Gaea Ascendant

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Lars von Trier’s Antichrist is, at one and the same time, amongst his subtler works and one of the most blunt and, frankly, simplistic.

It’s his first movie since Europa (1991) in which the artifice of the cinematic image is explored for illusionistic effect, but that film was simultaneously emphatically Brechtian with its jarring, intellectual storytelling strategies and mise-en-scène — a creative track he has since been exploring in different ways in most of his films — so, really, the earlier work Antichrist most acutely recalls is the feature debut, The Element of Crime (1984). That film was an unabashed and visually striking, but to my mind rather pretentious and ultimately unsuccessful pastiche on the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky, and it seems no coincidence that Antichrist is dedicated to the great Russian, on whose cinematic language it is a much more sensitive and independent take.

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The New York Times: “Radovan Karadzic’s New-Age Adventure” by Jack Hitt. This must-be-read-to-be-believed article describes the former Bosnian Serb leader and war criminal’s life in hiding from Interpol as a new age-healer — complete with sperm-revivifying hands — in Belgrade. A must. (Thanks, Mi!)
  • The TLS: “Iran Votes Again”. This is a little late, but for anyone interested in what is, and especially has been, going on in Iran, this review by Rosemary Righter of three books on the Khomeinist Revolution and Iran is greatly illuminating.
  • Prisoners of Gravity: Jack Kirby. Recently uploaded to YouTube: The King profiled and interviewed on this 90s Canadian TV show roughly a year before his death. I dare you to see it without at least choking up a little bit. Parts one, two, three. (Thanks, Henry!)
  • Easily Mused: R. Crumb Makes no Apologies! Great Crumb art — some drawn from life in France, some featuring God! — from the early 1990s. Need I say more? (Thanks, Dirk!)
  • And finally, a couple more great comics features in list form — Gary Panter’s top ten comics at Vice (which now has a whole comics guide up), and Seth on classic cartoonists at AV Club (Thanks Tim! Thanks Tom!)
  • Hype: Den nye gamle stil


    Just wanted to hype the release of my man DJ Carsten and his MC partner in rhyme, Paulo, on their new release, Den nye gamle stil (‘The New Old Style’). I’m obviously biased, but I still cannot recommend their work enough, if you want to get a taste of quality Danish underground hip hop.

    Carsten’s production skills have grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years, synthesizing traditional boom bap sound with a more jazzy vibe without ever sounding contrived, while Paulo has long been one of the most interesting and original MCs on the Danish scene. Although perhaps a little too mired in the classic preservationist, back-to-the roots, two-turntables-and-a-microphone themes so common in a lot of hip hop, he brings to the table a highly distinctive, often arrythmic, almost conversational flow, and when doing more concept-driven raps, such as “Animalistisk” on the new record, he shows himself as a fine writer too.

    Livlige døde

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    Jeg har haft den her til at ligge et stykke tid og skriver som Bunkerens læsere måske vil have noteret kun sjældent anmeldelser, men den fortjener alligvel et par ord. Jacob Rask Nielsen er manden bag den noget ujævne, men grafisk stærke “Klovn!” i Free Comics og var vinderen — med striben Carlo & Co. — af Berlingskes dubiøse tegneseriekonkurrence 2006. Siden har han udviklet sig betydeligt, både rent grafisk og fortællemæssigt, i en række charmerende, selvudgivne børnebøger, og dette kan mærkes i Exodus, der mig bekendt er hans første forsøg udi en længere tegneseriehistorie.

    Picks of the Week

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    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • London Review of Books: “The Rome-Tehran Axis”. In his typical perambulatory fashion — segueing from Iran to Berlusconi to Kung Fu Panda — celebrity philosopher Slavoj Žižek makes a somewhat off-the-cuff, but nevertheless compelling and disturbing argument about the current evolution of Western democracy.
  • Comics Comics: Dave Sim/Neal Adams on Color. With permission, Frank Santoro publishes a section of Dave Sim’s mammoth interview from Following Cerebus #9 with fellow cartoonist and comic book legend Neal Adams, in which they discuss the comic book colouring techniques of the 1960s. Fascinating for people interested in the more technical aspects of comics history. (The interview itself is well worth seeking out, if nothing else for the revelatory portrait of Adams it draws).
  • The New York Times: “One Giant Leap to Nowhere”. Marking the 30th Anniversary of Apollo 11, Tom Wolfe ponders why the space program subsequently never really took off.
  • Fecalface: interview with Ben Jones. Interviews with the Boston cartoonist and post-pop artist are pretty rare, and it’s a pretty good one, but the real treat here are pictures from a gallery show of his.
  • Roskilde Graffiti at 10!

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    For ten years now, my man Lars has run the graffiti project at the Roskilde Festival — every year, they gather writers from around the world, who come at their own expense to decorate the walls and barriers around the festival area and parts of the camping grounds, and the quality of the work has long been top notch. It’s a great partnership between the festival and the writers, which gives everyone some great work to look at, instead of the random tagging and throwups of earlier times. A veritable, if discrete, annual arts festival.

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    Rapspot and Molotow have documented this year’s walls, while Lars himself has run a bunch of videos from the street art area, as well as a couple of spots, one from the festival’s own web TV channel and one from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The festival itself also has a write-up in both English and Danish. Also, here’s the Bunker’s post from last year.

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    Here’s a drink, *ting!*

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    The Cage Stands as Before

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    The English illustrator, painter and comics artist Martin Vaughn-James passed away last week (obits here and here). Perhaps this will be an occasion for comics world to take greater note of this significant artist and innovator in the medium. Owing to his influences and probably especially the fact that he lived in Brussels for the latter part of his life, he is much admired by critics and scholars, if not the comics-reading populace at large, in the Francophone world. In America, however, he lamentably remains largely unknown.

    From what little I’ve seen of his work as an illustrator and painter, I would hazard the guess that his work in comics, although comparatively limited — consisting as it does of a mere half a dozen books — is nevertheless his most significant. His approach to the form, both in terms of narration and, more concretely, his blend of words and images, remains unique in the medium, all the while prefiguring important later innovations by direct progeny such as Schuiten and Peeters and Marc-Antoine Mathieu, as well as by such less directly related figures as Richard McGuire and the Fort Thunder cartoonists, different as they are.

    Out of Time

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    I owe Michael Jackson a huge debt. In many ways, he gave me a music I could call my own. Thriller hit at just the right moment for me, opening a musical path different from that of my parents. Youngsters were already popping and locking on the corners around my neighbourhood and tags were being scrawled on the walls on the way to school. I didn’t have a tape recorder myself, but friends would play the album when I was over, and we would imitate the bigger kids on the block with our own interpretation of the uprock and electric boogie.

    Of course, Michael wasn’t hip hop, but he came from the same place, and he related directly to the culture and of course influenced it considerably—the moonwalk, for example, is intimately related to dance steps first taken on concrete. Before moving on to the Rocksteady Crew, Run DMC, and the Fat Boys—and eventually more broadly the music of Black America, including his great paragon, James Brown—he was the voice of the streets for me.