In Defense of Negativity

steve_bell260603.jpgAttended a talk by Tony Blair’s former Press Director, the Alastair Campbell, at Pembroke College tonight. It was, unsurprisingly, a bravura performance – one of the most impressive displays of seamless rhetoric I have witnessed in a long time. Possibly best known, at least abroad, for his involvement in selling the Iraq War to the British People and his direct responsibility for the embarrassing concoction that was the so-called “dodgy dossier”, given to the press in February 2003 in support of the government’s claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to international terrorism. Smartly, Campbell immediately diffused potential criticism from the audience by humorously outlining how he had garnered something of a reputation for being the Anti-Christ in person.

Yvan Delporte RIP

schtroumpf.jpgJust learned from Thierry Capezzone that Belgian comics writer and legendary editor of Spirou magazine, Yvan Delporte passed away this morning, at the age of 78. My impression of him is that he was always something of a cantankerous, and very vocal, character on the Belgian comics scene, and his merits as editor of Spirou during what must be described as its most important period, from 1955-68, are well known: he introduced the special section for more mature readers “Le Trombone Illustré” in 1977 and collaborated with a number of the staff artists regularly, both as idea man – for example on Franquin’s “Gaston Lagaffe” whose 50th anniversay we are currently celebrating, as well as his darkly caustic swan song “Idées noires” – and as bona fide writer.

In this last capacity his most notable contribution is to Peyo’s Smurfs, and his most significant work is certainly Le Schtroumpfissime (1965) a good-natured but nevertheless pointed political allegory that tells the story of the egalitarian ur-communist society of the smurfs descends into tyranny when their benevolent patriarch leaves on a long research trip. A both funny and chilling story of the precarious nature of human civilisation, and a minor masterpiece of the Franco-Belgian tradition.

À votre santé, M. Delporte!

Delporte’s on Wiki and Lambiek. The image is from Le Schtroumpfissime, naturally.

Something Is Rotten

christianhavns_gym.jpgA couple of days ago, I wrote a post lamenting the closure of Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen. Since then, the city has seen rioting on a scale unprecedented for over a decade, with property damage in the millions, but thankfully no serious injuries (as far as I have been able to ascertain). I am not in Copenhagen, but talking to people there and following the news stories paints the picture of a situation gone seriously awry.

I am still saddened by the closure of Ungdomshuset, and of learning that the owners, the unsavoury religious sect Faderhuset, have now decided to demolish it. An erasure of symbolic proportion. However, I am equally saddened to learn that sympathisers of Ungdomshuset last night broke into the library of my old high school in my neighbourhood of Christianshavn and practically razed it, throwing a large number of its books into the street where they burned them along with other material at hand. A senseless act of equally symbolic proportion. Are these so-called anti-fascists so blinded by their own sense of victimisation, or whatever it is that motivated this, that they are completely blind to the precedent they are following here?

Of course, the violent acts of a few idiots do not detract from the legitimacy of the general protests against the closure of Ungdomshuset, but it nevertheless hurts their legitimacy seriously. The events of the last couple of days prompt two interrelated questions: What the fuck were these people thinking? And How the fuck did we get to a stage where people think whatever it was they were thinking?

Photo of the windows of the library at Christianshavns gymnasium being boarded up earlier today, from politiken.dk. Check out Berlingske‘s slideshow of the events of the day of the closure here. See video recordings of the vandalisation of the school building here. The school has set up a support fund – read more here.

Rindom Redux: Barks i 70erne

djaevelens_tand.jpghugtand.jpgI forbindelse med mine undersøgelser af danske udgivelser af Carl Barks’ Anders And, dengang bølgerne gik højt i forhold til den stadigvæk skandaløst ringe tilrettelagte Carl Barks Samlede Værker (CBSV) fra Egmont, fik jeg bekræftet hvad jeg havde hørt: at de danske oversættelser af historierne fra førsteudgaverne i Anders And-bladet mellem 1946 og sen-60erne, udført af den skattede Sonja Rindom, blev justeret på ganske markant vis i løbet af 70erne, i forbindelse med genoptrykningen af dem i Anders And & Co. og måske også med deres udgivelse i den enestående grimt tilrettelagte, men i det mindste folkelige samleudgave i albumformat, serien “Bedste Historier om Anders And” (BHAA).

Det der med det samme slog mig var, at oversættelserne ofte var bedre efter denne justering. Ofte, men ikke altid, vil jeg straks tilføje. Der er også er den del eksempler på unødvendige ændringer og til tider endda forringelser. Justeringerne repræsenterer gennemgående en mere fri fortolkning af originalteksten end den i førsteudgaven, hvilket fra en puristisk synsvinkel er problematisk, men rent faktisk ofte rammer historiens nerve bedre end den mere tekstnære tilgang, førsteudgaven bød på.

Ungdomshuset 1982-2007

ungdomshuset.jpg

Yesterday, the police vacated one of Copenhagen’s most significant bastions of alternative culture of the last two decades, Ungdomshuset (the “Youth House”) in the borough of Nørrebro. While the community of Ungdomshuset has not always behaved in ways that helped their cause, or just plain made any social sense, this is nevertheless emblematic of certain worrying tendencies in Denmark.

In this particular case, the responsibility primarily lies with the Copehagen city government who sold the building to the fringe religious sect Faderhuset in 2000. Justifying their purchase in a command from God, these people have – despite numerous, generous offers – refused to resell it to various bodies wanting to preserve Ungdomshuset. The blasé attitude of the city government is mirrored in decisions of national policy taken by the present government, to “normalise” one of the most unique alternative communities in Europe, the Copenhagen Free Town of Christiania. In the new Danish society proposed by the government and supported by the people who vote for them, there is little room for the different, the “antisocial”, and generally people who do not “contribute” in the same, measurable way as everyone else. A sad, though unfortunately unsurprising state of affairs in a country whose latest attempt at homogenisation is a 40-question pop quiz on Danish society and culture to be taken by anyone applying for citizenship (no shit!).

These are depressing times in Denmark. Here’s to the hope that things will change for the better in the future. A hope kept alive at Ungdomshuset for more than two decades.

Here is Ungdomshuset’s website, and this is the very up-to-date wiki entry, for those who would like more information. The photo belongs to Scanpix.

Ni-Millimeteren begraves

9mm.jpgEfter sidste uges genoplivning af den gamle BLÆK-ballade mellem Henrik Rehr og undertegnede (her og her), har de involverede parter per privat korrespondence efter bedste evne fået mast bøffen. Rehr har sendt følgende udtalelse til offentliggørelse, og vi replicerer nedenfor.

I forlængelse af en email-udveksling med Matthias Wivel og Thomas Thorhauge er jeg blevet opmærksom på, at den ene af redaktørerne på antologien Blæk, der udkom på Politikens Forlag sidste år, mener at jeg har beskyldt vedkommende for svindel i forbindelse med udgivelsens oprindelige økonomiske dispositioner. Det var ikke min intention, men samtidig vil jeg gerne kraftigt understrege, at jeg aldrig brugte ordet “svindel” eller et synonym derfor i min fremførte kritik. Min grundlæggende anke gik på det forkerte i at betale nogle af de indvolverede i udgivelsen og ikke at betale andre, og det synspunkt står jeg såmænd ved. Imidlertid skal jeg gerne medgive at tonen i min kritik langtfra var diplomatisk eller forstående. En bedre mand end jeg kunne sikkert have modstået fristelsen, men jeg så en åbning til at give Thomas Thorhauge hvad jeg syntes han havde godt af og afleverede en fuld bredside med samtlige kanonporte på vid gab. Thomas har aldrig selv været bleg for at bruge ubehøvlet retorik, så han havde såmænd fortjent det, men svindlere er hverken han eller Matthias. Ikke at vi behøver være hjertevenner, men hvis vi skal være uvenner, foretrækker jeg at det i det mindste ikke beror på en misforståelse. Forhåbentligt har ovenstående renset luften for en af slagsen.

The Žižek Show

trokhimeko_stalin.jpgGot my first Žižek experience yesterday. I was simultaneously impressed and underwhelmed. My only exposure to his work until today had been through the plethora of other authors citing him these days, and through a friend who enthusiastically appreciates his iconoclasm and originality, and also does a killer impression of the man. I have been meaning to read something by him for a while, and will probably get around to it sooner rather than later now.

Anyway, Slavoj Žižek was lecturing at Birkbeck College in London, as is his wont. The theme was “The Uses and Misuses of Violence”. Basically he was tackling the question of why normal people inflict atrocious violence on others when they, by all accounts, are caring and considerate of their comrades and family. He started with former Maoists turned Zionists and ended with Stalin (one of his favourite subjects), and made many entertaining and often enlightening digressions along the way. The basic idea was that idealists are invariably aware of the imperfection or even downright infamy of the people they idealize, in this case Mao, but revere them even more because of that fact, because it lends their aspirations a kind of empyrean air. Had Mao been a benign ruler, he would not have inspired such zealous idolization, but languished in history book obscurity instead, he argued.

How I Spun the War

cw_punch_top.jpgContrary to large parts of the comics intelligentsia who dismiss it by default, and the masochistic fans who dis it but keep coming back for more, I do not want to dump unreservedly on Marvel’s Civil War. Sure, it is easy to make fun of, what with its ineptly handled attempts at political allegory and its amateurish lack of coherence as a story. But, flipside, it actually started out as a rather ambitious effort at creating an intelligent superhero story that did not just preserve the status quo, but actually moved something. This did not really work, but I still think the people behind deserve some credit for trying.