Hip Hop is Sick

Sadly, this is a familiar story. Another American cultural legend finds himself in ill health with no health coverage. Kool DJ Herc, the creator of the breakbeat and one of the godfathers of hip hop culture has come down with a bad case of gallstone and urgently needs help paying for treatment. His sister Cindy Campbell is seeking donations through his website, so I encourage you to consider contributing.

The questions are many, including why somebody who has contributed so much to American and world culture has to find himself essentially reduced to soliciting alms, why there isn’t a foundation of some sort to help out hip hop artists fallen on hard times, why some of the multi-millionaires of the industry who indirectly owe him their careers don’t seem to have stepped in to help, but the primary one is this: why doesn’t a country that rich have a decent health care system to take care of its citizens?

I know, this seems finally to be changing with the Obama administrations landmark, if still rather limited, health care bill, but with the Republican party and their House majority outrageously working to overturn it, its future still seems a little precarious. It boggles the mind that such a bill hasn’t been passed long ago and that anyone who considers the state of health care for most people in the US would still in all seriousness want to entrust the private sector exclusively with running such a vital component of any civilized society.

Hip hop activist Kevin Powell has more on Kool Herc’s situation.

Picks of the Week

“We tie ourselves in knots when we act as if democracy is good for the United States and Israel but not for the Arab world. For far too long, we’ve treated the Arab world as just an oil field.”

— Nicholas Kristof

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Good commentary on Egypt and the US from New York Times columnists: Nicholas Kristof on lessons to be taken away from the Egyptian revolution and Bob Herbert reflecting bleakly on American democracy.
  • The Edge Question 2011. An incredible line-up of distinguished scientists, artists, philosophers, etc. give their answers to the question “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” I’m only discovering this for myself at the moment — amazing!
  • Richard McGuire’s “Here”. One of the seminal comics short stories of the past thirty years available online. If you’ve never read this you’re in for a treat. Ground zero Chris Ware… (thanks Sean!)
  • Inkstuds’ Robin McConnell interviews Al Columbia. I wasn’t a huge fan of the cartoonist’s cartoonist’s latest Pim & Francie book and generally find him overrated, but this amazingly candid interview is a keeper. (For Alan Moore fans: includes the story of the lost fourth issue of Big Numbers!)
  • Comics of the Decade: Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan – The Smartest Kid on Earth

    This is part of a Metabunker series celebrating a great decade in comics with Rackham by reprinting select reviews of the decades’ best comics from the Rackham archive, along with a number of new pieces.

    It has now been over a decade since Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan : The Smartest Kid on Earth was published in collected form, and almost two since he first drew the character in a number of short strips in the Chicago weekly New City. Through the nineties, as it was being republished for the first time in his ongoing serial the ACME Novelty Library, it was for many consistently the most anticipated serialized comic around; an indication that comics were experiencing an artistic renaissance and a harbinger of great things to come for the medium.

    Its release in book form in 2000 has now come to be seen as an emblematic event in what certain commentators, such as yours truly, have termed the international “new wave” of comics, which has since only gained in force and momentum. And Chris Ware is still working somewhere at is center, simultaneously expanding and refining his approach to comics, most recently with ACME #20, or “Lint”, which provides as good a touchstone as any to chart his development since Jimmy Corrigan. The following is a re-examination of Ware’s seminal book, made with the benefit of a decade plus of hindsight, with attention paid to how it has contributed to the evolution of the art form of comics and how we think about them.

    Danish Comics of the Year 2010

    Once again, international gentleman Paul Gravett has asked a bunch of international critics and writers about comics to talk a little about the comics of the year from their respective countries. I participated along with representatives from Austria, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Sweden, offering a selection of what I think are the best Danish comics of 2010. I’ve reproduced the text here, but check out the entirety of the list at Gravett’s site.

    More on the Association Strike

    While my attempts to reach the involved parties hasn’t met with much success, a little more information on the Association strike has trickled onto the web, including a press release by the staff, stating in a little more detail their motivations and grievances. It was sent out on 14 January week ago and runs like this:

    Chers tous, auteurs, adhérents, libraires, éditeurs, journalistes, amis,

    Nous, salariés de L’Association, sommes en grève depuis le lundi 10 janvier 2011 suite à l’annonce de la suppression de 3 à 4 postes sur 7, à partir de février 2011, et à l’impossibilité d’établir un dialogue constructif sur le sujet avec les instances dirigeantes.

    Nos revendications restent celles émises au début de notre mouvement: