Sunday, May 31, 2009

Paris is Burning; The guilty plea of Christopher Handley

See it before it's declared Obscene.

The case of Christopher Handley has ended not unexpectedly, with results that put commercial artists, manga collectors, and everyone with an internet connection in the cross-hairs of a potential witch hunt perpetrated at the discretion of the self appointed people's puritan protectionist police on the front lines of what they like to call “the culture war” but what most of us who live here in reality call “you’re too old and can’t handle things in the outside world now go back inside, you’re missing ‘The Factor.’”

The guilty plea in this case is very much the worst possible outcome for members of the public, much worse than if he had been found guilty by a jury. Oh sure, the sentence is reduced and he isn’t facing the same severity as he would have if he had been convicted which is a real possibility since from what I hear he had some stuff nasty enough to make the admins over at Encyclopedia Dramatica look like members of the Bristol Pailin abstinence movement. With an uppity District Attorney waving federal charges and threatening the worst if he has to show grandma on the jury those nasty pictures and how poor little Chris’s ass has no chance of coming out of this unscathed, to expect a real fight was probably too optimistic looking back. So he may have received the best legal advice for his own individual case, but in reality it was the worst decision that could have been made. Because a guilty verdict has something that goes with it which a guilty plea does not: a chance to appeal. Appellate courts are great arenas for this kind of thing to be sorted out when it comes to legal vaguery being taken too far, and are now something that Handley will not have access to unless he can prove he was unduly influenced into taking a plea. My entire education in legal matters comes from watching every season of Law & Order 5 times and reading Fark way too much, and even I can tell that this guilty plea legitimizes a law which has “unconstitutional” written all over it. In the past, obscenity legislation of this type was used to criminalize possession of novels, and would always depend on the interpreting the meaning of “obscene” which means different things to different people, and therefore has no place in legal regulations of any kind. I don’t know what leverage they had on this Handley guy, but his guilty plea is really going to screw the next poor sucker they decide to make an example of (I am thinking a police raid on a furry convention).

So now we have a person, being treated like a criminal engaging in a criminal act with a criminal instrument, only it’s not really that, and somewhere someone is abusing an actual child, not a drawing of one. I am sure the police originally thought that they were going to find actual child pornography that this guy had, and when they didn’t, they decided to go for it and punish this guy anyway because cops aren’t about to use up their time and miss out on the reward of putting someone in jail, you can’t expect them to really be capable of proper behavior in legal matters. The blame for this most recent erosion of constitutional rights has got to land 50/50 on the idiots who actually wrote it, and Handley himself for selling out on a very important duty to set a legal precedent. When what is legal or not comes down to a matter of opinion, even if that opinion is a popular one and generally accepted, it is still opinion (I’m not taking about what is legally considered “expert” opinion). Since assessing the age of a cartoon character is both subjective, and technically impossible it can not be the basis for enforcement of a law. How old is Bart Simpson? He was in 4th grade in 1987… so was I, yet I can buy beer and he can’t. You know why? Because he’s not real he’s an abstract concept, a fictional character. If I draw him getting shot, I won’t be booked for murder, and although the equivalent of this case’s imagery is unpleasant to think about, criminal proceedings for “abusing Bart Simpson” are just as ludicrous as a murder charge.

For further reading on some of the specifics of the case, Matt Thorn has compiled a linked list to not only some of the actual court documents in the case, but other opinions more informed than my own. Which you can find here.

Thanks to Sirkowski for not only pushing the boundaries of epic win in his delightfully offensive Miss Dynamite series, but also for clearly illustrating that when all that separates a sketch of regular internet jiggle, from part of a felony criminal enterprise is a word bubble, then there’s something wrong with the law.

Don't worry, she's not really 17... because she's not real.
Art by tekena1200.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is Paris Burning? The departure of Central Park Media

The departure of CPM and the new “anime” world order (no, not those three).

So CPM exit stage-whatever can come as not really a surprise, since if you just look at their sales and acquisitions, and combine that with the fact that they were a home media company, and not a media-media company (I’ve written about that set of cosmic rules too many times already). I am actually surprised that this took as long as it did. Next on the block, I’d put Media Blasters, since they’re already being sued by Color West Inc, in what I can only assume is going to be a growing list of bills that don’t get paid. Rather than imploding, I see them moving to a much cheaper city/state, and dropping a lot of anime in favor of live action cult schlock. That scenario is no guarantee though, and they very well might go the way of the dodo within a year. Is this “early retirement” for CMP’s master and commander? It could be… but after talking to the JOD himself at this year’s TAF, there might be something to come from this yet. Time will tell, and the market will either be there or it won’t.

Next on the agenda is this thing. I can’t say anything about it… I want to care, I really do, but after the crap that was BGC 2040, and the swine flu celluloid abortions of both Dragon Ball and The Legend of Chun Li, I just can’t get excited about this project at all, no matter how much I love BGC. This live action project has some things going for it, and some things against it. So far, Hollywood isn’t involved, but this is a neutral aspect, since if they are going for a combined Western/Asian cast, you’ll probably want to have actors that can actually act… and if you’ve ever seen a Japanese or Korean movie with gaijin actors in it before, you know that it all too often looks like they just grabbed someone off the street. So if they want good actors, a Hollywood Studio might work its way into the project, and then the story, designs, and everything good about the concept will die right there as they demand changes for the post 9/11 American consumerist SUV driving movie theater audience that somehow manages to pump money into pieces of pure cinematic shit like Ghost Rider or Wanted. Seriously, who pays money to watch these things? Well as time goes by, we’ll see if this is even real (remember in 1999 there was all that “live action Ninja Scroll” talk… still waiting on that one).

So the holdouts are running out of ammo, and the Russian winter is closing in on the anime market as we know it. Some big boys will still be left, but most things are going to fundamentally change. It is the rebuilding of the decimated landscape and the form it will take which is going to have far reaching effects for years to come. In the absence of any kind of Martial Plan for the new way of doing things, there will be a few major directions we can see from our very early vantage point;
A new, old-world-order, where properties are rarely licensed and domestic productions continue to follow the American dumbed down style with few notable exceptions like Avatar and Teen Titans and so on. Previously, this kind of thing was spoon-fed to a captive audience, when fansubs were available to only an intrepid few who knew how many VHS tapes could fit in a Tyvec priority envelope. With fansubbers out there now doing their best to devalue a license the moment a show hits the air and take money away from the creators and rightful owners, it will be interesting to see if that ongoing will effect the popularity or potential of domestic American animation (once it pulls its head out of it’s ass and stops making pure shit). Or will we have a new version of media delivery which allows anime producers to circumvent the losses they currently incur with fansubbers devaluing their licenses, which will allow them to make more money to make better titles, and also actually take the American market into account. It is interesting to hear American otaku audiences complain about a lack of input and effect on the Japanese production companies, when it is this same otaku audience that is blatantly consuming the product while at the same time pumping exactly $0 back into the system. It’s a big market, but an unprofitable one, so why should producers cater to it?

There are a few factions that are racing to get their version of the next step in Anime market evolution across the finish line first. With dubbing into English now seen as more of an option rather than a requirement when courting a large enough American audience, the rules of the game have definitely changed. That’s why I would watch what Crunnchyroll (and other services like it that may pop up) does pretty closely. They have a shot at something, but it’s no slam dunk.

Quick trip to FUKUOKA... it's a happenin' place.