Homefront: Life during wartime

A brutal arrest at Saturday's New York rally, the Operation Iraqi Freedom drinking game, and war protests come to Costco.

Topics: Iraq, National security, Middle East,

Homefront:  Life during wartime

Fallout

North Carolina’s Winston-Salem Journal ran a piece this weekend about the war’s impact on comic relief. Stand-up comedians have been trying to walk the narrow path between jokes that are relevant and jokes that are too relevant, that is to say depressing and/or tasteless. Jeff Foxworthy described the conundrum as “weird,” while the usually ferocious Margaret Cho, made one — count ‘em one — Bush joke at her Wednesday show in Raleigh, and then moved on.

Far be it from us to suggest mockery of our fearless leader as an antidote to the grim days behind us, and probably ahead — we’re not tasteless. Instead, we turn to nonstop boozing, in particular the Gulf War Drinking Game, which in and of itself is insensitive and boorish beyond description, though not nearly as insensitive and boorish as participants will become just 15 minutes in, if they follow directions carefully.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Someone give these kids a vote: Time Magazine’s children’s Web page, which is actually far more balanced in its coverage of the war than the “adult” Time Magazine, polled its young audience about free speech “in troubled times.” A whopping 70 percent of children who responded opted for freedom of speech, over “supporting our leaders.” This is something you already know, if you’ve ever had to play the role of leader and impinge on any child’s freedom of speech.

On a more somber note, 66.8 percent of these very same children voted that reality shows are not just a passing fad, but instead are here to stay.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

In the St-Petersburg Times, columnist Eric Deggans offers some thoughtful, if Sisyphean, tips for making sense of all the dizzying media coverage of the war. Deggans acknowledges that we are being carpet-bombed with information, and then refers to an expert who recommends beginning with NPR in the morning, at least one good newspaper during the day, and then CNN at night.



After clearing up your confusion, but stressing yourself out, you can seek advice on how to calm down again at the National Mental Health Association, which provides a <a target="new" href="http://www.nmha.org/newsroom/system/news.vw.cfm?do=vw&rid=501 brief list of strategies for coping with stress during wartime. In addition to the NMHA’s somewhat suspect suggestion that you avoid drugs and alcohol, nowhere on the list is there an endorsement of adding more news sources to your media diet, probably because too much of this kind of information will make you, well, crazy.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

First Person

(part of a letter from a New Yorker, describing Saturday’s protests)

I witnessed a pretty brutal arrest on Saturday afternoon. Five or six policemen wrestled a young man (early 20s, I would guess) to the ground. They kneeled on his head. Flipped him over on his stomach. Pinned him down. Wrenched his arms behind his back. Put a boot heel on his neck. Cuffed him with the plastic tie wraps. And dragged him off.

Well.

I’ve never been arrested. I don’t really relish the idea. I’d much rather ride my mountain bike, drink a cold beer and watch Mets games on TV. But how could I go on living my normal life when bombs, with my return address on them, are raining down on the people of Iraq? How can I go on living a normal life when this administration has so cynically used the fear of terrorism to terrorize the world?

The simple answer is, I can’t. So, as with others, I’ve reached the point where marching and writing letters is not enough. Civil disobedience is next. I’ll let you know how it goes.

— Tom Bregman

My husband and I were in Costco in Los Angeles last weekend with my in-laws. A woman who was watching the news on one of the TVs started to rant about how Bush was killing Iraqi children.

An Iraqi man came over to her and angrily told her that she didn’t know what she was talking about because she has lived her comfortable life in the U.S. He said Saddam is the one who has been killing children.

My normally shy in-laws, who are Iranian, piped in that Saddam has killed millions of Iranians also and that he has to be stopped. The woman, who must have felt outnumbered, said nothing and left Costco in a hurry — without buying anything!

— Leila Lavizadeh

Sheerly Avni is a freelance writer living in Oakland.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>