Swedish Academy’s new protocols for laureate selection

The Nobel Committee for Literature has announced new procedures for determining laureates in the field of literature.

Current Nobel committee members Per Wästberg, Anders Olsson, Kristina Lugn, and Horace Engdahl, and associate members Sara Danius and Katarina Frostenson, have spoken at length about their dissatisfaction with the selection process. “Det är en jävla cirkus,” Wästberg said. “På något sätt blev hela jävla galen och vi hamnade med en jävla musiker. Hur hände det? jag vet inte.”

Determined that past errors and controversies would not be repeated, Danius and Frostenson have suggested that there should be a new protocol for nominations: “Vi kommer att få människor att kämpa i sina underkläder och under de hårda förhållandena. Det kommer att bli kallt. Verkligen väldigt kallt. Och det kommer att bli lera – enorma mängder mycket våt, slarvig lera.”

Once nominations have been received through the new process, a new protocol for selection will be equally rigorous. “Vi ska göra det på den gamla vägen. Naturligtvis kan vi inte avslöja för mycket, men det kommer att involvera äppelkakor, våfflor och pannkakor. Och risgrynsgröt, förstås,” Kristina Lugn said.

The Nobel Committee receives over one hundred official nominations each year for the literature prize. The nominees are usually pretty good writers, yet somehow the Nobel Committee manages to come up with a decision.

“Några av dessa tekniker används för närvarande i mongolsk och australisk litteratur, och deras genomförande här kommer att leda Nobelprisen till nittonde århundradet,” Horace Engdahl added.

The ancient techniques of Mongolian and Australian poets promote new respect for literature.
The ancient techniques of Mongolian and Australian poets promote new respect for literature.

North Korean sports director executed

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-12-12-16-pm
Hong Song Hyon, North Korean Sports Director

Director of sports, Hong Song Hyon, has been executed after he misspoke during a televised interview about the North Korean national sports day.

Talking to international media gathered in Kim Il-sung Square, Mr Hong said “Today there will be public sports events in various places in the capital. The healthy men and women of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will demonstrate their love for the Supreme Leader and their preparedness to diet for him.”

Healthy North Koreans exercising for the Supreme Leader.
Healthy North Koreans exercising for the Supreme Leader.

Realising his error, Mr Hong immediately tried himself and pronounced the verdict of guilty. The penalty in North Korea for errors of this kind is death. The sentence was carried out immediately, by Mr Hong himself.

The Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, who was at a cheese-tasting at the Supreme People’s Assembly when the incident occurred, commented that Mr Hong had been an effective and loyal sycophant and that it was unfortunate his legacy had been tarnished by this imperfection. “Mmmm. I rike this one,” the Supreme Leader said.

Register for businesses refusing services to Cory Bernardi

Senator Cory Bernardi, Liberal member of the Australian parliament, has weighed into the marriage equality debate by saying that businesses—any businesses—should be allowed to refuse service to whomever they want. This means that, even if the marriage equality debate ended happily with an agreement of a majority of Australia’s elected representatives to permit marriage between two people regardless of sex, the question of ‘business freedoms’ would still need to be resolved. Why should anyone be forced to provide goods or services to anyone else, Senator Bernardi wants to know. It conjures up the prospect of future legislation to protect businesses from legal actions: a ‘Pâtissier Freedom Act‘ perhaps? I would like to see it, to tell the truth. Pastry chefs deserve this recognition. And those gays, they just want to have their cake and eat cock, too.

While we are waiting for these events to unfold, I’ve created a register for businesses wishing to announce they will refuse to supply goods and services to Senator Cory Bernardi. There are fairly broad options for classifying the kind of services: everything from catering services to psychotherapy to resuscitation.

I encourage you to add your business to the register, and to pass on the URL to any business-owners you think may be interested.

Please note: The registration website has now been closed. Thank you to the thousands of businesses and individuals who participated.

Further information:

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Turkish delights of the 1970s: movies of Metin Erksan

Metin Erksan (1929–2012) was no slouch. His movies were entered into major international competitions and sometimes won them. When Turkish cinema was having its heyday, in the 1950s and 1960s, Erksan was there. In the 1970s, though, he started making movies aimed at commercial success—or so the story goes—and on a couple of occasions at least, this seemed to involve taking well-known masterpieces of cinema and giving them a Turkish (and possibly Islamist) makeover for Turkish-speaking audiences.

Metin Erksan's 'Şeytan'
Metin Erksan’s ‘Şeytan’

The Yeşilçam (‘green pine’) period of Turkish cinema had entered its decline as Erksan was hitting his stride in the mid- to late 1960s. Making almost a shot-for-shot remake of ‘The Exorcist’ for Turkish cinema audiences must have seemed like a good idea. Erksan did it on a small budget and without much in the way of special effects. The makeover attempts to reproduce many effects of art direction, set design and music, but not very successfully. He gives it his best shot. In fact, he just steals the music. Erksan’s version, called ‘Şeytan’, was in Turkish cinemas at nearly the same time as Friedkin’s original. What was the point?

‘Şeytan’ (1974) removes all visual and narrative trace of Catholic heresy from William P. Blatty’s story. There are no Catholic priests in ‘Şeytan’, no cassocks, no seminaries and no desecrated statues of the Virgin Mary. When the possessed teenage girl is hovering above her own bed it is not “the power of Christ” that compels her to get back between the sheets, but an all-powerful Allah. So, at one level, Erksan was presenting Turks with a ‘Halal version’ of Blatty’s screenplay.

In the years following ‘Şeytan’, Erksan made five Turkish short stories into television features. Then, in 1977, he made a Turkish version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and he based it on the great, Soviet, cinema version of the play made by Grigori Kozintsev in 1964. This Soviet version was itself built upon a translation by Boris Pasternak and featured original music by Dimitri Shostakovich.

This time Erksan went further than making a Turkish Hamlet on the cheap. He added an unexpected extra element to the mix: he made Hamlet a woman. Highly-regarded Turkish actress, Fatma Girik, played the “Avenging Angel” of the title. “Hamlet” was the subtitle used on the posters, though the movie is usually listed as “Kadin Hamlet” or ‘Woman Hamlet’. Again, Erksan stole whatever was useful, chopping up Shostakovich’s score ruthlessly to make it fit his scenes, and echoing elements of the set and art direction. The effects fall short of Erksan’s aspirations: the ghost in ‘Kadin Hamlet’ looks less like King Hamlet than a somnambulant Bela Lugosi.

‘Kadin Hamlet’ was shown at the Filmex movie festival and was accepted into competition at the 10th Moscow International Film Festival (1977). At Filmex it was shown during the festival’s 50-hour movie marathon and greeted with hilarity. There’s no record of whether the jury was laughing in Moscow where, I imagine, there may have been serious discussion about the nature of cinematic homage, the political turmoil in Turkey, and the credit given to Shostakovich but not to Kozintsev.

Should we be laughing? I did. I’m not ashamed. But I wondered, also, whether there was something missing from this reaction, and if a cult of incompetence has grown up around certain movies—and ways of making movies—that makes it easier to laugh at them than to see what they were trying to show us. Erksan’s Hamlet stays in the background of her mother’s wedding, and she is dressed in a modern 1970s white suit. There is disco music in the background as the film’s first exchange takes place. Erksan appears to be making serious claims on behalf of his audience, including that Turkey’s decades-long reforms in favor of modernity, and equality for women, were not going away. Erksan smartly turns the duel between Hamlet and Laertes into a shooting-match with rifles in a forest.

Within a few years, the political situation in Turkey even more chaotic, other film-makers began cobbling together less respectful and less competent rip-offs of Hollywood hits. ‘Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam’ (1982), known as the Turkish Star Wars, is the most notorious example. It’s awful, and awfully funny.

Turkey was not the only country performing this kind of cultural appropriation. There is a Japanese version of Star Wars, called ‘Message from Space’ (1978) and an Italian Star Wars called ‘Star Odyssey’ (1979).


The video playlist includes:
  1. Bed-trampoline scene from ‘Şeytan’
  2. Excerpt from Kozintsev’s ‘Hamlet’ — first appearance of the ghost
  3. Kozintsev’s ‘Hamlet’ — 1964 original trailer
  4. Excerpt from ‘Kadin Hamlet’ — ghost scene
  5. ‘Şeytan’
  6. Kozintsev’s ‘Hamlet’ — excerpt
  7. ‘İntikam Meleği’ / ‘Kadın Hamlet’
  8. ‘The Exorcist’ — Banned/unreleased flash image trailer
  9. Turkish Star Wars trailer
  10. The Man Who Saves The World (Turkish Star Wars) with English subtitles
  11. ECHO — BBC documentary on Turkey, 1973
  12. Turkey — documentary on Turkey, 1952
  13. ‘Message From Space’, 1978 — the Japanese Star Wars
  14. ‘Star Odyssey’, 1979 — the Italian Star Wars

Couch-based activism 101

You want to make the world a better place. The intractable difficulties and complications of reality are stacked against any chance you might succeed.

This is a quick introduction to strategies and tools for protest, sharing and action in the Internet age—most of which can be done sitting down.

Emailed protestsPackaged dildo

When thousands of outrage-laden emails start pouring into the inbox of the incompetent government minister, a simple filter redirects the electrons onto an information technology compost heap. If your protest must consist of sending someone something, put down the iPad and stick a stamp to an actual package, which you can then get someone else to mail for you.
When protesters wanted to have their say about anti-gay laws in Russia they sent Vladimir Putin dildos in the post. Does anyone know what he did with them? (—The dildos, I mean, not the protesters.)

FacebookFacebook icon

Judge your friends and acquaintances by how enthusiastically, often and mindlessly they click the ‘Like’ button underneath your posts.
The name ‘Facebook’ carries within it the judgmentalism of the software program that was its precursor, ‘Facemash’, a computer game that sorted Harvard women into ‘Hot or Not’. Users turn Facebook into whichever kind of game is most important to themselves: like me or don’t like me; approve or disapprove; with or against me; agree or disagree; and so on.
The non-threatening and non-judgemental uses of Facebook—keeping in touch with friends and family, arranging invitations to parties, etc.—are the outer and upper circles of a deep, cold hell where people can easily convince themselves that ‘sharing’ a news item is actually sharing.

Twitter Twitter_logo_blue

… Apparently able to tear down corrupt governments with a single tweet retweeted until your despised oppressors simply pack it in. The 140-character messages on your fancy phone are powerless unless someone—a million someones—actually decides to turn up. Turning up is what topples governments; turning up in sufficient numbers and refusing to leave until something happens.

OccupiersOccupy_Wall_Street,_Unofficial_Logo

… Which leads me to occupiers, not strictly part of the couch-based activism movement.
You’ve got to love the commitment and outrage of the occupiers of the Occupy movement but, the moment the news starts showing them sitting in a circle, on cushions, and passing the talking-stick, you know something has gone wrong.

Poetry

No. (Yes, it can be done sitting down but, as a strategy for social change, it doesn’t work.)

SatirePutin made up

You can do this lying down or standing up. It is difficult to do well but it can be effective. Modern trends seem to favor non-verbal, graphical forms of mockery (except ‘street theatre’, which is now only acceptable at Earthcore events).

Unions with Facebook accounts

Without doubt the most accurate sign your union has abandoned hope that your job and conditions can be protected is the appearance of the union’s Facebook page. Not as concrete as a poster or letter, not as personal as an email, not as rousing (or as dangerous) as a good old-fashioned meeting or speech, the union Facebook account turns all news, good and bad, into ‘timelines’ of blue-hued inevitability. The union organisers who post news to Facebook are most likely at home on the couch right now with a bowl of popcorn.
Unions should own more megaphones than smartphones.

YouTube YouTube-logo-full_color

Meat including Pork (73%), Water, Premix [Potato Starch, Tapioca Starch, Salt, Modified Starch (1442), Soy Protein, Mineral Salts (451, 341, 450, 452), Dextrose, Spices, Antioxidant (316), Sodium Nitrite (250), Fermented Red Rice], Food Acid (325), Sucrose, Smoke Flavors, Vegetable Gum (412), Anticaking Agent (551) … YouTube is the manufactured meat product of the Internet.
While it is one of the great, supine protest activities, YouTube’s effectiveness is greatly enhanced when done outdoors and in the kinds of places where human rights are being abused, decency trampled on, and innocents being shot. No editing or music is required. Just set your camera-phone to upload videos automatically and start recording.