Monday, September 28, 2009


WARNING! This piece has been CENSORED! Reader discretion is advised.

Wear your favorite ethnic garb in a backwater southern town, it's Sick Little Suicide #11 - "Show Me Ya Moves," in which we lose.

The penciled draft got approved by my editor, but it was almost killed by the top editor after inks for being too racial. I invite you to look at the piece, it has nothing to do with race: the guy we're caricaturing just happens to be black, which automatically makes us dance on eggshells, apparently. Even the name tag had to change. I wanted to give him a playful nickname like "Betty T.," but the precautionary measures were comical.

I get that perhaps maybe one could sorta argue that the teeth vaguely reawaken the racist tradition of caricaturing black people, but that's just silly. It's a part of a comicser's visual vocabulary to exaggerate to meet needs, and this piece called for a ridiculously optimistic subject, so he gets a big smile. Plus he already happens to have above average-length teeth, man. I mean...come on. If I had to draw a super optimistic Jimmy Durante, I'd draw his famously large nose and a big, exaggerated smile. That's just how visual communication works, especially with stylized caricature.

The eye of the beholder is what makes this piece in any way racially charged. Yes, the YDN has to cover its buttocks of course, and it's simply taking precautions by assuming worst-case scenarios (above the precautions I already took by working closely with my editor during the penciling stage) but I really feel it's overkill. My editor approved, after I made sure the lines were okay'd before ever inking, but then we almost lost it to the admittedly over-amped racial second-guessing at the top, had I not been able to give this guy the Jay Leno treatment.

We as a campus can and should seriously loosen up about over-zealous precautions. Race does indeed exist, like it or not, and Yale needs to move from this current oversensitive mindset to a state where we don't assume that stuff is racially charged when it plainly is not, and when it is so obviously not even dealing with race--we're talking about the far more meaningless realm of sports, after all. Ivy League sports, to boot; you don't get more meaningless than that. So I wish you'd show me your moves, Yale, but unfortunately we seem to be stuck in a bland, overly-cautious/skeptical present.

I'm not angry or anything at being asked to change the thing before press (it was supposed to run super-timely on Monday, but the miscommunication pushed it to Tuesday), I just feel incredulous about it all, especially the double standard for columnists vs. comicsers. Maybe if I wrote a prose column where I explicitly talk about race it would get published no problem, rather than having to jump through hoops to do concepts like the above which only tangentially and coincidentally involves race. I only note it's been "censored" so dramatically because I find it silly and overblown, even a little goofy. I've already stated as being fine with censorship--funnily enough this piece was supposed to debut the same day as the "Cartoons That Shook the World" book did, whose censorhip was widely condemned by Yale...)--but I find instances of censoring my stuff just plain silly because I'm so flubbing PG it's ridiculous.

The only thing that does get me is that they keep messing up my credit on the YDN website, if they post my stuff at all. For some reason it isn't, but all my YDN work should be here on the site, and with no spelling other than:


UPDATE: Clarifying gross misreadings

This piece really tanked spectacularly. Oddly, I'm okay with that because it did so mainly due to people grossly misreading, which I have no control over after a certain point. Interestingly, the censorship chaos on the production side of the piece completely made me think race was the only big, "controversial" part of the piece. Funny how the hating-on-athletes angle didn't even register on my radar, as I was only concerned with making sure it didn't feel like an ad hominem attack on Mr. Williams, but stuck to the issue: you are paid to win, you are not paid to make athletes feel good or welcomed (although that is nice, of course, but I'm talking strictly about what service Yale spends its legal tender for).

So I'm sorry if you misread the piece, but hopefully this update will help you see the error of your ways.

Since the YDN is really bad at organizing my stuff online, the piece appeared on two different parts of the site.

One place you can see the piece is here.

Cheap Barb: "...that's more revealing of its author than its subject."

This comment establishes today's core message. Those that jump the gun on interpreting me hating on athletes are more revealing of the commenters than me. Funny how that works.

The second place you can find the piece is on this page.

g-rad: "...It's a pity to see that you advocate both the position that athletes are stupid, isolatory, and bad (see Ned Fulmer's piece) and then condemning them when they try to reach out to the yale community as a whole."

g-rad u-nfortunately projects its insecurities onto the piece: it has nothing to do with the athletes. If you (re?)read the piece, you will notice it is solely focused on the coach, his decisions, and his persona to Joe Doesntreallycareaboutsports Yale. I do smile that those hurtful words aimed at the very athletes you are trying to advocate for are all yours, not mine in any way.

Yale Athlete: "This is the most atrocious thing I have seen published in this paper since I have been a student at Yale. Coach Williams is an ambassador for this great university and the athletic department at Yale. His mission is to connect his players with the traditions and history of the football program as well as the university as a whole so that his players will be able to be connected with the past to understand what it means to play football, for God, Country and Yale. attempt to make a mockery of a man that understands what Yale Football means to the many alumni (player and fan alike) that support this school. Yes, The Team lost, but Rome was not built in a day. Coach Williams, his assistants, players, and the rest of the athletic department understand that. He is giving his players an education in Yale history they are unable to find in any classroom on campus. If you can do a better job playing the games, I'm sure he would give you the chance to suit up."

Rest assured, I am not interested in playing football, and I do not care about anything football related but The Game, and only because I too dig tradition. I have to assume that you are a freshman because the YDN did cover that one "artist" a while back, plus there was some racist stuff on campus, and even a murder recently, but if you mean atrocious materials versus story subjects, try Scene every Friday. I can't stress this enough: I don't care about sports, and I believe most of Yale does not either, for the most part. It is just something we notice because they print scores and we feel good when "we" win and feel blah when "you" lose. I believe there were incredibly high hopes for Mr. Williams (not at all hurt by his bold we'll-beat-Harvard hullabaloo) so maybe it is asking too much for us to start going undefeated out of nowhere like a Disney sports movie. Plus the game was actually pretty close. I only went so I could take photos of the stadium for future comics, but the consequence was the coach's shortcoming was fresh on my mind, as well as the colorful shouts from the crowd which I won't repeat, but which you can imagine were far more harsh and clearly from people who actually cared about this sport. It's great he's teaching the team about Yale history and all that, but his job
is winning games. That's it, that's his top priority. He is payed to get our players in top form not so they can feel good about themselves over their puny peers, but so they can use their honed skills for what they were built for: to prevail against a given opponent in a series of ball-kicking, -passing, and -whatever else it is that goes on at football games! Everything else beyond making Yale more likely to have a higher point total at the end is plainly extra, or "irrelevant." It is a strong word, but part of comics is poetry: picking succinct words weighed to convey the most. It was already one of my textier pieces, but it clearly packed punch for me to steal the moments of your life spent writing your comment. I do appreciate your feedback since you are apparently a Yale athlete (of an unspecified sport...), but you have to be honest: what is his paycheck for? To make players feel as good about themselves as possible, or to win as much as possible? If he never won, but players loved him, would he really stay employed? I have no idea, but I do have a guess. If all alumni know of Yale sports is that we never win, how happy/generous are they going to be, even if they know the athletes are at least having fun? Assuming singing with the Glee Club is a super secret Mr. Miyagi technique for making the squad into super saiyans, go ahead and sing all you want, but I'm going to assume it doesn't particularly help achieve his job--not "mission;" "job"--of winning. If he asked them, say to coach IM football or something they might learn in teaching, which improves their own game, which makes them more likely to win. But singing and posing don't have any direct impact on improving their play. They are nice gestures, but they aren't actually helping improve players' game.

Um No: "Wow...The YDN should really leave humor pieces to the RUMPUS."

I'll be sure to include a throbbing [ahem] in my next comic, just for you. Cool? But in truth...I've had a pretty decent track record, right? Especially with the suicides. Interestingly, one of the pieces I still hear about was about--wait for it--Tom Williams and how awesome he is! I'll be honest, a bit of me wants him to fail, the same way I kinda wanted Obama to, just so I can throw it back in the face of all the insanely zealous fans. But in both cases, it really isn't in my best interests to see them fail, and I support them both. That doesn't mean I can't criticize them, I just have a tendency to squint my eyes and sneer at popular people.

ROLFCOPTER: "Reuxben makes the interesting (although I think incorrect) assertion that Williams has been more focused on back-patting Yale athletes for going to Yale and building campus support for the football team than actually teaching them how to win games."

This is basically it. His job is to make the team win. Anything beyond that is not strictly his "job." Much like, if comicsing for the YDN is my job, I have to put forth an opinion in my comics for you to read, interpret, and consider. If I just drew a picture of, say, a diamond with no context for you to work with, I would not be doing my job. I could draw really ugly stuff, of I could put in time to make it look nicer, but that is all extra aesthetics, all that matters at the end of the day is that my stuff puts forth something for you to take away; that's my job. My mission is to entertain you so you like me by seeing how clever I am in juxtaposing words and images, but my job is to argue an opinion (thesis) such that you can agree or disagree as you like.

Ok, if that doesn't clarify it, then I don't know what will! Good night/morning.

Reuxben, 10/03/09

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