The GOOD NEWS: Kamala Khan Strikes Back, Star Lord Comforts Sick Children, Woman Goes on Literary Quest & Harper Lee Finds Long-Lost Novel…

Posted: February 15, 2015 in (All Things) CULTURE, COMICS, This Week's News (From a Certain Point of View)
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A well-meaning (I think) friend told me that I keep posting about depressing news subjects; which might be true. So I decided to make a ‘Good News’ post, which will probably be a semi-regular thing from now on, where we celebrate some of the more feel-good stuff that’s been going on and remember that the world isn’t all as dark and shitty as it often seems.

As it happens, there were a couple of little stories that really did fit the bill; the big one, of course, is the announcement of a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine thanks to the peacemaking efforts of Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande meeting with Vladimir Putin in Minsk.

But in less mainstream-covered news, this little gem of a story made my week when I saw it. Racist ads stirring up hatred against Muslims have recently been shown on buses in San Francisco. How, you might ask, does an ultra-liberal city like San Fransisco end up with such ads on its public transport? Well, the ads were the work on the US branch of Freedom Defense Initiative, which likes to equate Muslims with Nazis. But someone with a bit of style in San Fransisco hit back by plastering over all the FDI ads with anti-hate sentiments and images of Kamala Khan, the fictional Pakistani (Muslim) teenager who was made the new ‘Ms Marvel’ last year and became the first Muslim comic-book character to have their own solo title at Marvel Comics.

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That’s just brilliant and I take my hat off to the inventive individual who took it upon themselves to strike back in style. You know, every now and then amid all the grim, dispiriting news items, you come across something that just brings a smile to your Sith-Lord face. The faith-affirming photos of the Ms Marvel buses are courtesy of ‘Street Cred’ on Facebook, which is where the images first appeared. A shout-out also to James Whitbrook of the ToyBox blog at io9.com, which is where I came across the story. Go Kamala, go.

Another Marvel Comics related news item that really scored high on the feel-good factor scale was this story about Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt visiting child cancer patients as Star Lord, fully dressed in his fictional character’s garb. The backstory to this was that Pratt and Captain America actor Chris Evans had made a Super Bowl bet, with the loser having to visit a local charity dressed as their respective superhero. Pratt, having lost the best, then showed up at Christopher’s Haven in Boston, a home for children fighting cancer. In addition to treating the kids to a personal meeting with Star Lord, he also brought along a ship-load of Guardians of the Galaxy toys and merchandise. The ‘Star Lord’/Captain America ‘Twitterbowl’ also raised over $27,000 for Christopher’s Haven and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

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The photo of Pratt (sorry, I mean Star Lord) with one of the Christopher’s Haven children is courtesy of the actor’s own Facebook page where he initially shared the pictures.

Another somewhat inspiring story is that of blogger Ann Morgan, who set herself the task of reading a book from every (UN-recognised) country in the world within the space of a year. In this article in The Independent, Ms Morgan talks about how the vast literary undertaking came about.  “Realising that pretty much all I ever read were books by British and American authors, I decided to set myself the task of reading a book from every UN-recognised country, plus Taiwan (196 states in all), in 12 months,” she writes. “I quickly figured out that I wouldn’t know where to start when it came to finding or choosing a novel, short-story collection or memoir from most places, so I decided to take my quest online. I set up a blog and asked the world’s bibliophiles to help me. Some people went much further than simply offering suggestions. Just four days after my appeal went live, I received a message from a woman called Rafidah in Kuala Lumpur. She offered to go to her local English-language bookshop, choose me a Malaysian book and post it to me. At the time, I was astonished by her generosity to a stranger on the other side of the planet, particularly when the package arrived with not one but two books that she and the bookseller had spent a long time choosing and a card to wish me luck in my quest.”

In a couple of instances people even produced works for her: a translation of the short-story collection O casa do pastor by Olinda Beja was created especially for Ann Morgan by a team of volunteers in Europe and the US when she was struggling to find something to read from the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe off the west coast of Africa.

Sticking with the literary theme, everyone will have already heard by now that Harper Lee is releasing a sequel to the literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Go Set a Watchman, completed in the mid-50s but lost for more than half a century, was written before To Kill A Mockingbird. This ‘new’ story is set some 20 years after the events of the beloved story Harper Lee is known for; it had been completely already in the mid nineteen-fifties, but the author had believed the original manuscript to have been lost. But talk about a revelatory announcement; when a writer’s debut sells over 40 million copies and wins the Pullitzer prize, becomes an eternal reference-work taught in schools, spawns a hugely successful movie starring Gregory Peck and is even credited with having been a significant cultural influence on the course of the Civil Rights debate in America, a ‘follow-up’ book more than half a century later seems like a surreal announcement from some parallel universe. It’s happening though.

And to mark the news, here are two of my favorite satirical references to Harper Lee’s beyond-classic work; the first courtesy of that famous literary aficionado Homer Simpson, the second a sketch from The Richard Pryor Show of the 1970s and also featuring the late Robin Williams – two greatly missed comedy treasures.

That concludes the good news for now; now back to my dark, airless lair of scowls and brooding contemplation…


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