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How We Must Raze This Son

Today at the Comics Journal, we've got a collection of doozies for ya. First up, you'll find Day Four of Tom McHenry's Cartoonist Diary. While it's Day Four for Tom, he's only up to Part Two of Carlos. Will he manage to complete the entire miniseries before we run out of Diary entries? You'll have to come back on Friday to find out!

Bling blong! Time to move on to the next thing to link to. What's that, you say? Why, it's an excerpt from Matthew Pettit's upcoming comic ParadiseCheck it out! Got it in your system? Great! Then move on and read this interview with Matthew. All in one place! Pretty convenient, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, you can find plenty of original reporting on the big announcement of the week: Richard Corben is the fifth American to win the Grand Prix at Angoulême. I'll just have to content myself by posting some of my favorite images. Here goes!


 

Low-Life

The site is jam-packed today. First, an interview with the magazine editor and former Prince Valiant writer Cullen Murphy, who recently wrote a memoir of growing up in Connecticut, surrounded by prominent cartoonists (including his father).

You took over writing the strip when [Hal] Foster retired and you have this great account about sending him a story idea and how he tore it apart and explained how comics work and how the strip worked. I was reminded of that famous story of Stephen Sondheim sending Oscar Hammerstein a musical he wrote as an adolescent and how Hammerstein tore it apart and gave him a master class in how a musical worked. Foster seems to have given you a similar master class.

It was. It was on the porch of the Homestead Inn, in Greenwich. There are some things you don’t forget. The conversation could easily have stopped with the words “no good.” In Sondheim’s case, as you know, he went on to become a very close friend of Oscar Hammerstein’s and he took the lesson seriously. I did too. That conversation was such an eye opener because it stripped away the superficialities of the work and went down right into the engine. You need to see how this works. You can put the body on later, you can paint it whatever color you want, but you have to know how the engine of the thing works. I took his advice very seriously. It was so clarifying to have him explain it. The minute it was explained, then of course you think, Oh right, why didn’t I see that? Most people just don’t see these things because they’re not doing it and it doesn’t occur to them to look at the innards in the way in which a practitioner sees them. What strikes me now in retrospect is that Hal was able to explain things so clearly. By that point he’d doing comic strips for fifty years. Some things that are second nature to you are in fact hard to explain, but he was able to explain it.

How did it work when he retired and you took over writing the strip?

I had started sending story ideas to Hal that were just narrative story ideas—written out as if they were extended plot summaries. That was in the early '70s, probably 1972. I was still in college. And Hal began to use them as the basis for continuities in the strip. Then there came a moment when I decided to try my hand at doing them the way he did them, breaking things down into descriptions and text. That was when we had that meeting at the Homestead and he told me that I had not mastered the trick. That would have been in ‘74-75. I kept doing it and got better at it and he began using them in Prince Valiant. I think it was ‘79 when he gave up the writing of the strip altogether and I took over as the writer. As to what happened in the background, I really don’t know. There came a point where Hal sold the strip to King Features, and so King Features would have had a hand in it. By that time I’d been working with Hal sufficiently that I was a pretty good candidate to take it over. Especially because I could work easily with my dad.

Also, Leonard Pierce reviews the latest Larry Gonick book, a collaboration with Tim Kasser called Hypercapitalism.

The degree to which you are already aware of the failures of capitalism is likely to the degree to which you are already one of its beneficiaries. So you may not need to be told that you’re fucked, but maybe it can’t hurt to find out exactly how fucked you are, and why; if that’s the case, you might find yourself reading Hypercapitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How to Change Them, the latest effort by edu-cartoonist Larry Gonick (best known for his Cartoon History of the Universe), this time in collaboration with fellow academic Tim Kasser. The book is divided into two sections—the first identifying the history, theory, and effects of capitalism on our stricken age, and the second a series of suggestions about what we might do about it.

The first part is better than the second, albeit more depressing. The nature of capitalism is a pretty ugly one, after all, and provides no lack of material for even the most casual historian. Unfortunately, ‘casual historian’ is exactly what Kasser is, and it shows in a number of ways; important developments are glossed over, sins of omission abound, and what is explicit is implicit while what should be text is subtext. Put simply, Kasser and Gonick have approached the problem of runaway capitalism from a reformist’s perspective, and the result is an often toothless and ineffectual attack on what is literally a life-or-death problem. There is little here that questions the idea that our current system is anything but rational and inevitable; it gives only the slightest analysis of issues like incorporation and imperialism, despite their centrality to the issue; and the labor theory of value—inescapably important to any understanding of the nature of capitalism—is referenced with a hand-wave in a single panel.

Finally, we have Day Three of Tom McHenry's Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. For Vulture, Abraham Riesman profiles Christopher Priest.

Priest is nothing if not candid about his own career and the industry as a whole. In interviews and copious self-published essays, he speaks fiercely about injustices in comics, naming names and pointing fingers at people responsible for failures he thinks have been undeservedly ascribed to him. You might say that’s just a case of his being, to use his words, an asshole, but he’s frank about his own shortcomings and poor decisions. Still, he sees his predicament as part of a larger pattern. “When I read these self-congratulatory histories of Marvel and DC, they completely omit not just me but other persons of color or firsts,” he tells me. “Who was the first woman editor? Who was the first woman penciler? And I think part of it is that the people who were assembling these histories of it just didn’t think it was important. But these things do count, and they really do matter.”

The latest guest on Process Party is Jason T. Miles.

—Reviews & Commentary. Aaron Peck writes about the comics-adjacent artist Gus Bofa.

Bofa himself has become as obscure as the shadowy figures that populate his drawings. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that toward the end of his life, when he could have consolidated his reputation, he withdrew from public life and became a virtual recluse. Another is the marginal place that a book illustrator receives in literary history. He has enjoyed a minor revival in France, where his books are now collectors’ items, particularly because of his influence on bande dessiné. In 2000, thirty-two years after his death, an exhibition about his collaborations with Mac Orlan was mounted at Musée de l’Abbaye de Sainte Croix at Les Sables d’Olonne, in western France. Throughout the last decade, Éditions Cornélius has reprinted a number of his books and published a biography of him by Emmanuel Pollaud-Dulian in 2013. Although, at first glance, Bofa’s work exists in the tidal zone between the French political cartoons of the nineteenth century and the bande dessiné of the twentieth, on closer scrutiny it has more affinity with modernist literature, a characteristic apparent in his collaborations with Mac Orlan, which also foreground a less examined aspect in Bofa’s work. Since his revival in France, Bofa’s influence on French illustration has been well documented; less has been written about his significance in the history of French literature.

—RIP. Hugh Masekela.

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Today In Scowl Merchants

Today at the Journal, we've got a big, honking look at John Pham's J + K, which is currently only available to people "in the know". Now that Frank's let the secret out, will there be a run? Get yourself speculating like it's a Chromium Summer: 

J+K retains the Pham look we know, just with the volume on 11. It seems to me that he took his printed strips and scanned them and touched them up to loomore consistent than the slightly inconsistent riso comic magazines. Like every color is amped up and right on the money. No mis-registration of the printing or streaking or digital effects that look like mistakes. Very smooth and very nice. And simply gorgeous bigfoot cartoony drawing. His approach here, by his own account, channels Suiho Nagawa’s aesthetic by unifying or harmonizing, the color and the line. The lines are made by overprinting colors. Not by a traditional, single “blackline.” So the lines which contain the colors have different values or different sounds, if you will. The effect being one of a warm gauzy magic hour firmly rooted in cartoon symbolism. Meaning it just works on your eyes and brain in a way “blackline” based comics do not.

And in today's installment of his Cartoonist Diary, Tom McHenry makes me feel bad that I'm re-reading this old book about budgeting. He says that isn't what he intended, but I don't believe him. You shouldn't either!

One of the things I like to do when the world all just seems like a lot of horseshit is look at Alcatena's comics and wonder what it would be like to see the world through his eyes. 

Well, him and Bart Sears.

 

Terrestrial Devil Fish

Today on the site, RJ Casey interviews the popular New Yorker cartoonist (and former SNL writer) Zach Kanin.

You used to be the assistant cartoon editor at The New Yorker.

That’s right.

What did that job entail?

That mainly was managing the Cartoon Caption Contest, which was fairly new when I started. I think the contest started a year before I got there. I also had to do data entry and stuff like that for the cartoons in the process of getting them through. There were about one thousand original submissions a week for the regular cartoons. About five hundred from the regular stable of New Yorker cartoonists and about another five hundred from the slush pile. I had to go through them and pick which ones to bring to Bob Mankoff, the editor.

Most of my week, though, was going through eight to 14,000 captions for the Cartoon Caption Contest.

[Laughs] Is there a science to that?

Yeah, there are tricks. I put them all on a spreadsheet and would search for things. I would search for “fuck” and “shit” and things that they wouldn’t publish. I could eliminate all those immediately.

OK.

I would also always start out by searching for the word “Geico.” There were always about five hundred submissions that were like, “Good news. Now you’re getting a better deal through Geico.” [Laughter] So many Geico jokes. I was like, “We’re not going to do that!” Searching for swears or for Geico would immediately take about a thousand out of the running for the contest.

We also have Day One of a new Cartoonist's Diary. This week's Cartoonist is Tom McHenry.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. DC continues to antagonize Alan Moore and his collaborators, this time incorporating his character Promethea into a comic without seeking permission or even notifying Moore or co-creator JH Williams III. (Moore created Promethea for WildStorm, after he had announced his intention never to work with DC again. A few years later, DC purchased WildStorm.)

—Reviews & Commentary. Huib van Opstal writes about The Daily Graphic, an early heavily illustrated New York City newspaper.

In New York City, some forty years later in 1873, The Daily Graphic with a page height of 56 cm (22 inch) was seriously larger in size, featured poster-like full front-page art and more large pictures inside, all done in a single black — and supplied the daily news with it in letterpress. Technically half of it originated from stone, half of it originated from metal. Something it kept up for over sixteen years in 5,129 daily issues. A truly daily myriorama. Over the sixteen years of its existence — a respectable number of years which at least points to some success — nothing is known about circulation numbers, or the volume of the paper’s printing plant. At the very beginning, the month before it started, The Chicago Tribune, in its New York Letter of 13 Feb, 1873, reported: ‘they can make their journal pay with a daily circulation of ten thousand, though they expect one much larger.’

A press run of up to 10,000 copies per day in the early 1870s for a New York newspaper was modest. (The number may have been mentioned by outsiders to belittle the enterprise.) A drop in the ocean compared to the daily circulation numbers papers would have towards the end of the century — when the printers and presses of editor-publishers like Pulitzer and Hearst managed to produce hundreds of thousands of sensational newspapers a day, tons of it — and sensationally illustrated too. Thanks to the latest modern presses, and thanks to the Daily Graphic’s inspiration.

Rather than just steal Sally Ingraham's Library of Congress and Phoebe Gloeckner links from her post on Comics Workbook last week, let me just direct you to it.

 

Yes Means No, Maybe Means Never

Today at the Journal, Tegan checks in with her take on Days of Hate, a new Image series from Danijel Žeželj & Aleš Kot. Things get political because they have to. And then some!

I keep circling around like a falcon in the proverbial gyre to try and get my arms around this comic. I spend all day watching the news and reading the news and listening to the news and discussing the news – everything is bad, yes, but more importantly things feel very desperate. There’s something in the air, I don’t know whether it’s even good or bad, but – if you’re trapped on the inside here in Fortress America it feels like we’re stuck in the middle reel. We’ve had tons of exposition. Every conflict is established. Everything is always happening and nothing changes. Tension keeps ratcheting ever skyward on every side and nothing changes. It’s the strangest feeling. We’re stuck in the Dragonball-Z of governmental crises.

Next week, we'll have an interview with Aleš about the series. But that's not all we've got for you today. Prepare yourself for the weekend with Paul Tumey's latest installment of Framed!, which includes a detailed look at To Laugh That We May Not Weep: The Life and Times of Art Young. 

This is, after, all, work by a cartoonist who went to hell, artistically speaking, not just once, but three times! This is the guy who experienced what for many would be hell on earth, being put on trial for sedition (twice!) with the possibility of years of imprisonment. Undaunted, or perhaps just worn out from drawing his thousands of cartoons, Young famously dozed off in the courtroom during one of these trials. Whether or not you agree with Young’s politics, who could argue with the sad-beautiful reflections found in his gentle work? Art Young’s cartoons are some of the most complex, some of the richest, most original, most refined, most personal art I’ve ever experienced. To Laugh gives us the chance to have that experience. By presenting this work in a beautifully designed compilation, we can finally linger over it, take it in, and expand our understanding of what cartoons can do, and perhaps should do.

From there, Paul goes on to commit multiple cardinal sins of list-making, including praising a book of criticism (HISS) and then concluding his list with trying to convince you that a book written by the She-Hulk guy was better than Judge Dredd: Every Empire Falls, which is so absurd that when I contacted Charles Soule (my wife's godfather and a close personal friend), and he told me I was legally allowed to edit that part out of Paul's list! (Charles Soule is a lawyer, as well as the guy who they made write the Old Man Logan comic.) I would have made those edits but I got so caught up in re-reading Every Empire Falls--the second best comic to have been released in 2017--that I stopped feeling angry and just felt sad.

 

Fatality Factor 79%

Today on the site, Greg Hunter returns with a new episode of Comic Book Decalogue. This time, he spoke to the cartoonist and editor Rob Kirby in an episode recorded live. In it, the man behind What's Your Sign, Girl? and The Shirley Jackson Project discusses Eric Orner, Lynda Barry, Peanuts, and more.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This year's Eisner Awards judges have chosen Carol Kalish and Jackie Ormes for the Eisner Hall of Fame, and announced the other nominees for the honor.

At Vulture, Abraham Riesman talks to the people behind indie publishers including Lion Forge, Emet, and Iron Circus.

David Steward II and Carl Reed aren’t impressed with the mainstream’s slow crawl into the 21st century. Both African-American men, they’re co-founders of Lion Forge Comics, an upstart publisher that recently launched its own superhero universe starring and created almost entirely by people who aren’t white males. Sitting in a pan-Latin steakhouse in Hell’s Kitchen, they calmly express their disdain for the big boys on the block.

“When they do diversity, it’s all almost …” Steward says, trailing off.

“Reactionary,” Reed finishes from across the table.

Steward nods and adds, “It’s almost kind of an advertising gimmick of sorts. They take Thor and make female Thor, but female Thor is going to go away, you know? If you’re really going to invest in that at that level, then it needs to be a new character with its own origin that you’re going to push and pull and really get behind.”


—Interviews & Profiles.
The most recent guest on Inkstuds is Zach Hazard Vaupen, and the most recent cartoonist guest on Virtual Memories is Seymour Chwast.

—Reviews & Commentary. Alan Moore pays tribute to the recently deceased UK comics artist Jim Baikie.

Developing that strip [Skizz for 2000AD] with Jim was an education into his meticulously thought-through processes: the work that went into the look – and to a great degree the basic conception of the character – was all Jim’s. It was him that decided to depict Earth’s first contacted extra-terrestrial species as a kind of highly-evolved marsupial, reasoning that this would make the entity look alien enough while still allowing it to appear biologically feasible. And then he placed that fantastical creature into a sharply-realised contemporary Birmingham, where even the background faces are full of human character, and somehow made it work.

When I began work for DC Comics, having Jim as the artist on my otherwise-unpromising Vigilante two-parter turned a job that I wasn’t enjoying very much into a pleasure. Several years later we found ourselves working together again, this time for Image Comics and its various splinter-companies, most memorably on Supreme, where I remember Jim contributing to a riotous comedic short piece that played with the most ludicrous and fondly-remembered tropes of early 1960s superhero comics, and gave Jim a chance to indulge his extreme fondness for Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder’s anarchic and demented Mad extravaganzas. Thinking about it, it seems very likely that the fun Jim and I had with that brief outing was what led, with the demise of Supreme‘s publisher and our subsequent involvement with the fledgling America’s Best Comics line, to Jim being the perfect choice for our Mad-inflected patriotic superhero parody in Tomorrow Stories, the to-my-mind underappreciated First American.

 

The Third Can

Today, the Journal is proud to unleash the first in Sloane Leong's onslaught of 2018. In this month's installment of Comics Dragnet, she grapples with the internet, and the comics it provides. She also delivers a love letter to Bitch Planet, but it's the Frank Booth kind of love letter. (The best kind of love letters.)

BP feels like it’s trying to teach you something, and so its characters are elliptic feminist effigies in the shape of women and not flawed, compelling characters you can fall in love with. It’s applesauce feminism dressed up in faux-exploitation. I wish it would go back and assess its source material: raw, brutal images, passion, and ugly, ridiculous honesty.

Sloane's only competition for your time can't actually be found at the Journal, but at Facebook, where Tom Devlin showed up with his detective skills and impeccable memory of Chris Ware related factoids to make the case that, in a 1989 issue of Home Boy Magazine, a young skateboarder named Greg Neal gave an interview wherein he pretended to have created Ware's old Daily Texan's comic strips. Home Boy Magazine--it breaks my heart that this will probably be the only time I will be writing that title down, professionally--even reproduces some of Neal's "art", which is, even to an eye as untrained as my own, clearly Chris Ware's work. Home Boy only ran for seven issues, but the three individuals most closely associated with it (the Master Cluster) went on to do a few more magazines, like Dirt and Grand Royal. One of the three--all of whom should have done their due diligence when it came time to edit the Greg Neal interview--you'll probably recognize.

 

Winter Cleaning

Today on the site, Alex Dueben is here with an interview of John Shableski and Illya Kowalchuk, two of the organizers of the new Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards.

So where did this idea of an award start and what were those conversations like?

Illya Kowalchuk: Actually, before the first Denver Comic Con (2012) we wanted to host comic awards that were more focused on literary merit than on the individual technical aspects of comics. One of the great things about comics is that all of those different talented creators come together-the story, art, and lettering all comes together to tell one synthetic story. We didn’t see an award out there that was honoring that. Unfortunately, in 2012 we just didn’t have the bandwidth because we were all volunteers trying to put the show together-make sure the lights stayed on. Over the years, the show grew rapidly and we had to make sure that logistics and operations were successful. This past year we have been doing a lot of thinking about how we want to move forward and what other ways we can have an impact on the industry. And as fans, we want to see the content that we’ve grown up loving be honored. We felt like this was a good time for a few reasons.

There’s this synchronicity that’s happening across academia, library sciences, education, bookselling and comic creation. We’ve arrived at a tipping point where people recognize the educational value of comics and graphic novels. They’re outselling other forms of books, accepted in classrooms, and valued in libraries and corporate offices. The momentum is picking up. When Bruce [MacIntosh - Director of DCC Programming] and I met John Shableski about eighteen months ago, we all recognized that synchronicity. John crosses a lot of industries-comics, education, bookselling, and library sciences. He validated what we had been seeing on our own and we all came together and agreed: this is the time to do this.

We also have a review of Julie Maroh's Body Music, written by Jason Michelitch.

When one hears that Julie Maroh's new book is titled Body Music (Corps Sonores), it is perhaps inevitable to move from the suggestion of rhythmically moving flesh to thoughts of her debut work, the sexually frank romance-tragedy Blue is the Warmest Color (Le bleu est une coleur chaude).  Specifically, one might think of the Palm D'Or-winning film adaptation of the same name*, which secured fifteen minutes of infamy for containing a long sex scene in which the lesbian lovemaking of Maroh's book is revisualized through a heavy screen of heterosexual pornographic conventions.  The phrase "Body Music" would seem to promise further ventures into the sensual.  After reading the book, however, the title takes on the character of a sly joke on the prurient interest that her earlier work is now inescapably saddled with.  Though Maroh returns to the themes of sex, love, and LGBTQ representation, her latest work is a very different kind of book from Blue is the Warmest Color -- in some ways, it is a book that seems to be trying to be different, to break away.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—2dcloud.
Because of various stories that have been shared and published over the past few days on social media and on comics news sites, I feel obligated to say a little bit about what happened, if only to clarify a few apparent misunderstandings.

Nearly two weeks ago, the small publisher 2dcloud announced, via Twitter, that they were cutting ties with their creative director, Blaise Larmee, due to "predatory" behavior on Larmee's part that was "inconsistent with [their] values." As I wrote then in a blog post, this was the second time in less than two months that the company had announced that they were cutting ties with an artist or associate for misconduct. In November, they revealed, again solely via Twitter, that they were canceling their plan to publish a third book by the cartoonist Andy Burkholder, who they said had been accused of sexual assault. I attempted to reach both Burkholder and 2dcloud for comment, and neither replied. After the January announcement, which also included a second tweet saying that they had destroyed all copies of one of Larmee's titles, 3 Books, I again reached out for comment, both to Larmee and to 2dcloud.

This time, around two hours after I wrote the January 4 blog post suggesting that the comics community may feel like it deserved a less opaque explanation of what was going on at the company, 2dcloud cofounder Raighne Hogan told me via email that he agreed the questions I had sent him should be addressed to some extent, and that he would get back to me soon. Here are the questions I had sent him:

1. There has been speculation that this primarily involves some of the chats Larmee included in 3 Books. If you can say, is that accurate? And is that the entirety of the problem, or are there allegations of other misbehavior?

2. When did 2dcloud learn of the allegations against Larmee?

3. Does 2dcloud have a written policy regarding sexual misconduct?

4. 2dcloud is a very small company and this has happened twice in the last two months. How did this happen? Has 2dcloud been adequately vigilant?

5. "Predatory behavior" is a very serious and also vague accusation to make -- without naming or identifying victims, isn't there a responsibility to identify behavior that others should be aware of?

6. Your twitter account indicated that you are pulping all copies of 3 Books, which seems like a very serious and unusual step to take. Why? Is there material in the book that is illegal or immoral to distribute?

7. If so, what steps did 2dcloud take to make sure the material in the book was proper to publish before contracting?

8. As a publisher that touts its ties with the community, don't you have a special responsibility to be open and transparent to that same community about what mistakes you may have made and what steps you are taking to make sure such incidents don't happen again?

I still believe those are all legitimate questions (though I would have written them more gracefully if I had known that I would later feel obligated to share them verbatim online). Depending on how Hogan/2dcloud responded, I planned to then ask more questions, if any seemed appropriate or necessary. (Note regarding question 5: I knew already that 2dcloud would probably respond that the privacy of the victims made a more explicit explanation of Larmee's actions impossible to give, but I wanted to share their reasoning on this with TCJ readers who may not have been aware of their position.) Larmee himself never wrote me back.

Nearly two weeks went by. I wanted to allow Hogan all the time he and his company needed to formulate their answers and/or a statement. I was planning to contact him sometime this weekend to see if they had made any progress, but had no intention of publishing any more on the story until they were ready. However, on Friday, the former co-editor of this site, Dan Nadel, wrote several tweets in which he forcefully criticized 2dcloud for publicly raising funds without having clearly explained what had happened with Burkholder and Larmee. I didn't see any of this until after Dan had already deleted the tweets, though they remained online for some time in the form of a screenshot of them which was shared online by someone else, and which 2dcloud and others retweeted. (That screenshot seem to have been deleted as of this morning.) Because Dan's tweets and TCJ have been linked multiple times over the weekend by various people I feel obligated to make it clear that I and TCJ had nothing to do with his tweets. Dan is no longer an editor of TCJ. I had no awareness of his tweets beforehand. Dan does not check in with me before writing on Twitter, and if he had done so in this case, I would have recommended that he not publish them.

On Sunday night, 2dcloud released a public statement, in which they announced that in a move that has apparently been in the works for some time, Raighne Hogan will be stepping down, and that Kim Jooha will be the new publisher. They also say that they will be donating 10% of the profits from Burkholder's and Larmee's books (which, except for 3 Books, are still on sale on the 2dcloud website) to RAINN. To various extents, they address many though not all of the questions I sent them in early January. I recommend reading their statement and thinking about it for yourself. In any case, it is an important first step.

I would like to end this on a positive note. I like 2dcloud. We have written about many of their books and projects on this site. Until recently, I have had nothing but pleasant interactions with Hogan, 2dcloud co-founder Maggie Umber, and Kim Jooha, who has written several times for this site and has been one of my favorite recent contributors. It is clear that the company has made some mistakes, and that those mistakes may have been fairly serious. But I attribute those errors to understandable confusion and inexperience, not anything nefarious. I believe that more openness and transparency regarding this incident will not only be good for 2dcloud, which because of its small size and funding model relies on the goodwill and trust of the comics community, but also for that community at large. I believe that an increase in transparency will lead to productive conversations, and that it may help prevent similar mistakes in the future.