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    Tomas Espedal på Blå

    Litt seint å si fra, kanskje, men jeg skal ha en samtale med Tomas Espedal på Blå i kveld. Jeg skriver inn programteksten under, men sagt mer personlig, så er Tomas Espedal etter min mening en forfatter som er minst like flink til å snakke som han er til å skrive. Han er et utrolig morsomt intervjuobjekt, full av sterke formuleringer og gode anekdoter. Hans siste tre bøker, og særlig og Dagbok er utrolig gode. Han driver med morsomme sjangerblandinger, og et interessant spill med sin egen person i fiksjonen.

    Og det blir Norgespremiere: Espedal skal lese høyt en helt ny tekst som han ikke har lest høyt før. Det blir spennende.

    Kort sagt unner jeg flest mulig å få dette med seg. Det blir også den siste kvelden jeg skal lede på Blå dette semesteret.
    Tomas Espedal er en av de mest særegne forfatterne i Norge. Han har utmerket seg med en rekke bøker i sjangerlandskapet mellom roman, selvbiografi og dikt, særlig trilogien Biografi, Dagbok og Brev. Hans siste bok, Gå, eller kunsten å leve et vilt og poetisk liv ble nominert til Nordisk råds litteraturpris. Espedal kommer til Blå for å snakke om sitt forfatterskap.

    (Intervjuer: Martin Grüner Larsen)

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    "And blame sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid git"

    I just finished watching Elizabeth: The Golden Age. What a load of revisionist poppycock! There's a point where fiction starts being so revisionist it turns from fiction into lying, and this movie is way, way, over the line. So why is this a bad movie?

    For starters, it's completely over the top. While you could probably watch it just for the costumes, or Cate Blanchett, you should keep the sound muted, because the soundtrack is the most pompous thing I've heard since The Rock.

    But that's not my concern. The real problem is that it's historical revisionism from start to finish. Elizabeth I as a tolerant free-thinker? Being a Catholic was a crime in Elizabethan England. Catholic priests were regularly drawn and quartered. The reason we're never going to find out if Shakespeare was Catholic or not is because if he was, he would have had to keep it a secret. John Dowland left England because he was suspected of possibly maybe being a little bit Catholic.

    Spanish people and catholics are consistently portrayed as plotting, wicked men who make war on England just for the heck of it. King Philip of Spain is a neurotic psychopath, while Elizabeth holds bold speeches defending freedom of speech and thought. Let me make the symbolism clear: Catholicism = Islam. Elizabeth stands for good, Anglo-Saxon virtues and the swarthy religious fanatics are making an armada. Goodness knows the English weren't fanatics at all.

    There's this scene where Liz in full plate armour, astride a horse and her red hair (which, btw, was very short just a few scenes ago) flowing holds a passionate speech to her army, which is more than a little reminiscent of the speech scene in Braveheart, and popular images of Joan of Arc. I thought to myself "that can't possibly be true" and sure enough, the historical record indicates that she wore a white dress and was on foot. Oh, and rode side-saddle when she did ride.


    (Funny, I had only just written a short text about The White Album (which has a song containing the title of this post) when Sir Walter Raleigh comes strolling into my TV set.)

    But then again, at least we're not extinct.


    “In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States,” Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured American penitentiaries in 1831, wrote in “Democracy in America.”

    No more.
    One of the statistics which I have been repeating the most frequently ever since I learned it doing volunteer work for Amnesty in 1998 is gone over in a big article in the NY Times: America imprisons more people than any other country on Earth. It does so any way you slice it: per capita, sum total, everything. 751 people are in prison per 100.000 in the United States. This was the fact that finally convinced me that the United States was a large-scale failed nation with a really good PR agent. It is not a country which should be giving us advice. If a country needs to imprison more people than any other country in order to function, it does not function.

    Despite this massive, ongoing scandal - ongoing these past 20 years now, since the draconian and misguided drug crackdown that started in the 1980s - this seems to be a hugely underreported fact in US media, or really any media at all. So I'm happy that the NY Times has been publishing a series of stories about the US prison system, the first one of which is in the link above.

    I'm actually a little skeptical of the fact that the Times even quotes people like Attorney General Mukasey in the article.
    Many American prosecutors, on the other hand, say that locking up people involved in the drug trade is imperative, as it helps thwart demand for illegal drugs and drives down other kinds of crime. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, for instance, has fought hard to prevent the early release of people in federal prison on crack cocaine offenses, saying that many of them “are among the most serious and violent offenders.”
    Which would be cool, if it were true. Simple, easy, understandable. But it just isn't true. While the number of convictions of drug users keeps rising, availability of drugs in the US has remained more or less completely static over the course of the past decade. Demand changes according to the rest of the economy, not the availability.

    So why do they ask Mukasey? Only because he is powerful. He is not an authority on the topic, and doesn't belong in the coverage.



    Take 27 minutes and 41 seconds out of your day to hear this incredible interview with Philippe Sands. Sands, a barrister, has written a book on the chain of command leading up to the torture that happened at Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib, and at CIA "black site" prisons.

    What he makes extraordinarily clear is a direct link from the offices of President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Sec.Def. Donald Rumsfeld, through papers signed by the men themselves and through the lawyers at their offices; to breaches of the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention of torture, which have already been admitted: torture techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, dogs, etc.

    Another thing he makes extraordinarily clear is that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their lawyers, are not just morally responsible, but criminally culpable. That is to say: they have committed war crimes. Now, I didn't exactly need convincing of this, but what Sands makes clear is that they are also proveably, legally, convictably responsible. You should hear the interview, and probably read the book, too. The interview binds up a lot of little facts and papers that have been flying around for years into a coherent narrative that easily leads to a natural conclusion. It all ends in Nüremberg.


    Today, I also happened to find this delightful transcript over at Daily Kos, where former Attorney General and grand inquisitor in charge of torture, John Ashcroft, gets asked some serious questions by students at a campus meeting. I find this wonderfully reminiscent of the last scene in A Few Good Men. YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

    Let's hear Ashcroft actually, for real, arguing that the conviction of Japanese torturers for waterboarding is not the same as Americans waterboarding. Roll tape:
    ME: (firmly) Mr. Ashcroft, please answer the question.
    ASHCROFT: (shouting) Read it back!
    ME: "The victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach."
    ASHCROFT: (shouting) You hear that? You hear it? "Forced!" If you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring...does this college have an anatomy class? If you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring...
    ME: (firmly and loudly) Mr. Ashcroft, do you believe that Yukio Asano's sentence was unjust? Answer the question. (pause)
    ASHCROFT: (more restrained) It's not a fair question; there's no comparison. Next question! (loud chorus of boos from the audience)
    Dday over at Hullabaloo has a nice analysis of the blow-by-blow in the transcript. It ends in Nüremberg, too. That's where it's all going. If there is any justice left in the world, that's where the Bush administration is going.

    The Lord's Prayer in L337. One of those things that you stumble on and instantly realise it was inevitable that somebody somewhere had done at some point, and then you go "oh, there it is". Which isn't to say it isn't hysterically funny:

    0ǔr $¥$@dM!n, \/\/|-|0 ©|-|!££$ !n |-|34\/3|\|
    (Our sysadmin, who chills in Heaven)


    I particularly like the ending:

    "For thine is the network, and the rm -rf /, and all our base are belong to you, forever and ever."



    Flamme forlag har virkelig skjønt dette med å lage hjemmeside. Dynamisk innhold! Enkelt layout! Humor! Snart gir de vel ut bøker også.

    Jeg registrerer i øvrig at de har gjort et godt personalvalg når det gjelder klage/inkasso-avdelingen.

    The farmer in the dell
    The farmer in the dell
    Hi-ho, the derry-o
    The farmer in the dell


    "The Queen's own English, base knave, dost thou speak it?"


    Mannen på holdeplassen II

    Her er dagens oppfølgingssak om kjønnspolitisk nylesning av Alf Prøysen. Jeg intervjuet litteraturviter på NTNU, Britt Andersen, om hennes gjennomgang av Prøysens tekster.

    Update: Nå med lenke. (Dagens pris for Mest Årvåkne Kommentator går til Bharfot!)

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    I'm having one of those "There is so Much AWESOME STUFF Being Made in the World" – moments

    The reason: 3 visual candy sites I have found in rapid succesion today.

    1. ffffound!
    Which, apart from having a great name, basically consists of a bunch of people trawling the internet and finding awesome graphics and collecting them on their site. Sort of like the Shädy Äcres image editorial policy, but done by more people and without the text. And they probably smell better, too.

    The result is fantastic. A collection of photographs, typography, graphic design, logos, illustrations, etc., etc. And it never stops being interesting. It doesn't stop dropping my jaw. If you only follow one of these links, follow this one.

    2. 'Skine Art is a site which contains pages from visual artist's moleskine sketchbooks. Lots of really awesome use of the book's layout.

    3. The photographic philosophy of Ryan McGinley (which I ffffound via Ffffound (oh, and probably NSFW depending on where you W)) seems to mostly consist of telling people to get naked and do stuff (though they seem mostly to not be doing what most people would imagine you were talking about if you asked them to get naked and do stuff). The results are captivating and annoyingly youthful and energetic.

    The freakiest picture in there is undoubtedly the one of a naked man with his head more or less in a bear's armpit. The bear is in motion, the man seems to stand completely still, while the bear appears to lean on him. C-r-r-eepy.

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    Bitch PhD gets the (. . .) Funniest-in-a-Completely-Awful-Way Blog Post of the Day-Award.


    Mannen på holdeplassen

    I går intervjuet jeg danseren Terje Tjøme Mossige fra danseteaterduoen TOYBOYS ("i ett ord. Bare store bokstaver"). De setter opp en danseforestilling for tiden som heter "The Man at the Tram Stop", som baserer seg på en tekst av Alf Prøysen. Etter at Prøysens seksuelle tilbøyeligheter ble kjent i avisdebatten i 2004 er det plutselig dukket opp noen nye tolkningsmuligheter for noen av tekstene hans. Ta for eksempel nettopp den teksten de baserer sin forestilling på (ti poeng hvis du finner alle de skjulte metaforene):

    Mannen på holdeplassen

    Jeg kom fra kontoret og jeg var så trett
    Du stod der på hjørnet så vever og lett
    Jeg skulle ha trikk nummer en

    Da kikket du på meg og du var så pen
    Jeg sank i et hav og jeg steg mot en himmel
    Og himlen var skyfri og ren
    Og hverdagens plikter ble borte med vinden
    Og dermed gikk trikk nummer en

    Jeg stod med en mappe så diger som så
    Med hjemmearbeide på overtid nå
    Jeg måtte ta trikk nummer to

    Da smilte du mot meg og kanskje du lo
    Jeg sank i et hav og jeg steg mot en himmel
    Og som i en rus jeg forsto
    At jeg hadde latt mange gleder gå fra meeg
    Og dermed gikk trikk nummer to

    Jeg skjønte at dette jeg tenkte var galt
    Så snøt jeg meg litt før jeg tenkte normalt
    Og hoppet på trikk nummer tre

    Og så gjennom ruten du sluttet å le
    Jeg fant ikke hav og jeg fant ingen himmel
    Men hverdagens melankoli
    Og du, som jeg angrer, I brødre i nøden:
    La trikk nummer tre gå forbi!

    -- Alf Prøysen


    "My gift to you is a sweater made entirely from my own navel lint"

    In a somewhat too-obvious tip of the hat to Piero Manzomi's Merda d'artista, 30g, Mikkel is auctioning off his navel lint over at Shädy Äcres. Susanne says it is merely a matter of time before someone calls the Shädy bunch conceptual artists. It was indeed! This is conceptual art at the highest level. In a retro-ironic flourish, Mikkel has taken the readymade into the age of eBay while continuing the open rhizomatic structure of anti-art in the new network of the "web". This (re)opens new possibilities for questioning the conceptual art form within the framework of the digital. Get it while it lasts!

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    Ping Pong

    Dette er et intervju jeg gjorde med installasjonskunstneren Huang Yong Ping forleden dag. Det sto på trykk i Klassekampen i går. Ping er kunstneren bak utstillingen "Ping Pong" som kan sees på Astrup Fearnley museet nå.

    Intervjuet var vanskelig å utføre, fordi vi snakket gjennom en tolk (Ping snakker kun kinesisk og litt fransk, jeg snakker kun engelsk og litt fransk). Tidsforskyvningen gjorde det vanskelig å følge opp spørsmål. Ping, en anerkjent og selverklært konseptkunstner, kommenterer i øvrig også Grøtvedt-debatten i intervjuet.

    Når kommunikasjonen går så langsomt, er det kanskje bedre å la kunsten tale for seg. Pings verk er interessante og ikke minst store. Mens jeg researchet intervjuet skjønte jeg at jeg hadde sett et verk av Ping for mange år siden. Det var på Biennalen i Venezia i 1999. Mine foreldre og jeg hadde kjørt gjennom halve Europa for å gå på biennalen (strengt tatt hadde jeg vel mest kjørt gjennom halve Europa for å kjøre gjennom halve Europa, men det var greit å ha en unnskyldning).

    Venezia om sommeren er en vakker by. Dessverre er den også kvelende varm og full av overvektige tyske turister ved navn Hansi som tar bilder med sine kompaktkameraer, og deres irriterende barn som søler soft-is over alt. Det er ikke den beste stemningen for å se kunst, særlig når man er 18 år gammel. Det meste av det vi så var også drepende uinteressant for meg. Den danske (eller var det den norske?) pavillionen var fylt av bil-lyder, racerbildekk, lukten av brent gummi og grillkjøtt. Gjenskape den fenomenologiske bla bla drømmen om et bedre liv i tilskuerens bla bla bla. Sanseinntrykkene i det demokratiske felleskapet ved bla bla. representasjoner av livet, her sett gjennom det epistemologiske feltets store hastigheter representert ved bilen som readymadeobjekt og bla bla bla Booooooring.

    Min far tilbrakte det meste av tiden med å le av kuratorspråket i programmet (senere skrev han en morsom artikkel, "Theme Park ArtWorld", som handlet om det).1

    Men et par verk klarte å trenge igjennom varmen. Det første slike vi kom til var Huang Yong Pings "One Man, Nine Animals". Du kan se bilder av den her og her (i begge tilfeller komplett med milde eksempler av ArtCrap™ (se fotnote 1, under)). Det består av en liten menneskefigur plassert på en trevogn (en kinesisk "compass chariot") som peker mot himmelen og såvidt jeg tolket det ler hemningsløst.

    Langs figurens fingerpekende akse, høyt over bakken, står en rekke skulpturer, i bronse, om jeg husker riktig, og montert på tresøyler. Skulpturene er av kinesiske fabeldyr (og representerer visstnok naturkatastrofer og så videre). De ser ut som om de har tenkt seg å rive den lille mannen i fillebiter. Strømmen av fabeldyr fortsetter inn over taket til den franske paviljongen (Ping er for tiden fransk statsborger) og forsvinner. Fra innsiden av paviljongen, der de siste søylene står plantet, kan man se de siste dyrene over glasstaket.

    Jeg synes det var et fantastisk verk. Jeg elsket det storslagne, mytologiske i den, og jeg elsket ansiktsuttrykket på den lille mannen, som står og ler rått av den kommende katastrofen. Jeg likte hans holdning.

    Andre verk jeg husker spesielt var en hel paviljong som var nesten tom, bortsett fra at den var dekket i en utrolig tett tåke. Et annet besto av et enormt oppheng av døde menneskers møbler med stramme skinn, som man skulle tromme på, som japanske rituelle trommer.

    1. Forresten så har vi nå takket være familien Trohaug etablert at det offisielle navnet på språket kunstnere og kuratorer bruker når de skal dekke over noe dårlig er "ArtCrap™".


    Og forresten så er dette et intervju jeg gjorde med kunstner og kunsthistoriker Paul Grøtvedt.

    Og dette er en sak som jeg ikke har skrevet, men som ikke desto mindre sikkert er interessant for noen lesere. Claus Beck-Nielsen kritiseres av folk på Den Nasjonale Scene for å ha skrevet inn uheldige fiktive elementer i sin siste reportasje fra Afghanistan.

    "... and in the darkness bind them"

    When you title your book Penetrating Wagner's Ring, I don't know what, but you're asking for something. As it happens, "you" were unlucky enough to get these evil genius Amazon reviewers. I don't know how they manage to stay so subtle:

    Before reading this book, the thought of penetrating Wagner's "Ring" left me cold. Why would I go near Wagner's musty old "Ring", I thought, when there were so many younger, more supple pieces available to me? Surely Wagner's "Ring" would seem worn and battered from nearly two centuries of over-use?

    How wrong I was! What this book shows, and what many other reviewers have clearly experienced, is that Wagner's "Ring", despite its great age, is still full of life, freshness and verve, and that there are still great rewards to be had from treading this well-trodden path. Full of insightful comments from the many men and women who have played in Wagner's "Ring", often dressed as Valkyries, this book is an invaluable guide to extracting pleasure from Wagner's much-abused piece.
    I know, it's childish. But goodness knows there's too much Heidegger on this blog already.

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    I wonder if you will find this wonderful dadaist videogame quite as delightful as I do: Burn the rope!

    Does anyone else get flashbacks to Mega Man when the boss appears? Whoa, the 90s, dude. 8-bit days of yore.

    When you've finished the game, you might want to have a look at the walkthrough.

    The official Charlton Heston postmodern joke.

    (courtesy of)

    9 out of 10 historians on George W. Bush: "Worst. President. Ever."

    So for the record, if the shit really hits the fan, those 9 out of 10 historians are what jinxed us.

    [Update: whoops. I read that wrong. That should be 49 out of 50 historians.]

    It's all Sanskrit to me

    I read the other day that the French supposedly say "it's all Chinese to me" when they want to say that something is incomprehensible. The English version of the saying is "It's all Greek to me."

    I started thinking that maybe this meant that the movement in the saying meant that orientalism was moving west, ever since the US became the new empire. As it turns out, extensive philological research into the dusty tomes of a quick Google/Wikipedia reveals that it came a little earlier than the US empire. Or, indeed, the US itself:

    but those that understood him smiled at one another and
    shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me
    (William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, 1599)

    Also, the saying probably has latin roots. Those crazy Romans.

    Anyway, I was thinking about this because there's more on orientalism in the paper tomorrow. Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

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    Zoom, Wide-angle

    A beautiful video of cities at night seen from space. The astronauts on the ISS have macgyvered a machine that compensates for their orbital motion, and are now able to take focused photographs of cities at night. The resulting video is very beautiful and does that thing I love where your perspective on your own situation suddenly zips out three degrees of magnitude.

    It's quite a contrast to the very-close-up weekend out in the wilderness around Hemsedal, which was only interrupted by sudden, huge, stunning vistas of the surrounding territories and weather systems forming 200 kilometers away. Decidedly rural, though. Skiing, eating, drinking, snow-bathing, talking, talking, talking: delightful. Photographs to follow.


    Her er saken min i dagens avis. Det er en sak om Nasjonalmuseet, der jeg blant annet intervjuer Trond Giske. Den var veldig interessant å skrive, og er nok den mest kompliserte saken jeg har hatt så langt, iallefall.

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    So, me interviewing the Norwegian minister of Culture and Church Affairs, Trond Giske, was b-roll on the Norwegian state channel evening news. He is really tall in real life. I'm 186 cm and he's at least half a head taller than me. Glad I wore my nice, stripey sweater, at least.

    Oh, and that thing about the camera adding ten pounds? Totally true. It also adds an 8-day stubble and a bad posture.

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    This fantastic illustration I found over at Boing Boing shows tries to answer that age-old question: what would Watchmen look like if it were drawn by Charles Schulz?

    If you've ever read Watchmen and Peanuts, this should be deliriously funny. The version of Roschach is particularly good.