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Under Construction
A photo session in Emeryville

February 5th, 2006

I Can Remember
Sunday. A clear day: clear skies, sun shining, head full of cement. Sunday, in other words.

The publishing by a small Danish magazine of a number of caricatures or cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad brought back memories.

When I was a youngster in college I published an off campus humor magazine and in its second issue I ran this cartoon: Superman on the cross with two motorcycle cops in the foreground, one of them saying “I'll flip you for the cape”. This was done in Seattle in 1963 and, although Seattle in 1963 wasn't Beirut in 2006 where they've just burned the Danish embassy in protest, it generated enough heat in the form of letters to the editor and the loss of half our advertising income. Which was OK. It taught me something about the culture I lived in, an added plus when you're in college searching for knowledge.

Unfortunately my own 1963 cartoon revelation hasn't been altogether useful in understanding what's going on here. There have been European newspapers and magazines who've re-printed the caricatures in conjunction with various freedom of expression rationalizations, although, to my knowledge, no publication has yet to publish them here in the United States, the home of the brave and the free (press).

I'm not suggesting any newspaper or magazine should publish them, with or without a public's right to know editorial to make it all above board, feel good, warm and fuzzy, but I'm not sure what it means that absolutely no publication has printed them in this country and what that says about the state of our press establishment here. Obviously, if people are being killed over cartoons, something's going on. Odd, though, that you have to go to the Internet to see what it is they're talking about.

Of course people here would go ballistic if an American publication ran a cartoon pushing the envelope in depicting a local religious favorite. It's not just unwashed Muslims who take offense at uncomfortable pictures. Think Andres Serrano and his image of Christ in a bottle of urine. The outrage was over the federal government having partially funded the show through the NEA, I seem to recall, but that's to be expected. I don't remember anyone burning an art gallery or putting out a contract on the artist, but that could have been a lack of imagination on the part of the locals. Then again, it was an art exhibit and not a photograph on the front page of the New York Times.

“May you live in interesting times”, cursed the Chinese philosopher. We do live in interesting times, have for as long as I can remember.

The photograph was taken at a studio in Emeryville with a Nikon D2x mounted with a 17-55mm f 2.8 Nikkor lens at 1/160th second, f 6.3 and ISO 100.