Monday, August 06, 2007


Collecting all those censored cartoons never fit to print

by Heather Chin

“He who dares not offend cannot be honest,” states Thomas Paine at the start of editor David Wallis’ new collection, Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression. Exhilarating and eye-opening, Killed Cartoons is an invaluable compilation of original “editorial art that had been rejected by newspapers and magazines.” Some of the mind-reeling drawings found homes online or in syndication, while others are just now seeing print for the first time.

With five chapters that address the major themes of sex, death, religion, politics, race and big business as factors in censoring editorial art, Killed Cartoons provides a cross-section of nearly every genre of taboo our society has to offer. Through interviews with Wallis and friends, the cartoonists whose works are featured here provide historical background and context to each piece. These include Pulitzer Prize winners/finalists such as Garry Trudeau, Doug Marlette, Paul Conrad, Herblock and Mike Luckovich, as well as David Kuper, Ted Rall, Mike Keefe, Norman Rockwell, Edward Sorel and Anita Kunz.

For many editors and publishers, rejecting a piece is sometimes necessary in order to muzzle potentially offensive or controversial material; it’s best for a cartoonist if they keep under the radar. However, according to Wallis, who is an outspoken 47-year-old West Village journalist and founder of, the power of cartoonists and journalists is significant. They inspire discomfort or spark often-overzealous protestations by readers, politicians and governments, who often seek to utilize its influence for their own gain. The violent protests that ensued after the September 2005 publication of 12 cartoons (not included here as they have already been published) featuring a likeness of Mohammad in a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, lends itself to support for both of these arguments. However, in such a climate, where stating an opinion can be deadly for your career—or literally deadly, Wallis believes it is imperative that controversial opinions have a public venue.

Wallis’ first book, Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot To Print, is a similar compilation of slashed journalism. A self-proclaimed advocate for writers, Wallis has an approachable persona and has lectured on media business at Columbia University, NYU and the New School. He’s also contributed to the New Yorker, Wired, the Washington Post and the New York Times Magazine, as well as the London’s Observer and the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot. Through a combination of his own personal and professional experience—and the stories of his colleagues and predecessors—Wallis manages to remind us that we risk stifling our own voices if we, as cartoonist Mike Keefe says, “never cross the line.”

(As published in the Aug. 1st issue of NY Press:

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Strength of Conviction: Does Understanding HAVE to Versus Creeds?

I remember my high-school years as being, among other things, a time of openness, new explorations and infinite tolerance and curiosity about new things. Everything was open to discussion and questioning; beliefs and creeds were something a bit vague to me. I didn't consider myself racist, sexist, or really any other socially categorical identifying rhetoric, although I was big on questioning the inherent wisdom of experience and authority. I learned about these things through classes and lessons, social relationships and interactions, watching/reading the news, and simply living through the times. These convictions of all-encompassing openness, even to the seemingly most abhorrent of actions, behavior or thought, made me particularly suited to empathize - I truly wanted to understand above all else. My mind was eager to sponge up and contribute to the fascinating, ever-fluctuating world around it.

This perspective continued through my freshman and early sophomore years at college, displayed by my overwhelming and overarching tendency to put my mind in what I sensed to be another person's proverbial shoes. I was often proud of this, defending it to skeptics like my mother as a necessary given to understanding people and getting along with them. In retrospect, I think that even then I knew that much of this urge came from wanting to have friends and make sure they continued to like me. However, although this wasn't quite a bad thing on its own, it also meant that I was putting my own opinions and beliefs aside in favor of trying to grasp those of others. In sophomore year, with the help of interesting social circumstances and lessons, I quickly began reversing this trend.

Today, I am a college graduate, a world traveler (albeit not yet beyond Europe!), a speaker and hearer of tongues (not of language, rather, of confusions), and a young woman full of potential. Cynicism, jadedness, witty banter, reckless actions, foresight, balance, deep disappointments, resistance and hopes have come, gone and changed much about the lens - and eyes - through which I observe. But then, many things have simply become more ingrained or manifested more strongly and noticeably. My convictions have become more pronounced. They have also become more rigid, threatening the openness and willingness to follow-up on all the questions and points-of-view I am inquisitive about. I am still not yet confident in either tendency (open to a fault Vs. convictions with openness on a personal microsocial level). However, I do know that I don't want to "follow the fold", whatever fold that may be, unless I truly believe in it and only a few things fall in that category (i.e. stopping violence against women and children, protecting the envi. and national parks, and certain aspects and degrees of liberty).

And now, the article that sparked the inspiration for this commentary: NYT article on "The Creation Museum", a new natural history museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The museum's concept, as well as the news article, are fasciniating and thought-provoking. Contemplating how and what I feel about the potential validity of this museum endeavor, I began to realize just how closed my mind had become to certain topics and just what I've begun to take as an educational given. I appreciate the opportunity for genuine, quality self-reflection and general analysis/observation. All the good, worthy news pieces spark thought and discussion.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

As found on, below is a press release from the World Food Program announcing that they will be slashing food rations in half for close to 1.5 million people in northern Uganda. This would leave millions of people, most of whom are women and children, starving. Most of the promised financial aid from leading world nations has not come through. Only $6 million per month would be needed to keep the WFP aid running at its current state.

So, call your senators, write your congressman, write an editorial in your local newspaper... do whatever it takes and whatever you can to bring this issue to the attention of our countries' leaders. Whenever humanitarian aid advocates appeal to the wealthy nations of the world, its citizens too often stiffen their backs and wallets in self-righteous indignation, claiming that it's (1) not our business, (2) the way of the world, (3) a divine entity's way of purging society of its poverty-stricken residents, as if they are a plague, or (4) somehow hypocritical to have an outcry now, AFTER the travesty has occurred, instead of BEFORE it happened.
The absurdity of these rationales confounds me, as does the apparent preference for playground antics of pointing the finger instead of taking action when it is needed, WHENEVER it is needed.

So please, take a moment to add another letter to those being written regarding a timetable for our loved ones to come home from war. Aid and compassion are the true medicines of war.

WFP forced to cut food for nearly 1.5 million war displaced in Uganda

KAMPALA – Constrained by a critical lack of funds, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today it would be forced from the beginning of April to cut by half food rations for nearly 1.5 million displaced people and refugees in Uganda.

Though more than 230,000 displaced people returned home in northern Uganda in 2006 with WFP assistance, 1.28 million still remain trapped in squalid camps in the northern districts of Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum and Pader, unable to provide sufficient food for their families.

WFP also gives food to 182,000 refugees in Uganda and they too face reductions in rations. In addition, WFP is providing drought relief assistance to 500,000 people in Karamoja region that is planned to last until June 2007 at a cost of over US$10 million.

Ninety percent of displaced people, mostly women and children, depend on WFP for their survival.

"Until we have sufficient funds to buy food locally, we will be forced from 1 April to reduce by half the amount of maize and beans that we give to each displaced and refugee family in Uganda," said WFP Uganda Country Director Tesema Negash. "If we don't cut them by 50 percent in the next few weeks, the relief operation would grind to a halt in May," he added.

Since 2005, WFP has reduced rations to as low as 40 percent of the minimum daily requirement per person in parts of Amuru and Gulu districts. In March, WFP removed nutritious corn soya blend for children's porridge from the general relief package for families.

If the shortage of funds continues, WFP will also be forced in May to make further cuts in maize and beans rations for 600,000 school children assisted by an emergency food for education programme, as well as some 240,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS.

WFP has so far received only US$37 million of the US$127 million it asked donors and the government to provide for relief and recovery support in 2007 for the 1.2 million displaced, 182,000 refugees and 500,000 hit by drought in Karamoja. In 2007, some 170,000 metric tons of food worth US$90 million is needed to support these programmes.

"Thirty-seven million dollars may seem like a lot of money," Negash said, "but it costs WFP about US$11 million a month to sustain the relief and recovery operation in Uganda."

"Even though the security situation in northern Uganda has improved and the peace process with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is moving ahead, the humanitarian needs of the people remain considerable," he added.

"It is vital that we do not abandon the displaced at this critical stage in the peace process," he said. "Even after they have returned home, we expect them to require humanitarian support until they are able to harvest sufficient amounts of food for their families."

If the security situation remains stable and the government reaches a peace agreement with the LRA, WFP foresees a massive return of people to their homes in Acholiland.

To help displaced people voluntarily returning home, WFP provides a three-month return package to support them until they can plant sufficient food. "We cannot provide that assistance without some buffer stock," Negash said.

Donors to WFP's relief and recovery operation in Uganda in 2007 include: the United States (US$23 million), Britain's Department for International Development (US$13.7 million), Turkey (US$200,000) and Norway (US$83,100).

Friday, February 23, 2007

"You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello"
The O.C.

I may not have been a fan of The O.C. during its run, but it certainly grew on me - the characters, some of their storylines, and the fanaticism that drove several people I know to watch it almost religiously. It became an indelible part of pop culture in every sense it could, by not only reflecting a certain intellectual teenage angst and need for soapy drama while also eventually shaping the culture that birthed it itself.

I like tonight's ending. Coming full circle was the theme, with the lives and milestones for the characters we've come to know, shake our heads at, hold hands with, and love moving forward in so many wonderful, beautiful, and natural yet still surprising and unexpected ways. Seth and Summer go their separate ways to find themselves, only to return to one another for a magical wedding that everyone felt was coming, but wasn't sure about because this is prime time television and writers and networks almost never give any real closure or make any real sense with a lot of things. Julie Cooper chooses to "marry" and commit to herself by pursuing the college degree she'd never achieved while letting herself and her family love her and each other. The Cohens move back to Berkeley, to the home that has apparently "been theirs" (emotionally speaking) all along, and to a "normal" life and a growing family. And last, but not least, Ryan leaves Newport, goes to college, and makes something of himself (maybe with Taylor, maybe without) - only to grow up and eventually pay it forward when he sees himself in the face of a troubled youth on the sidewalk. The O.C. was a journey built and seen through Ryan's eyes and it is supremely fitting and satisfying for the journey to refocus itself with him and what new, yet familiar paths he will choose to take.

Very rarely does a series ending episode strive to leave viewers with closure, understanding, belief and acceptance. By giving us a sneak peek at a sort of dual epilogue and introduction into our characters' lives, the writers, network, and actors showed us that they truly understand what the entire show is all about - love, laughter, living, and the people who we choose to share it all with. Hats off to that. We've seen their journey; now it's our turn.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Opening of Doors

It's a new day and yet another turning point in this, my life: I have the options of re-embarking on an academic, artistic and creative quest via short-term night sessions at NYU's SCPS (school of continuing and professional studies). WIth my current steady income and a constant internal gnawing that is characteristic of many full-time employed, post-graduate early twenty-somethings, I can afford to entertain this option and it is definitely a tantalizing one.

Without getting my expectations up prematurely, I can say that I am looking forward to the possibility of regular mental, intellectual and perhaps even social stimulation. I don't want to jump in blindly, but the relative safety, stability and comfort of working from morning to night and then coming home to food, television and family also presents a clear catalyst for stagnation, restlessness and itchy-butt/couch potato symptoms. The goal has always been to prepare for, apply to and begin graduate studies in journalism and/or an additional related field or concentration. Landing a steady job and paycheck was the first step; re-immersing myself in the vigors of generally creative and academic learning will be the next. (After that, the writing flame will hopefully be rekindled and then the GRE tackled head-on.)

At the very least, this thirst of mine has begun to be quenched. I've acknowledged the presence of options and their feasibility for me and my current financial and scheduling circumstances. The opening of this door will lead to the opening of others, and will open my eyes to seeing those that would otherwise have been overlooked.

Friday, January 19, 2007

On Compassion and Children

So a local NYC business is suing homeless individuals in the area for $1 million, claiming that their presence on and around the heating vent in front of their store is a disturbance, and that they "stir up trouble." The business-owner is also requesting a sort of restraining order stating that the homeless must not come within 100 feet of the premises.

Meanwhile, a local resident and business-owner said on CBS News that the homeless individuals are usually gone by the early morning anyway. Now, my immediate response was "he can't possibly expect to actually win that amount of money from homeless individuals," followed swiftly by these exact words: "What the fu--?" And later, a thought of how unrealistic and cold-hearted it is to even think that a restraining order such as this is enforceable or warranted.
What has changed (assuming that there is a change and it didn't just start this way to begin with) in people's hearts that they have such intolerance, inability to accept, and lack of compassion towards others? And on a more focused scale, if you are concerned that the presence of the homeless is an issue for business, give them money to go get lunch indoors, or just get the "restraining order" alone.

* * *
From Adam Gopnik, author of "Through the Children's Gate" and "Paris to the Moon," writer for The New Yorker, and guest on "Charlie Rose":

As a parent, you always find yourself saying "just trust me," to your kids. And they keep going on, adding up, until they say it back to you.
"We can't really make the world safe for our kids."
"As a parent, you're aware that every single thing is contingent, fragile, and improvised."
Over time, we as adults and parents, instead of looking back upon our ancestors for answers, we look towards our children for meaning.

* * *
Between commuting, tv-watching, cleaning the house, reading, sleeping, eating, Kiwanis, and seeing friends as much as possible, I've filled up bunches of my time, but still not all of it. Writing has been missing, popping up sporadically.
I wonder if I just feel dumpy, and thus look dumpy, because of winter's companion of lack of exercise, or if it's the writing sabbatical that took away the vigor in me.

I guess I am somewhat lonely.
There are trains and aeroplanes, instant messaging/emails and cell phones, but scattered people still make for scattered activity and life.

Food and culture makes its own culture.

Family, energy and music.