I hear the argument that demanding of Israel a sense of proportion in its handling of the conflict with Hamas is unreasonable, in that war is always disproportional. It has been most succintly put by André Glucksman.

There is truth to this, but that does not make the current invasion of Gaza — it’s a stretch to call it a war — any less deplorable. It rather suggests an incredible lack of empathy for the suffering of a million and a half people in Gaza, and beyond that the Palestinians as a whole. This sad conflict has been one-sidedly asymmetrical since 1948, and every time it flares up, casualties on the Palestinian side match those on the Israeli side tenfold, if not more — and in this particular instance more than hundredfold.

You cannot relativise the suffering of the individual, of course, and everyone involved in this tragedy is ultimately the loser, but beyond all the politics, this is a pretty consistenly horrifying trend. And it only makes commentators sitting abroad implying that hundreds of civilians dying are somehow insignificant numbers, and the action that caused their death as a kind of last and only resort, seem more callous. Surely, things could be different.

Picks of the Week

“The collapse of daily print journalism will mean many things. For those of us old enough to still care about going out on a Sunday morning for our doorstop edition of The Times, it will mean the end of a certain kind of civilized ritual that has defined most of our adult lives. It will also mean the end of a certain kind of quasi-bohemian urban existence for the thousands of smart middle-class writers, journalists, and public intellectuals who have, until now, lived semi-charmed kinds of lives of the mind. And it will seriously damage the press’s ability to serve as a bulwark of democracy. Internet purists may maintain that the Web will throw up a new pro-am class of citizen journalists to fill the void, but for now, at least, there’s no online substitute for institutions that can marshal years of well-developed sourcing and reporting experience—not to mention the resources to, say, send journalists leapfrogging between Mumbai and Islamabad to decode the complexities of the India-Pakistan conflict.”

— Michael Hirschorn

The picks of the week from around the web.

We’re still recovering from the holidays here, so it’s a slow restart. But these are good:

  • The Atlantic: End Times. Great article by Michael Hirschorn about the decline of print journalism and the problems faced by the field in this period of transition. (Thanks, Tom).
  • The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama on Samuel Huntington. While I’m not a huge fan of either, there’s no denying their stature, and I’ve read especially Huntington with great interest. While he passed away a couple of weeks ago, I therefore thought I’d link to this fine appreciation anyway.
  • du9: Xavier Guilbert takes on the myth that the depiction of pubic hair in comics and other media is prohibited by law in Japan. A great introduction to Japanese censorship law, and a must-read fro manga fans.
  • Sapristi! — Tintin at 80

    This weekend, Tintin was created 80 years ago, by the then 21-year old Georges Remi aka. Hergé. Having been along for the ride for something like three decades, we at the Bunker are happy to see how well he’s kept himself.

    The illo is by Danish cartoonist Peter Kielland and was drawn as part of our celebration of Hergé’s centenary back in the summer of 2007. See the rest here. Also, go this critical back-and-forth on Tintin between T. Thorhauge and your’s truly conducted at the same occasion.

    Rise of the Machine! — Updated!

    I never thought it would happen, but lately I’ve developed a certain appreciation for the widely-derided art and general sensibility of the Image artists. No, really. Yeah, Even Rob Liefeld… No shit.

    The eye-opener, so to speak, is a German graffiti artist, KACAO77, whose art book Universes was published earlier this year and has since been burning its way through the graff community, into a soon-to-be-published second printing.

    Judging by his alias, KACAO77 is a couple of years younger than I. He was therefore probably more receptive to the Image “revolution” than I was, back in the early 90s when Spawn, W.I.L.D.Cats, Youngblood and the other Image books hit the shelves, wowing many a youngster — and even more speculators — with their razzamatazz.

    I was a little too old, I think, and was never quite won over by these books, even if I found especially the work of Todd McFarlane attractive and owned three copies of his Spider-Man #1. Nowadays, we all know how these fanboy artists contributed to the boom and bust of the American comics market through the 90s, and showed the world that the crreation of amateur comics were not solely the domain of grade school recess, but could actually be big business.

    Move Over Liebowitz, I’m Driving!

    In alternately, at times simultaneously, entertaining and disquieting ways Frank Miller has been losing it in slow motion over the last ten years or so. Despite its qualities, Sin City was one slow degeneration of the storytelling instincts of one of the truly great writers in mainstream comics of the last 25 years. An ongoing condensation of elements always present in his work, the series represented a fascinating, if often disheartening artistic development that now seems to be flatlining into irrelevance.

    Hollywood and mainstream fame unfortunately do not seem to have provided the rejuvenation one might have hoped for. On the contrary; his films are mostly transpositions of what he does in comics to a medium on which he is much, much less proficient. The Spirit is awful, as predicted, but really it is not much worse than — or indeed all that different from — the Sin City flick: they share their stilted direction, sluggish pacing and lack of storytelling rhythm, a tin ear for what animates a given scene — whether it be action or talking heads — which results in several sequences dying on the screen, not to mention the strange belief that one can transpose untreated something that works in a comic into live action.

    Hype: The Dot and the Line

    If you’re in Virginia, the Migration Gallery in Charlottesville is currently showing works by Warren Craghead and Brian Mallman.

    Mallman I didn’t know anything about — his work looks interesting — but I’ve been pushing Craghead’s for a while. He will be showing pages from several recent books, including How to Be Everywhere, one of the most notable, recent boundary-pushing comics, and also has a new book, The Dot and the Line available for download from the gallery’s site, so go get it!

    Freddie Hubbard RIP

    I always loved Freddie Hubbard’s energetic and authoritative, yet airy and tender trumpet playing. His vigorous playing on the classic Ready for Freddie (1961), the way he takes the lead on Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage (1965), his strong, equilibrist, if still outshone compliment to Coltrane on Ascension (1965), and his early somewhat fluffy but impeccable work for CTI. And so many other things. Later he became less interesting, but his passing marks the end of the great career of a great player.

    Check out his amazing soloing on this 1962 version of “Moanin'” with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, where he had replaced the great Lee Morgan the previous year.

    Photo of Hubbard in Rochester, New York in 1976, from Getty Images.

    The Spark of Life

    For lovers of Italian Renaissance art, this has been a pretty stellar year in terms of exhibitions. Amongst the major ones, the Rome/Berlin Sebastiano del Piombo show over the summer was an eye-opener, and this autumn’s double whammy of Andrea Mantegna in Paris and Giovanni Bellini in Rome offered strong contributions to this museum-goer’s sweet hangover this year.

    I haven’t had time to write much about the former here on the Bunker, unfortunately, but suffice to say that it is an enormously impressive show — a formidable showcase of a great artist that makes a number of controversial claims, but at the same time is presented with enough scholarly responsibility that one is encouraged to make up one’s own mind.

    Presenting an equally remarkable, if more limited selection of works, the Bellini show provides the viewer with an impressive overview of the oeuvre of this, one of the greatest of masters of European painting. It is astonishing to follow the development of this great bringer of light to painting, from his earliest works in tempera to the late, glorious Christian syntheses of natural and divine illumination, wrought in luminous oil.

    It is now Christmas, which has given me something of a breather, and what better way to celebrate than to think some about Bellini?