Interview with Blogger Political GraffitiBy The Pakistani Spectator • Jun 19th, 2008 • Category: Interviews • One Response
I was born and raised in the Detroit area. I began my political cartooning career in college for the Eastern Echo at Eastern Michigan University. My first professional gig was at the Macomb Daily and then the Grosse Pointe News. My biggest influence was Draper Hill who was the Detroit News cartoonist from the 1970’s thru the 90’s. I am published in the Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year, by Charles Brooks. My cartoons are collected by the likes of Senator Carl Levin and in the Cartoon Library of Ohio State University. Aside from cartooning I am also an independent animator, and my work has been seen on MTV, PBS, IFC, Tech TV and festivals all over. I also am a professor of digital art at Clemson University in South Carolina, USA.
Would you please tell us something about you and your site?
Political Graffiti is a political cartoon site to showcase my opinions on all sorts of topics…middle east, US politics, environment, sport, anything news or opinion worthy. I am a cartoonist/animator and also do animation films…http://youtube.com/ddonar. I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Detroit is a major automotive center home of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, but also a great place to explore cartooning because of all the diverse cultures that migrated there for the auto industry. In school I found myself spending time drawing the teachers when I suppose to be working on assignments. I always seem to have an opinion on everything and I found people respected my opinions more on paper instead from my mouth. After college, I moved out west and worked on TV, internet and film projects in California and Canada. I always kept sketching cartoons and searched for outlets and publications for them. The internet and blogging has liberated my cartoons and I now enjoy expressing my cartoons on this infinite channel.
Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?
By all means yes! When I use to draw cartoons for newspapers, we always had a deadline to reach. But after I stopped drawing for newspapers, there wasn’t that urgent need to draw. Now with a blog, I feel I have to contribute almost every day, and with that demand I am constantly reading material and gathering opinions. Trying to capture a distinct idea in a clear and graphic way is a constant challenge, but the physical act of drawing has helped me mature as a cartoonist.
I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?
The contact I get from people all over the world. I can track who has visited my site and read comments from people with diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Your contact would have probably never happened if I didn’t have this blog. The immediate feedback I get, also helps me improve my cartoons or test them to see if they are effectively communicating my original thought.
What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?
That’s a challenge because I don’t want to spend my entire life on the internet, but you have to explore. I have my staple websites…NY Times, Washington Post, CNN and other prominent websites and blogs. But you owe it to yourself to spend, say at least on hour a week to just browse and search the web for all kinds of diverse blogs and opinions. I’ll use Digg, Google, and wordpress to find blogs, and when I find one I like, I’ll post a comment or e-mail the blogger and possibly share a link. Blogrolls seem to be the main channel of connection. Currently I enjoy posting with http://donklephant.com and http://www.lefttoonlane.com.
What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?
The internet, in terms of fund raising, Barack Obama has mastered the art of fund raising in US politics. It also allows people to organize and stage rallies. Youtube has also become a big player, in that videos can raise awareness and also distort a politicians image with endless loops of gaffes and mistakes.
Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?
Today, it seems anyone can be a journalist, columnist, and a film maker. Which is great and also a little tougher for professional people to wade through this mass of media. But I believe the truly creative and talented people will shine through. These technologies are what a true democracy is all about…giving a voice to ALL people, even if they are good or bad. There has been a lot of bad and false reporting so you have to tread carefully on the internet.
What do you think sets Your site apart from others?
Well we all like to think our site has the best and most original content out there, but in reality I’m just hoping to offer people a minute or two a day of worthy content. I do believe a picture is worth a 1000 words, and some of my cartoons with little or no words can connect to people of all languages. I would like to make my blog a little more interactive or participatory, so I’ll have to revisit it with activities or forums for people to actively participate. For now, all you can do is look at cartoons and post a comment…not much different from other sites. But in the end, if you give a person a choice between words and cartoons, I think 9 out of 10 will go to the cartoon first.
If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?
Don’t give up! Failure can be a powerful tool for success. Many people don’t realize that failure is necessary to succeed. I believe Churchill said it best “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Believe me, I have lost my enthusiasm many of times. And I have plenty of rejection letters from publications and TV networks, but I keep on keeping on!
What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?
Well, that is something I battle with every day! But I love friends and love nature…so the best times of my life was when I was with friends in nature. Camping in the Pacific Northwest, or being on the beach with my family. Gloomiest is when I’m alone and isolated. Ironically, I do my art when I’m alone, but I enjoy it when I share it with friends…especially a billion of them on line ;) I am very fortunate and count my blessings that I have never witness war and atrocities first hand and I do admit that being American, we tend to be very isolated and insulated from the world. I have traveled and I am aware of the plight and extreme poverty of most of the world. This is something Americans have to be aware of and we have to address this in some way.
Do you think [the use of Twitter and other social networking tools by politicians] is bandwagon jumping or what?
Well, I am guilty of bandwagon jumping so I cannot make that judgment. technology is tough to stay on top of…especially if you want to be the first.
If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for - what would your top 3 choices be?
Vietnam, a country full of contradictions but wonderful people and landcape. Patagonia, Chile, Rugged mountains and ocean. Turkey, diverse set of people, culture and religion, and it’s one the most stable governments at this time.
What is your favorite book and why?
Kon Tiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl, quite possibly the craziest adventure. Basically it’s Thor’s account of building a raft made out of flimsy balsa logs and sails the open Pacific ocean to Polynesia. It celebrates the human spirit for adventure and explores the origins and nature of human ingenuity.
What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?
How good can they listen and does the conversation include both parties.
Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?
No, but my most productive relationship had to do with a fellow cartoonist, Draper Hill from the Detroit News. He took the time to point out my flaws and how to correct them. If it wasn’t for his thorough critiques and honest evaluation, I would have never developed the desire to improve. Too much praise or too much blatant negativity will not foster creative growth. You need a mentor or teacher who is willing to push you and reveal areas to improve! But there needs to be a little sugar and positive reinforcement in the end.
How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?
I don’t believe the internet is the magic gold mine that everyone thinks it to be. In order to succeed with anything, you need two things…1) Great Content and 2) Marketing! I for one, supplement my blog with a full time job so I don’t need to pay my bills with it. But I find that you have to get the word out, but no one will listen unless it is one heck of a word! But if a blogger wants to make a living or a little money, I’d say spend at least a few months to a year of doing it for free…see what kind of traffic or response you get…I believe well written or produced work will generate a good buzz. Soon you’ll get exposure and traffic…then you can go to market. Online ads like traffic, and exposure gets you street credentials for bigger news outlets…and paid gigs. But its your reputation and vibe that will establish your market value. Another thing is it takes money to make money, so at one point you need to pay for advertising. In Hollywood I learned that studios pay twice or three times as much to market the film than to produce it. I find that is true with my own art work. Once I produce a film or a cartoon, you have to put three to four times more effort in promoting it, and that means spending $ on advertising or getting the word out through various media.
Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?
Yes, as with anything, it takes tons of time…not just writing, but promoting and researching. It’s true for any other business or artistic venture.
What are your thoughts on corporate blogs and what do you think the biggest advantages and disadvantages are?
Blogs are nothing more than just a venue to communicate…whether you are GM making cars or a political activist organizing a rally. You need to connect with your audience/customer…and this is a way to establish a relationship with them. A disadvantage could be that you put too much stock into the blog and not connect to people in more traditional ways. Technology still tends to be dominated by one particular demographic.
What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?
This is what democracy is all about. You have good and bad people. It just connects people faster and more efficient. It will solve world problems and create new one…it all depends on your perspective.
Who are your top five favourite bloggers?
I don’t have a consensus yet…I’ll get back to you on that.
Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?
Well, controversy is great for publicity but it also can be hype or a stunt. I do like debate, but if you offend people just to offend, believe that is not journalism but cheap and cruel gimmicks to generate hype. So I try to avoid cheap attacks or stunts at this point. But I would say that the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama race has been a blessing as it has generated a great deal of interest and passion. I drew a cartoon of Barack and Hillary getting married with Hillary holding a shot gun. This was fun to draw and I’m sure it has offended Hillary supporters.
What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?
Living and teaching in Toronto, Canada, I have had the greatest experience with my students of Pakistani origin. They are worldly, bright, and very creative. I have become very interested in this region not just because of 911, but the films and culture that I have seen in festivals and TV. I love studying history. When I realized how much the British Empire had played a role in the middle east and the sub continent of India and the surrounding region, I developed an understanding of how diverse and the people of this region where. It was shocking to see how Brittan set up nations and artificial boundries that split families, clans, and cultures up. In so many ways, it has led to a lot of problems we face today. But I am convinced that people can over come adversity and struggles, and today Pakistan has an opportunity to unite and become an economic and creatively wealthy nation. The only thing I truly worry about is nuclear technology and how it has affected India and Pakistan but also other countries trying to develop weapons. Technology has liberated us, but it has also allowed the world to gather destructive weapons that can only create more conflict. I just pray that we all can contain this urge and continue with diplomacy and understanding.
Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?
No, not yet at this time, but I’m still looking
What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?
I don’t know, as I have not been to a developing country first hand. But I can tell you this, in America we have inner city ghettos that put us to shame. Racial problems in our country have contributed to urban decay and if a citizen from a developing country would visit an urban ghetto in the US, they may be surprise to find conditions similar if not worse. But, my official definition of a developed country is a nation that has adequate medical care for all it’s citizens and an infrastructure for the elderly and children. In other words a strong and healthy middle class.
What is the future of blogging?
All media, in full resolution and performance on demand all the time!
You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?
Well, I am a professor and the academic life promotes research and plus we have summers off. So I guess it’s a natural fit in terms of what I research and put into my teaching. On the other hand, I also need to get out in nature. Blogging and the internet puts a strain on my eyes and wrists, but also can leave you a little shallow in terms of real world experience. But It cuts into my TV time so it can’t be all that bad.
What are your future plans?
To establish a creative center where all type of creative thinkers can produce film, art, cartoons and share it with the world in all types of venues. And continue to hike in the woods and take a walk in foreign lands!
Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?
Thank you for your curiosity! TPS is the very first site to contact me about my work, so in some ways, Pakistani news media is way ahead of the world in reaching out in this wonderful technology! You sparked my interest in your culture and hope to visit this wonderful country in the future! Thanks!