Category Archives: Politics

Gore Verbinski Comments on the Cancellation of the film based on the graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Pyongyang-Journey-In-North-Korea-Gore-Verbinski-CoverAfter theaters, and Sony’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview, ripples flooded out throughout the movie community. One of the casualties is the cancellation of the film based on Guy DeLisle‘s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. The graphic novel chronicles DeLisle’s time spent in the country overseeing an animation project and featured his observations on the elusive country. It was Lost in Translation in the DPRK. I loved the graphic novel, as much for its humor as its insight into a country most of us know little about.

A movie was being worked on based on the graphic novel. It was to star Steve Carell and be directed by Gore Verbinski. The film has been scrapped and Verbinski has put out a statement:

Re: Pyongyang

Getting the facts straight:
Yesterday, I was told by New Regency and Fox that Fox will no longer be distributing the film. Prior to that, the film was green lit and fully funded by New Regency with Fox distributing. I have been told in no uncertain words that based on the situation at Sony, Fox has now decided to not distribute the film. Without a distributor, New Regency was forced to shut the film down.

My thoughts:

I find it ironic that fear is eliminating the possibility to tell stories that depict our ability to overcome fear.

Gore Verbinski

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Theaters, Sony, and Paramount Cave to Terrorists and Cyberbullies & Why that’s Bad

interview_xlgIn what can only be described as stupidity and cowardice, national theater chains including AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Cineplex, and eventually Sony Pictures Entertainment have pulled the December 25th release of The Interview. For those who might not know, The Interview is a film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that has them traveling to North Korea to interview Kim Jong Un, and are tasked to kill the leader. The country didn’t take the comedy too lightly, and instead North Korea (likely, it’s hard to verify) waged a cyber-war against Sony in retaliation.

That cyber attack proved an embarrassment for the American subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate. Sensitive documents were released, and have been fodder for sites over the past week. That coverage of leaked documents, and the subsequent reaction (which we’ll get to), played right into the hackers hands. Really, the hack showed the continued ineptness of Sony to protect itself in a digital age. They’ve had numerous hacks, dozens of times, that have exposed user accounts, and more.

In the end, the hackers threatened a physical attacked reminiscent of 9/11 if The Interview wasn’t pulled from release. This led to major theaters to cancel the release of the movie. Those theaters account for 18,000 screens of the roughly 40,000 screens in North America. Other theaters stood strong and would have still released the film. Sony eventually completely caved, and as of this post they were unsure if they’ll ever release the film, even on demand (I’d expect a torrent any day now).

The hacks, and even threat, are an example of cyberbullying taken to extreme, and by caving to demands, that bullying has shown to work. It’s akin to attacks on female creators (which include physical and death threats) in the video game industry, and have gotten some women to quit the industry. Its happened to comic creators and critics by those who disagree with what they have to say. It continues because it’s perceived to work.

What the pulling of the film does is encourage more of the behavior in the future, especially from the North Korean regime. The country has been building a cyber force that supposedly comprises 1,800 individuals. The cancellation of the film by theaters wasn’t likely out of safety concerns for movie goers (North Korea doesn’t likely have the ability to act on their physical threats), it’s more likely theaters are looking out for their own necks, and fear a cyberattack on their own systems, and what would come to light if it happened and documents were released. Documents that have been released showed Sony (and other film companies) conspiring against Google, and really consumers, in the battle over piracy. A battle ironically where Sony, the MPAA, RIAA, and other content producers use similar bullying tactics as were just used against Sony. They’ve also bad mouthed their own films, actors, and the direction of the subsidiary. Imagine what would be revealed about movie theater chains if a similar event would occur?

2014-12-18_1602The caving to the threats, and the embarrassment, have already had a chilling effect.

A planned adaptation of Guy DeLisle‘s Pyongyang by New Regency has been pulled. That film was to star Steve Carrell and be directed by Gore Verbinski with a script by Steve Conrad. The film has been described as a “paranoid thriller,” which has me a bit worried about what it might have been, when in reality DeLisle’s story is more like Lost in Translation. Luckily you can still purchase the brilliant graphic novel. What’s to say a threat and attack isn’t in Amazon’s future to stop the sale of the book though?

Paramount has barred theaters from showing Team America in protest of the cancellation of The Interview.

12 people were killed and more shot, plus numerous other incidences, during the opening week of The Dark Knight Rises, that film was kept in theaters. The Warriors opened in 1979, and lead to vandalism and killings, and only had security added to theaters, and continued to show.

Cyber threats which couldn’t be corroborated, and experts have dismissed the capabilities, are more than enough to stop this film, and more. Where actual physical proof of probable violence existed, a film wasn’t pulled. Think this is about our “safety” or that of protecting the theaters’ digital secrets?

In the coming weeks, and months, this most likely will increase the call for needed cyber legislation, most of which will be draconian, hurt civil liberties, and punish the consumer. Legislation like CISPA, SOPA, or PIPA, will be rammed through like undead zombies infecting and destroying the world before we notice and it’s too late. The attacks also have done more to promote a film which likely have done just ok in a theater (and built up a buzz that it’d be crazy to not release it digitally and capitalize on the hoopla).

This isn’t the first time a hack has led to company secrets being stolen. This isn’t the first time intellectual property has been stolen. The difference here is, that demands were met, and corporations caved to threats. They’ve shown this sort of bullying works, is easy, and effective. It encourages it to be done in the future, creating a chilling censoring effect.

This isn’t the first time issues over a movie and North Korea have come up. In 2002, Bond film Die Another Day depicted a North Korean villain which resulted in the country going on a PR offensive (instead of a cyber one). With these latest threats, the country moves closer to being a real life Bond villain.

Similar issues arose in 2004 of Team America: World Police, and in 2012 and 2013 things changed up a bit with the release of Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen. Both of those films featured North Korean terrorists. Those two films, the country used footage for their own propaganda to show off their military prowess.

It’s all ironic since former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was an avid fan of the James Bond franchise (and movies in general). Jong Il was so obsessed with films he kidnapped Japanese and South Korean actors and directors to star in movies he some times wrote himself.

 

 

Artists Against Police Brutality, a Comic Anthology for Charity. Call for Submissions

Comics are a powerful tool bringing together stories and images unlike any other medium out there. They also have a history of taking on social and political issues since their beginning, especially those contrary to the status-quo. With the militarization of the police, and excessive force used by the police, in the news, it’s natural for a group of comic creators to band together to add their voice to the growing protests across the country.

APB: Artists against Police Brutality is a new comic book anthology with one primary goal: show pictures and tell stories that get people talking. The anthology is looking for submissions to add their voice to it.

They are looking for artists across the disciplines to lend their talents and critical eye for this artistic examination of the US justice system and its treatment of communities of color. They are looking for personal stories, biographies, sociopolitical and historical analysis that shed a light on shared experiences across these communities, not just to act as an echo chamber, but to be used to change minds outside of these communities.

APB will be a black and white book that collects these stories. While primarily a comic book project, they will also consider following:

One- and two-row comic strips
Pin-ups and spot illustrations
Prose stories
(whatever the genre; up to 1,500 words) and analytical essays (personal, sociopolitical, historical; up to 2,000 words)

The main goal is to encourage people to talk about the persistent problems facing this country in terms of race and the justice system in an accessible and powerful medium.

From their release:

We’ve all seen the pictures. A six-year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted by U.S. marshals on her first day at an all-white, New Orleans school in 1960. A police dog attacking a demonstrator in Birmingham. Fire hoses turned on protesters. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a crowd on the National Mall. These pictures were printed in papers, flashed across television screens, and helped to change the laws of this Nation…but not all of the attitudes.

We’ve all seen the pictures. Michael Brown lying face down in a pool of his own blood for hours. Protesters with their hands up, facing down militarized policemen. We’ve also seen the videos. Eric Garner choked to death. John Crawford III shot down in Walmart for carrying a toy gun. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice gunned down in broad daylight for the same reason.

This time, the pictures and videos aren’t doing much to change things; if anything, they are a repeated reminder of how worthless black and brown lives are to the justice system. So we need conversations to go along with the pictures, and we’re sending out an APB to artists and writers to help jump start those conversations.

APB: Artists against Police Brutality will be edited by Bill Campbell, John Jennings, and Jason Rodriguez and will be published by Rosarium Publishing. The proceeds for this project will be donated to the Innocence Project.

You can get more information here, or email artistsagainstpolicebrutality@gmail.com.

Demo-Graphics: Comics and Politics

Today is election day and for those who haven’t voted, what are you doing reading this? Get out there and vote! We have a handy tool to help you out with that, including finding your polling location.

With that out of the way, we’ve been tracking a lot of information, not just demographic info of those who “like” comic related things on Facebook, but also their registration, political views, and if they donate to political causes. This data is compiled using the same data that’s used for the monthly comic demographic data breakdown.

It felt appropriate to present the year’s worth of data today! So, get ready for the first ever Comics and Politics roundup!

Voter Registration

Voter registration is a key to winning elections, and as we can see through the past year things have been a bit stagnant until August on, which us about when a lot of political organizations would get their voter registration going. There’s a sudden spike in September, but that drops. This data I believe is purchased by Facebook from the open voter roles and then matched to Facebook users.

The below is the total number of people registered for all of Facebook.

Registration Grand TotalHere’s the same information above, but just for those who like comics. You can see the same increase later in the year.

Comic Registration TotalWhere it gets really interesting is when the information is broken down by gender. You can see some of the greatest gains when it comes to registration for Democratic Women, who overtake Democratic Men towards November.

Comic Registration GenderParty Affiliation

Voter registration is one thing, but how one labels their political views is another. Facebook allows individuals to list whatever they’d like as far as party, and the system then categorizes them into Conservative, Liberal, Non-Partisan, etc. In September, they changed that a bit, eliminating Non-Partisan and adding Moderate, Very Conservative, and Very Liberal.

Party affiliation facebookIn May, there was a rather strange drop in data that I can’t explain that only showed up when I added the interests of folks. The data was checked multiple times over a few days and the same thing happened. The data returned to normal the following month. Here’s the same data above, except just those who like comics.

Party affiliation comicsWhile non-partisan dominates the below stats when it comes to gender, when that’s removed in September those that consider themselves Liberal for both men and women becomes the majority and top two results. Those that consider themselves Conservative drops in September.

Party affiliation comics genderDonations

The final thing we can look at is the habits of individuals who donate to conservative and liberal causes. We see the same strange spike we saw in voter registration in September, which makes me think there was an issue with Facebook’s data.

Donations facebookBelow is the above data, but just for comic fans. Interesting enough, the spike we see above occurs to a lesser extent in October instead of September.

Donations comicsInteresting though is when you break out the gender, men donate the least to liberal causes, while liberal women are the most generous. Overall, women became much more generous as the year went on.

Donations comics gender

And that wraps up our first report! Now, go out and vote, there’s still time!

Voter Lookup.

Tuesday, November 4 is the 2014 midterm elections. We believe in free speech here, and the greatest speech is getting out to vote. You can use the below tool to find your local polling place, who’s on the ballot, and even local initiatives.

We may be a partisan site, but in the end it’s important you get out there and do your civic duty in the end. This Tuesday, head to the polls, and be counted.

Voter Lookup.

Tuesday, November 4 is the 2014 midterm elections. We believe in free speech here, and the greatest speech is getting out to vote. You can use the below tool to find your local polling place, who’s on the ballot, and even local initiatives.

We may be a partisan site, but in the end it’s important you get out there and do your civic duty in the end. This Tuesday, head to the polls, and be counted.

Darth Vader for Ukraine Parliament

The Ukrainian Internet party’s Darth Vader addresses a party congress in KievThe Ukraine currently sits at the center of a potential flashpoint that could easily escalate into a global conflict. Darth Vader has stepped into the political arena in hopes to save his country, among other issues. Darth Alekseyevitch Vader (we’ve also seen it spelled Alekseyevich) is running as part of the Ukraine’s parliamentary elections as part of the Internet Party. Also running as part of the platform is Stepan Chewbacca.

Vader lives up the name, dressed in full costume, and a black campaign van which he calls “his helicopter.” He’s so hardcore he legally changed his name to Darth Vader. The electrician was previously known as Viktor Shevchenko.

Vader has a few goals:

  • Expel all deputies when he gets to parliament and computerize all government business
  • He’ll win the war against separatist rebels in the east, though also plans to withdraw government troops (we think he’ll use Sith or Bounty Hunters. No disintegrations!)
  • He will reclaim the Crimean Peninsula (see above on we guess he’ll achieve this)
  • Build a military space station to protect the Ukraine

Vader never shows his face, which prevented him from voting in May’s presidential elections. Election workers said he was violating voting rules.

Pollsters predict they they have little chance of getting into parliament.

And the announcement video from March:

Will Senator Patrick Leahy be in Batman v Superman?

patrick leahy dark knightThe President Pro Tempore (pro tem) of the United States Senate Senator Patrick Leahy (D – Vermont) is a long time fan of Batman becoming a fan at a young age. 50 year later the Senator can still quote from the comic books he grew up on. The Senator who has stood up for and fought for Hollywood when it comes to things like intellectual property protection has also appeared in numerous Batman films including standing up to Heath Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Knight. This conflict has raised some questions on Hollywood’s influence on the Senator.

But, with a new film around the corner starring the Dark Knight, will we see Senator Leahy in the film?

“It’s a fascinating movie. It will have superb actors in it,” Leahy told ABC News, stressing the word “superb,” in an interview posted Friday.

“My intuition says you’re in it, so we’ll leave it at that,” correspondent Jeff Zeleny replies to Leahy.

“We’ll leave it at that,” the lawmaker says with a grin.

 

When the film hits theaters next year keep an eye out for him. In between, we’ll see how many pieces of legislation the Senator pushes for his Hollywood friends.

(via The Hill)

The Battle Against ISIS with Comics

Suleiman Bakhit, speaking at the TEDGlobal 2011 TED Fellows Talks, Monday, July 11, 2011, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Suleiman Bakhit, speaking at the TEDGlobal 2011 TED Fellows Talks, Monday, July 11, 2011, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: James Duncan Davidson / TED

While bombs are being dropped, and bullets are flying in an attempt to stop Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), others are taking a more peaceful approach to shape the hearts and minds of those on the ground.

Suleiman Bakhit is a Jordanian social activist who thinks we can fight the terrorist organization with comics books. Bakhit thinks that narratives and myths are a key. Bakhit thinks that a toxic shame is a lot of what drives the violence.

In an interview with Wired.com UK, he explained:

Healthy shame is a source of learning, it lets you know boundaries. Toxic shame says you are unworthy as a human being, you are unworthy of human connection. This leads to violence in an attempt to replace that toxic shame with pride.

After Bakhit began publishing his own comics, he was attacked with a razor blade by extremists.

I had to cauterise my own wound with a piece of steel. But two good things came out of this. One, my dating life improved exponentially. And the second thing was that I realised that they were trying to mark me with shame, to transfer their own shame to me, and replace it with pride.

The idea of taking on the terrorists with comics came from asking kids who their heroes were. When first asked, they named people seen in extremist propaganda. Bakhit then gave out free comic books. Three months later, those extremists were replaced with comic book characters. The simple issue as he sees it, a huge need for positive role models and positive narratives. Fight extremist propaganda with a counter mythology filled with men and women, and most importantly make it positive and personal.

Bakhit ended his interview with this thought to ending the extremism.

The best way to accomplish this. The best technology we have to cultivate heroic motivation is this medium right here. The comic book.

New York Comic Con 2014: PETA and Bluewater Team Up Again

This week, as thousands flock to the city for New York Comic Con at the Javits Center, PETA and comic publisher Bluewater Productions will trot out a provocative comic ad urging the conventioneers to steer clear of the city’s controversial horse-drawn carriage rides. The poster, which will be plastered throughout Midtown this week, portrays a spooked horse colliding with a cab and sending panicked pedestrians flying—similar to the June incident in which a terrified horse broke free from his driver and plowed through Central Park into oncoming traffic.

Titled “STOMPED”—in parody of ads for the percussive musical STOMP—the poster features the distraught horse rearing up above a baby carriage as well as a comic book–style graphic that reads, “Carriage Horses Plus Traffic Equals Disaster!!!” This year alone, 13 children and infants were among the 40 people injured in carriage accidents around the country, including high-profile incidents in Manhattan.

The poster is designed by Michael Dorman and is the second time PETA and Bluewater have teamed up for an awareness campaign.

This fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio will officially announce his long-debated plans to unveil a bill retiring the horses.

PETAimage

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