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Sunday, February 14, 2010

What Today Is...

Today is a very important day. Viz and to wit: Jack Benny's 116th Birthday. Which means that somewhere out there, he is still 39.

(A quick Google found 12 episodes of the Jack Benny Radio Show that you can download at http://www.oldtimeradiofans.com/template.php?show_name=Jack%20Benny. Very much worth a listen: the show's dated less than you'd expect, because the humour of the Benny show tended to be based on people, rather than topical gags, and I'd say that from around 1942 to around 1951 it's pretty consistently funny, with its best material between about 1946 and 1950. I'm not a fan of the 1930s Benny shows -- the writing was patchy, and there are occasional racist tropes and gags that lurch between unfortunate and just plain horrible, and as the 50s went on Jack's attention is on his television show, and there are weird moments in many of the radio shows where Mary Livingstone, Jack's wife, was recording her lines in the bathroom so she didn't have to stand in front of a studio audience, and the timing is off, which is a hard thing for a show that's all about timing, while Bing Crosby's brother Bob was no substitute for Phil Harris.... But when it was good, it was wonderful. And we'll not even go into the sexuality of the show at this point, other to say that it's consistently interesting).

...

Christopher Handley was sentenced to six months in jail yesterday. He pled guilty to owning obscene comics - seven comics, imported from Japan, out of a manga-anime collection of thousands. He's a computer programmer, who had moved back in with his mother when she had health issues, who had, as far as I know, no interests apart from obsessively collecting Manga and bible study.

I wish he'd fought the case. But I can also understand why his lawyer persuaded him to go the way he did: he was facing a $250,000 fine and a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The CBLDF was brought in after the case was underway as consultants. (Read why we signed on here and the background here: http://www.cbldf.org/pr/archives/000372.shtml .


Mr. Handley's case began in May 2006 when he received an express mail package from Japan that contained seven Japanese comic books. That package was intercepted by the Postal Inspector, who applied for a search warrant after determining that the package contained cartoon images of objectionable content. Unaware that his materials were searched, Handley drove away from the post office and was followed by various law enforcement officers, who pulled him over and followed him to his home. Once there, agents from the Postal Inspector's office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, Special Agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and officers from the Glenwood Police Department seized Handley's collection of over 1,200 manga books or publications; and hundreds of DVDs, VHS tapes, laser disks; seven computers, and other documents. Though Handley's collection was comprised of hundreds of comics covering a wide spectrum of manga, the government is prosecuting images appearing in a small handful.


Hugely disappointed by the Boing Boing reporting, which links to an article on what happened and closes
On one hand, jail time for owning cartoon smut is a creepy example of victimless thoughtcrime. Then again, very little is as creepy as this guy's comic collection.


The last time I saw something like that, I wrote this:

http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/12/why-defend-freedom-of-icky-speech.html

Which explains what I think about such matters at length.

This time I'll just say that I'm reminded of the Florida matron at a comics museum fundraiser who, when I talked to her about the CBLDF and the
Mike Diana case, replied , "Well, I'm from Pensacola. And I read the local papers. And I can tell you, if there hadn't been something fishy going on with that boy, they would never have arrested him." And when I pointed out that if the local papers hadn't taken joy in implying that there was something fishy about that boy, he might have got a sane trial, and not wound up the first American artist to have the local police ordered to make 24 hour spot-checks on his place of abode to ensure that he wasn't drawing anything, she told me that I really didn't understand how these things worked, and that her sister knew someone in the police department and she was pretty sure that there was a whole load of stuff that they weren't saying and probably that boy got off easy....

Boing Boing person, you should be ashamed of yourself.

There's something really creepy about what happened here, but it's not anything Chris Handley did.

And I'll take this opportunity to point you to http://www.cbldf.com, where you can buy a CBLDF membership, along with tee shirts and merchandise and much good, rare, signed stuff...


Edit to Add: Rob Beschizza, who wrote the piece, states in the
Boing Boing comments:
Gaiman misinterpreted that line to be an expression of my opinion. But it's there so you could see the animating idea behind this prosecutor's case. I can accept that sarcasm is hard to convey in print, especially when it's the implicit sort aimed at here, but most people here evidently understood how stupid I think it is.
On these short posts, readers often add context and build upon the OP in the comments. The 'dilemma' posed in the OP was intended to invite this, and it's depressing that Gaiman decided to attack me over it.


(Which still leaves me rather puzzled. If you are expressing something that reads like your opinion at the end of a news round up, but which is actually meant to be a sarcastic restatement of what you do not believe in, intended to provoke comment and context, then why be depressed by someone commenting, or giving context? I've spent nineteen years working for and with the CBLDF, raising money and awareness and working with the staff and lawyers to try and keep people like Mr Handley or Mike Diana or Gordon Lee out of prison for creating or owning or selling drawn comics. From my perspective it's like reporting a mugging, and concluding "It's creepy he was hurt and robbed but very little is as creepy as wearing an expensive watch and going into a rough neighbourhood". If you want to invite comment from people saying that it wasn't the victim's fault you shouldn't be depressed if you get it.

And the reason I complained, and am going on here at far too great a length, is because prosecutors in obscenity cases look at community standards, and look at community reactions, to the "obscene" material and their prosecution of it. They want to be re-elected, and not to be perceived as wasting money and time on something that - very literally - hurts no-one. If they think the reaction is "Wow, jailing him, that's creepy - but very little is as creepy as his comics collection" they are not going to stop.)

...

My daughters just bounced in, sang "Happy Valentine's Day to You!" to the tune of Happy Birthday, and presented me with a card. My fiancee may be in Australia (and I miss her, very much), but life is pretty good. I'm rich in daughters.


(Poem rendered slightly moot because this Valentine's Day is also the first day of the Year of the Tiger, and in China, to celebrate the Lunar New Year, people DO give each other oranges...)

And I just put my reading of "Harlequin Valentine" up for you to listen to (and download if you want to) on Last FM at http://www.last.fm/music/Neil+Gaiman/_/Harlequin+Valentine. I'll keep it up there for a few weeks...

...

Finally, here's the info on my visit to the Philippines: March 17th 2010 I'll be in Manila, back in the Rockwell Tent, for the third Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. When I started it, I put up the prize money for three rounds (I'd say 3 years, but each round of the awards took about 2 years). I'm really proud of what it's done so far. Looking forward to seeing the winners and runners up, reading the stories and comics and -- this year for the first time -- seeing the films.

I know there's going to be some book signing on the 17th and again on the 18th. http://www.fullybookedonline.com/ should have details...




Information on Warsaw and Moscow (I'll be in both places the week of March 22nd) still to come...

Right. It's really, horridly, unpleasantly cold outside. You know what that means?

Exactly. Off to walk the dog.

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