V For Vendetta
By Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Available in collected edition from DC/Vertigo Comics
Sometimes, in between the wiretapping, the torture prisons and the face-shooting going on in this country, you just want to switch off the news, flinch and hope it's all a dream. The upcoming film adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's classic graphic novel V For Vendetta declares itself "an uncompromising vision of the future." Bold words, but quite possibly correct, if the adaptation holds at all true to the comic book.
The story takes place a few years in the future, when whipped-up fears of terrorism and the unknown Other have led to fascist rule in Great Britain. Following in the masked footsteps of history's Guy Fawkes, a mysterious individual known only as V wages war on the government, training a protégé, Evey, along the way.
This is some of Moore's earliest work published in America, and it retains a raw, hungry energy that sometimes seems lacking in his later work. In fact, the weakest point of the comic may be its final act, written some years after the others. It's a little too polished, and too full of political intrigue involving a bunch of bureaucrats who all look alike. Nonetheless, it retains a lyrical power that draws the reader in.
It's scary and unflinching stuff, especially as V himself is far from sane in this utterly insane world. A cold-blooded killer and violent terrorist, V frequently comes off no better than those he fights against, but we're also forced to ask if perhaps he's on the right track. When first hatched, the ideas and world of V seemed the stuff of fantasy; since then they have become more and more prescient. Lloyd summed it up best in his introduction: "There aren't many cheeky, cheery characters in V For Vendetta, and it's for people who don't switch off the news."
The Book of Photography: The History, The Technique, The Art, The Future
Text by Anne H. Hoy
Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2005; $40
Magnificent. The photographs alone are worth the price. Added value for a lifetime of reading comes with the contextual text, which includes brief biographical sketches, succinct overviews of events that compel photo coverage and essays to show the impact of a photograph (or photo essay or exhibit).
History is from the point of view of both technology and the visual artists whose works drove and now seem to be driven by photography. There is much to be learned about the values of individuals and society and what gets passed on and what gets lost when the pace quickens, when we move from an agricultural base to manufacturing, the brokering of wealth and the making of slums. This is what moves the photographer towards photojournalism as editorial. Comparing these early chapters with the close of the book becomes an exercise in self-examination.
In the middle of the book, photojournalism dominates. It is this use that sets the photograph apart from the painter-explorers or the painter-scientist or the painter-social commentator. Certainly those paintings inform us, as do the drawings of the earliest civilizations. Yet, there is something about the photograph that reaches into us. Its immediacy, its eyewitness account, its most often piercing honesty all bring us into the moment, simultaneously active and frozen, for us to examine at leisure.
Photographs transform us differently from a painting, a sculpture, a drawing. Where the emphasis is on pictorialism, "what is art?" begs the question. Side-by-side a photograph and a painting bring us into different worlds. Yet, the camera is more than the eye of the photographer, the photograph is more than the eye of the beholder. Hoosiers will appreciate the depth of Civil War photojournalism coverage. Here the point is driven home: History is relayed by the winner. Very few photographs exist taken by photographers sympathetic to the Confederacy.
Inspired to Serve
By Mark H. Massé
Indiana University Press; $19.95
This book has aged well. Its relevance is all the more poignant today as news of the dire straits of the needy among us hits front page. It's not only surviving victims of rampaging weather, mining accidents, robberies or sudden layoffs who are in need. It's most profoundly the victims of changing governmental policies, the working poor who are trying to gain an education while taking the best kinds of jobs they can get.
It's déjà vu all over again, so to speak, translated into: "It's the economy, stupid." In Indianapolis, Gleaners Food Bank and East Tenth United Methodist Children and Youth Center, Inc. have tapped into this reviewer's sense of civic service with a request to let people know the needs are urgent and on-going. Rabbi Jonathan Adland of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation is especially dedicated to the work of Gleaners. Marc Rueffer, an account executive with One America (best known here as American United Life), is a hand's-on board member of the Children and Youth Center. Both represent the 21st century "face" of activism, and make current the contents of Massé's book, which profiles "a person's resolve and dedication to enact social change [moreso] than his or her theological orientation."
As we move out of February with its emphasis on Abraham Lincoln in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, "day off" is now being replaced with "day on." Day on collecting nutritious canned and packaged goods, clothing, bedding, books and art materials to bring to centers where they can be distributed to those in need. Day on getting involved with programs and organizations offering opportunities to mentor, tutor, read to the academically challenged or left-behind. Day on volunteering at a nursing home, hospice or hospital to bring cheer to the lonely and assist family members.
Massé writes about "being inspired" by JFK's Jan. 20, 1961, inaugural speech, but not acting on it. "My focus narrowed and became more personalized as I strived [sic] to gain a career foothold, to form a family, to care for loved ones."
This is the natural flow of things. "After 50" is more often the magic birthday for reflecting on the kind of epitaph we're generating, and we begin to sign on and sign up for more than the occasional do-good/feel-good giving. "Worthy efforts but hardly enough to effect social change."
Gleaners serves 390 organizations in Central Indiana, reaching some 222,000 needy people, half of them children or elderly. The work of Gleaners effects social change by fulfilling at least one of the basic needs - food - so that individuals can even think of finding ways to improve upon their present condition toward self-sufficiency.
East Tenth United Methodist Children and Youth Center, Inc. is effecting change in Center Township where, according to the 2000 Census, 23 percent of all people live in poverty, 75 percent of all Indianapolis Public School children receive free/reduced lunch, 13 percent of all households are headed by a single mom with children under the age of 18.
At a time when state and federal funding is shrinking or non-existent for child care and aid to families, when foundation incomes are dwindling and individuals are feeling "donor fatigue," the needs are mounting.
It's not so much that those who always give have to give more, as it is that those who have never given need to get with the program. And elected officials have to acknowledge they are part of the problem with their narrow views.
A parishioner of St. Edmund's Church in Chicago perhaps says it for all the others who have been inspired by one of the profiled individuals in Inspired to Serve: The Rev. Tolliver "helped [me] hear the still voice within."