno, on frequent visits to Alexandria, Va., where he was welcomed like a favorite son by the parents and neighbors of his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper.
Domenico Salerno, with his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper, in Rome on Sunday. He was held for 10 days in the United States after being denied entry.
But on April 29, when Mr. Salerno, 35, presented his passport at Washington Dulles International Airport, a Customs and Border Protection agent refused to let him into the United States. And after hours of questioning, agents would not let him travel back to Rome, either; over his protests in fractured English, he said, they insisted that he had expressed a fear of returning to Italy and had asked for asylum.
Ms. Cooper, 23, who had promised to show her boyfriend another side of her country on this visit - meaning Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon - eventually learned that he had been sent in shackles to a rural Virginia jail. And there he remained for more than 10 days, locked up without charges or legal recourse while Ms. Cooper, her parents and their well-connected neighbors tried everything to get him out.
Now the odds of this happening to me are, realistically, slight. It's the principle that matters though. This is what can happen and if it happens to you, you have no rights. I wonder, though, whether Americans understand how much this hurts them. The American authorities have permanently deterred Mr. Salerno from returning to the US, spending his valuable Euros there and doing the volunteer work in the community he was a guest in (more on that below). Any tax moneys spent on Ms. Cooper's education will be benefitting Italy instead once she's tunneled her way out of the Land of the Free. People reading the story, like Martin Wisse who I got the link from, will be thinking twice about traveling to the US while the conditions above apply, and they also won't be bringing their Euros in. This shit adds up.
Aggie and I discussed this incident a bit, and without wanting to put any blame on Mr. Salermo, there are probably lessons to learn about what kind of behaviour to avoid when traveling to the US. I guess by now all reasonably intelligent people understand that you don't say things like "I have a bomb strapped to my chest! Allahu Ackbar!" when customs ask you if you have anything to declare. It's probably not a good idea to testify to your own character by telling Immigration you've done volunteer work in your host community and that you're integrating well with it, especially if your English isn't too good. It's not clear from the article whether Mr. Salermo did that, but it's a possibility and I'll add it to the list of behaviour to avoid for the 17 hours or so of nonpersonhood on my trip. It's probably an even worse idea to do that while being Meditterranian-looking.
After my summer trip, my next visit will be after the elections, but before the next President's inauguration. The post-Bush restoration project will be a long and arduous one, but I hope that they'll find time to look at the policies that make abuses like this one possible.
Like a moron, I put my trousers in the washer with my cell phone still in them (it was pretty much the only time in history I had my cell phone in a trouser pocket to start with). Needless to say, you can't call me on it right now. Strangely, the Internet says it might well blink back to life, but it's gonna take a day or two.
Aggie has already announced it in her newsblog so it's time I did the same. The art swap we've been doing will end in June, and Aggie will return to drawing American Gothic Daily herself. However, she will continue drawing Feral for a little longer. The reasons for that are simple: Aggie is a faster artist than me, she wants to see me write the story towards the end and is willing to twist my arm into writing it, and I want to get back to that other ROCR storyline, Invasion, which I've now scripted to the end. So she'll continue to draw Feral while I write it and work on Invasion (and both of us hold down full-time jobs).
The response to the swap has been interesting. Initially, a lot of AGD fans didn't like my style, but as I evolved towards the pencilled greyscale style, the response became more favourable. That, or the critics abandoned the comic. Meanwhile, response to Aggie's work on ROCR was mostly favourable, but the one commenter who hated it, really hated it.
Today, I took Aggie's coloured wolfpack dream sequence and turned it into a tower ad by shrinking it to the required size, adding a border and a URL, and posted that on a few sites that I thought it would work on through Project Wonderful. It's doing extremely well there, and I think that reflects the appeal of Aggie's art and colouring at its very best. Colour isn't always possible with our schedules, but when she adds it, it works really, really well. Also, tower ads that are simply mini-comics have always done very well for me. I will make some more ads based on her art, and in the light of our plans to stick with her as an artist, she gets full credit on the Webcomicsnation mirror, where I can do that on a per-story basis.
Aggie's been very busy (and very lovely, but that's a whole 'nother matter). Not only has she done a
Thursday update in colour to catch up with the one-a-week schedule, but she's also gone back and added watercolours to the update for April 8. That one, in which Krakatoa dreamed of running with a pack of wolves, was already one of the best pages in the sequence she's done, but it's even better now, so go have another look at it.
Of course, uploading it to the mirror site at Webcomicsnation accomplished nothing but the breaking of that particular archive page, because Webcomicsnation has been a bit crappy lately. But that's a whole 'nother story.
Meanwhile, I've also been busy with drawing Aggie's American Gothic, in a new style based on pencil greytones. I like using pencils this way a lot and I'll definitely be using that style more often in future projects. It's a little bit faster because I don't have to wait for ink to dry, but it's mostly more expressive than the tight ink lines I've been going for in the past decade or so. I've also done some work on Invasion and on a remaster project for some of the work published onsite in 2001.
Since I have a very large image in this post and have some space to fill next to it so I don't screw up the lay-out of the blog, let me mention that I'm unlikely ever to order anything from Amazon again, but that that's not Amazon's fault. The problem with ordering from Amazon is that their deliveries to the Netherlands are going to ship with TNT, which means that if you work full-time, you will either end up
1) going to the post office on a Saturday morning, if yours happens to be even open on a Saturday morning, to wait in a Soviet-style line to be told that yes, they were supposed to have your package but they can't find it in any of the three different locations within the space they keep packages in; or
2) finding a note saying they've delivered it to your neighbours at a number that doesn't exist. I think I know which address they do mean, and I have no idea who lives there and whether they can be trusted not to open the box. They're not my neighbours unless they live in the same block.
If ever there's one privatised service that needs to be renationalised, stat, it's the mail.