BD80: Tendre Violette

Tendre Violette by Servais & Dewamme (1981)

Both Jean-Claude Servais (the artist) and Gérard Dewamme (the writer) are Belgian, which makes a first for this week’s little trip through Franco-Belgian comics, I think? All the other ones have been French. Very French.

These stories were originally serialised in the Belgian (À suivre) magazine.

I’m not sure whether I’d term this a very Belgian comic (after all, no big noses), but it’s certainly a pastoral series. The forest is a tangible presence throughout, as well as the seasons, foraging for food and hunting for bunny rabbits. (As well as catching leeches in this very efficient manner, later to be sold to the apothecary. (When did they stop using leeching in Belgium, anyway?))

Our heroine throughout the three albums is Felicia, who we can see wandering through the forest: A woman of nature. The Danish name for this album is “Felicia and Liberty”, or something. Freedom is what’s important for her, and she shuns convention and all those nasty things that follow from being tied down.

The vast majority of women who appear throughout the pages are like the sour-faced biddies to the left, while the men are mostly gregarious and fun-loving.

And then things shift suddenly without… much reason, other than melodrama. Servais’ artwork can sometimes be difficult to read: It’s not clear why she’s suddenly on the ground, and it’s not clear why the villagers then decide to throw this very pregnant woman into a lake. (Spoilers: She survives, the baby doesn’t.)

The first book is a series of short stories, one more melodramatic than the other. The above is from when she tried to join a coven, but then she… stumbled while offering the blood to Satan… which made them angry… and the cat attacks her… but her own cat comes to her rescue…

I know.

In another story, she loses her memory (after getting hit over the head and then gets raped) and is then sold by the police (?) to an abbey (!?) to work as a slave (!?!).

I KNOW!

But still, you can’t deny the power of some of these pages. Servais’ detailed artwork with these almost traditional layouts: He has a tendency to make Felicia stick out of the panels, and going “full bleed” out into the margins of the book. (Quite unusual for its time.)

Felicia is constantly breaking through the confines of these, frankly, extremely silly and somewhat tedious stories.

Malmaison by Servais & Dewamme (1984)

I only bought the first of these albums as a teenager (presumably because I didn’t think Servais made interesting comics), but I got the next two albums now, because I was curious as to whether there’s be any development.

Indeed, the artwork seems to get even richer than in the first one. But using a “love montage”? It’s so cinematic, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

As for the story… Instead of being a bunch of (literally literally) unbelievable stories, there’s just one story that’s so monumentally moronic that I’m not going to bother writing anything about it.

Guess whether the dwarf up there is evil or not.

As in the first album, the pleasures here are from Servais’ artwork. As usual, Felicia is poking out of the panels all the time, but it’s especially effective in panels like this to emphasise their difference in heights.

Other pages look a bit like Servais has been studying Milo Manara’s layouts a bit too closely.

L’Alsacien by Servais & Dewamme (1986)

And then the Huns attack!

I read this book an hour ago, and I’ve already suppressed what it’s about… Uhm… Let’s see… While I’m thinking, just ponder the cosy scene in the forest above.

Oh, yeah, there was treason and revolt and stuff. Yeah. Nothing important, but note the excellent binding technique the French resistance uses for this traitor. And since they apparently had him tied up for several weeks, they presumably had to untie and tie him up again several times a day.

That’s dedication.

This series was republished in the naughts in an expanded version (in France), and in colour. These three albums became tomes 2-4, and new tomes 1 and 5-7 were added. Fortunately, these haven’t been translated to any language I read, so I’m able to resist the compulsion to get them, too.

Servais has published a large number of works over the years, and about half a dozen more have been translated to Danish. I wonder whether they have less groan-worthy plots than these Dewamme-written ones…

This post is part of the BD80 series.

WFC Fiji: Kya Dilli Kya Lahore

It’s another one of those anti war satires!

But this is rather amusing. I think, though, that it’s not a very Fijian film, so, er, foiled again.

It’s rather incomprehensible. The lines are like “That’s why you also gave him two roses” which I take is referring to something, somewhere in the India/Pakistan war history, but I have no idea what. I feel like if you’re not up to scratch on the Indian/Pakistani war of 1948, this is rather inscrutable.

I somehow feel that it’s trying to make fun of the Pakistani man, but I’m not sure… what? Is the ridiculous make-up these people are wearing meant to signify something?

Asian inscrutableness!

“Girls have mates! Get it!”

Kya Dilli Kya Lahore. Vijay Raaz. 2014. Fiji.

Welcome Cocktail

  • 3 parts dark rum
  • 1 part coconut rum
  • maraschino cherries
  • 1 orange slice
  • some dashes of Anogostura bitters

Muddle the cherries and an orange slice in a glass. Add ice cubes to fill the glass. Add the rums and stir. Add the Angostura.

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.

Ipad, Screenshots and Linux

It’s become increasingly clear over the past few months that many recent, fun-sounding films from countries with smaller film industries will never get a physical DVD release. The only way to see these films is via Amazon Prime, and since Amazon Prime isn’t conveniently available on Linux machines, I’m having to use an Ipad to watch these films.

Which is fine.

But I have to take screenshots. (I mean. I have to!) That leaves a lot of images on the Ipad, and I need a convenient way to get those from the Ipad to my Linux laptop.

Now, there’s Dropbox, and… stuff, but all those things require some manual work at the Ipad end or the Linux end. I hate manual work.

So wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to just “do something” and then all the screenshots from the Ipad would magically appear in my Emacs on the Linux laptop?

There is!

It’s a bit fiddly, though, so let’s just get started.  (“A bit fiddly” is code for “seven pages of text is to follow”.  This is the year of Linux on the Desktop.)

My Laptop runs Ubuntu Linux, and it comes with an ifuse distribution that’s built with GnuTLS and not OpenSSL. This doesn’t work with IOS 10, so you need to build it yourself.

I’ve streamlined the build instructions a bit. The utilities and libraries needed to talk to Idevices is spread over four repositories, but the following should pull them all down, build them, and install them under /usr/local.

#!/bin/bash 
sudo apt-get build-dep ifuse 
for elem in libusbmuxd libimobiledevice usbmuxd ifuse; do 
  git clone https://github.com/libimobiledevice/${elem}.git 
  (cd $elem; sh ./autogen.sh; make; sudo make install) 
done

Check that your path is picking up the correct version by saying

$ type ifuse 
ifuse is /usr/local/bin/ifuse

Then plug in the Ipad via USB, and test that you can talk to the device. You may have to press “Trust this device” on the Ipad while connecting.

$ sudo mkdir /media/ipad 
$ sudo chown larsi.users /media/ipad 
$ idevicepair pair SUCCESS: Paired with device 37b633350ab83dc815a6a97dcd6d327b12c41968 
$ ifuse /media/ipad

You should now have the Ipad mounted, and the screenshots are under /media/ipad/DCIM.

Now for the fun part: Make the laptop copy over the files automatically whenever you plug in the Ipad.  I’m using the general setup from the usb-automount setup I did a few months ago.

The main difference is this udev.rules file:

ATTR{idVendor}="05ac", ATTR{idProduct}="12ab", PROGRAM="/bin/systemd-escape -p --template=usb-automount@.service $env{DEVNAME}", ENV{SYSTEMD_WANTS}+="%c"

And then I use the following script to actually copy over the contents to the current “viewing directory”.

#!/bin/bash

command="$1"

if [ "$command" = "remove" ]; then
    umount /media/ipad
    exit
fi

# Mount the Ipad.
ifuse /media/ipad

if [ -d "/media/ipad/DCIM/100APPLE" ]; then
    cd /media/ipad/DCIM/100APPLE
    for pic in IMG*; do
        to="/home/larsi/pics/ipad"
        if [ ! -f "$to/$pic" ]; then
            cp -av "$pic" "$to/$pic"
            chown larsi.users "$to/$pic"
            if echo "$pic" | grep PNG > /dev/null; then
                shot=`echo "$pic" | sed 's/IMG_/shot/' | sed 's/PNG/png/'`
                if [ ! -f "/home/larsi/.movie-current/$shot" ]; then
                    ln "$to/$pic" "/home/larsi/.movie-current/$shot"
                fi
            fi
        fi
    done
fi

cd /
umount /media/ipad

Or something like that.  You obviously have to adjust the script to your needs if you want to do something like this, but the general idea should be sound, I think…

Look!  The images appeared in Emacs!  As if by magic!

It seems to work reliably, also after rebooting the laptop.  Apparently the “idevicepair pair” think only has to be done once?  Or something?

The only minor annoyance is that Ubuntu pops up an icon in the right-hand menu every time I plug in the Ipad.  Is there any way to say to Ubuntu “ignore this device in the UI”?  There is a way to make Ubuntu ignore all auto-mounted devices, but that’s not what I want, and there is a way to make Linux ignore a specific USB device completely (echo 0 > /sys/bus/usb/devices/2-1/authorized), but that’s not what I want, either.  I just want the UI to ignore this specific device…

Oh, never mind.

[Edit: I’ve now put the scripts on github.  That should make it easier to customize if anybody wants to use this setup…]

WFC North Korea: A State of Mind

This isn’t really a North Korean film, because those don’t seem to exists outside of North Korea? But it’s a film about North Korea, so…

This is a documentary about some gymnasts. And their parents and teachers and stuff.

The filmmaker is sympathetic towards the people he portrays, I think, but the things these people say are so absurd (and obviously rehearsed) that it’s easy to view the film as being sarcastic all the time. Which is a bit uncomfortable.

But apparently the North Koreans didn’t think so. It won awards at the Pyongyang International Film Festival. And there are some scenes that feel like you’re getting to know these people.

Let’s sing the “Communism Is Best” song again! I’ve got it on my karaoke machine!

A State of Mind. Daniel Gordon. 2004. North Korea.

Pyongyang Sling

  • 1 part Tanqueray gin
  • 3 parts grapefruit juice (preferably ruby)
  • 1 part tonic water

Shake the first two parts with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top off with the tonic. Garnish with some sprigs of thyme (after lightly crushing over the glass) and a slice of grapefruit (ditto).

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.

WFC Laos: ນ້ອງຮັກ

This is my first attempt at watching a film via Amazon Prime.

So many films these days never get a DVD release. Instead, the only way to watch these films seem to be via Amazon. You can’t even find them via dar torrentzes.

In an additional twist, films are only licensed for US viewers, so I had to do the usual shenanigans (with the credit card address and a VPN) to view it. Which makes me wonder: How is it possible that it makes economic sense for anybody involved to have films available only in the US, and nowhere else? If there was, say, a physical DVD release in Europe, I could understand it, or if it had been licenced for people in the EU via a different service, but that doesn’t seem to be the case? Or is my Google fu just bad?

So… it’s like… “Don’t take my money.”

Anyway, watching it on a 13″ Ipad was fine, except that the audio/video sync was kinda janky. (It’s what you can use as an AI canary: While there are audio/video sync issues, the AI revolution probably isn’t going to happen any time soon.) But since it seems to be possible to watch films this way, I think I’ll get an HDMI cable and hook it up to my big TV…

Oh! The film! It’s kinda clunky in parts, and having bits of it financed via Estonia means that one of the principal actors is Estonian, because that’s how these things work. It adds a nice layer of extra befuddlement having them break out into Estonian every few minutes.

It’s a frustrating film to watch. If every single person in this film hadn’t been withholding information and/or been a shitty and/or stupid person, it would have been been over in five minutes. “Ka-ching!”

And as horror movies go, it’s not very scary. The actors are fine, though, even the Estonian, and the cinematography is pretty.

Dearest Sister. Mattie Do. 2016. Laos.

Lost in Laos

  • 3 parts dark rum
  • 1 part green chartreuse
  • 1 part lime juice
  • 2 parts simple syrup
  • 6 parts coconut milk
  • some slices of cucumber

Muddle the cucubmer in a shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a glass with ice. Garnish with cucumber and a cherry. Add a straw.

This is not a geniune Lao cocktail, but for some reason, I just wasn’t able to find one.

This post is part of the World of Films and Cocktails series. Explore the map.

BD80: Gotlib

Rhââ Lovely 1 by Gotlib (1976)

Gotlib was a prolific cartoonist, working from the mid-sixties until his recent death. He started out doing comics for the French Pilote magazine before co-founding two magazines, l’Echo des savanes and Fluide Glacial. Out of his dozens of albums, c. nothing has been translated to other languages.

Runepress made a go at it in the early 80s with these four albums, which collect work originally published at l’Echo (the first and third); the second was serialised in the music magazine Rock et Folk; and the fourth in Fluide. And it’s not difficult to see what attracted those weird Danes to this, er, corpus: It’s relentlessly scatological and weird.

But it’s not just poop and semen jokes for the fun of it. Gotlib, in these strips (originally published in 1973) makes fun of people trying to present a bourgeoisie front by showing that they, too, pick their noses and wipe their asses. (But do all French stand while wiping? Tardi draws it that way too…)

Oh, geez. Is this 9gag or something? This is a serious blog!

Or… perhaps not. Yes, I didn’t mention it in the introduction, but there’s a lot of phalluses, figurative or actual, in these comics.

Hm, the first few pages quotes here might leave the impression that it’s all pantomime, but it’s not. About half the pieces are these extremely wordy and very witty skits. At least the Danish versions are very funny, but I’m guessing the original Greek is also a bunch of laffs.

Hamster Jovial et ses louveteaux by Gotlib (1974)

OK, so we have poop jokes and silly word play: It sounds like wholesome fun that you’d see translated to all languages in the world and kept in print indefinitely, instead of Runepress making a go at it for two years and then Gotlib would never be seen again?

There’s a lot of sex jokes in these books, and I’m not going to excerpt the ruder ones. This is a family oriented blog! As Lambiek says, “Already risqué back in the 1970s many gags are nowadays perhaps even more disturbing to those who are easily offended.”

In this album, all the jokes are about a Scout leader and his flock, and if a Scouting/sex joke comic sounds like a major seller to you…

But, in general, it’s really, really silly and absurd.

Rhââ Lovely 2 by Gotlib (1977)

Things reach the apex of things-that-shouldn’t-be-posted-on-wordpress.com-ness in the third album. Here’s the least rude page:

And there’s a trip featuring Allah, Jehovah and the rest yukking it up and watching porn flicks.

The funniest strip is the Excorcist parody that features a possessed boy instead of a girl, but since the boy has a hard-on through the entire strip, I’ll just excerpt this gag instead. Yes, the possessed boy poured ink out the window onto the priest.  Did Mad Magazine do the same joke?

Pervers Pépère by Gotlib (1981)

After all this depravity, you might expect Gotlib to take it a notch up with something called “Pervers Pépère”, but it’s innocent in comparison.

There’s a lot of convoluted fart jokes. But by this time, it’s the 80s, and perhaps Gotlib felt the need to step back from the outrage.

Instead most of the jokes here are about the reader or the characters thinking that something involving genitalia is going to happen, but then it doesn’t. And that gives Pervers Pépère a laugh. So his perversity is that he doesn’t go for the sex…

But as with the un-hilarity of the implied rape threat above, most of these strips seem to be looking for a punchline without finding it. Instead we’re just presented with an absurd thing that Pervers Pépère does and then… nothing.

So, to recap: When Gotlib is virtually unpublishably obscene, he’s really funny, but when he’s not, he’s just not that funny. If this is the general gist of his career (and I’ve just read these four books, so this is a very uninformed assumption), then it’s not surprising that he remains unknown outside of France.

This post is part of the BD80 series.

BD80: Le génie des Alpages

Le génie des Alpages by F’Murr (1976)
Comme des bêtes by F’Murr (1977)

Le génie des Alpages is a series started by F’Murr(r) in 1973. It was originally serialised in the French Pilote magazine and then collected in albums from 1976 on. The Norwegian editions I have seem to (unusually enough) to track the French publications closely.

For the first years, F’Murr adheres to a two-page gag format. In the albums, every two-page spread is a little tale of escalating insanity with constant asides and wordplay. The Norwegian translators have really put their hearts into this thing: There are so many puns on various forms of words for “sheep” in these books that the mind reels.

While there’s an impressive amount of nonsensical punning going on, it’s also a series that full of visual gags.

Oh, what’s it about? It’s about a flock of sheep in the alps who all have funny names and various personality quirks (one’s in love with an eagle, one’s an inventor, and so on) and their shepherd and his dog. Along with the ram, the latter two are supposed to be the authority figures in the herd, but they’ve mostly abdicated in the presence of all the lunacy.

F’Murr loves to play with the construction of the comics themselves, like on this indicia page where the sheep complain about the unprofessionalism of whoever composed these rickety panels.

I’m not going to attempt to translate any of these strips, because… it’s too much work, but here’s a nice non-wordy strip. You have the rude tourist who wants to find snow (and there’s none to be found), and then… the murderous funicular kills him. There’s a high death toll in these strips, especially for the tourists.

The murderous funicular isn’t a recurring character in the series, and that’s typical of F’Murr. There are some recurring gags, but he’s impressively inventive: Use a gag once, and then never again.

Barre-toi de mon herbe by F’Murr (1977)
Un grand silence frisé by F’Murr (1978)

The Alpages “universe” is basically a steady state world. Cataclysmic things happen in every other strip, but things return to normal the next one. However, things subtly change over the years: We get a new shepherd, for instance, while the old one drops by from time to time and is reminded why he stopped showing up.

The series isn’t particularly topical, but here we see one of the sheep adorning herself with safety pins, which must be a reference to punk, which was starting around this time. (She tries to help the hung-over ram with the droopy horns.)

Around this time, F’Murr started doing longer strips, too: Mostly in the six to ten page range. For one of the first one, we get an introduction from these very Tintin-looking monks (who are apparently readying the book for publication) and they discuss how they’re going to feature the next, longer piece in the album without disturbing the rhythm. They decide on an all-black interstitial page.

The piece introduced this way, er “The analphabet darkness”, is possibly a parody of the metaphysical sci-fi comics becoming popular in France at the time. Or perhaps F’Murr just wanted to draw a volcano. Who can say?

Les intondables by F’Murr (1980)
Tonnerre, et mille sobots!! by F’Murr (1983)

The artwork also develops over the year. It becomes more detailed and consistent, I think…

And there are also atypical panels like this (which is about the sheep owners trying to suppress the a sheep uprising (the sheep want control over the means of production (yes, this is the early 80s))).

The strips become even more meta, which many a strip dealing with the sheep rearranging the scenery. Perspective is fun.

The series sometimes references Groucho Marx directly, and the humour certainly tends toward the Marxist, but it also has a Krazy Kat vibe going on with the scenery.

Dans les nuages by F’Murr (1987)

By the late 80s, many of the quirkiest bits have receded. In the early years, you might have five different gags happening at once across a two-page story, but the well of ideas seems to have gotten a bit drier as the years pass.

But there’s always new twists to how the gags unfold.

And then… collage!

When the final album translated to Norwegian appeared, you start getting some of those normal gags about not having an idea for a gag. The two workers putting up the scaffolding here complain about things having gotten more boring lately, but “he’s been doing this for a while”. “Who’s interested in sheep these days?”

Still, the weirdness keeps on going.

And this is the final panel, and I wondered whether perhaps F’Murr meant this cliffhanger as an ending of sorts, but nope. Seven more albums have been published after this, the last one in 2007.

This is a very strange series, and I’m surprised that the Norwegian publishers managed to get eight volumes published. The Danes only got three done before they had to give up. And that’s unusual, because Denmark is (and had) a bigger comics audience than Norway. Perhaps it was a labour of love for the Norwegian translators (who remained the same people throughout the years) and editors?

I don’t know. Perhaps it was a runaway hit in Norway? This was all before the Intertubes, so I guess we’ll just never know.

F’Murr has also done a large number of non-sheep-related comics in France. Only one has been translated into a language I can read, and from that one I can guess that the reason might be that he’s just hard to translate. There’s a lot of French references, and lots of word play. Anybody taking this on has a bit of a task ahead of them.

This post is part of the BD80 series.