Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?

THE VASE

A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart - the brilliant professor from Bethel University - or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Cartoons Have Evolved

When I was a kid, I liked to watch cartoons. Like any kid. Didn't have any particular favorite. But I remember watching the Disney cartoons and a slew of other cartoons like Popeye, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, Quick Draw McGraw, and the like. Yeah, when I was a kid, cartoons, with very few exceptions, were for kids. Even Betty Boop was for kids. Sure Betty Boop had an element of adult sophistication, but those elements were very subtle. Betty Boop still targeted kids, and kids made up the vast majority of cartoon audiences back then. But that was then. It's not like that anymore. At least not for a lot of cartoons. A lot of cartoons are now for adults.

The evolution of cartoons for adults, I think, began with Japanimation. Which of course originated with cartoonists in Japan. I remember Marine Boy, Simba the White Lion, and Johnny Quest. There were others, of course, and they came out in what I would call the transition years. They were still for kids, but the transition to an adult audience was certainly beginning. Cartoons had become more mature. They featured a more adult-like story line. A more adult-like appeal. Nothing to do with sex, mind you. (Not like Betty Boop's subtle imagery.) They just had a more gritty nature, so to speak. They weren't goofy and silly. They had a serious effort of storytelling targeting more mature audiences. Still kids liked them. But adults could, too.

Then came the superhero cartoons that were originally comic books. Superman had already had a series come out in the early years, but Spiderman made it to the small screen, and eventually Bat Man, too. A few years later superior comic book cartoons debuted with Bat Man again, and then The X-Men, along with another Superman and additional superhero cartoons. Kids loved them, and adults did too, since the kids that bought the comic books were now adults, and the cartoonists kept that fact in mind.

Of course, at this time Japanimation was also evolving. By this time Japanimation was putting out feature length films. Sure Disney was already doing feature length cartoons, but the Japanese versions had stories that were geared solely for adults. So much so that they would be rated R. These cartoons were not for kids. I know Ralph Bakshi had a few adult cartoons already. Fritz the Cat, and his attempt at Lord of the Rings, among others were notable. But he was nothing more than a drop in the bucket. And by that I mean the bucket that was Japanimation. Japanimation came to dominate feature length and TV series cartoons.

Which brings me to today. American cartoons on TV have never stopped being goofy and silly. But they now include another ascpect. Sex. Raunchy, dirty, and nasty sex. Not porn. But sex jokes, the likes of which used to be in locker rooms or bars. Despite the goofy and silly antics of the goofy and silly characters, they are not for kids. Surprisingly these adult cartoons are on prime time TV. It started with The Simpsons, although The Simpsons is very tame compared to the dirtier ones like Family Guy, American Dad and South Park. For me, personally, I can't stand those cartoons. Simpsons, again, is tame. I can handle that one. In fact the humor is often clever.

But South Park, Family Guy, and American Dad seem to depend on dirty jokes for their success. And they certainly are successful. They've been on prime time for years now. They seem to have a much better longevity than their live action counterparts. It's amazing. I can't stand those shows, but their popularity is unquestioned. They are here, and they are here to stay.

So do I watch any of these adult cartoons? Well, not the American ones. But I do enjoy a good Japanimation film now and then. There's a lot of talent out there. And talent doesn't need sex jokes to be successful. In fact, imo, the raunchy sex jokes reduce a show to gutter level trash. Clearly, a lot of people like gutter level trash. It's why sex jokes prevail in the locker rooms and bars. And it's why those types of cartoons are prevailing on TV. But Japanimation doesn't rely on that. And that's why Japanimation stands out as the best cartoons today. Imo, mind you. That's all.

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