The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'norway'
Scandinavia And The World is a web comic drawn, in anime fan art fashion, by a Danish illustrator, and exploring Scandinavian culture and stereotypes (and, occasionally, the rest of the world). In it, Denmark is never without a beer bottle (the Danes, you see, don't have the punitively high alcohol taxes and state liquour monopolies that are the norm in the Nordic world), Norway is always carrying a fish, Sweden may or may not be gay and Iceland is a bit nuts; with cameo appearances by America (a loud, not-too-bright bigot and his sister, Paris Hilton) and England (who wears a monocle and speaks like a P.G. Wodehouse character and/or Hollywood villain). There are comic strips on topics ranging from mutual stereotypes of the other Scandinavian countries and the differences in the sound of their languages to the gloomy nature of Nordic cinema and the varieties of putrefied fish consumed in the Nordic countries. Well, when it isn't veering off into fits of anime-otaku sexual innuendo.
(via David Gerard)
My visit to Norway (which I had booked some weeks in advance), of course, was one week after the massacre in Oslo. As such, one of the sculptures in the centre of town, a flat granite slab, had become a memorial, and was covered with flowers and notes. Other than that, the mood didn't seem muted, shocked or apprehensive. A poster elsewhere advertised an event happening on the island of Utøya that weekend; I was told that this has not been cancelled, the island not been turned into a Norwegian Ground Zero, a cursed ground belonging forever to infamy. The Norwegian people, it seems, are not ones to let evil triumph, or even to let evil change their lives.
A short distance from the centre of Bergen is the Fantoft Stave Church, a wooden church built in the 13th century, and incorporating much traditional Viking imagery into its decor. (The overall effect is eerie; from some angles, it looks almost like a Japanese shrine, only austerely monochromatic.) Or rather an exact replica of the original church, which became famous for having been burned down by a Satanist connected with Norway's infamous Black Metal scene in 1992. The church was rebuilt, pretty much exactly as it was, with no acknowledgement of its misfortune save for a security camera and chain-link fence (and, of course, black-metal graffiti faintly scratched into an observation platform outside the fence).
It's interesting to think about how much of the interest in the church comes from its recent history. While the church does attract interest from those interested in mediæval ecclesiastical architecture or Norwegian traditions (it's not used for regular church services, though sometimes weddings are held there), it has also become a symbol of Black Metal taken to spectacular extremes. (A while ago, an artisan in Bergen made candles shaped like stave churches, in a limited edition of 666.) Meanwhile, many visitors to Bergen take the tram to Fantoft to see the church; it's debatable how many of those would have gone had it not been immortalised by its earlier destruction and resurrection (somewhat of a recurring motif, it could be argued). So, on one hand, the Satanist who torched it scored somewhat of an own goal in his quest to obliterate Norway's Christian heritage; on the other hand, a large part of the church's new-found fame is tied in with the fiery excesses of rock'n'roll gone malignant.
For what it's worth, I have posted photos from Bergen here.
While the mass murder of teenage Labour Party supporters in Norway has horrified the world, the killer has not been entirely without supporters. In Italy, one of Silvio Berlusconi's former ministers has defended his ideas as being "in the defence of western civilisation". Meanwhile in the US, obnoxious cretin Glenn Beck has kept true to form, comparing the Labour Party youth camp to the Hitler Youth.
Recently, a right-wing extremist massacred close to 100 people in Norway, first setting a remotely detonated car bomb near government offices in Oslo. Then, as police combed through the wreckage, he made his way to the nearby island of Utøya, where the Labour Party's youth wing were having a camp, attired in a police uniform. For an hour or two, he roamed the island, gunning down teenagers as if in a video game, only surrendering when the police arrived.
This post is not so much about the events as they happened (there is no point in picking over the gruesome details of an atrocity), nor about the murderer's political beliefs and agenda (which should be regarded with the contempt they deserve, and not dignified with a place in the arena of debate), but rather about the media response; in particular, the immediate assumption, and wild speculation, that the massacre was the work of Islamic terrorist groups. From the first reports of the explosion, there was an immediate flurry of speculation: why are the Muslims attacking Norway (is it support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process? reprinting of Danish newspaper cartoons? Or just because nobody expects an attack on Norway?) Even when reports came in of a gunman attacking a Labour Party camp, the media didn't twig to the fact that, from the point of view of al-Qaeda-style jihadists, restricting one's attacks to one political faction of infidels rather than going for maximum carnage made little sense, and that it looked more like the motive of some kind of neo-Nazi or far-right group.
The Murdoch empire, bloodied but unbowed by its recent lapse of control over Britain's (and possibly America's) political establishment, led the charge, not unlike the corpse of El Cid lashed to his horse. The Sun quickly rushed out a front page blaming al-Qaeda, though then hurriedly pulped it when the facts came in. Not to be outdone, on the other side of the Atlantic where they do things differently, Fox News played true to character, announcing that the massacre was the first incident of non-Islamic terrorism since 1995. Terrorism, you see, is a pathology peculiar to the foul Mohammedans, or at least to threatening-looking brown-skinned people who eat funny-smelling food.
Meanwhile, as the details of the murderer's beliefs emerged, so did an entirely different picture. Rather than the work of the Islamic other, the atrocity was the result of a pathological reaction against the fear of the other. The murderer turned out to be a right-wing psychopath, who set out to strike at the "cultural Marxists" (a term used by the far right to apply to anything they find disagreeable, from feminism to bad posture). He styled himself, presumably for purposes of expediency, as a Christian Fundamentalist (though claimed in his manifesto the particularly Randian view that religion is a crutch for the weak) and cultivated ties with contemporary far-right groups such as the English Defence League and the US Tea Party, as well as other anti-Muslim hate groups. (Ironically enough, he also expressed staunchly pro-Israeli opinions; I say ironically, because chances are, had he been born ten years earlier, he'd probably have been more likely to have been fire-bombing synagogues than supporting a Jewish anything. After all, the position occupied by the Muslim in the demonology of the European/American far right was, well within living memory, occupied by the Jew. In reality, of course, the Other is a McGuffin; it doesn't matter what name they go by or whether anyone has met one, as long as there is something sufficiently different to hate and fear.) Incidentally, his manifesto approvingly quoted Tory bully-boy humorist Jeremy Clarkson; make of that what you will.
Meanwhile, here is Glenn Greenwald's examination of the "terrorists-are-Muslims" subtext in news reports:
That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly. When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances. The U.S. and its allies can, by definition, never commit Terrorism even when it is beyond question that the purpose of their violence is to terrorize civilian populations into submission. Conversely, Muslims who attack purely military targets -- even if the target is an invading army in their own countries -- are, by definition, Terrorists. That is why, as NYU's Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language. Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.And here is Charlie Brooker's take; somewhat more solemn than his usual column, though no less incisive.
Norway may now be paying the price for granting the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident (or enemy of the people, if you prefer) Liu Xiaobo; first an invitation for Norway's Eurovision-winning singer Alexander Rybak was withdrawn, and then, Norway's entrant in the Miss World beauty contest, held on Hainan Island, failed to place among the top five finalists, despite having been tipped as the odds-on favourite to win.
The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported the opera's composer Thomas Stanghelle said the Chinese claimed it "wasn't possible" for them to co-operate with Norway or Norwegian artists at present. He said the reason given for the cancellation was that China wants to punish Norway over the awarding of the Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo."
Pitchfork has a piece looking at government support for musicians around the world, in particular the Nordic countries (where governments plough a lot of money into supporting up-and-coming acts as a matter of principle; consequently, Sweden is the third biggest exporter of popular music and Norway, Denmark and Iceland punch well above their weight), Canada and the UK (Canada follows a vaguely Scandinavian line, more out of fear of becoming an American cultural colony than deep social-democratic principles; the UK still has some vestiges of the pre-Thatcherite arcadia—White Town's government grant-funded first single was mentioned—though apparently the golden age has been sacrificed to Blatcherite mercantilism, with art schools being more efficient assembly lines for producing employable human resources than the legendary hothouses of freeform creativity they were when Jarvis was flirting with Greek heiresses), and the US (where musicians struggle to get health care—something Obama's bill won't help much with—though, at least, they can console themselves that they're not in Iran or somewhere).
In Oslo, Norway, some concerned citizen has taken it upon themselves to cover up indecently unclothed statues:
With the exception of one lone figure, every scrap of nipple, crotch or posterior was covered with black strips of paper, no matter the size nor position of the statue. The unknown assailant left an explanatory note behind: "There is too much nudity in newspapers and magazines, so here on the bridge the limit has been reached!"
(via Boing Boing)
Norway could soon see a renaissance of striptease, after the Norwegian High Court ruled that striptease is an art form, and thus exempt from Norway's 25% VAT.
It was not clear whether the three judges had conducted field research before reaching their verdict. Certainly they made a clear distinction between "banal and vulgar" striptease--in which there is physical contact between dancers and the audience -- and artistic dance.
The question of the artistic value of striptease has been raging since the late 19th century. The first professional stripper was a Parisian, Yvette, who in 1894 stood on a music hall stage and pretended to undress for bed. The artistic content came in the act of undressing rather than in the nudity. which was often brief and incomplete. American burlesque theatres borrowed striptease acts from the French. The most daring showed Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils--complete with a papier-mâché version of John the Baptist's head -- as if to underline that striptease had respectable roots.
A Norwegian woman was pleasantly surprised when she turned a kitchen tap on and beer came out. Because of high Scandinavian alcohol taxes, beer is prohibitively expensive in Norway, which must have made her surprise even more pleasant. Meanwhile, in the bar two floors below, the beer taps only issued water; it's not recorded how the bar patrons reacted to this. The mixup was due to a worker getting two pipes the wrong way around.
What do Norwegian Black Metal and American Neo-Conservatism have in common? See here.
The similarities dont stop there. Whereas Vikernes and other Black Metalists saw heathen Norway in a life-or-death struggle for existence with the Semitic tribes Judeo-Christianity, Perle and Frum see Judeo-Christian America under threat from Islam. And both have the same solution: War, dude!
To be fair, Vikernes and another Black Metalist murderer, Hendrik Mobus, come off as far more interesting, intellectual and complex with their second-rate Nietzschean ideas mixed up with D&D mythology, whereas Perle and Frums war manifesto is surprisingly dull and sparse. Indeed, on each page the words are spaced so far apart you could drive a fertilizer-packed white van between each line. I read it in one sitting and came away with only one memorable line, in which they disparagingly called Belgium "Frances pilot fish." On the other hand, Perle and Frum have used their influence over Bush to rack up a far, far higher corpse-count than the hapless Norwegian dirtheads, so they more than make up for their lack of aesthetic flair or stylized corpse paint with genuine blood on their hands.
Norwegian prosecutors drop appeal against Jon Johansen, creator of the DVD decryption library DeCSS; thus, unauthorised decryption of DVDs is perfectly legal in Norway, at least until they pass their WTO-mandated copyright-expansion law. Meanwhile, Jon isn't resting on his laurels, and has released code for stripping DRM from iTunes files.
Norwegian Black Metal legend Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes, almost a decade into a 21-year prison term for murder and arson, was arrested driving a stolen car. The former Burzum frontman stole the car at gunpoint whilst on day leave from his minimum-security prison, and drove towards Oslo. It is not clear what he planned to accomplish.
Norwegian Black Metal musician breaks into church, decapitates corpse; presumably just to remind the world that Norwegian Black Metal isn't dead. He then took the head to a party to show off.
Irony is dead, again: A Norwegian parliamentarian has nominated Bush and Blair for the Nobel Peace Prize, for invading and winning the war in Iraq.
The Norwegian black metal scene claims another casualty: Concertgoer hit by flying sheep's head at Mayhem show. The dead sheep in question was being dismembered on stage as part of the show, when the head flew off the lead singer's knife and hit 25-year-old Per Kristian Hagen, fracturing his skull.
"My relationship to sheep is a bit ambivalent now. I like them, but not when they come flying through the air," Hagen told The Associated Press Monday from his hospital room. He is expected to recover.
Mayhem member Rune Eriksen, whose stage name is Blasphemer, said the incident was unfortunate. "The whole thing was an accident, but maybe it would be an idea for another show," he said.
Eriksen offered Hagen a free ticket to the next Mayhem gig in compensation; this doesn't seem to be good enough for Hagen, who is suing the band for assault and battery. (via bOING bOING)
I had a dream this morning just prior to waking. In it, I ordered a CD single/EP from a semi-obscure independent band from somewhere around Norway or Iceland. (Their name, which escapes me, started with 'C' and they were of an atmospheric/post-rock/shoegazer style. Their artwork used colourised photographs/textures in vivid oranges and blues, with neat typography overlaid.) The CD came with a mail-order catalogue; in it there were various albums/EPs they had out and T-shirts, as well as a new single named "Lily's Song" or something similar. There was also an album of that title, due to come out in 2009, so it must have been a preview. A page of their catalogue also offered a single from The Cure (titled "regret"), for some reason. (Perhaps this dream took place in the future?)
Stranger than fiction: Norway bestows military honour on penguin. The penguin, named Nils Olav, resides in the Edinburgh Zoo and is the first penguin to hold rank in the Norwegian Army, and now holds the rank of honourable regimental sergeant major. (via Meg)