Singer Bob Dylan, a racist?

This Bob Dylan music video says about itself:

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (Live 1965)

Live Manchester, England, May 1965

By Norman Markovitz in the USA:

Tuesday 10th December 2013

Is Bob Dylan a racist?

NORMAN MARKOWITZ says recent claims by the so-called Council of Croats in France are not what they seem

I recently circulated a petition calling for Fifa to suspend the Croatian football team from upcoming World Cup games in Brazil because of its use of World War II Croat fascist slogans.

There’s another story relating to Croatia’s wartime role which has received greater international attention, however – people claiming to be representative of the Croatian community in France have sued Bob Dylan.

Their accusation is that this great singer, whose songs of social criticism such as Masters of War, Blowin’ In the Wind and The Times They Are A’Changin’ have made him one of the best-known and most admired US artists of the last 50 years, has made offensive and even racist remarks about Croats in Rolling Stone magazine.

Dylan’s attackers share one thing with the defenders of the Croatian football team – a desire to celebrate or deny a barbarous past.

Vlatko Maric, the secretary-general of something called the Council of Croats in France, tells Croatian daily Vecernji List that the council has decided to “file criminal charges against Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, and the French publisher of Rolling Stone magazine for inciting racism and hatred against Croats and the Croatian people.”

Dylan ruffled feathers in a discourse on US politics, in which he remarked as an aside while commenting on still tense relations between African-Americans and white people: “If you’ve got a slave master or the [Ku Klux] Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that, just like Jews can sense nazi blood and Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”

The comments have seen some radio stations in Croatia such as Radio Split banning Dylan’s songs from their playlists. And Maric says they “without any doubt incite hatred against Croatians.”

But do they?

Dylan’s use of the term “blood” is clearly very inappropriate. All human blood is the same. He would have been wiser too to refer to the Ustasha or Croatian fascists rather than Croatians in general.

But there are reasons to be sceptical about his critics. The reference to “Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan” is reminiscent of nazi, Ku Klux Klan and House Un-American Activities Committee language when dealing with public figures of Jewish background who had changed their names.

The nazis, for example, referred to the prominent Jewish-German writer Emil Ludwig as Emil Ludwig “Cohen.”

Segregationists and racists in the US would traditionally refer to prominent Jewish figures in the arts as “Melvin Hesselberg, aka Melvin Douglas,” “Julius Garfinkle, aka John Garfield” and “David Kaminski, aka Danny Kaye,” as if simply citing a Jewish name was enough to discredit an individual.

And the crimes committed by German fascists and their allies – among whom the Croatian Ustasha was one of the most notorious – became the basis for the anti-racist laws that right-wing Croats are hypocritically seeking to invoke.

Actually similar suits have been launched in a number of countries by “rehabilitated” organisations such as Waffen-SS veteran groups in the Baltic countries against critics including Holocaust survivors.

In Germany nazi symbols, Hitlerite tracts and films such as Jud Suss and The Eternal Jew remain banned.

In the US even right-wing “tea party” Republicans do not celebrate the Klan as it was once celebrated in DW Griffiths’s silent film Birth of a Nation.

There are of course Holocaust deniers throughout the world. But Franjo Tudjman, the anti-communist Thatcher ally who became first president of Croatia when it broke away from Yugoslavia and who was implicated in many of the war crimes against Bosniaks during the ensuing conflict, is one of only two heads of state worldwide who openly joined the Holocaust deniers.

The other was former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose statements were far more widely publicised and condemned.

Bans on Dylan’s music are very much in the tradition of the US House Un-American Activities Committee which highlighted Jews, African-Americans and people born abroad in attacks on cultural figures. The committee played a role in blacklisting Pete Seeger, the Weavers and other artists who inspired Dylan’s early work, though it had lost most of its power by the time Dylan’s career took off.

Dylan doesn’t have much to worry about from this suit, or from the establishment of any Un-Croatian Activities Committee which might go after him as well as former partisans and anti-fascists while celebrating the football team.

It would be nice, though, if those who have brought this suit against him would repudiate the mass murder carried out against Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist resistance fighters at the Jasenovac death camp, run by the Ustasha as a human slaughterhouse during the second world war.

Then perhaps Dylan might clarify his statement. Then it would be easier to separate the wartime fascist regime from modern Croatian nationalism.

Until the Croatian government faces up to this ugly chapter in the country’s history it will continue to be associated with it.

Bob Dylan talked to AARP Magazine for one of his first interviews in years.

European bird migration this spring

This video says about itself:

Swallows dance – Spring Alive

Apr 26, 2013

Swallows dance at Nature Park Lake Vrana, Croatia. Every year, in late March and early April, during their migration toward thes north thousand of swallows and martins use vast reed-beds as stopover sites for feeding and roosting.

From BirdLife:

New Spring Alive record: more than 270,000 bird observations in Europe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013

New Spring Alive record: more than 270,000 bird observations in Europe

From February to June, participants in Spring Alive, a long-term BirdLife educational programme, observed and registered the arrivals of five migratory bird species in Europe and made more than 270,000 observations of migratory birds, the highest number ever!

The people taking part in the programme, mainly children and their families represent countries across Europe, from Portugal and Ireland to Russia and from Finland to Cyprus. The Spring Alive programme increases in popularity every year and it offers a fun way to develop knowledge about migratory birds and raise schoolchildren’s awareness about nature protection. The Spring Alive website had more than 104,000 individual visitors, who recorded their observations.

The record breaking Spring Alive season in Europe ended on the 21st of June. Amongst all Spring Alive species (Barn Swallow, White Stork, Common Swift, Cuckoo and European Bee-eater), the Barn Swallow and the Common Swift turned out to be the most frequently observed birds (37% and 32% of observations respectively). The big three participating countries were: Russia, Italy and Ireland.

The success of Spring Alive is very encouraging as it shows that more and more people want to connect with nature. In September the programme is moving to Africa, as birds will leave their breading areas in Europe, where the temperature will start to decrease and head for the warmer African continent. All bird lovers are invited to follow arrivals of “Spring Alive birds” in the African continent on the Spring Alive website.

For more information: please contact Elodie Cantaloube, Media and Communication Assistant at BirdLife Europe.

Croatian medieval cat discovery

From Smart News blog:

March 12, 2013 1:51 pm

Centuries Ago, a Cat Walked Across This Medieval Manuscript

Cat paws

Photo: Emir O. Filipović

While pawing through a stack of medieval manuscripts from Dubrovnik, Croatia, University of Sarajevo doctoral student Emir O. Filipović stumbled upon a familiar set of splotches marring the centuries-old pages. Years ago, a mischievous kitty had left her ink-covered prints on the book. Filipović explains the finding:

My story line follows a simple path: I was doing some research in the Dubrovnik State Archives for my PhD, I came across some pages which were stained with cat paw prints, I took a few photos of this (as I do whenever I notice something interesting or unusual on any old book I’m reading), and carried on with my work not paying too much attention to something which at that time could essentially be only a distraction.

Thanks to a frenzy of Twitter and blog coverage, a French historian picked up on the photo and decided to include it in her Interactive Album of Medieval Paleography so that other historians can utilize the unique finding, which gives insight into daily life in 14th century Dubrovnik. Filipović elaborates:

The photo of the cat paw prints represents one such situation which forces the historian to take his eyes from the text for a moment, to pause and to recreate in his mind the incident when a cat, presumably owned by the scribe, pounced first on the ink container and then on the book, branding it for the ensuing centuries. You can almost picture the writer shooing the cat in a panicky fashion while trying to remove it from his desk. Despite his best efforts the damage was already complete and there was nothing else he could have done but turn a new leaf and continue his job. In that way this little episode was ‘archived’ in history.

Filipović hopes the finding may move beyond a simple cat meme and inspire more interest in the medieval Mediterranean.

See also here.

Croatian anti-nazi women, art and fashion

This video says about itself:

Excerpt from the Artist Talk with Sanja Iveković, 16.03.2012

Sanja Iveković (*1949 in Zagreb, Croatia, former Yugoslavia) studied from 1968 to 1971 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Her photo montages, videos, performances and installations emerging since the early 1970s have been characterized by a critical questioning of the mass media and their identity-forging potential.

By personally entering into public discourse ‒ whether in the form of photographic representations in the media, or as the actual protagonist of performances ‒ Iveković brings out into the open the collective social codes of behavior based on gender-specific standardized patterns in mass media.

As one of the first explicitly feminist artists in Croatia, she has also been the facilitator and founder of a large number of political initiatives including the Women Artists’ Center Elektra and the Center for Women’s Studies in Zagreb. Iveković participated in numerous international exhibitions including documenta 11, and 12 and Manifesta 2. In November 2011, her retrospective Lady Rosa of Luxembourg took place at the MoMA New York.

By Michal Boncza in England:

Sanja Ivekovic: Unknown Heroine

South London Gallery and Calvert 22, London SE5

Friday 04 January 2013

Six large black and white photos of eye-catching female fashion models dominate this exhibition, their names prominently spelled out across the bottom of each image.

Initially their meaning is elusive but at close quarters their poignant significance becomes apparent.

A line of text below each name gives the background of each woman’s life and death as anti-fascist fighters in 1942 Croatia.

At the time the country was an obliging ally of nazi Germany and carried out its own genocide of Serbs, Gypsies, Muslims and Jews.

Yet these are not the true images of Dragica Koncar, Nada Dimic, Ljubica Gerovac, the Balkovic sisters, Anka Butorac and Nera Safaric.

The latter was the artist’s mother who survived Auschwitz.

All, in their mid-twenties and early thirties, are contemporary Yugoslav fashion models.

Sanja Ivekovic has used this subversive juxtaposition of adverts in the popular Arkzin magazine to draw the attention of the younger generation in particular to the selfless heroism of these brave young women, now all but forgotten.

Her creative impetus in reinstating women to their rightful historical position came to prominence with her 2001 Pregnant Memory project to replace the neoclassical figure of Nike (victory) on the Golden Lady obelisk in Luxembourg, a symbol of allied victory in WWI.

Its place was to be taken by the figure of Rosa Luxemburg – murdered in 1919 for her communist beliefs – who is visibly pregnant.

The original plaque commemorating male heroism was replaced with the words “Resistance, justice, liberty, independence,” “Kitsch, culture, capital, art” and “Whore, bitch, madonna, virgin” in four languages.

Predictably sections of the media were outraged and the ensuing fierce discussion spilled over to the internet, where the most violent opposition was not to the pregnant figure but the plaque.

The displacement of ideals of male bravery by abusive terms regularly used to describe women had touched the raw nerve of social convention.

Ivekovic’s exploration of, and disdain for, the media’s role in the subjugation and manipulation of women manifests itself with particular force in Figure And Ground (2005-6) and Women’s House (Sunglasses – 2002-9).

In the latter she superimposes testimonies from women victims of domestic violence over advertisements for designer sunglasses worn by abused women to hide their bruises.

The models of the adverts stand in for battered women, laying bare what Ivekovic eloquently describes as the “complex entanglement between consumerism and exploitation.”

The Mihaela caption tells us that she’s a Serb married to a Muslim and that she finally fled domestic abuse when her nationality became “a new reason” for abuse.

“He brought home his war companions and forced me to kiss their boots while they called me a Serbian whore. After spending 12 days in the hospital I decided to take my children and leave.”

In the highly topical The Black File (1976) the stories about missing daughters cut out of newspapers are paired with porn images of young girls with “sexy” names, uncomfortably reminiscent of the sexual grooming or Savile-like abuse of the underage and vulnerable.

A further and sinister contemporary connotation is of young women lost to sex trafficking.

Although an ardent and lucid feminist Ivekovic’s work is consistently marked by a thoughtfulness and restraint that makes her work all the more authentic and engaging.

She describes her artistic practice as one that directly intervenes into a surrounding world “in which the aesthetic operates in tandem with the political.”

While she distinguishes between the roles of the artist and the activist, there is a connection between the two.

“We can see them as circles of human activity that overlap in a relatively small area and that is the area in which I try to do most of my work,” she says.

As Unknown Heroine demonstrates, she inhabits that space admirably.

Runs until February 24. Free. Opening times:

See also here.