30 November 2007
Two people ("experts") were intervied; an administrator and a philosopher. The administrator was eager to convince us that the pig farm incident is an exception. Inspection routines are, she said, gradually improved even if there are still some things to be done. The philosopher was critical of the treatment of animals as commodities. It is easy to agree with her about this, of course. But I was apalled about her primary reaction towards the film from the pig farm. According to her the farmers, and those involved in the meat industry, have failed to distinguish the cognitive capacities and abilities of animals. She talked for a while, very abstractely, about the rights of animals. Arguing like that, it was as if she didn't see what was going on in the film. As if she was at most able to derive some conclusions about the type of capacities the behaviour of animals is indicating. "We have to prove that animals have particular capacities - after that, we may say something about what is cruel, unjust..." But that type of talk is obviously very strange, and very insensitive. I would be very surprised if a person who watched the pictures of the restless and shit-drenched pigs were to say that she could not SEE the pigs' suffering. Of course the philosopher in the TV-studio was not blind to the suffering of the pigs - but she seemed to believe that she had to talk about cognitive capacities if what she had to say would have any influence over those defending the meat industry.
28 November 2007
Our host, who lays proud claim to pioneering, when back in Nigeria, 'the project Building Your Tomorrow Today' and a book entitled You Can Make It, repeatedly stresses the importance of three things: Service, Values and Vision. Every job is a service. All organisations provide a service. All organisations have values, and visions. You too have values and visions, you just have to match yours with the organisation’s. Curiously enough, rather than demystifying, the motivational training makes the grimly mundane world of work (Southwark Pest Control is one of the examples we are given) into a baffling, messianic world of entrepeneurs sharing with each other their visionary visions and their valuable values. ‘Anything you want to do, you can do it’ (I quote) is the plainly stated philosophy, a bizarre mismatch with the data entering, painting-and-decorating and benefit-claiming that lies in wait for most of us here.
27 November 2007
Reading some philosophers, Rush Rhees, Wittgenstein and my own supervisor are three of them, is enjoyable because their texts contain little self-sentimentality or self-importance. (I know that some people have different feelings about Rhees, seeing in his "confessional style" a form of self-indulgence, but I don't really understand that.) These writers are open about their confusion and lack of clarity. This makes it easier to follow their thoughts. Nothing is hidden, as it were, even if it may be difficult to understand them for other reasons - the topic being difficult as such, for example. Rhees often confesses in this text: "I don't understand this." and "I am confused." Of course this has little to do with confessions in the sense that one would spray one's guts all over one's philosophical insights. Philosophy does challenge us as persons, but that is another story. Philosophical thinking challenges one to be prepared to scrutinize one's own thinking. In that way, the person is always at stake.
26 November 2007
At the age of six his future as a deipnosophist seemed certain. Guzzling filched apples he loved to prattle. Hogging the pie he invariably piped up and rattled on.
-- Ellis Sharp, "The Bloating of Nellcock"
25 November 2007
24 November 2007
I watched Farväl Falkenberg a moment ago and even though my expectations were quite exaggerated I wasn't disappointed. It was relieving to watch a film of which could be given the description "a buddy movie" which actually resists such labelling. The film shared very little with the typical ways of depicting "male friendship": there was no "proving to be a heterosexual man", the difference between love and friendship was not emphasized - the opposite was rather the case, there were no such limits. Relationships between parents and young adults were described quite negatively, but I didn't think they were trading in stereotypes here at all. We've seen the small town angst a thousand times, of course, but here it was dealt with more delicately than what at least I am used to.
For an interesting comment on the subject, read this article by Karolina Ramqvist:
That's the reason why I was a little suspicious when I began watching Jim Jarmusch's debut film Permanent vacation. And indeed, there were lots of outcast posing; there are a lot of scenes in which we see our hero smoking cigarettes, his facial expression at the same time cool and worried. He looks ragged & cute-as-a-panda. But that said, other aspects of the film were great. Subtle humour. Understatement. A great soundtrack and a cinematography that brought both Hal Hartley and Derek Jarman to mind. Pictures of a deserted New York consisting of rubble mostly. The ending is campier and cheesier than anything else you have seen on the wide screen, but for me, it worked.
20 November 2007
18 November 2007
17 November 2007
Lately, I've been writing about Harmony Korine and plays by Tennessee Williams. My own little southern gothic village. Yesterday I watched The Night of the Iguana, yet another film bassed on a play by Williams. Good movie - Ava Gardner was great. Great atmospheres.
All in all, I seem to be destined for ghostly towns and villages - my destiny is sealed.
If you haven't yet, you should explore the haunted musical landscape created by artists such as 16 horsepower (Woven hand), Lucinda Williams, Jim White, Songs; Ohia (Jason Molina) and The Handsome family. While 16 horsepower has become quite widely known even in Nordic countries, The Handsome family and Songs; Ohia are lesser known. Picking and choosing from the ouvre of Songs; Ohia I would recommend the album The Lioness and what The Handsome family is concerned their 2003 production Singing bones is my so far favorite. The latter artist creates music that revolves around the cheesy, the twangy and the ghostly - in that respect, they share something with Brittish artist Richard Hawley, whom I also have a fondness for.
14 November 2007
The boss of Tehy, Jaana Laitinen-Pesola, makes a valid point when she analyzes the situation from a feminist perspective:
När en kvinnodominerad bransch verkligen kämpar och använder andra än traditionella metoder ses det som något oerhört. Så vi blev giriga, hårda och likgiltiga (HBL 14/11).
The point is, as she says, that strikes and Union activity seem to be taken more seriously when the union in question is male-dominated. Cf. a statement by Kokoomus politician and plastic surgeon Asko-Seljavaara:
Asko-Seljavaara är plastikkirurg till yrket och har upplevt fyra läkar- och sjukvårdsstrejker förut.
– Men aldrig hade jag kunnat föreställa mig en arbetstvist där personalen vägrar utföra skyddsarbete.
Asko-Seljavaara menar att det är ansvarslöst av vårdfacket Tehy att strunta i skyddsarbetet och därmed patienterna (HBL 14/11).
Having gone on strike, nurses are claimed to act irresponsibly. If workers in the shipbuilding industry were to go on strike, nobody would talk about moral irresponsibility in the same way as in the discussion about the nurses' strike. Partly, this is due to the different nature of jobs, but the question is not only about that. (Depicting strikers as 'greedy', for example, cannot be seen simply in relation to the kind of work nurses are doing) Shipbuilding workers' claims for a rise in salaries would at most be seen as economically irresponsible from the point of view of e.g. risk of inflation.
An interesting thing concerning the present political discussion is how much of the focus is directed on past promises on the part of the conservative party, Kokoomus. This, of course, opens up many opportunities for political mudslinging; discrediting other parties by pointing out how little they've done in order to fulfil promises given in the election campaign. The risk here is that the real question - that nurses should be granted a bigger salary - is concealed. Very convenient for politicians who don't want to see themselves as responsible for the situation we're in now.
This does not mean that economic irresponsibility is not emphasized: on the homepage of the Commission for local authority employers issue a warning that dangerous strikes will become more common in the future ( = the strike will have dangerous consequences). Indignation is barely concealed:
Aldrig tidigare har en stridsåtgärd inom hälso- och sjukvården riktats på samma sätt som nu, utan den akuta vården har traditionellt lämnats utanför stridsåtgärderna. Om deltagarna i stridsåtgärden når sina mål genom denna modell kan den bli vanligare även i andra funktioner som är oumbärliga för samhället.
It is not a neutral description to say (as the commission does in a news article published 7.11): "Tehy kräver förhöjningar genom att äventyra patienternas liv" (Tehy demands pay increases by putting patients' lives in danger). Again: moral irresponsibility - nurses are blamed for risking human lives by their greedy and unholy activism. Tendentious. And the same type of covert moral reproach is implied in this statement by Jyrki Katainen (from a press conference, mid-october): "All wage-earners have the right to defend their own interests and employment terms, but what we need now is realism to find the best solution." Nurses are said to lack realism, blinded by idealism, perhaps.
12 November 2007
Here are my top ten "worst technical expressions employed in analytic & continental philosophy":
- "ascribe something to somebody"
bubbling under: heteronomy, body, lack, difference, power, subject
See you in philosophers' hell!
11 November 2007
Lately I've watched stuff that makes me less willing to stick to this crude picture.
- A streetcar named desire (1951) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044081/
- Cat on a hot tin roof (1958) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051459/
- Track of the cat (1954) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047603/
- Sweet bird of youth (1962) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056541/
Three of these movies are based on plays by Tennessee Williams (Track of the cat is not among these). Regrettably, I am not familiar with the plays, so I don't know in what way the movies and the plays differ (even though I have read that some things considered too dangerous were left out or watered down in the movies). Anyways, these four titles have in common an atmosphere of disruption and rebellion. There is, in all of these films, some moments were melodrama gets the upper hand, but there are also moments where a state of unrest is described more subtly. These films are, in different ways, about how a person's past might haunt her and how it is difficult to live in a world in which one is expected to inhabit a particular role: the husband who loves his wife, the decent & innocent woman, the professional, the patriarch.
In all of these movies, there are tendencies to criticize the way gender (by means of expectations) dominates what a person's life is considered to be. In Cat on a hot tin roof, a man's disgust with himself and with his wife is depicted. It becomes apparent that he doesn't love her but that as a man, he is expected to be sexually interested in anything having a female form. He sees this expectation as absurd and outrageous. The idea that if one is not sexually interested in all women, or worse, one's wife, something is deeply wrong. Sweet bird of youth showcases a great many troubled characters, and the dynamics between them works well at times. A gigolo tries to work his way into the Hollywood business by tending to a drugged actress' every need. He tries to keep up his "male pride" by looking up a sweetheart of his youth. Nothing beats the end of the film, *SPOILER* in which the gigolo is rejected by his sweetheart. "What about you and me", cries Chance, the gigolo. "To hell with you" brawls his former sweetheart. The end!
8 November 2007
7 November 2007
NN has borne the trials of marriage to a ruminant writer with characteristic grace. NN was a guide on all matters French, from the translation of sources to the navigation of Paris archives. More important, I have relied on her sound judgment and refined ear for matters large and small. She is my one true love, and to her I dedicate this book.
How many slimy avowals of affection for a loving wife have you read in academic books? I have read far too many writers' dedications to patient wives who've taken care of the family for them when the "ruminant writer" is himself all wrapped up in Academia (i.e. in himself). Male writers praise the virtues of their wives: tolerance, devotion, self-sacrifice. What are his virtues? He's got such a great mind. But of course it's very practical that this Great Mind and Man of Many Talents has a little wife at home who can take care of everything, "matters great and small". And sometimes the little wife may help him with small things pertaining to his Academic Work. She may be knowledgeable in French (of course, it suits her femininity so well) and therefore she may help him with translations. She may type his manuscript. She may check his spelling. She brings him a lunch box. She comforts him and tells him everything will turn out all right. He will get his book published and his career will move onwards. She will take care of everything. He doens't have to worry one bit. She knows that his work is very serious and very deep; his burden is huge. She should be happy to be married to such a great mind.
I dedicate this to you, slimeball.