The Week

The Week in Review (a.k.a. the feature formerly known as Picks of the Week)

Jobs. I’m somewhat ambivalent about the mass adulation directed at the late Apple co-founder this past few days. No doubt he and his company revolutionized the way we interface with technology, even if he didn’t come up with the component parts now often credited to him: the mouse and desktop interface; and no doubt that his autocratic and autonomous stance helped further a vision that might otherwise have crashed and burned like so many Windows operating systems.

But admirable as these characteristics are in a creative, individual businessman, and even perhaps in a small company, they take on an insidious edge when they become the governing principle of a large corporation. It amplifies human shortcomings in a way that leads to rotten ethics and ultimately limits the freedom of consumers.

Look, I dig my Macintosh computer, even if I don’t care much for the weak, impossible-to-change batteries that come with most Apple products. I haven’t once regretted switching away from the ongoing disaster that is Windows. (And Linux is just too damn bothersome). Oh, and Pixar’s pretty fantastic.

Trouble is we’re talking a corporation that behaves increasingly like Jobs reportedly did to the people around him: tyranically censorious and blind to the people around it. As if their disturbing record of outsourcing production overseas weren’t troublesome enough, their record of innovation — transformative as it has been — carries troubling perspectives.

Apple’s takeover of the music industry (couldn’t have happened to nicer people!) has proposed some interesting solutions for digital delivery, but is basically an overpriced quasi-monopoly concentrated on a crap format, the mp3. Other industries seem to have learned not to but all their eggs in the Apple basket, but it seems inevitable that the company, with their arbitrary censorship practices and Chinese box approach to user participation (as opposed to friendliness), is going to be at the center of digital delivery technology for the foreseeable future.

Apple’s achievement, however, goes beyond the transformation of user interfaces and content delivery. They’ve built a new type of brand. We’re not talking mere consumer loyalty, or even identification — people seem to regard their products as a kind of personal, even spiritual fulfillment, as if they were an extension of themselves. This is mass cybernetics, people. Psychological interface.

An amazing achievement, no doubt. And Jobs was at the center of it. He made consumerism a personal matter. Which I guess makes sense, now that corporations are defined as people. RIP.

My Jobs list: Mike Daisy: “Against Nostalgia”, James Surowiecki: “How Steve Jobs Changed”, Vaclav Simil: “Why Jobs Is No Edison”, Ryan Tate: “What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs”.

Establishing Shots — Judith Forest’s 1h25

This review was written for The Comics Journal in July 2010 before it was revealed that Judith Forest was a hoax, a clever ploy by cartoonist William Henne and 5e Couche’s publisher/provocateur Xavier Löwenthal to subvert people’s expectations and understanding of confessional autobiography — and more broadly the representation of “truth” — in comics. For more, please read Bart Beaty’s 2011 examination of the state of comics autobiography at the Journal. As is obvious from the review, I completely fell for it. It’s a good book!

It’s taken a while, but a new generation of European cartoonists building upon what the new wave of the 90s created is slowly, but surely coming into its own. Unsurprisingly, the genre that arguably defined those trailblazers more than any other, autobiography, still occupies a central place in the repertoire of today’s up-and-comers, along with other reality-based approaches, such as biography and documentary.

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Music! So as I wrote, good to be back. And there’s a bunch of new, homegrown music out. Up there’s my man Ras Money’s first stab at deejaying on wax. He’s no Sizzla, but he represents his neighborhood Nordvest 2400 fresh as can be. Cop the 7″. The big event, of course, is the retun of local heroes Malk de Koijn with their first album in nine years. It’s a little conservative for my taste, but they still sound like nobody else, and the opening track “Nalk” goes hard.
  • One of my last shows in New York was Nas performing at Rock the Bells on Governor’s Island. A mostly triumphant return to form, if one steeped in nostalgia. One of the most talented if also erratic MCs of all time, it is rewarding to revisit his back catalogue via Complex Magazine’s “100 Best Nas Songs” feature. Ludicrous premise, but great and extremely thorough showcase with plenty of obscure gems featured, and some good writing to boot. (Old link, I know, but good).
  • Bad Weeds : David Prudhomme’s Rébétiko


    Released 2010, David Prudhomme’s critically acclaimed, award-winning Rébétiko (la mauvaise herbe) is a celebration of the early 20th-century Greek tradition of urban music later united under that umbrella term. The story takes place over the course of a day in Athens, October 1936, a few months into the military regime of Ioannis Metaxas. It follows the actions of four musicians, all of whom are based on actual legends of rebetiko.

    Time Travelling


    After almost a decade of living abroad, I’m now back in my home city, Copenhagen. So much has changed through the boom-and-bust years that I was away, and although I’ve of course visited regularly along the way, living here again brings it home. I stepped out for nine years and suddenly every major street has acquired the obligatory set of gleaming juice bars with a barista fetish in a seeming effort to look like any other capital city in Europe. Plus rent has shot through the roof.

    Much has stayed the same, of course, and Copenhagen is Copenhagen, but I find myself a little out of the loop on a lot of mundane knowledge — going about installing ourselves here has been really interesting and somewhat baffling. Poignantly however, I arrived here at the day of our general election where the Danes finally — and by the slimmest of majorities — got rid of the increasingly fatigued and dysfunctional right-wing coalition that has steered the country toward greater prosperity, militarization and dispassion through the boom years. The replacement, an uneasy center-left conglomeration headed by Denmark’s first female prime minister, has now been in negotiations for a week and a half. We’ll see what they can do, but let’s just say that so far most of the people involved haven’t been all that impressive. Still, we need a change.

    And it’s good to be home.

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Rory Stewart on Libya. Comparisons with Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq perhaps help explain the relatively orderly and peaceful aftermath in post-revolutionary Libya.
  • Laura Hudson on the mainstream comics industry’s moronic sexism as manifested predictably, but egregiously in DC’s misguided “relaunch.” The must-read article on this latest low in American comics publishing.
  • The Johnny Ryan interview. Excellent and candid interview with one of comics’ prime humorists in the lengthy but engrossing Comics Journal tradition.
  • Joshua Allen Harris’ plastic bag sculptures (above). I’ve hyped them before and I’m doing it again. They’re amazing.