April 9, 2010 by NBM
Re-posting this from Brian Heater’s Cross Hatch:
“The always-amazing Paul Pope was kind enough to create the poster for the official MoCCA after party (designed by the folks at Dark Igloo). The party is this Saturday, after the festival. There will be live comics readings from the likes of R. Sikoryak and Michael Kupperman; DJ sets from Pope, Dean Haspiel, and myself; live rapping from one of Top Shelf’s Swedish artists; giveaways; and lots more.”
And we’ll add that the first 25 who show up, we’re giving away free copies of A Home for Mr. Easter!
See ya there.
April 8, 2010 by NBM
The MoCCA Festival is coming right up, here in NYC this weekend of April 10 and we’ll be busy with quite a few of our authors appearing! Come and meet:
Brooke A. Allen premiering our brand new ‘A Home for Mr. Easter.’
Greg Houston (Vatican Hustle)
Neil Kleid and Nicolas Cinquegrani (The Big Khan, Brownsville)
Ted Rall (The Year of Loving Dangerously) but also with ‘A Silk Road to Ruin’ about Central Asia which is astir with Kyrgyztan’s revolution.
Here’s the schedule of their appearances:
11-1: Brooke Allen & Ted Rall
1-2: Nicolas Cinquegrani
1-4: Greg Houston
2-4 Brooke Allen
4-5: Nicolas Cinquegrani
4-6 Ted Rall
11-1: Ted Rall
noon-1: Neil Kleid/Nicolas Cinquegrani
1-4: Brooke Allen
1-3: Greg Houston
And of course, we’ll be bringing our latest graphic novels for sale besides these guys’!
Meet ya there.
April 8, 2010 by Ted Rall
As you probably know, I have traveled extensively through Central Asia. Among my favorite nations there is the Kyrgyz Republic. Despite formidable challenges—as one of the Central Asian republics without reserves of natural gas or oil, it is one of the poorest, with an average income of about $30 a month—its people are kind and hospitable. Known as the “Switzerland of Central Asia” because of its beautiful Tian Shan mountains, it is also a mecca for outdoorsmen of all kinds, particularly alpinists and white-water rafters.
I am sad about the violence in Bishkek but optimistic that the results will benefit the Kyrgyz people. That is, as long as the United States stays out of it.
During the 1990s Kyrgyzstan was Central Asia’s great democratic hope: the only CAR with a democratically-elected president, Askar Akayev, a math professor. The other CARs were, and still are, run by Soviet-era Communist Party bosses as authoritarian states.
In the late 1990s the World Bank and IMF pressed loans upon the Kyrgyz government that it could not afford, then imposed structural adjustment policies that precipitated economic collapse.
After 9/11 the Bush Administration pressed Kyrgyzstan to accept a U.S. airbase at Manas Airport near Bishkek to supply the occupation of Afghanistan. In typical Central Asian style, the Kyrgyz accepted nominal rent, then asked for an increase after the troops were installed.
The Bush Administration was incensed. They decided to oust Akayev and, in 2005, CIA-backed insurgents from the Muslim heartland of Osh, in the Ferghana Valley, stormed the presidential palace in Bishkek. Akayev ordered security forces not to fire, and he fled into exile. He is now a mathematics professor at Moscow State University.
An Osh-based politician, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, took over. Proving my oft-stated dictum that any bad situation can become worse, Bakiyev brought authoritarian rule to Kyrgyzstan. Opposition politicians were murdered and “disappeared.” Southern provinces fell under the control of local warlords. Corruption escalated; he was reelected in elections that international monitors described as completely tainted. Bakiyev’s men looted what little was left of the country, plunging the economy into freefall.
Misery escalated, and thousands of men with nothing to lose have been fighting with security forces in Bishkek for the past few days.
At its heart, this is a conflict between the Sovietized secular north, from which Akayev came, and the Muslim south, home to Bakiyev.
The current unrest will have sweeping psychological effects upon neighboring states, as the Kyrgyz are widely considered the peacekeepers of the region. When border disputes break out between other CARs, Kyrgyz mediators are often called in to settle them.
There will also be repercussions for the U.S. Not only could we be ejected from the airbase, anti-Americanism could escalate. After all, Bakiyev and the misery over which he presided was in no small measure the fault of U.S. foreign policy.
The worst-case scenario would be civil war. Bakiyev is said to be hiding in Osh, the country’s largest city. Were he to try to rally his forces to retake the capital, the bloodshed could be extraordinary.
The Obama Administration, closely linked to the Bakiyev regime, would be well advised to stay out of Kyrgyz politics and lock down the airbase at Manas before recognizing whatever new regime takes power. One can only hope that secular democratic forces take over the government and restore Kyrgyzstan to its rightful place as the friendliest, most beautiful nation in Central Asia.
For further information about Kyrgyzstan, the 2005 Tulip Revolution that overthrew President Akayev, and Central Asia in general, please check out my book Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?
Also worth checking out for breaking news from Central Asia is EurasiaNet.org.
PRESS INQUIRIES: I am available for comment and interviews about the situation in Kyrgyzstan. Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
April 8, 2010 by NBM
As Kyrgyztan goes up in riots and the government may be toppled, you might find SILK ROAD TO RUIN (scroll down) a fascinating way to find out more about this country and the others around it which also have been ruled by petty dictators. The book is a series of travelog articles, comics chapters and fun facts about Central Asia as compiled by Ted Rall…
Once again, as for Afghanistan where’s he’s returning, looks like Rall predicted this powder keg pretty well…
April 7, 2010 by Ted Rall
I’ll be signing copies of “The Year of Loving Dangerously” and other titles at the MoCCA Art Festival this weekend. Look for me between 11 am and 1 pm at the NBM Publishing table.
Where: Saturday and Sunday
April 10 & 11, 2010
11 AM – 6 PM (but I’m only signing 11 AM – 1 PM)
69th Regiment Armory
68 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY
P.S. As usual, I have not been invited to speak or participate in any panels, so please don’t ask me. Ask them. Don’t ask me. As you were.
April 7, 2010 by Ted Rall
One year ago, I was fired.
Not laid off—fired. In a layoff, you go home until the factory calls you back to work. I got fired.
Everyone knew there would be a bloodbath. Management tried to keep it secret. But we knew.
Human resources experts say mass firings should take place on a Friday. Worker bees are used to going home for the weekend. Duh.
Mine took place on a Thursday. Which was my fault. A couple of weeks earlier, when management still believed that their Big Layoff was a big secret, I had told my boss I wanted that Friday off. They rescheduled the firings for me. To my erstwhile coworkers: sorry about harshing your Friday.
When it came, I knew there was a good chance I’d be on the death list. It wasn’t rocket science: my boss didn’t like me. “Painful as it may be, a layoff is a good time to terminate marginal employees,” wrote Guy Kawasaki in “The Art of the Layoff.” Painful for the employee. Fun for the boss. “Marginal” is corporatese for “disliked by one’s boss.”
I worked three days a week for a company called United Media, which syndicates comic strips like “Dilbert” and “Peanuts” to newspapers. It is owned by E.W. Scripps, a media conglomerate based in Cincinnati. My title was editor of acquisitions and development. I was a talent scout: I recruited cartoonists and writers, worked with them to craft their features into saleable features, then edited them after they launched. It was fun. It was also hard. On several occasions, I was pressed to do things I thought were unethical, things that screwed cartoonists and writers. As a cartoonist and writer myself, I refused.
My reviews were mostly positive. But I was given two bits of negative feedback: I didn’t seem to care about filling out forms. (There were a lot of forms.) And I sided with the “talent” rather than the company.
I began to suspect the axe was going to fall months before it did, when Lisa—Lisa was my boss—dithered about, then refused to approve, my travel to the 2009 San Diego Comicon. Sure, times were tight, especially in the media business. But I’d gone in 2007 and 2008. And other execs were getting their travel approved. Lisa went to Germany for a book fair. Hm.
Lisa harassed me relentlessly. She gave me impossible tasks with no chance of success: “Develop a turnkey solution for newspaper websites.” Citing the flimsiest of excuses, she canceled projects she had previously green-lighted. I was an executive; she assigned me to menial tasks previously left to junior editors. She insulted me during staff meetings. “Why don’t you do your job, Ted? For once?”
In retrospect I realize she had just given up trying to goad me into quitting.
Sitting fake-casually on the big red sofas by the “Peanuts” ephemera in the lobby that Thursday morning were two huge goons. Each wore those nametags you get when you visit an office. Subtle.
I closed my office door and called a friend to discuss my sense of impending doom. “I’ve been through it six times,” he told me. “Here’s how it’ll happen. Lisa will ask you: ‘Can you step in for a minute?’ You’ll go in. Someone from HR will be there.”
I hung up. I worked on a memo about how the company should adapt to the changing syndication market by offering marketing and management services to freelance, non-syndicated cartoonists and other content providers. I cc-ed my fellow execs, most of whom already knew what I was about to learn. Send. A half-hour passed. No replies. The phone rang. It was Lisa. “Ted? Can you step in for a minute?” she asked. I walked down the hall, turned left and walked into her office. Carol from HR was sitting under the stuffed Dilbert.
“As you know, the blah blah problems in the business blah blah position is being eliminated blah blah blah not acquiring new properties blah there’s a meeting at 11 for everyone who’s being reduced blah blah blah blah blah—”
You’ve heard the euphemisms: Downsizing. Rightsizing. Me, I was part of a “reduction in force.”
I had been fired from other jobs. I got fired when I was younger and even snottier than I am now. I came late, left early, took long lunches. “Get the hell out of here!” my boss at the local supermarket yelled at my bratty 17-year-old self. “You’re worthless! A slacker!” I didn’t argue. He was right.
But I had never been “laid off.”
They say getting laid off is better than being “fired for cause.” You qualify for unemployment benefits. It looks better to future prospective employers (ha! as though those still existed). Getting laid off isn’t personal.
For me, that was the problem.
True, if there’s anything worse than having to have a job, it’s losing one. Once you’re on the way out the door, the details of how it goes down don’t really matter. You don’t know how you’re going to pay your bills. Will you lose your home? Will you end up living in your car? Those are the big questions.
Somehow, though, how they do it—how they fire you—matters.
I prefer the personal approach.
If there’s a moment that calls for honesty, it’s firing someone. If Lisa had called me into her office and told me: “Ted, it’s like this: I don’t like you. I can’t work with someone I don’t like. I used to trust you and your judgment, I used to appreciate what you did, but I’ve changed my mind. It’s over. You’re fired. Go home,” I still would still have had that hole-in-your-stomach feeling for the next few months. But I would have respected her.
It would have been personal. Honest.
Instead, I got Carol from HR.
It wasn’t Carol-from-HR’s fault. She did what she was told to do, no doubt by someone in Cincinnati who had never so much as laid eyes on me or the other seven people sitting around the table in the conference room, staring at the thick pile of documents in the E.W. Scripps folder she had handed us. Elsewhere, at other Scripps-owned companies around the country, similar meetings were being held. I wondered: were they simultaneous? You know, to allow for different time zones?
Scripps is a cheap company. The previous year, a perfect employee evaluation earned a Scripps worker a four-percent raise. Next came a pay freeze, and with it a lie: a pledge not to lay anyone off. The severance offer was consistent with their previous tightwaddery: four weeks pay.
“The sooner you get the severance agreement signed and sent to me,” Carol repeated, “the sooner you’ll get paid.” I flipped through the lengthy document. There was no way I could sign it. Among the provisions: I could never work for another media company the rest of my life.
If I’d signed it, writing this column would be a breach of contract.
For a lousy four weeks of severance.
There was a deadline by which to sign. As it approached, Carol emailed me. We talked on the phone, and again when I came into the office to pick up my personal items. I told her about the media company provision. Would they delete it? “It’s a reduction of force,” she replied. “We can’t change it.”
I had discussed it with several lawyers. One said it was so breathtakingly overreaching that no judge would enforce it in a court of law. “But a ‘reduction of force’ isn’t a legal term,” I said. “It doesn’t mean anything. You can delete that section if you want to.”
“Don’t worry,” she said, “we wouldn’t enforce that part.” Sure.
She seemed surprised that I didn’t trust them.
Six months later, Scripps bought the Travel Channel for $181 million.
(Ted Rall is working on a radical political manifesto for publication this fall. His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL
April 5, 2010 by NBM
Trondheim’s Little Nothings keeps sweeping ‘em up! ICv2:
“A solidly entertaining look at the life of an artist. Fans of his other work may find this an interesting piece of slice of life graphic novels.”
From Comics Worth Reading:
“Reading each new volume of this series is like a vacation, traveling the world from the comfort of your home, and expanding your mind through vibrant observation and humor. The cartooning is impressive in its achievement, a wonderful journey through both subject matter and skill.”
“By tapping into the spirit of the pieces, ON THE ODD HOURS delivers an unforgettable visual tour of one of the worlds greatest museums.”
A few reviewers expressed dislike of the main character. Yeah, he’s burly but he’s also rebelling against a society that misunderstands deaf people…
April 5, 2010 by NBM
…and people seem to be sharing our enthusiasm for Brooke Allen’s energetic new graphic novel:
“Allen’s artwork is an extension of Tesana: bold, fantastical and beautiful in its purity. The book is fast-paced as Tesana and Mr. Easter are almost continuously in motion, and while the action panels are uncomplicated while still expressive, moving the book along nicely.”
Avril Brown at Comics Waiting Room
April 5, 2010 by NBM
Now, of course, Ted has reached his lofty goal of $25,000. It was down to the wire.
April 3, 2010 by Ted Rall
With a few hours more than a day to go, more than 200 supporters came through with the $25,000 I was trying to raise through Kickstarter:
At this writing, there is $25,845 in funding provided by 210 people. (Kickstarter allows supporters to make pledges over the funding amount; any funds over my initial $25,000 request will be used toward trip expenses that would otherwise have come out of my pocket.) Amazing!
Thank you to everyone who pledged funds toward my upcoming return to Afghanistan. I am in awe of your tremendous generosity and commitment to independent journalism, literally putting your money where my mouth is, at a time of extreme economic pain and when the mainstream media seems to have abandoned the search for truth in favor of access. I promise to work hard to justify your trust and faith in me.
I will be posting updates here and elsewhere to keep you advised about the progress of this project. In the next few months, I will need to obtain visas for Afghanistan and neighboring countries, including Iran, arrange flights and alert fixers, find the perfect hat to keep the desert sun off, and consider the painful prospect of growing the world’s ugliest beard. I’m currently planning for a trip throughout the month of August.
I will file blog entries from Afghanistan, and when I get back I’ll have a book to write. And hopefully I will find out some things worth knowing about a country the United States military has been occupying for nearly a decade—with no end in sight.