Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tumblr Bumbler

In a move that played contrary to the purpose of the Internet, Tumblr just recently decided to ban all trace amounts of pornography from its site, since it’s Adult Label warning was proving to be as effective as those R ratings for movies and games.

Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity.

The real reason for this unpopular move was to ban child pornography, but this scorched Earth approach affects not only harmless sites, but also has an impact on LGBT users looking for a new home for creative expression, sex workers expressing their kinks, and women who, believe it or not, make up a significant part of the Tumblr audience.  Turns out Porn isn’t just for guys!  Who knew?

The really distressing part that’s been pointed out (and I’ve been rightfully ignorant of) is that while child pornography gets the whack-a-mole treatment, there’s a frightening amount of Nazi propaganda material out there that hasn’t been drastically cut down on.  How difficult can it possibly be to trim out sites devoted to hateful stuff?

So, for the last two weeks, I’ve been anxiously poring through multiple Tumblr sites saving as much material as humanly possible, taking well-needed breaks in between.  The reason for this was because the images that were being flagged included inconspicious pictures such as Unicorns, boot cleaners and raw chicken.
To double the irony, they've also restricted images of any critique on Tumblr's porn restrictions.

One of the longest-running Tumblr sites, EscherGirls, which is FULL of wonky female anatomy (and lessons on how to properly correct and display said anatomy) would be ripe for deletion. Ami Angelwings who’d been running the site for over seven years was horrified at the prospect of losing so much work.  Fortunately, there was the option of converting everything over to Wordpress, and she reserved the domain name of, just in case.  The Tumblr site is still available, but who know how long that’ll last.

I scoured the majority of Archie Out of Context, since there are many many instances of panels that could be potentially considered NSFW.  I also found several notable panels elsewhere not part of their lineup that could easily fit under their list of restrictions.

This social media platform had the benefit of cross-culture contribution - if there was something that was noticed on another normally obscure site, it would be shared, bringing wider recognition to other artists who would’ve been otherwise ignored.

One of the admirable features of Tumblr was that their Archive option, displaying all the frontal images all at once.  The only downside of this was that it only showed the first image, and didn’t note which post had more than one, or the accompanying text that came with them.  Also, depending on the number of updates, the thumbnailed images could overwhelm the site, leading to a slowdown of the site, making it impossible to see everything at once.

I was never part of Tumblr’s platform, but if I was, there was something I intended to contribute, but never did.  While I was doing volunteer work at a library, helping them with their move, weeding books and putting material back on the shelves, I noticed that there were quite a lot of books with naked breasts on them.  For something that put themselves on a pedestal of integrity, books weren’t afraid to pander to the lowest common denominator.  And with Tumblr’s latest restrictions, anything I put there would be immediately flagged.

In order to qualify, there would be several restrictions:

  • No Romance Novels - any bodice rippers would be out.
  • No Pornographic material - these would have to be works that didn’t focus solely on erotic content.
  • Actual nipples - just showing lots of cleavage wouldn’t be enough.
  • Foreign content was allowed - books in other countries were more lenient in unashamedly showing breasts whenever possible.  A French publication actually had a cover taken from a Hentai comic of a woman in bondage to a chair with copious fluids all over her.  (The inside was all text)
  • No cartoon collections - Playboy-like comics would be too easy, and I was looking for lushly or playfully-drawn covers where the insides were just reams of words and no pictures.

However, I could only find a smattering of covers that met my standards, and didn’t know how to accept contributions from other people who could’ve added to my small collection.  I could've made a Facebook page, but it turns out that Facebook is likewise going to go towards a similar restriction of pornography.

My site would’ve been called Literary Boobs.
This is the most SFW cover I can put on my site without alerting any warnings.
The above image is just a collection of shapes that happens to resemble a human form.  However, there's no guarantee it'll pass the smell test since one of the images that triggered Tumblr's safety labels happened to be... Garfield.  Apparently, robots can't tell the difference between the fat cat's round eyes and a pair of breasts.  Must be why the fat cat's been so popular for so long.  (Also applies to the Simpsons)
Just LOOK at that seductive form!  Oh yeah, baby...
Since the announcement was made, there was a protest notice made by multiple outspoken Tumblr users that made its round in its dying days:
In response to the NSFW ban being enacted by Tumblr Staff, on December 17th 2018 I propose that we all log off of our Tumblr accounts for 24 hours. 

The lack of respect and communication between staff and users is stark. Users have been begging staff to delete the porn bot outbreak, which has plagued the website for well over a year. The porn bots oftentimes send people asks and messages, trying to get them to go to a website full of viruses. They also spam advertisements on others posts.  

Users have also begged that Tumblr ban neo-nazis, child porn, and pedophiles, all which run rampant on the site. The site/app got so bad that it was taken off the app store.

However, instead of answering the users, Tumblr has instead taken the liberty to ban all NSFW content, regardless of age. But users have already run into issues of their SFW content being marked as sensitive and being flagged as NSFW, not allowing them to share their work.

Not only does this discriminate again content creators, but it also discriminates against sex workers. Disgustingly, the ban will be enacted on December 17 which is also International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

This ban is disgusting, and while I (and plenty of others) welcome porn bots and child porn being banned, the Tumblr filtration system is broken. It tags artistic work’s nipples as NSFW (when it is art), it tags SFW art as NSFW (when it is not), and does not stop the porn bots, neo-nazis and dozens of other issues.

This ban is discriminatory. This ban is ineffective. This ban is unacceptable. 

To protest, log off of your Tumblr account for the entirety of November 17th. Log off at 12 am EST or 9PM PST and stay off for 24 hours. Don’t post. Don’t log on. Don’t even visit the website. Don’t give them that sweet ad revenue. 

Tumblr’s stock has already taken a hard hit. Let’s make it tank. Maybe then they will listen to the users. 

Reblog to signal boost! We must force change.

The effects may be being felt already.  There are signs that Tumblr might be going down the same path as LiveJournal, when it likewise purged a wide swath of its members without warning.  Until steps are taken to reclaim the wider implications and restore its natural state as a porn-friendly site like everywhere else, the fate of Tumblr is ultimately up in the air.  If this is the hill they're willing to die on, well, that's their prerogative.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Guys and Gals

I've been rather remiss in posting new blog entries, partially because of real-life issues infringing on my free time, partially because of web-browsing to relieve some of the stress of said real-life issues, and partially because of writing future chapters of my WebNovel.  But the main instigator is the annoying Google protection device that forces me to identify myself just as I'm zooming in on a page that suddenly blanks out.

Having to constantly affirm my identity as NOT A ROBOT is extremely annoying.  But I still persevere, because there are some comic stories I recall that I want to see again.  And I recently found one of them.

Up until then, I had no idea that Guy was an actual name, and was a generic all around term.  It would be like being associated with John Smith.

Just like being one of the Girls.  After all, every Tom Dick and Harry is named Sally.

Isn't that just like a woman?  Taking someone else's cultural identity and rightfully claiming it as their own?  Pick your own term!  So we can complain about it later!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Fridge Door Reviews

With the last of the Noodles comics having reached its roundabout conclusion a month early, I was worried about what I would fill the last month with.  As it turned out, the Sunday Fridge Door feature continued on without Gamboli's presence.

For the most part, I wasn't terribly interested in what infantile kids had to say, and mostly skipped this section, though I made an exception while browsing the Sunday section for notable articles, and it was a good thing I did, since it captured a snapshot of the general mood of what it was like back then.

There was great social unrest and upheaval over the Referendum on whether Quebec should separate or not.  It was a slim majority that wasn't completely over 51% that saved us from becoming an early model for Brexit two decades later.

Then, a little later, there was a request to send in reviews of what kids liked, which was a wise move, since they were more likely to talk about what they were most passionate about, which just so happened to be videogames, movies and young novels.  Of course, back then, Young Novel Paperbacks were more along the likes of short 180 page short stories rather than Harry Potter bricks, so your taste in young literature might vary.

Naturally, I saved the ones that had amusingly drawn pictures of movies, or at amusing as they seemed back then, when perceived sequels were going to continue draining what little originality a beloved property once had.

As I said before, the majority of children's literature and media consumption in the 90's were much more limited, so in addition to children's books, ranging from as little as 30 pages to an average of 64 pages to the ceiling of 164 pages.  Only Betty & Veronica comes close to Harry Potter levels with a whopping 200 pages, but you could still flip through that with your eyes closed.

Later, there were the occasional videogame review, but these weren't too frequent, and soon enough, games got enough of a reputation that they eventually got their own section in the paper, pushing children out of the way.  Let adults do the work that these infants can't elucidate properly on their own!

After that, quality control reverted back to familiar levels, and there wasn't much interesting material to look at anymore.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Charley's War Omnibus

It’s Remembrance Day again, and it’s a suitably appropriate time to commemorate for the 100th Anniversary of the end of the War to end all Wars.

In years past, I would’ve posted a link to the first major story arc of Charley’s War in the Somme, but the Mediafire account I used got shut down, probably from lack of activity.  It wouldn’t be much use, since there’s now a much better format for seeing all of Charley’s War anyways.  The entire series has been collected in three bulky volumes, from Rebellion press.

In place of the photorealistic stock images of the early Titan editions, they have appropriate cover art, showing the glory that is Joe Colquhoun's art, which is on par having Bill Maudlin’s wonderfully weary army veterans told in story form.  In political terms, that’s the highest praise that can be garnered.

The larger collections also have the benefit of having large sections of the story available all at once, and helps reduce the annoyance of having storylines suddenly stop midway, just as things were getting good (which, given the nature of cliffhangers, were pretty much all of them) The only volume that didn’t end on a cliffhanger was the 4th volume, Blue’s Story, and appropriately enough, it’s the only story that doesn’t show up in the first omnibus.  Rather, it's the first story in the second omnibus.

The newer editions also have the benefit of having colour art, though there's a few pages that the author Pat Mills thought would work more effectively in Black and White.  As a period piece, I can't disagree with his assertment.  The omnibuses also have the complete storyarc of The Great Mutiny, that for some reason, was missing six crucial pages of the controversial incident.  It was so outrageous that there's a media blackout even now, and the British higher-ups have constantly denied it ever happened.  The only thing I wasn't a fan of was the cover for the 3rd book, which while well-drawn, is bereft of any identifiable faces.  But for a list of potential complaints, such as the paper stock being too shiny, that's extremely low on the disagreement department.
There's no better way to pay your respects to the thousands of people who died than to read the best dramatization of WWI guised up in a boy's weekly action magazine format.  Well, maybe other than making a donation to veterans for their service, but that goes without saying.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Fridged and a Closed Door

So, after the rather uneventual breather episode of last month, we get a return to normalcy with a state of hibernating away from hunters.

Picking up on the theme of broadening expectations, this is just a serene prelude to the next big serious issue.

Yup.  Eugene gets shot and doesn't walk (Float? Crawl?) away from the incident unscathed.

As if this incident wasn't disturbing enough, it occurred just around the time of the Polytechnique Massacre on December 6, 1989, a horrific attack against women, leading to 14 deaths, and was the prime motivation for gun control in Canada.  This goes far beyond the special message that happened not that long ago.

Around this entire remaining story arc, we never get to see Noodle's face, let alone Eugene's reactions.  Sensing a certain uneasiness around current events, Gambioli possibly tried to soften the blow.

 It's also the only time that the Word of the Week feature is left suitably blank.

And yet, despite these hopeful words, we never get to see Eugene ever again.

You could be forgiven for not noticing the floating piece of fuzz outside the cave if it wasn't mentioned in the feature index on the top of the sectioned page.

And thus, we've come full circle to the beginning of my first entry of the last three months of The Fridge Door, where I mentioned that this hunting accident.  Though it was most likely overlooked or forgotten by people who didn't notice it in the first place.  In the absence of Eugene's presence, something was lost.  The cartoon section of The Fridge Door tried to continue in a new format based on reader input, but the rambling format and loss of control wasn't enough, and it was promptly retired with nary a response.

Still, how many children's newspaper features can you name that had a gun-related death in them?

Monday, October 29, 2018

An Unique Special Snowflake

Recently, people have been using the term from Fight Club in a disparaging way, to try to demoralize those who they deem too sensitive.  Ironically enough, those very same decriers seem to be the ones who are most likely to whine and complain about unfair tactics being done unto them.  It never seems to occur to them that
goes both ways.

But rather than go into the politics of name-calling, I'd like to present a chapter from a Steven Kellogg drawn book, back when early reader Children's Books were a whopping 64 pages before they were reduced to 32 pages, surprisingly similar to the page reduction of pamphlet comic books.  There's some kind of correlation there, though I have no idea if it's similar or just an outright coincidence.

These pages are from Leo, Zack and Emmie, a book I picked up from a library booksale, when they were cleaning out their old stock.  It's a shame these books are hard to find, since there's a certain charm to them.

I do so enjoy the childish overreactions here.

The reaction is perfectly understandable.  How impressive can a dinky Snowflake costume possibly be?  It's nowhere close to the theme of Halloween, let alone traditional to the other costumes that are typically worn.  Sure, it's seasonably close to Winter, but it's still unorthodox.

So, there's a full roster of a mixed variety of children banding about, with their nightwear, when a perfectly normal snowflake costume makes an appearance, and...

Apparently, the Snowflake costume is more elaborate than first suspected.  I went as a TV set for the first few years of Halloween, which was a cardboard box with a picture in front, and it was nowhere near as sophisticated as the Snowflake costume here.  I also never got as much candy as Leo got.

So, for those who are routinely mocked for being Snowflakes, go ahead and embrace your individuality.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Old-School Influences

One of the things I enjoy doing is finding certain influences that sprung from certain comics.  Some of them are obvious ripoffs.  Others are more subtle about it.  And others can be downright obscure.  The fun comes from finding connections, and how they wound up creating the building blocks to what would later become compulsive reading material.  And when you dig further back, those influences become even more obvious.

Comics are rife with stealing material from each other and other forms of media, which makes it somewhat easier for me.  One of the first instances was reading the history of Andre the Giant.

Until Ultimate Muscle (Kinnikuman) showed up, I had practically no interest in Wrestling.  (I still don't for live-action), but ironically enough, enjoy reading Wrestling history comics.  And Andre certainly made a big splash in Japan, who expressed their fondness with displaying larger-than-life characters in their entertainment. 

But it wasn't just the use of overly exaggerated bulky antagonists that was utilized.  What surprised me was finding out that within the macho portrayal of Wrestling, there were stories of fights between good and evil played up to lofty heights to garner audience attention.  So many of the tropes that are so inherent in Wrestling apply to a lot of Manga.  From the over-the-top acting to gritting through the pain of hurtful cheap tactics, to the taunting between two rivals before the big game, to the miraculous comeback to the tragic backstory reveal.

This is especially prominent in Sports Manga, but can also apply to Shonen rivals, Tournament arcs, and everything in between.  But sometimes the influence can be less overt.  Take this page from the early translation of Battle Angel Alita for instance:

This page in particular always stood out for me, because that piece of narrative insight in the second half of that textbox never shows up anywhere else ever again.  I always wondered why it was presented this way.  Then, out of morbid curiosity, I checked the recent Kodansha translation, which did away with the superfluous additive text.

I haven't been much of a fan of the latest translations, since they're notoriously dumbed down and more literal than natural modes of speech.  But a look at another Manga property showed where the previous insertion might have come from.

Every episode of Shigeru Mizuki's Kitaro ends with a chorus of crickets saying "GE GE GE GE GE" in thanks of Kitaro.

It's a little annoying, but it's a note that the story is over.  When you see something enough times, it lodges itself in your head, and I suspect that the original translator might've taken influence from this old-school Manga and inserted the extra bit as a reference point to explain the need for transitioning from a girl's inner monologue to the sky city's tubes.

It is a difficult thing to make a badass character have an air of innocence, and yet, Alita seamlessly manages to pull it off.  The only American examples I can think of are Horridus from Savage Dragon and Cassandra Cain of Batgirl fame.  Yet, for as much as she's an original (each book was radically different from each other), she's actually the combination of multiple factors.  And to explain that, I'm going to have to delve into some spoilers for the third sequel version of the series - the Mars Chronicles, which quite frankly, are the least interesting so far.

There's potentially spoilery material coming up, so if you want to remain blissfully ignorant, stop right here, and ignore everything after the cut.