A week ago a sleepy Dutch suburban town was shocked when thousands of “partygoers” invaded the streets, raiding shops and damaging private property. What had happened? A teenage girl had announced her Sweet Sixteenth on Facebook and forgot to make it an “invitation only” event. A friend of a friend decided it would be a good joke to invite all HIS (500) friends, urging them to invite more. Soon it became a ‘Project X’, after the movie in which a party totally spirals out of control.
Food for ethical philosophers.
Who is to blame in such a case? The girl? Facebook? I myself had a signing the day before, for which I made an “open” invitation on Facebook, and only seven people showed up…
It’s also food for behaviorial sociologists of course: what makes people abandon morality when the are in big groups? Is it peer pressure? Anonymity? The interesting thing about the internet is, though, that we’re all individuals sitting behind a screen, mostly in our own autonomous environment. So what made thousands of people, more or less rationally deliberating with themselves in front of their computer at home, think that it would be a good idea to harrass a 16-year old girl and an unsuspecting town…?
I’m not providing an answer here. I’m just bringing it up because I’m fascinated by the phenomenon of “virality”.
Yesterday, a Spanish society for Applied Philosophy, the Sociedad de Filosofía Aplicada (SOFIA), pointed my book ‘Philosophy, a Discovery in Comics’ out to their 33.000 followers on Facebook by directing them to my Facebook page for the book – and in less than 24 hours, I got more than 500 new “likes”! On my computer screen, I see people all over the Spanish speaking world nudging their friends about the book, sharing pictures from it, giving positive comments – it’s a really exciting phenomenon to witness when it’s so close and positive!
Which is good, because I’m a bit sick right now. While my work is apparently getting noticed all over the globe, I’m tucked away in my bed and in a snot-laden head.
(Most probably a virus.)
For seven years, I was the proud owner of four cats – or more accurately: I was proudly owned by four cats, which is quite an army.
They provided me with ample material for my daily webcomic in 2005-2006:
Yes, I was a blonde once. And “mauw” is indeed Dutch for “meow”.
To celebrate the good reviews that have been coming in for ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’, I am giving away three signed copies on Goodreads.com. Click the picture below to enter:
I’m going through my archives looking for comics I drew my cats in – and here’s one from 2003 featuring Tijger, a typical tabby: vibrant, affectionate, dominant and fierce.
(That’s me in the lower bit, consoling Johan. In 2003, I was a stepmother to three children and living in a small house with a garden.)
I experimented here with a non-linear flow of visuals, influenced by colleague Michiel van de Pol, who makes wonderfully free and wacky comics and cartoons. I still like the pace of this comic, and how I sort of successfully camouflaged the fact that I’m not good at drawing backgrounds by just adding a few props.
Good reviews for ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ keep coming in, and my head keeps swelling and swelling. A good moment to remind myself of philosopher Erasmus and his book ‘Praise of Folly’, in which he humorously argued the relativity of all things:
I looked through my archive to see when I drew my first cat-comic – and it’s this one, from 1999, about my sweet albeit a bit grumpy Scottish kitty Djinn:
I’m pleasantly surprised with the way I drew Djinn, and I really like the dream-sequence. But I’m less enthusiastic about the way I drew myself, I was going for some funny abstract comic figure, but to me it now mostly reflects how I could not grasp my self-image in that period – both graphically and metaphysically.
This comic was originally in Dutch – I translated it just now and lettered it with my own handwriting font I made on www.myscriptfont.com. It’s a quick, easy and free way to make your own font!
I like to write and draw about my own personal life – in fact, all of my comics have autobiographical elements in one way or another. I especially like to draw our cats, beautiful Siamese Boris and his dark sidekick Toto. They both appear in ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’. In fact, Boris’ dreaming sparks the chapter about what human consciousness is, compared to that of other animals.
After ten pages exploring different features that may define consciousness, such as Logical Thinking, Self-reflection, Use of Symbols and Language, I draw the following conclusion:
Our cats also make an appearance in the two books that follow the Philosophy book – about Religion and Science (both published in The Netherlands and not in translation – yet). I really like drawing them and us in our natural modus, which is: lying in our kingsize bed.
In the book about Science, I use the cats in a similar argument as in the Philosophy book: what makes a scientific mind? Why have animals no science?
Isn’t the natural curiosity in cats the same as in humans? And isn’t that curiosity the base of science…? Yet, humans like to experiment and categorize, and that is not something a lot of animals do. Still, that may be mostly due to their lack of opposable thumbs – not lack of intelligence.
So – wouldn’t our cats monitor the barking-frequency of our neighbor’s dog if they had a chance…?
More comic cats to follow in the coming weeks… so keep an eye on this spot!
There was no festive presentation for ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ – but the launch of the original ‘Filosofie in Beeld’ in March 2010 made more than up for that. It still reverberates – so here are some impressions:
The book presentation was held at my favorite haunt: comics store Lambiek in Amsterdam – the place where I worked for five years and which still feels like home to me. The symbolic “first copy” was given to a representative of Philosophy in the person of “philosophy babe” Stine Jensen who is famous for her wonderful accessible books and TV programs on all kinds of philosophical subjects.
There were four speakers: first, Klaas Knol of Lambiek opened the festivities and handed the book to the publisher, Kees Korenhof of publishing house Meinema. This is extra poignant to remember, since he unexpectedly died last week, 63 years old. He was a gentle, humoristic, professional man. He was the kind of publisher who would approach writers and suggest a book for them to write – instead of waiting behind his desk for manuscripts to come in. He really knew how to get the best out of people, and it is thanks to him that I became a published author – the first comic artist ever to be published at Meinema, which is mainly a publishing house for philosophical and theological texts.
Kees Korenhof reminisced about meeting Yiri and me for the first time in Café Luxembourg, a luxurious establishment in the center of Amsterdam, which I had suggested as a bit of a bold statement: many famous writers meet there with publishers and journalists, so it was a bit pretentious of me – but I think he saw the humor in that. He also shared memories of my grandfather, who had published theological works at Meinema in the eighties, and who he had met then. My grandfather has been dead since 1995, so I found it quite touching that Kees “united the generations” in this way. I often regret not being able to show my grandfather my work and imagine he would have liked it.
Kees Korenhof passed the book to me. I don’t remember what I said exactly, I hope it was brief and something like: I will now pass on this book to Stine Jensen. Oh, I thanked some people, especially Martijn Meijer who had given feedback throughout the project – and Yiri, who was tucked away in the corner and got well-deserved applause when I stressed how I couldn’t have done this without him. Not just for the coloring, but also for the immense moral and physical support he continues to give me.
And THEN I gave the book to Stine Jensen and she said a lot of nice things – not just about the book, but also about how her and me could have been twin sisters in many ways: both from 1972, both into philosophy, both connections with the same cities. She was really warm and generous and made me blush.
And then there was beer, and merry-making.
Last week, I went to Lambiek to check if the english ‘Philosophy’ had arrived yet. What a contrast with 2010!
“Yeah, yeah, your book is in – here it is – now buzz off – we’re working!”
(Just kidding, kind Lambiek guys! Although the fact that they are working hard is no joke: recently, finally, comics store Lambiek opened its online store full of great comics, original artwork and rare and special comic-related stuff. Go take a look! The site is almost as exciting and quirky as the real store!)
Curious about the book but don’t want to spend 17 bucks on it?
Now you have a chance of winning a free SIGNED COPY! All you have to do is enter the GiveAway on Goodreads.com. Which is a nice site to be on anyway when you’re a book lover, so it’s win-win no matter what.
Just click this picture to enter:
‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ is out! This calls for a Big Wave of Promotion! And the fun thing is, I can do it from the comfort of my own bed. Which is a very aristocratic thing to do, I recently learned – kings and queens used to conduct all their affairs, including receiving important guests, from their bed. So there – I’m not lazy, I’m royal.
The book has its own Facebook page you can like to keep informed about mentions, reviews and blog updates.
I am on Twitter now, delivering random tweets about all kinds of subjects.
I signed up on GoodReads.com, where I have an Author Profile – you can check out my other books, see which books I read and join me in discussion groups. At some point, there will be a GiveAway, where you can win a signed copy of the book!
I’m also working on an Amazon Author Page, where I can monitor the (hopefully) worldwide sales.
And then there’s always my own Facebook page, where you can befriend me and laugh at some of my Dutch status updates (about half of them are in Dutch, the others are in English).
Confused yet? Want to be my fan but don’t know where to start? Well, you’re on the right way by reading this blog, because this is where I’ll post the most important stuff. If you want to be a little more intimate, I’d recommend joining me on Facebook - I do post some doodles & jokes there that don’t end up in the blog. And if you’re already on GoodReads, I’d really like to connect there too, because I’m still exploring it.
And – I almost forgot – the purpose of all this promotion: BUY THE BOOK! You won’t regret it! It’s fun and informative!