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Archive for the ‘Politicians’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Hiatus.

[READ: July 4, 2022] Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra

This is the third book in the Charlie Thorne series.  And there will clearly be a fourth.

Sarah brought this home and was very excited about it.  I was pretty excited to read it as well.  Our excitement was justified, because Stuart Gibbs has created a great heroine, an intriguing mystery and a thoughtful historical quest.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the historical information about Cleopatra.  We all know all about Cleopatra.  Except  that everything we know is incorrect!  The course of (male) history has been very unkind to Cleopatra–she was an amazing woman and ruler and has been historically described as little more than an exotic temptress.

In the acknowledgements, Gibbs, heaps praise on the book Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.  I have just checked out the book and the first chapter is fantastic.

The Prologue is set in Alexandria, Egypt in 30 BC.  Cleopatra was being held prisoner by Octavian–Julius Caesar’s nephew.  Cleopatra and her husband Mark Antony were united in a war against Octavian–but they had lost.

Octavian lied about how he would treat Cleopatra after Mark Antony’s death.  She discovered this and was preemptive about her own fate.  She did not kill herself with an asp–rather, she drank poison and burned down her mausoleum.  And her great treasure was destroyed wit her.

Staying in Egypt, the book shifts to the present day.  At the end of the last book Charlie has escaped from the CIA as well as the Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel.

Now she is sneaking into a party in Giza, Egypt, at the penthouse of Ahmet Shah, the oldest son of a wealthy shipping magnate.  Ahmet has a ton of security because he has a ton of expensive things in his house.  But one thing that Charlie wants is not expensive–it is information. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: June 23, 2022] Yuanyuan’s Bubbles

This is the fourth of sixteen graphic novels based on Cixin’s Liu’s stories.  This story, originally called 圆圆的肥皂泡, is the most straightforward one yet.

It is full of hope and shows that play is just as important as other scholarly pursuits.

When Yuanyuan was born, the one thing that made her happy was bubbles.  Her mother was a scientist and rather serious.  While her father often chided her mother for being too straight-faced.  But her mother had serious work to do.

Their city–Silk Road City was having severe drought.  If nothing could be done about it, the whole city would have to be abandoned.  Yuanyuan’s mother’s idea was to drop ice bombs with plants in them from a plane.  The project worked–the water helped to keep the seedlings alive.

However, in a rather dramatic early moment, the plane went down and Yuanyuan’s mother was killed.  Yuanyuan’s father was affected by the death of his wife and insisted that Yuanyuan grow up to be just like her mother–serious and thoughtful.  But Yuanyuan had other ideas.  She was still obsessed with bubbles.

Even her teachers noticed her attitude.  But her grades were excellent. Indeed, one of her teachers explained to Yuanyuan’s father that “in this new era, being a  little more relaxed and carefree isn’t a weakness.”

Her father still wants her to take things more seriously, but in the meantime, Yuanyuan has discovered a formula for creating the largest bubble in the world–it’s breaks the world record!

Yuanyuan becomes very successful–her formulas for creating elasticity in bubbles is greatly in demand.  Ultimately, her father asks her for a loan to help keep part of their old city alive.  But she says she cannot.  She is using her funds for her next project–a bubble that can envelope a city.

That’s actually not what she intended, but the bubble does settle onto the city, forcing everyone to figure out how to survive with their oxygen being cut off.  Everyone is furious at Yuanyuan, but she only sees the possibilities–what is she made bubbles that could carry water from he sea to their desiccated city?

No one thinks she can do it.  People make fun of her.  Even her father is disappointed in her.  But she won’t give up.

As with most of these graphic novels, I feel like the story suffers a but from being truncated (I assume it was truncated a lot).  And yet the general tone and tenets of the story come through clearly.  And it’s very cool.  It was translated by Nicholas Blackburn Smith and then written for this book by Valérie Mangin.

The story was illustrated by Steven Dupré and he does a great job creating the images of the bubbles.

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: April 2022] The Fifth Elephant

This is a story of Ankh-Morpork and progress.  Ankh-Morpork has just introduced a series of clacks–semaphore towers–to provide quick communication between distant places.  It’s expensive, but businesses in the know are all getting c-mail addresses.

Incidentally, the movie The Fifth Element came out in 1997 and was clearly an inspiration for the title–although very little about that film falls into place here.  Rather, the fifth elephant of the title is believes to have been one of the elephants who held up the world but who fell to the Disc and caused craters of fat deposits that are found underground in Uberwald (which produces the best fat on the disc).  Fat deposits are a very valuable commodity.

Uberwald factors heavily in this story.  Ankh-Morpork now has the largest dwarf city on the Disc.  And the progressive dwarfs in Ankh-Morpork are able to sway elections back home–where the more traditional dwarfs (deep down dwarfs) don’t think highly of the dwarfs who have left.

An upcoming election for Dwarf king was swayed by the Ankh-Morpork contingent and Rhys Rhysson, a progressive dwarf is set to become King.  But this has made many old school dwarfs very unhappy and rumors of an internal war start brewing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 1, 2022] The Devil Made Me Do It

As South Africa entered the new millennium, things were progressing very slowly (and sometimes regressing).  And Zapiro was watching.

Homophobia was spreading throughout African nations.  There’s a banner that says Queens against Mugabe.  Zapiro ties it together nicely with a picture of Queen Elizabeth with a paper that says “Mugabe lambasts U.K.”

And an anti-rape ad (starring Charlize Theron) was banned because there was public outcry.  Which leads to a later strip in which children learn the rape message: it’s not bad to rape someone in your own family (A lenient sentence was given to a man who raped his daughter); rape is less offensive than an anti-rape ad that offends men; you can get away with rape if you are famous and hire a hotshot legal team.

Apartheid fallout was still happening.

There’s a an amusing picture of Apartheid Hell and the devil is showing all of the people there a video called No person shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, gender ethnic or social origin, culture, sexual orientation….”  Although clearly the powerful men aren’t all getting punished as we see Craig Williamson, a constant figure in these battles, telling the Amnesty Committee to sit, lie down and fetch his amnesty. (more…)

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[READ: February 20, 2022] Call Mr. Delivery

This is Zapiro’s fourth book and it’s the first time, I think, that he’s put himself into the cartoons.  And it seems like maybe the world is getting to him.

Although his first appearance is in the meta-joke:

“Only one tiny minority welcomes the formation of Louis Luyt’s new political party” : Cartoonists.

But later by March 1999 he is on a therapist’s couch.  The therapist asks “when did you first experience this feeling of uselessness.  Zapiro says “this week suddenly reality seemed weirder than anything I could come up with.” (And the world hasn’t even gotten to trump yet).

It’s the end of the Mandela era and his successors don’t seem to be shaping up very well.

Although Mandela gets one nice shoutout.  He parts the waters for the Lockerbie Breakthrough and Libya asks if anyone ever get blasé about this sort of thing.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report had to have any negative mentions of F.W. DeKlerk removed.  And Desmond Tutu seems under attack from the left, right and centre (PAC, IFP, FF, ANC, NP, TRC). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] The Village Teacher

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This book is also called The Rural Teacher in translated form.

After the complex intensity that was The Wandering Earth, this story is much more simple.  But it is not less intense.

There are two storylines.  I’m not sure if in the written work it’s less clear that the story lines are at the same time.  It felt like for a powerful effect, they would not be obviously simultaneous, but I’m not sure how he could have done that.

The story starts on a school in a rural village.  The teacher is teaching the kids about outer space. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] The Wandering Earth

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This second one is also a dark story about the destruction of the earth (actually, all three are).

The story is also more complicated with a lengthy timespan and a few surprises thrown in.

As the story opens we learn that three hundred years ago scientists discovered that our sun was using up its hydrogen and converting it to helium–it was going to explode.  So the scientists began a plan.  Using rockets, they would stop the earth’s rotation and then using those same rockets, they would propel the earth into a habitable part of the galaxy.

Obviously, this would take many generations and would result in the destruction of the earth as we know it.

The book begins with a baby born on the day that the earth had stopped rotating.  We quickly jump to the boy in school learning about everything that happened (a great way of doing exposition).  These students are high-tech and scientifically very smart.  Art and philosophy and everything like it have basically been done with because it’s all hands on deck for saving the planet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] Sea of Dreams

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This first one is a dark story about the destruction of the earth (actually, all three are).

The story opens on an Ice & Snow Arts Festival.  The artist Yan Dong is completely wrapped up in his sculpture which is abstract and wild unlike every other one.  While people are looking at the art, a giant ball comes out of the sky and hovers above the ground.  The creature calls itself a Low Temperature Artist.  It states that only art matters in the universe–everything else is trivial.

It scoffs at the realistic art pieces and says that only Dong’s is worth considering.

Then it says that it will create the greatest ice-based art.  And it slowly begins sucking up all of the water from the earth.  It freezes the water and begins preparations for its installation which will remain in space protected by a membrane that will prevent the ice from melting.

Pretty cool.  Except of course, that soon, the planet is completely dried out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 14, 2022] End of Part One

I’m not sure what the Part One is that this title refers to.  This book picks up where the last one left off and moves on into 1998.

It’s clear that Zapiro is still bitter about the Olympics, as the first cartoon is “For the first time the I.O.C. has awarded the Olympic Games to an African City” (the toon is dated 3004 A.D.

At some point it was imperative that I learn all of the political abbreviations.  And he has a good cartoon that summarizes them: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 9, 2022] The Hole Truth

Nothing can make you feel ignorant like reading a book of cartoons.

This is a collection of South Africa-based cartoons that Zapiro wrote in 1996.  Who remembers what was going on twenty-five years ago?

Well, this book has an introduction from Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who appears a few times in cartoon form).  Tutu writes that Zapiro is there to skewer hypocrisy but that he has a desire to help the country into realizing their potential–even if it means gently nudging the people he supports when they mess up.

Every country has its share of corruption.  That’s the way of power.  A book like this makes it seem like there was nothing but corruption in South African (and with apartheid, that was likely the case).  Of course, the cartoonist assumes the reader knows what’s going on, so they don’t need to explain their cartoons.  If you don’t know what’s going on, well, you may not get the joke.  And then you feel stupid. (more…)

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