Friday, September 30, 2011

Race & Class in Comics: The New Spider-Man


In a previous blog post I talked about a new Spider-Man that was introduced by Marvel Comics last month, and all the outrage it caused among right-wingers because he was a bi-racial teen named Miles Morales. (By the way, he's a Spider-Man set in the Ultimate Universe, which is different from the regular Marvel Comics universe, and where a white Peter Parker still continues to be the regular mainstream Spider-Man).

Well, this month saw the debut of the all new Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 where we learn how Miles got his Spider-like powers! It is a very interesting story so far, which is being written by Brian Michael Bendis, (Marvel's top scribe).

More interesting to learn, however, is Miles background. It doesn't seem like he's from a better-off neighborhood. In fact, we learn that the school in their neighborhood is so bad that his parents have added his name for a lottery to get into a charter school, the Brooklyn Visions Academy. Unfortunately, there's only about 40 spots and 700 from his neighborhood have applied.

There is one very touching scene where his parents have all but given up hope, but then the last name--his name--is called and they jump for joy. But Miles sees all the distraught faces on some of the kids who didn't get picked and he does not feel the same joy. "It shouldn't--all these other kids. Should it be like this?" he asks.

This was a very good first issue. We met most of the central characters and found out his origin. I think it's going to be real fun reading this book. Not only watching Miles learn how to be a hero, but also seeing the struggles that any inner-city youth might have growing up. Highly recommended!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Race & Class in Comics: The New Superman

For those of you that don't usually read comics, you should know that there is currently a big event going on with one of the two big comic-book company's, DC Comics. They are re-numbering ALL their titles and even re-imaging some of the characters to try and bring in new readers who are not familiar with the years of story-lines and confusing continuity.

One of these books is Action Comics starring Superman, who is getting somewhat of a whole new origin story in this first issue. Almost instantly you realize that this is not your father's Superman. This new Superman is younger, brasher, and totally aware of class status! Even Entertainment Weekly noticed this in their review of the book. Below is what they had to say:

"Superman is something of a wiseguy and, dare I say it, a radical: In the first few pages, Superman seizes a super-wealthy law-breaker, holding him helplessly aloft, as the police ask him to put the guy down. 'Sure, officer, I’ll put him down, just as soon as he makes a full confession. To someone who still believes the law works the same for rich and poor alike. Because that ain’t Superman.'"

Another great scene involved a building that i s getting demolished. At the moment that a wrecking goes crashing into a building, Superman comes in to rescue the inhabitants--many squatters, including kids, dogs and whole families. However, right after he rescues them he is suddenly attacked by military tanks. (All part of the uber rich and super smart Lex Luther, who is working with the military). Superman destroys one of the tanks but is weakened, and before one of the tanks can deliver another blow, the masses of people who he just saved come to his rescue! One of the squatters, standing in front of the tank's cannon, yells at the tanks, "Enough! This guy just saved our Lives! My Kids!"

I'm not saying this new Superman is totally class-conscious or anything, but this new take, written by one of the best comic-book scribes out there, Grant Morrison, is worth checking out. There is also great art by Rage Morales who does some great work in this issue, drawing mostly people who are not in costume.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Poets Also Occupy Wall Street

The mainstream media is going out of their way to make sure you haven't heard about a movement going on in New York City called Occupy Wall Street, but that has been slowly changing. And, although I don't see this movement as a revolutionary movement, I do think it's a great thing that is going on and it could lead to some very interesting things!

The other day, I was very excited to find out that poetry has now become a part of the #OccupyWallStreet movement. They started a poetry page on Facebook and it seems like they are organizing events and even established a Poetry Corner at Liberty Plaza where many people are camping out (for 12 straight days now).

Below is one of the short statements they have posted up:

"The poetry corner is now open on the northeast corner of the park. It is a public, democratic site. Anyone can organize a reading or event there as long as it is done through consensus with those present. This is leaderless movement. We would like to be the community we seek. Please respect everyone through the use of a vote. Ask for permission from others to speak. Listen to one another. Let everyone’s voice be heard. In doing so, we’ll perform not only poetry but true, participatory democracy."

Original Source: Harriet Blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saber speaks

(Just a quick update to a previous blog I posted last week). In the 7th Letter blog, Saber talked about why he hired jets to sky-write over City Hall. He said:

"The reason I hired five jet planes to sky write over City Hall and downtown Los Angeles is to bring awareness to how ridiculous a moratorium on public art is.

The city states that all public murals are signage, effectively banning art from the walls of Los Angeles. And it is removed at the taxpayers’ expense. Money is given to private graffiti removal companies, who have broken onto private property to paint murals beige. The owners of small businesses where murals have been painted have been harassed and threatened with fines if they do not remove the artwork. Police officers raid homes and places of work, intimidating artists and building owners. During this time of economic crisis, “mural signs” are an easy target for the city to extract money. This moratorium is a clear violation of the first amendment right to free speech and enforcement for these unreasonable laws is a complete waste of taxpayer funds.

To put things in perspective I recently visited the beautiful set of murals inside the Terminal Annex Building on Alameda. This mural was painted in 1941-44 and was funded by the “Works Progress Administration” (WPA). Murals are just a part of the legacy of a national program that put the country to work during the Great Depression.

Fast-forward to the Great Recession, taxpayer money is now used to obliterate all traces of the artwork my generation have created. I believe this is city-funded censorship pushed by lawmakers with personal vendettas. Potential jail time is more probable for us than the opportunity of creating an artistic legacy for the next generation. In a city that used to proudly call itself the “Mural Capitol Of The World,” the officials who enforce this ban should be ashamed to call themselves “Angelinos.”

Art Is Not A Crime… End Mural Moratorium."

Saber also provided an online petition for people to sign and you can donate money to the cause by buying an #ArtIsNotACrime t-shirt. (Also, check out the 7th Letter blog for more info and cool videos of the "sky-bombing action").

Petitions by Change.orgStart a Petition

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recommended: Kevin Smith's 'Red State'

Kevin Smith’s latest film, Red State, is very different than anything he’s done before. Although he’s always taken jabs at conservative beliefs in his comedies, (and even made, “Dogma,” a whole film attacking organized religion), this is the first time that he has made an entire film attacking conservative beliefs with a serious tone throughout the film.

We are quickly introduced to the villains of this film, the members of the Five Points Church, who are out protesting the funeral of a local gay boy who was found murdered. It’s no mistake that this fictional church was inspired by the Westboro Baptist Church, who are infamously known for their, “God Hates Fags” protests.

In the movie, members of the congregation kidnap people who are homosexuals (or who they view as sexual deviants) to kill them and to “send the sinners straight to hell.” But, what at first seems like just another torture-porn movie, turns into a suspenseful film. Some of the would-be victims find a way to get free and a shoot-out ensues with government agents from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency (ATF).

While this shoot-out is going on, many interesting things are happening. The lead ATF agent in charge, (played by John Goodman), is conflicted weather to kill everyone in the compound, or disobey a direct order and save some of the children and hostages that are still in the heavily-protected compound. Also, Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé), daughter of one couple’s in the compound, realizes that the ATF views the members of the congregation as terrorists and wants to find a way for the children to be spared. She comes up hard against her parents beliefs, which she has always accepted blindly, but in this desperate moment does some unexpected things.

Indeed, the whole film is filled with unexpected moments. (In fact, the person who you think would provide comedic relief in the movie is killed off almost immediately—just to show you that this is a serious film). Smith, even takes time to attack the Patriot Act and does not provide any kind of Hollywood ending. Perhaps, the best line in the movie, (and the director’s main idea), is delivered by Goodman’s character, during a monologue at the end of the film, he says, “People always do bad things when they believe that they are entitled, and they do even worse when they just believe.”

Red State got limited film screenings in theaters and is currently available for view on cable Video On Demand (Pay-Per-View) and will be available on DVD next month.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Boardwalk Empire' as Allegory of Capitalism

This Sunday will see the premiere of the second season of Boardwalk Empire on HBO, a period drama that critics have been raving about since its inception last September. Indeed, it is the best writing that I have witnessed since The Wire was on television.

Some have pointed out that the show describes how "criminals became our leaders," as the show reveals levels of government corruption, from the City Treasurer all the way up to the highest office, the President. I, however, would go a step further and say that the show, not only reveals the beginnings of capitalism, but is an allegory for capitalism imperialism itself.

In the pilot, we meet Jimmy Darmody, a young man coming back from War World I, who is very impatient with the tasks he has been given by the show's main character, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, the City Treasurer who runs Atlantic City. Jimmy sees all the money going through Nucky's hands and is not content with just being a driver. He confronts Nucky and tells him, "All I want is an opportunity." To which Nucky eloquently responds, "This is America, ain't it? What's stopping you?" Jimmy views this as permission to pull a truck heist that sets many storylines in motion. Later on, in this same episode, after Jimmy gives Nucky his cut of the heist money, he reminds him that he can't be "half a gangster" anymore. Indeed, some of the first season does revolve around just how much Nucky is willing to do to insure his place as crime lord of Atlantic City.

Early in the first episode we also meet some of the big gangsters from New York and Chicago who are there to meet with Nucky, and throughout the series we see them teaming-up, double-crossing, killing, and making deals with each other. It's never personal; they care only about profits and expanding their territories. And everyone knows that in capitalism the number one rule is, "expand or die."

Not sure how much this new second season will explore these topics, but it will be fun to watch as the entire cast is very talented and the writing is top-notch.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Saber protests with 'Skybombing'

West Coast graffiti legend, SABER, best known for creating the world's largest graffiti piece (in the L.A. River, back in the 90s), just took graffiti bombing to a whole other level today!

As his way of protesting the Los Angeles' mural moratorium he got some skywriting jets to "tag" over City Hall. The planes "threw up" Twitter hashtags like #ArtIsNotACrime and #EndMuralMoratorium. The planes also wrote monikers of some of the crews and graffiti artists that Saber associates with (and/or respects), such as: Risk, Retna, Revok, Obey, Dream and many others.

The LA Taco blog was the first to report and post photos of this unique art installation. They also had some very good commentary, saying, "The Mural Capital of the World, has been able to find massive amounts of public space for corporate advertisements, but not for works of art. The city spends more than $10,000,000+ on graffiti abatement programs, but none on mural programs that divert young artist to legal walls to display their art. Existing murals are crumbling and the city’s best artists are forced to go to Europe and other US cities to display their largest and best works."

Indeed, as the LA Weekly also pointed out, it has become OK for the city to flood skyline with billboards for advertisements, but it's not cool to have beautiful public art. Some might remember, earlier this year, a property owner had to cover up some very-well done graffiti art that had been commissioned by young artists because the city deemed it as "illegal advertising." And, just today, the beautiful work that had been done on private property in Santa Monica to raise awareness for Heal the Bay, also had to be taken down.

So, much props has to be given to Saber for calling out City Hall on this. Let's see if anything happens. Also, stay tuned to The 7th Letter site for more pics and updates...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Councilman wants your info if you buy spray paint

Here's a quick summary from an LA Weekly blog I missed last week....

* * *

And even after the rousing success of the Museum of Contemporary Art's "Art in the Streets" exhibition, [Dennis]Zine don't stop.

He's now targeting people who buy aerosol paint:

Zine has introduced a motion that would require stores to get and keep your name and address if you buy spray cans and "graffiti paraphernalia"such as "spray paint nozzles, paint pens, glass cutting, and etching tools," according to a statement from the councilman's office.

Stores would ask for your ID and copy down the info.

* * *

This Councilman has also been in the news because he was demanding that Aaron Brothers, an art supply store, stop from offering a "Graffiti Starter Kit" during its back-to-school campaign because he thought it was glorifying graffiti. (By the way, he actually got his way in this case).

Luckily for us, the LA Weekly reached the ACLU for a comment and they suggested that it might not be constitutional and that such an ordinance would have a hard time surviving court challenges.

Take that, ignorant art-hating Councilman, (who used to be a cop/pig).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beautiful and illegal

Last week, property-owner Adam Corlin unveiled a four-story art installation filled with a lot of color and meaning, but today--unless some drastic can happen, Corlin will have to take down the installation.

The art-work was a collaboration between west-coast graffiti legends, Risk and Retna, (both recently featured at the record-breaking "Art in the Streets" exhibit), who created it to help promote a Coastal Clean-Up Day (Sept. 17) by the non-profit environmental group, Heal the Bay.

However, not long after the unveiling, Santa Monica city police and code-enforcement officers showed up at the property and have threatened him with fines. Corlin told the LA Weekly on Friday that if it is not taken down by today they will even take the case to the L.A. County District Attorney's office. He was quoted as saying, "I think they just used the build department as an excuse to get me to take this down. . .There's a double standard going on here. Somebody doesn't like the art or the message or the artists."

This is something for all art-lovers to ponder: What kind of fucked-up society are we living in, when good artists and building owners, after teaming up to bring awareness of a much-needed pro-environment message--and doing it in a beautiful and creative way--are then told by city officials that the art has to come down!?

How would you handle this if this you were running things? It's pretty obvious to me, that the only thing keeping us away from this beautiful installation, are some real wack city officials with little appreciation and understanding of art.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Props to Manu Chao for FREE concert!

“For the past year, we’ve carried the people of Arizona in our hearts as we witnessed them suffer under such ignorant laws. We’ll be proud to perform with the community to show that love can conquer hate.” -Manu Chao (from press release on his website).

Not surprising at all that a stand-up dude like Manu Chao would do a free show for the immigrant people of Arizona and those that support immigrant rights. You can tell from his music--the lyrics and music videos--that he has a real love and respect for the people. For people all across the world, actually, as he's known to sing in various languages: French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic and a few others.

He knows about immigration all too well because, although, he was born in France, his parents are from Spain--said to have fled the country because of the Franco dictatorship. One of his most popular songs, "Clandestino," is about migration as a way of survival. Below, some of the lyrics, followed by some loose translation:

Solo voy con mi pena
Sola va mi condena
Correr es mi destino
Para burlar la ley
Perdido en el corazón
De la grande Babylon
Me dicen el clandestino
Por no llevar papel


I come only with my shame
There comes only my conviction
Running is my fate
In order to deceive the law
Lost in the heart
Of the great Babylon
They call me the Clandestine
'cause I don't carry any [identity] papers

The show is being coordinated by Alto Arizona!, (who are also covering the expenses), and although I don't agree with their tactics--because they're way into "urging President Obama" instead of just taking the streets and making just demands--I do think this will bring thousands of people together and people should donate if they can to make sure this concert happens!