fredag 31 december 2010

Niclas Sennerteg: Ord som dödar ("Words that kill")

Finished Niclas Sennerteg's "Ord som dödar. Om folkmord och propaganda" ("Words that kill. On genocide and propaganda". It's a book about "hate media" and their propaganda, but more about the legal results of putting hate propagandists on trial and the results of that (including for international law).



First off are four chapters on the propaganda effort supporting anti-semitism in the Third Reich and the Nuremberg trials of some of those responsible – Goebbels and Streicher (whom everybody with a passing interest in these issues probably know about already), Hans Fritzsche (less well known; chief of the Home Press Division, later Plenipotentiary for the Political Organization of the Greater German Radio and head of the Radio Division. Fritzsche was one of the few who were acquitted at Nuremberg. Wikipedia and apparently most assessments say that Fritzsche never pushed for the extermination of the Jews, but some quotes offered by Sennerteg still indicates a rather vicious anti-semite who certainly helped spread anti-semitism by his work. Sennerteg also points to the incompetence of the Soviet prosecutor as a factor behind Fritzsche's acquittal – apparently, Roman Rudenko seems to have been more used to Soviet-style "justice" than actually having to make his case properly…


Later on, NSDAP press chief Otto Dietrich would be sentenced to seven years imprisonment for his part in the propaganda that enabled the Holocaust. He would write the severely critical "The Hitler I Knew. Memoirs of the Third Reich's Press Chief" in prison, and I'm putting it on my to-read list. (Even before having read it, though, I'll have to agree with historian Roger Moorhouse: "His insights are sound and sincere, but the obvious question that arises is: when did they occur to him?") Anyway, finding Dietrich guilty of crimes against humanity was a big step in the evolution of international law – he hadn't openly called for the persecution of Jews, but he'd been an important part of the propaganda machine that laid the foundation for it by dehumanizing the victims and justifying the persecutions.


Then follows what comprises the lion's share of the book, a bit more than half of it: Rwanda. After briefly outlining the course of the genocide, Sennerteg depicts the processes against some of the heads of "Radio Machete" (RTLM) and the man running the "newspaper" Kangura, Hassan Ngeze. (Worryingly, some of the stuff that came from those sources was worryingly close to what you can occasionally hear from certain more extreme American radio hosts, like for example Michael Savage.)


Finally, there is a quick look at the case of former Yugoslavia, where Slobodan Milosevic was smarter in his somewhat more indirect use of propaganda, using historical documentaries and movies to remind all Serbs about all sorts of suffering they've been subjected to throughout history.. However, since he died before the trial was over, it didn't offer much additional development of the status of international law.


In some respects, Sennerteg has written a history (and that is how I think the book is being presented on the back cover), but it reads more like a journalistic effort. Sennerteg concentrates a bit too much on the events in the courtrooms and too little on historic theory or the flow of events for it to read like a work of history to me. Still, Sennerteg problematizes the issues – like can the increased focus on holding journalists responsible for unrest elicited by their reporting – and offers enough history to be worthwhile.


The most interesting part of the book is, to me, the very final chapter that briefly looks at various theories about what leads to genocide, and how to prevent it. According to Barbara Harff, the risk that an internal conflict or crisis will escalate into a genocide increases if
• There have been previous genocides;
• There has been grand, tumultuous changes in the last 15 years;
• The ruling elite is a minority in a multiethnic society;
• The ruling elite stands for and promulgates an ideology that locks other groups out;
• The country is run dictatorially; and
• There is little international trade.


John Heidenrich points to the use of silent diplomacy, focused publicity (which of course requires the assistance of the sometimes rather fickle media) and open political pressure in order to prevent a looming genocide. Since military action takes so long to prepare, it is necessary to get a big head start, and (as I think was demonstrated by the case of former Yugoslavia) the pressure you put on a regime needs to be seen as credible by that regime.


Professor Frank Chalk has presented a model for preventing genocide:
Early stage – plenty of warning signals about increasing ethnic tension. International organizations should act as watchdogs on local media and train the country's journalists, and help build ethics codes as well as local, independent media.
Intermediary stage – massacres and violence against the scapegoated group. It is impossible for independent journalists and organizations to work. International actors like the UN and the EU should warn the hate-mongers tat they are being watch and risk prosecution for their actions. Outside news channels can offer correct news about the events in the country.
Final stage – military intervention can be used to destroy the hate propaganda tools (though I must say that I would personally prefer it if they were used to stop the genocide more directly).


(Note: I've re-translated into English terms translated into Swedish by Sennerteg, so I can't vouch that I'm presenting these theories entirely correctly.)


Anyway, a book worth reading if you're a Swedish-speaker and interested in these issues.

onsdag 29 december 2010

My t-shirts, part 20: The Far Side

Gary Larson, bleedin' genius. 


Chad Carpenter's "Tundra" is probably the best Larson-inspired panel out there; I like it (though not all those snowman jokes feel like they really deserve to be published. Of those who got their break in the wake of Larson retiring, I rate Dan Piraro's "Bizarro" the highest. When it's good, it's good, and it's good pretty darn often.

tisdag 28 december 2010

Storytelling 4: Loud yelling

Here, Mort Walker plays with established comics language – or perhaps established comics semiotics, if we want to be more precise and pretentious. Beetle and Killer decide to try to fool Sarge into believing that he's losing his hearing, so they "talk" soundlessly.


Sarge responds equally soundlessly in panel 5 – but Walker uses enough established comics symbols for "loud yelling" to convince them – and us readers – that his response is, in fact, louder than loud. And yet, he only needs to use two (or perhaps four) symbols for "loud yelling" to give us that impression – in spades.

First, there's Sarge's face. He a) looks angry and b) his mouth is open wide. Hence, we "know" that he is yelling angrily. Second, there's his word balloon. It is c) drawn with a heavy outline, which is an established symbol for loudness – perhaps the outline needs to be heavier and stronger to be able to contain all the loud words in big, fat letters? – and it is also d) very large, which is necessary to make room for all those big, fat letters.

Two more things support the impression of loudness given to the reader. In the preceding panel, the scowling look on Sarge's face indicates that he is both on to the soldiers' scheme and not pleased about it, and in panel 5, the hasty exit by Killer and Beetle supports the notion that Sarge is now so angry that the smart thing is to not stick around – and one indication of how angry somebody is is of course how loudly they are yelling at you.

Brilliantly done, and very funny.

måndag 27 december 2010

Encouraging energy news

…but we do need more and faster of that, it seems.


Off-the-grid electricity systems


  • Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.

  • That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches. (...)

    Since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15 in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel. (...)

    Even United Nations programs and United States government funds that promote climate-friendly energy in developing countries hew to large projects like giant wind farms or industrial-scale solar plants that feed into the grid. A $300 million solar project is much easier to finance and monitor than 10 million home-scale solar systems in mud huts spread across a continent.

  • Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company.

My t-shirts, part 19: Elektra

It's possible that Elektra was the final impetus for Frank Miller to change his drawing idiom to the (to me) rather boring style he uses today. Either way, he did some good Daredevil stories with her, and Bill Sienkiewicz and he did a beautiful min-series starring her. (Unfortunately, he also tried his satire wings with it, and satire isn't something he seems subtle enough in his politics to do well.)


In other news, alternative career options: Suing spammers.

söndag 26 december 2010

Nicolas de Crécy: Glacial Period


Thousands of years from now, an expedition moves over a frozen wasteland. In it we find, among others,  an older, somewhat arrogant and bossy expedition leader, the young daughter of the man financing the expedition, and some dog-pig hybrids with excellent senses of smell (incorporating C-14 capability) and the ability to speak. Much of what has gone before has now been forgotten, and the expedition is looking for artifacts of the past to help them understand it better.

There are tensions within the party. One of the dog-pigs, Hulk (named in honor of what is believed to be an ancient god), is a glutton who's in love with the financier's daughter, Juliette, and resents the bossy behavior of the expedition leader, Gregor. He is also an object of scorn for the other pig-dogs for being a fat glutton. Meanwhile, several of the men in the expedition have a soft spot for Juliette, and tensions are rising...

Hulk gets separated from the larger group, and drops down into what turns out to be the Louvre's statuary collection. The main group discovers the Louvre's paintings and, ignorant of the history behind them, starts speculating about their meaning. Their interpretation turns out to be one expedition member reading them in sequence like a comic strip, and making up a logical and somewhat ridiculous "history" of sorts of what happened to the people of the past. Meanwhile, Hulk gets a more accurate historical recap by the statuary, which has somehow come alive during its long wait under the snow.

Where de Crécy really shines is with the art – he's very good with the colors without getting flashy, they simply work very well with his story-telling – and in depicting the relationships within groups. I know he's been getting some rave reviews for the absurd elements of his story, but I'm not all that keen on them. It works OK with the statuary coming alive and telling Hulk their story, but that's mainly – again – because he's good at depicting tensions and relationships in that particular group, as well. The segment where one expedition member lays out his theory about what the Louvre paintings depict is somewhat amusing as he is, in fact, using the classical art as panels in a comic strip, but that's really all it is. The strangers-misinterpreting-alien-or-old-artefacts story vehicle is not very original, it's been done in horror/science fiction comics before – in fact, throw in some bare breasts and bottoms and decrease the light-heartedness a bit and this could conceivably have been published in the pages of the old Heavy Metal. The book also suffers a bit from not being printed in the traditional large French album format; the pages depicting the old paintings as comics panels especially so.

So in summary: not quite a great book, but a really good one that deserves to be read, mainly for de Crécy's wonderful art, his handling of relationships and his warm eye for little humanly absurd details – like the museum statuary taking Hulk to see the nearest thing they have to a living human being, a guard-in-training who'd every morning sit and admire a particular painting and who died while doing so. These are the best parts of his story, and I would have preferred it if he'd concentrated more on these in a more "straight" story, and reined in his playfulness a bit.

Recommended.

(You want to learn some more about de Crécy's work, Paul Gravett is always worth reading. Here is another review – which correctly points out that de Crécy doesn't follow through properly on the relationships he establishes in the first part of the book, but the solution to that should IMHO have been to cut the satire about using the paintings as a narrative of past events to make room for following through on those relationships. Again, I see some relationship with quite a few Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal stories here.)

onsdag 22 december 2010

I did this!


…and it goes on sale here in Sweden on February 10th. Annoyingly, a typo may have slipped through to make it into print. I've corrected it here, though.

söndag 19 december 2010

Frederik L . Schodt: The Astro Boy Essays

Frederik Schodt is always worth reading, and while "The Astro Boy Essays" is mistitled, because it's really not a collection of essays, it's a book on the Astro Boy phenomenon and Osamu Tezuka with different chapter. In fact, the most essay-like chapter, where he discusses the role of robots in manga and the world, is the weakest one. He really shines when he tells us about the history of Tezuka and his work; as an introducer of manga and manga history, he's hard to beat.



Tezuka, the "God of Manga", comes across as more complicated than the "creator of nice or melodramatic stories" that he has had a bit of an image as, and Schodt also tells us how this came to be; how the Astro Boy TV series sort of diluted the premise of the manga stories, turning it more into heroic action and good vs evil than the problematization of science and technology.

One thing I'm taking away from this book is how sad it was that Tezuka became a company executive, instead of spending all his time creating more manga and stories for the animation studio. Another is Tezuka's deep revulsion for war, based to a large extent on his (and Japan's) experience from WWII and the occupation. I've also become tempted to read the entire Astro Boy series which I've previously skipped because of it's children's comics look, but there's a pretty long line of things to read now.

Anyway, this is a very good introduction to the Astro Boy phenomenon -- and not just an introduction; it's an excellent, pretty in-depth book on the subject and warmly recommended.

lördag 18 december 2010

The Thor movie...

...is great news for us Marvel aficionados. 





It is also great news for those of us who like it when racists have apoplectic fits.

The Council of Conservative Citizens is upset that London-born Idris Elba, star of The Wire and BBC detective series Luther as well as a number of Hollywood films, is to play deity Heimdall in the Marvel Studios feature. The group, which opposes inter-racial marriage and gay rights, has set up a website, boycott-thor.com to set out its opposition to what it sees as an example of leftwing social engineering.
"It [is] well known that Marvel is a company that advocates for leftwing ideologies and causes," the site reads. "Marvel frontman Stan 'Lee' Lieber boasts of being a major financier of leftwing political candidates. Marvel has viciously attacked the Tea Party movement, conservatives and European heritage.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010.

That said, I'm actually sorry to see Branagh directing the movie as I'd rather see him acting. He was wonderful in both the second Harry Potter movie and in the British Wallander series.

torsdag 16 december 2010

My t-shirts, part 18: Dilbert – Technology

Well, I like this one a lot. The previous one is just sort of mean, but this is a brilliant picture.


(My work schedule will be a bit hectic the week before Christmas, so posting will likely be very sporadic.)

tisdag 14 december 2010

My t-shirts, part 17: Dilbert - Coworkers

Scott Adams' acid commentary on the workplace works excellently in cartoon format. When he put them in writing, they didn't work quite as well, I thought – what was witty in comics format became more mean and sarcastic in written form, and written sarcasm needs to be very witty indeed for me to not tire of it. (Spoiled a Len Deighton WWII history a bit for me when I read it many years ago – he just couldn't keep himself from making one nasty remark after another about various issues or people, and it got a bit tiresome after a while.)

söndag 12 december 2010

Beevor on the Spanish Civil War

Finished Antony Beevor's "The Battle for Spain" (in the Swedish 2006 translation).


I've seen criticism of Beevor that he doesn't spend enough of his books on operational detail, making them less valuable as military history. That criticism misses its mark, though, IMO. Beevor writes eminently readable military history that depicts the action of war in a somewhat more summarizing manner, seasoning it with anecdotes and illustrative examples, and offering the reader his conclusions about why this or that didn't work out so well while something else was very successful. If you're an amateur military historian, odds are you might want something going a bit more into the operative detail, but you're not going to get it from Beevor, so maybe he's just not for you.

But he is perfect for shallow little ol' me, though, so here's my review of the book:

First, this wasn't as easy a read as I've come to expect from Beevor. Partly that might be because there's so many factions and characters to keep track of, partly because it's such a depressing war, with no real good guys and what can arguably be seen as the worst guys winning in the end, and partly because I've spent way too much time playing Europa Universalis III instead of reading, thus messing up my flow.

Anyway, Beevor sets the stage by giving his readers the basic political situation and developments leading up to the war, then details the developments of the war, including political and international ramifications, and wraps up the book with a couple of chapters on what happened after the war. And he does it well, as usual.

Beevor dismisses the myth that the Republican side were the "good guys", with plenty of examples of crimes committed by that side, but the Nationalist side has them beat in cruelties and murdering, even though increasing communist influence on the Republican side -- not least because the Soviet Union was the only foreign nation willing to help the Republican side, Britain and France even refusing to sell weapons to the legal Spanish government (France to a large extent due to Britain's influence), while the fascist dictatorships in Germany and Italy had no compunctions about assisting their pal Franco. (There was also a lot of sympathy for Franco's anti-communism in the British government, and Royal Navy officers had a lot of sympathy for their Nationalist counterparts.) The result wasn't good for Spain, nor for the Republican side. With growing power, Stalinist communists implemented more of the repression of their ideological model, not infrequently against what should have been their brothers in arms. Beevor seems to have the most sympathy for the anarchists, but they were too, well, anarchistic to be able to hold their own in both the war and the infighting on the Republican side.

Not content with the lack of foreign support hurting their chances, the Republican leadership also did a lot themselves to hurt their cause. Beevor is scathing in his criticism of their bad planning and – especially – their stupidity in planning offensives mainly for their potential propaganda value abroad rather than planning based on the realities on the ground. Thus, they sent their soldiers to die on in ill-conceived offensives that had little hope of success from the start – to a large extent due to the Nationalists having air superiority, much of which thanks to the German support (including the ruthless Condor Legion). Then, when their stupidity led to offensives petering out with excessive losses, they couldn't admit that they'd been wrong, so they kept it up long after it should have been obvious that all they did was wasting men and material they'd sorely have needed to defend the areas of the country that they still controlled.

He also castigates the Republican leadership for keeping the war going long after it was obvious that they wouldn't win, thus ensuring even larger suffering for the population.

Had the Republican side instead chosen a more defensive strategy, Beevor feels, they would have been much better off, as Franco wasn't a really clever military commander, but rather a pretty traditional one who sent in his attacks in the old WWI-style manner, and could have been better held off with a good defense extracting a fierce price for territory gained, coupled with more limited spoiling/distracting attacks along the line of defense.

Meanwhile, the crimes against the population committed by the Nationalist side isn't glossed over, and the role the Catholic church played in supporting these vicious murderers is also brought t light. Like I said, no real "good guys" in this conflict.

During the war, the Germans learned the value of concentrating armor to achieve breakthroughs instead of dispersing it throughout the line where it could be taken out with AT guns. They also realized that their tanks were too weak in armor and armament, and thus inferior to the Soviet tanks on the Republican side.

After the war ended, hundreds of thousands of refugees crossed the border to France. Unfortunately, the French government didn't really bother with setting up well-maintained refugee camps, resulting in the death of large numbers of those refugees due to bad hygienic conditions and exposure – while the French right-wing attacked the government for even helping those refugees.

Beevor has harsh words for many in his book – the Republican leadership, the Church, the British leadership, the Stalinist communists, the fascist butchers, the German war criminals, etc. For me, it mainly confirmed several of my deeply held convictions: War is an ugly business usually best avoided, political extremists are not people you want in charge of anything, and Social Democrats and Social Liberals are usually the best choices for leading your country. You may have some other of your pet causes confirmed if you read it, but read it you should. I'll be reading more books on the conflict, as it is too complex for one single book to be sufficient, but I'm glad I read this one.

Recommended.

fredag 10 december 2010

Storytelling (3) and your cellphone

Quick note: I've gone over to English to accomodate a couple of American friends. We'll see how long it lasts.


The use of pictorial language to denote emotion and/or tone of voice is hardly new in comics storytelling. "Astérix", for example, excels in it. Especially when it comes to depicting the character of sound, it is very innovative because it uses once sense modality – vision – to depict another – sound/hearing.

The creators of "Zits", Jim Borgman and Jerry Scott, are often visually creative in their storytelling, and here they have melded two concepts – the modern-era free choice of different ringtones for different people and the use of visual language to connote personal characteristics – in an innovative and quite funny manner.I'd say that "Zits" is probably the brightest spot on today's comics page.

(Also note that it isn't just different sounds that Brogman/Scott are depicting with their iconography, but also the somewhat more abstract concept of personal characteristics.)

Vasarenässansen

...heter en bok av konsthistorieprofessor Peter Gilllgren. Enligt undertiteln behandlar den "Konst och identitet i 1500-talets Sverige", och det får man väl hålla med om att den gör. Det handlar om hur Gustav Vasa och hans söner framställde sig själva och sina fiender (dvs ofta just sina bröder) i propaganda och konst, i livet såväl som i döden.


(Eftersom det är så inne med retorik just nu att det verkar räcka med att man kallar sig retorikexpert och släpper en bok för att man ska bli inbjuden till både TV-soffor och kvällstidningskommenterande skulle Gillgren nog ha ökat försäljningen om han get boken undertiteln "Maktens retorik i konst och propaganda" i stället, och det hade faktiskt inte varit missvisande heller.)

Det känns kompetent men inte så spännande; de retoriska tekniker Gillgren skildrar är inte så innovativa, däremot är det förstås inte i första hand Vasaättens lätt knäppa kungar som man brukar se analyseras utifrån dem. Mest utbyte av boken torde den ha som a) är intresserad av just det skedet i svensk (makt-)historia och/eller har ett starkt konsthistoriskt intresse.

Intressantast för mig var hans analys av den kända Vädersolstavan och dess härstamning – inte för att det går att bevisa att hans teser är korrekta eller egentligen ens sannolika, men det är ändå ett betydelsefullt konstverk i den svenska historien – och utläggningen om Olaus Magnus och dennes "Historia om de nordiska folken". Den senare är inte bara intressant i sig själv som exempel på en betydelsefull tidig svensk intellektuell, utan även därför att jag veckan efter hälsade på en bekant som visade sig minsann ha köpt en förstaupplaga av just "Historia om de nordiska folken". Det var inte utan att jag kände en smula historiens vingslag när jag satt och bläddrade i boken och tittade på illustrationerna som jag nyss sett berömmas av Gillgren...

Kulturrådet har gett kulturstöd till utgivningen av den här boken, och det tycker jag de har gjort alldeles rätt i. Dock kan nog den bara rent allmänt konsthistorie- eller historieintresserade läsaren med fördel inleda sina studier av ämnet på annat, litet mer medryckande håll.

torsdag 9 december 2010

Mina t-shirts, del 16: Crete

En förfärlig Snobben-pirat-kopia på en tröja jag tror att jag hittade i en second hand-butik.

What is wrong with these people?

Bryan Fischer:


 We know what causes AIDS: homosexual sex and injection drug use. The Centers for Disease Control tell us that of all the males who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS since the epidemic started in 1977, 91% contracted it either through having sex with other males or through intravenous drug abuse.


 Since we know the cause, we know the cure: stop engaging in homosexual sex and stop shooting up with drugs. (...)


 So if we’re looking to start trimming federal spending, here’s a way we can save the taxpayers a quick $26 billion. Since we know the cause of AIDS and the way to slow down the epidemic, if we spend any taxpayer funds at all it ought to be on education: don’t start engaging in homosexual behavior, and if you have started, stop. (...)


 [H]omosexual activist groups likewise are pushing a lifestyle that kills. If anybody should be obligated to pony up funds to mitigate a health crisis, it ought to be the organizations that are responsible for advocating the very behavior that created and perpetuates the epidemic.


Bryan Fischer är Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association och programvärd för radioprogrammet "Focal Point". Han är bara en liten del av den enorma högermedia-maskinen i USA, och kan väl i någon mån läsas för sitt underhållningsvärde som så många andra av dess delar. Skrattet fastnar dock en smula i halsen när man betänker hur stort inflytande den antiliberala lobby- och mediamaskinen har.



Dan Piraro är en skatt. Köp hans samlingar. (Gärna den svenska som jag översatte, men det är absolut inget krav – just den är det bättre att ni lånar på biblioteket.)

onsdag 8 december 2010

Heroiskt

Efter en insats som jag inte tvekar att kalla heroisk har jag äntligen fått ordning på seriehyllorna längs den ena sovrumsväggen; vi kan kalla dem "arkivhyllorna".

Nästa steg blir förmodligen softcover-hyllorna på motstående vägg, med amerikanska trade paperbacks – Marvel, DC, samt lite Dark Horse och övriga mindre förlag. Ska vi sikta på att få klart det till julen, tro?


Då kan jag dessutom sikta på att stå och sortera serietidningar på juldagen, tittandes ut på julutsikten genom mitt köksfönster:

I did this!

...Eller, nåja, jag försvenskade det norskproducerade omslaget i alla fall. Den trettonde januari utkommer det Knasen-nummer vi nu skickat till tryckeriet.


Ja, det ser litet tomt ut nere till vänster, men det beror på att jag tog mig friheten att ta bort EAN-koden därifrån innan jag lade upp bilden.

tisdag 7 december 2010

Åter från seriebutiken...

Dagens skörd. Eftersom jag åkte ner till Malmö för styrelsemöte i Seriefrämjandet i helgen hann jag inte hämta ut den sista kassen med serier jag köpte på seriebutiken Prisfyndets jubileumsrea (20% rabatt på Marvel-serierna gjorde att även deras något övervärderade samlingar blev intressanta) förrän nu på måndagen. Det är visserligen skönt att äntligen ha fått hem allt, men nu vidtar det än tyngre arbetet att hitta hyllutrymme för allt. Vi får se i vilken takt jag hinner läsa igenom allt – just nu lutar jag åt att i första hand plöja igenom alla mina Marvel Essentials, och frågan är om inte det är ett projekt som kommer att sträcka sig in i 2112...

söndag 5 december 2010

Mina t-shirts, del 15: Charlie Brown

Det är samma färg på fram-och baksidan, det är ljuset som skiljer sig åt mellan de båda bilderna.


torsdag 2 december 2010

Åter från seriebutiken...

Gårdagens och dagens skörd. Jag hade fullt upp med att lösa korsord i går, så det fanns inte riktigt tid att lägga upp den dagens inköp då.




Segars "Popeye" är en sådan klassiker att man måste ha den, helt enkelt. Disney Studios' "Design" visar mycket av det förberedande arbetet inför filmerna, skapandet av figurerna och den värld de ska bebo – s k "concept art". "Witchblade" skulle jag normalt inte köpa, men den var extra billig och skriven av Ron Marz, som gjort OK saker förut – tyvärr var teckningarna inget vidare, tyckte jag, de var snarast ett inte helt lyckat försök att måla med datorfärgläggning. Ambrose Briece, slutligen, är förstås en briljant sarkastisk klassiker, och Gahan Wilson är även han en storhet, så den går också in i referensbiblioteket när jag hunnit läsa den.

Marvels oversized hardcovers är relativt billiga för vad man får; de brukar samla flera softcoversamlingar och inte vara dyrare än vad de samlingarna kostat om man köpt dem separat. På så vis är de en välkommen paus från Marvels sjukt höga priser på sina nyare samlingar. Enda anledningen till att jag köpte en stor mängd Marvel-samlingar nu var att min seriebutik rabatterade för att den fyllde år – och hade extra stor rabatt på Marvlarna.

onsdag 1 december 2010

Jiro Taniguchis "Isvandraren"

Epix har gett ut "Isvandraren", en 240-sidig samling med berättelser av den japanske serieskaparen Jiro Taniguchi. Taniguchis manér skiljer sig dock från de manga vi brukar få se på svenska (och i de flesta engelskspråkiga utgåvor med, för den delen); Taniguchi har tydligen inspirerats av den fransk-belgiska serieskolan. Jag tyckte mig se stilelement som påminde mig om bland annat Hermann Huppen och François Schuiten i hans teckningar. Snyggt är det i alla fall, i högsta grad, och välberättat.



Den första berättelsen, titelnovellen, handlar om den av Taniguchi mycket beundrade Jack London och skildrar hur denne tillsammans med en guldgrävarkamrat under en – föga lyckad – jakt möter en representant för Klondikes ursprungsbefolkning. Denne skall snart dö, men innan dess vill han hitta Nordlandets konung, den stora vita älgen, och be denne att låta viltet komma tillbaka till landet, så att hans folk kan leva. Av mötet lär sig London att han och hans kamrater inte har vad som krävs för att klara en vinter i Yukon. Men när han föreslår de andra guldgrävarna i gruppen att de ska lämna vildmarken och komma tillbaka till våren, vänder de sig mot honom. Han jagas mer eller mindre iväg under vapenhot.

Hans vänner klarar inte vintern, men Jack överlever.

Därnäst följer "Vilda vita västern", som även den utspelar sig i Yukon, Alaska. Två män fraktar en engelsk adelsmans döda kropp mot mer civiliserade trakter för att han ska kunna föras hem för begravning till England. De förföljs dock av en vargflock, som varje natt dödar ännu en av deras slädhundar, och blir allt mer ett hot mot männen själva.

I "Bergens herre" har en gammal jägare avsvurit sig all jakt efter att hans son dödats av en björn de jagade. Men nu har björnen återkommit, och svårt sargat en annan jägare. Det verkar som om han lägger sig i bakhåll för jägarna. Den gamle mannen måste fatta ett mycket personligt beslut – ska han stå fast vid ditt löfte, eller är det viktigare att stoppa slagbjörnen?

I "Blåmusslornas ö" har pojken Takashi kommit ut på landet från Tokyo för att hans morbror och moster ska ta hand om honom medan hans mamma ligger på sjukhus. Där lär han känna den föräldralösa flickan Yae, som också tas om hand av morbrodern och mostern. Takashi är litet åt det mesiga hållet, men vill ändå följa med Yae ut när hon ska dyka efter musslor. Väl ute blåser det upp till storm, och för Takashi finns nu bara alternativet att förlita sig till flickans kompetens...

Den stillsamma "Pinjeblommornas hus" behandlar en ung serietecknares liv i ett hyreshus – möjligen, möjligen är det också en spökhistoria, jag är inte helt säker, men den är i vilket fall för stillsam för min smak. Samlingen avslutas med "Valarnas sång", om hur en oceanolog kommer att känna att han har fått en speciell kontakt med en gammal knölval, och som väljer att följa med valen ner i djupet när denne drar sig tillbaka till valarnas egna begravningsplats för att dö.

"Isvandraren" innehåller bra, solida historier, även om de överlag inte är så originella. Jag är inte säker på om Jack London-historien är faktabaserad eller fiktivt faktabaserad, men det svåra beslut London har att fatta bär med sig en enkel kraft som bär historien även för den som, som jag, inte blir så imponerad av de shamanistiska inslagen. "Vita vilda västern" är helt enkelt en klassisk "hot-historia"; hjälten förföljs av ett hot som han måste hantera, och att det råkar vara en vargflock spelar egentligen inte så stor roll för själva grundberättelsen. "Bergens herre" är en bra jakthistoria som förhöjs av den gamle jägarens svåra beslut – hålla sig till sitt löfte, eller bryta det för att sätta stopp för hotet?

"Blåmusslornas ö" är nog min favorit, med "Bergens herre på god andraplats". Pojken Takashis trygghet hos den litet äldre flickan Yae, och hans begynnande förälskelse i henne, är väldigt charmig och romantisk, samtidigt som Taniguchi tar väl vara på både den vardagsdramatik och den grundläggande sorgsenhet hans historia erbjuder. Det gör att jag håller den före den likaledes romantiska men kanske en smula överspända berättelsen om valforskaren som vill dela sin "vän" knölvalens öde.

Baksidestexten framhåller att berättelserna "präglas av en djup respekt för djurens liv", men jag håller inte riktigt med. Att projicera magiska egenskaper på djur, magiska egenskaper med vilka djuren sedan ska hjälpa oss att bättre förstå eller kunna hantera våra egna liv, känns snarare som en ovilja att se djuren som de är – vilket jag tycker vore mer respektfullt. Däremot är Taniguchis historier väl värda att läsa för sin egen skull, och det tycker jag absolut att man ska göra. Det är fråga om en mycket skicklig serieskapare, och Epix ska ha tack för att de gett en svensk publik möjligheten att läsa honom.

Ett lämpligt tack vore till exempel att man tog och köpte och läste "Isvandraren". Det är den värd.

(Den utmärkta sajten Shazam.se har tidigare recenserat "Isvandraren" här. Jag håller i huvudsak med vad deras recensent säger, även om jag tycker han är litet väl hård mot slutnovellen.)


Och så ska jag bara tillägga att det suger att behålla den japanska läsordningen, i varje fall i sådana här litet mer texttunga manga. I och med att man läser texterna från vänster till höger men bilderna från höger till vänster får man en konflikt mellan läsordningarna som drar ner tempot i läsandet  – och inte på ett sätt som underlättar för läsaren att ta in berättelsen till fullo, utan på ett sätt som bara är irriterande.

tisdag 30 november 2010

Åter från seriebutiken...

Dagens skörd: Mer essentials! Mer essentials!

Classic X-Men nummer 3 innehåller f ö inget mindre än Neal Adams' teckningar tuschade av Tom Palmer, kanske den bäste tuscharen Adams haft. Jag har ännu aldrig sett ett tuschjobb av Palmer som inte varit oerhört professionellt och välgjort.

måndag 29 november 2010

Åter från seriebutiken...

Dagens skörd. Mixen ungefär av samma slag som i lördags, fast utan svenskt inslag och med en fackbok jag upphämtade på den förträffliga institutionen bibliotek.

Hoven Droven…

… är det fullständigt briljanta Östersundsbandet som skapat världens kanske bästa låt någonsin: "Slentbjenn". Jag hoppas kunna komplettera samlingarna med de skivor jag saknar till julen.

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En slentbjenn är f ö en björn som är så perfekt anpassad till livet på berget att benen på ena sidan är kortare än den andra. Blir du anfallen av släntbjörnen gäller det alltså att välja åt vilket håll du ska springa. Väljer du att springa längs höjdlinjen det håll han är anpassad för har du nämligen ingen chans. Då är det slut med dig.

Bandets sajt.

Mina t-shirts, del 14: Cerebus

"He doesn't love you. He just wants all your money."

En gång var "Cerebus" briljant. Välberättad, rolig, fantastisk replikföring… Och så fick Dave Sim nån slags knäpp och slog fast att "allt är kvinnornas fel!" – om och om och om igen i nummer efter nummer efter nummer. Ibland undrar jag om inte CERN kunde ha sparat en massa pengar på sina materia-antimateria-experiment genom att helt enkelt placera Sim i samma rum som någon av våra mer extrema feministiska serietecknare.

söndag 28 november 2010

Om den ekonomiska krisen

 Brad DeLong har en mycket, mycket läsvärd genomgång av den ekonomiska krisen och dess orsaker – och orsakerna till att den inte har blivit mött på ett sätt som kunde ha gjort den mycket mindre skadlig. Ett utdrag:

A fourth hypothesis is that Obama and his political advisors do not have a great deal of confidence in what their own economic advisors recommend because they see that the economics profession is badly split over a lot of crucial issues about how to generate a recovery. And it is certainly true that a great deal of the economics profession in America has behaved very badly indeed since the start of the financial crisis. They have helped to create a climate of ignorance, in which action to make things better requires that one start by rolling mammoth boulders uphill.

Here at Berkeley we are outraged at the Robert Lucases and Richard Posners claiming that Christina Romer must be corrupt for saying that the Recovery Act was likely to boost employment. Neither Lucas nor Posner has ever been able to elucidate any even half-plausible reason for why expansions in government spending would not boost demand. Both believe that expansionary monetary policy works because more money in people's pockets induces them to step up the pace of their spending. Why is a boost to the pace of the federal government’s spending supposed to any worse at this than anyone else’s? They have no answer because there is no answer.

Our reaction to Lucas and Posner is thus contempt and scorn.

We are annoyed at the Greg Mankiws saying that a tax-heavy Recovery Act would have been effective but the actual Recovery Act was not. Does he not know that the Recovery Act was 40 percent tax cuts? Does he not know that the multipliers he says he favors predict that the Recovery Act would been twice as effective at boosting employment as the multipliers the Obama administration used predict?

We are puzzled at the Niall Fergusons saying that there is nothing that ex- construction workers can do that is productive because they have no useful skills. We point out to him that employment held up absolutely fine for 18 months after the peak of the construction boom. As construction employment collapsed the workers shed from that industry had no problems finding other jobs, It is only after collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial crisis that employment crashes--that is a sign that what we have is not structural unemployment but deficient demand unemployment.

And we are horrified when Barack Obama goes off message too, saying that because the private sector is cutting back the government needs to cut back too--therefore, Obama said, he is calling for a three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending. (...)

Let me mention one last hypothesis--one that may get my economist union card revoked and get me transferred to a department of rhetoric, or perhaps cultural studies.

Friedrich Nietzsche talked about the losers, or about those who thought they were the losers. He discussed their tendency in various ways to transvalue their values--to say that what was thought to be bad was in fact good precisely because it was thought to be bad.

Three weeks ago I was talking to some activists from the California Tea Party. I was trying to explain the Keynesian perspective: Shouldn’t we keep public employment from falling," I said, "because right the government can borrow at such extraordinarily good terms, and if we keep our teachers at work then they educate our students and our students can earn more in the future--and if teachers have incomes they spend money and that employs more people in private sector?

And they said no.

They said: we have lost our jobs in the private sector. It is only fair for those who work in the government to run some risk of loosing their jobs as well. They are unionized. They have pensions. It is not fair that they should have jobs too. They need to lose their jobs as well.

Thus unemployment becomes something to be valued. The fact that government austerity will increase unemployment becomes a transvalued virtue of the policy(.)

Mina t-shirts, del 13: Captain America

Captain America blev en favorit när han skrevs av J. M. DeMatteis (tecknad av Mike Zeck och, om jag minns rätt, tuschad av Bob McLeod). Inte nog med att vi presenterades för Steve Rogers' homosexuelle barndomskamrat, vi fick också en fullkomligt briljant skildring av vad det innebär att vara En Äkta Hjälte:

Caps flickvän Bernadette har kidnappats av ett monster skapat av någon ond vetenskapsman för att locka till sig Cap så att monstret kan slå ihjäl honom. Men monstret är, såsom varande en laboratorieprodukt, en smula okunnig om hur den verkliga världen fungerar, och blir dessutom en smula charmad av den vackra och kloka Bernie. Just  när hon nästan övertalat monstret att släppa henne anländer dock en rasande Cap för att rädda henne – och får storstryk. Han har inte en chans mot monstret.

När monstret ska utdela nådastöten hoppar dock Bernie på honom för att skydda sin älskade, och den kognitiva dissonansen av att Bernie – som han kommit att tycka om – hatar honom för att han skadar Cap – vilket han skapats för att göra – gör monstret så förvirrad att han flyger därifrån för att fundera igenom sitt liv. Kvar blir Bernie med en medvetslös, blödande Captain America liggande på marken med sitt huvud i hennes knä.

Till slut vaknar Cap upp. Dimmigt kisar han upp mot Bernie och fäller Alla Tiders Hjältereplik:

"B-Bernie... Are you okay?"


Bilden på t-shirten är tecknad av John Byrne, länge Marvels främste tecknare och kanske även deras då främsta kreativa kraft – hans "Fantastic Four"-sejour var t ex klart imponerande – som gjorde en utmärkt "Captain America" tillsammans med alltid kompetente författaren Roger Stern och (återigen, om jag minns rätt) tuscharen Joe Rubinstein, vars "softa Neal Adams"-stil i mitt tycke passade Byrne perfekt.

lördag 27 november 2010

Åter från seriebutiken...

Dagens skörd:


Marvel Essentials är ett briljant sätt att få hem massor av serier utan att betala rövarpriser för samlarobjekt – och sådant som inte är samlarobjekt men dyrt för att det är gammalt. (Och många av de gamla Marvel-historierna är faktiskt inte särskilt bra, hur hädiskt det än må kännas att säga det, så jag vill inte gärna betala dyrt för dem.) 
En dag ska jag avsätta tid för att sätta mig ned och läsa igenom Captain Americas äventyr de senaste åren i ett sträck. 
Självklart ska man ha "Spirou" från början, och Modesty är en lika given klassiker. "Isvandraren" är en annan sorts manga än vi brukar matas med här i Sverige, så den ville jag pröva. 
Malin Billers senaste är en stark berättelse som jag misstänker kommer att konkurrera om Urhunden, "Cerebus" ska man så klart ha komplett även om Dave Sim förlorade något (kanske sin mentala balans) någonstans på vägen, och "Mini-Marvels" är både charmig och rolig.

Fortsättning följer på måndag.

Och när vi ändå är igång på det seriösa planet...

...kommer här en genomgång av en framträdande "klimatskeptikers" argument(ering) av professor John Abraham. Det är mer eller mindre en webbföreläsning med PowerPoint-slides, och den tar en dryg timme om man vill lyssna på hela.

Det här är, tycker jag, ett utmärkt sätt att använda internet pedagogiskt. (Jag skulle ha varit ännu gladare om professor Abraham också hade gjort en ren ljudfil som jag kunde laddat ner till iPoden och lyssnat på medan jag var ute och gick någonstans.)

För de MYCKET intresserade av ekonomisk politik

För er som inte tycker det är särskilt intressant med politik är det här nog inte en länk att följa. Men för er som vill ha en koncis genomgång av den intellektuella bakgrunden till hur världen hamnade i sin nuvarande ekonomiska kris kan jag bara rekommendera att ni läser hela Paul Krugmans blogginlägg.

 It’s possible to be both a conservative and a Keynesian; after all, Keynes himself described his work as “moderately conservative in its implications.” But in practice, conservatives have always tended to view the assertion that government has any useful role in the economy as the thin edge of a socialist wedge. When William Buckley wrote God and Man at Yale, one of his key complaints was that the Yale faculty taught – horrors! – Keynesian economics.

I’ve always considered monetarism to be, in effect, an attempt to assuage conservative political prejudices without denying macroeconomic realities. What Friedman was saying was, in effect, yes, we need policy to stabilize the economy – but we can make that policy technical and largely mechanical, we can cordon it off from everything else. Just tell the central bank to stabilize M2, and aside from that, let freedom ring!

When monetarism failed – fighting words, but you know, it really did — it was replaced by the cult of the independent central bank. Put a bunch of bankerly men in charge of the monetary base, insulate them from political pressure, and let them deal with the business cycle; meanwhile, everything else can be conducted on free-market principles.

And this worked for a while – roughly speaking from 1985 to 2007, the era of the Great Moderation. It worked in part because the political insulation of central banks also gave them more than a bit of intellectual insulation, too. If we’re living in a Dark Age of macroeconomics, central banks have been its monasteries, hoarding and studying the ancient texts lost to the rest of the world. Even as the real business cycle people took over the professional journals, to the point where it became very hard to publish models in which monetary policy, let alone fiscal policy, matters, the research departments of the Fed system continued to study counter-cyclical policy in a relatively realistic way.

But this, too, was unstable. For one thing, there was bound to be a shock, sooner or later, too big for the central bankers to handle without help from broader fiscal policy. Also, sooner or later the barbarians were going to go after the monasteries too; and as the current furor over quantitative easing shows, the invading hordes have arrived.

 Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company.

Mina t-shirts, del 12: Calle

Calle var en bayersk viltspårhund som blev mammas bästa vän när pappa dog, och när hon inte kunde ta hand om honom längre på grund av sjukdom tog jag över honom. Han fick några år till innan han fick någon slags tumör som paralyserade bakbenen.

Calle var god och glad och hade inte ett elakt ben i kroppen, men det gör honom förstås inte direkt unik i hundvärlden. Han kunde gott ha förtjänat några år till, men det gäller förstås väldigt många, både hundar och människor.

fredag 26 november 2010

Klassiska hörnet

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1. Det finns faktiskt ingen som helst ursäkt för att SVT, som ändå ska föreställas vara ett public service-företag, visar Victor Borge ungefär en gång per decennium men inte har några som helst betänkligheter inför att utsätta svensk allmänhet för "Hannah Montana" och "Elfte Timmen" flera gånger i veckan. Men det ska förstås vara den gamle Victor Borge, dvs från sådär sjuttiotalet och framåt, när han hade utvecklat sin torra scenpersonlighet till perfektion. Det han gjorde för amerikansk TV tidigare än så bär spår av att behöva pressa fram stora mängder av material även om kvaliteten blir lidande på kuppen.

Jag såg Borge göra sin "fonetiska interpunktion" i ett TV-program när jag var liten, och var hooked. (Pappa skrattade så han nästan grät, så då visste jag ju dessutom att det verkligen var roligt på riktigt, även sedan man blivit vuxen.). Nästa gång jag såg Borge på svensk TV var över 30 år senare, i ett danskt program som jag tror sändes i svensk TV med anledning av att Borge gått och dött. Det är ganska lång tid att vänta på fix nummer två.


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2. Jag har alltid gillat genreblandingar (när de är snyggt gjorda, förstås, och inte blandar genrer jag avskyr hett och djupt). Run DMC vs Aerosmith, Ekseption, Dollie De Luxes "Satisfaction"-variant (och där får uttrycket "snyggt gjorda" förstås en helt ny mening), KLF:s "Justified and Ancient" med Tammy Wynette... Och så Bach Goes to Town, som tydligen skrevs av en lustig herre vid namn Alec Templeton, som kunde konsten att blanda genrer. Benny Goodmans version av den är som en bal på slottet (dvs alldeles underbar).


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3. Brevet från kolonien. Ni har väl hört Ponchiellis "Danza delle Ore" gömma sig bakom Cornelis' gitarrspel? Om inte har ni den här i en tydligare variant. Allan Shermans stund i rampljuset blev dock relativt kort, och om jag förstått saken rätt blev hans liv inte direkt toppen efter det – och inte så väldigt långt heller. Han blev inte ens femtio.

torsdag 25 november 2010

How NOT to be a leader

 George Packer recenserar en nyutkommen bok:



The structure of “Decision Points,” with each chapter centered on a key issue—stem-cell research, interrogation and wiretapping, the invasion of Iraq, the fight against AIDS in Africa, the surge, the “freedom agenda,” the financial crisis—reveals the essential qualities of the Decider. There are hardly any decision points at all. The path to each decision is so short and irresistible, more like an electric pulse than like a weighing of options, that the reader is hard-pressed to explain what happened. Suddenly, it’s over, and there’s no looking back. The decision to go to war “was an accretion,” Richard Haass, the director of policy-planning at the State Department until the invasion of Iraq, told me. “A decision was not made—a decision happened, and you can’t say when or how.” (...)

Here is another feature of the non-decision: once his own belief became known to him, Bush immediately caricatured opposing views and impugned the motives of those who held them. If there was an honest and legitimate argument on the other side, then the President would have to defend his non-decision, taking it out of the redoubt of personal belief and into the messy empirical realm of contingency and uncertainty. So critics of his stem-cell ban are dismissed as scientists eager for more government cash, or advocacy groups looking to “raise large amounts of money,” or Democrats who saw “a political winner.”

On the policy of torturing captured Al Qaeda suspects, Bush writes that he refused to approve two techniques requested by the Central Intelligence Agency but gave the O.K. to waterboarding. George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, asked permission to use waterboarding on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational mastermind behind September 11th. “I thought about my meeting with Danny Pearl’s widow, who was pregnant with his son when he was murdered,” Bush writes. (Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, was reportedly beheaded by K.S.M.) “I thought about the 2,973 people stolen from their families by al Qaeda on 9/11. And I thought about my duty to protect the country from another act of terror. ‘Damn right,’ I said.” By Bush’s own account, revenge was among his chief motives in sanctioning torture. “I had asked the most senior legal officers in the U.S. government to review the interrogation methods, and they had assured me they did not constitute torture.” The President had been told what he wanted to hear by loyal subordinates, but, his memoirs make clear, he did not consider the moral and practical consequences of authorizing what most people who were not senior legal officers in the Bush Administration would describe as torture. One crucial consequence—the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib—receives a single page (most of which is about Bush’s reasons for not firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld).


Bush once told an elementary-school class in Crawford, Texas, “Is it hard to make decisions as president? Not really. If you know what you believe, decisions come pretty easy. If you’re one of these types of people that are always trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing, decision making can be difficult. But I find that I know who I am. I know what I believe in.” For Bush, making decisions is an identity question: Who am I? The answer turns Presidential decisions into foregone conclusions: I am someone who believes in the dignity of life, I am the protector of the American people, I am a loyal boss, I am a good man who cares about other people, I am the calcium in the backbone. This sense of conviction made Bush a better candidate than the two Democrats he was fortunate to have as opponents in his Presidential campaigns. But real decisions, which demand the weighing of compelling contrary arguments and often present a choice between bad options, were psychologically intolerable to the Decider. They confused the identity question.

 The New Yorker © 2010 Condé Nast Digital.