30 December 2008

"My hand isn't hurt but there's pain in my heart" - Crooners.




I'm bewitched by schmaltzy and not so schmaltzy crooners. I put on the slippers, load the scotch glass & wring that knife gently, gently.

Broderade bonader och kuddar!

Mera Malax-Tv!



Synd att det blev så kortfattat om de där kuddarna.

Och så Twin Peakstema!



TV Åland skulle kanske förtjäna sin plats i Youtuberymden?

Nu finns det även en hemsida!

PS: Med denna rubrik förväntar jag mig att bloggen översvämmas av googlebesökare!

28 December 2008

Hedenius etc.

Efter några års paus har jag återupptagit mitt radiolyssnande. Under mina gymnasieår spenderade jag många, långa nattliga timmar med obskyra program från (mestadels) svensk publicserviceradio.

Häromdagen lyssnade jag på Filosofisk rummet från P1. Temat var Hedenius, filosof och debattör. Jag sysslade lite med Hedenius för några år sedan, men på sistone har jag inte engagerats alls av religionsfilosofiska frågor. Hedeniusprogrammet var intressant. Där deltog två författare som tilldelats Hedeniuspriset. Sedan deltog en doktorand från Uppsala/Södertörn. Inledningsvis förvånades jag över hur beredda Hedeniuspristagarna var att erkänna Hedenius som en "knivskarp tänkare". Som jag kommer ihåg hans resonemang var de ganska lata och ganska självgoda också. Däremot ligger det säkert något i det som programdeltagarna diskuterade, nämligen att det fanns ett visst fog för Hedenius' kritik av den samtida teologin och det statskyrliga maktutövande.

Uppsaladoktoranden talade en hel del om den religiösa erfarenheten och dess relation till existentiella frågor. Hon förhöll sig kritisk till Hedenius' religionskritik. I korthet kan man säga att Hedenius helt utgår från religiösa påståenden och möjligheten att påvisa deras sanning eller falskhet. Den ena författaren avbröt - på ett ganska grinigt sätt - uppsalafilosofens sätt att diskutera den religiösa erfarenheten. Sådant kan man ju inte kritisera, menade hon, som om det vore en självklarhet att erfarenheter är något inom oss som på inga sätt har att göra med världen vi lever i eller med mellanmänskliga relationer. Därför kunde man, menade hon, diskutera religion och tro som Hedenius gör. Som sanningsanspråk (och det är klart att Hedenius själv bestämt vad han tänker på som sanningsanspråk).

Den andra Hedeniuspristagaren, PC Jersild, var inte lika fascinerad av sanningsbegreppet, åtminstone inte på samma närmast kliniska sätt som den andra författaren. Han talade mera om de samtal vi för med varandra där religiösa frågor, vad det sedan är varierar ju, väcks.

Men om jag minns Hedenius rätt var samtalet om religiösa frågor inte riktigt det som han intresserade sig för. Nej, Hedenius ville pressa fram läsaren till insikt om religionens grundlöshet. Det som förbryllade mig var det sätt som Hedenius' begrepp om intellektuell redbarhet/ärlighet åberopades av den ena författaren. Själv tyckte jag att just detta begrepp användes på ett helt verklighetsfrämmande sätt hos Hedenius, så att det enda som står på spel i vårt tänkande är om vi på ett vetenskapligt sätt har grunder för våra föreställningar (som om allt kunde sammanfattas genom detta begrepp).

Jag lärde mig helt enkelt inte särskilt mycket genom att läsa Hedenius, även om hans texter på ett nog så klart sätt illustrerar en viss idé om vad religionskritik handlar om.

När jag vänder och vrider på begreppet 'religionskritik' verkar det mer och mer konstigt.

25 December 2008

Lågvattenmärke

Min nu bortgångna morbror K avskydde tre saker. Kungen, kyrkan och oredig ungdom. Han var konservativ och socialist på en gång. Jag kommer ihåg jularna när den pastellfärgade kungafamiljen på TV utlöste ett spontant okvädesutbrott hos min morbror, utan att han dock övergav sin kaffekopp eller de eviga julmandarinerna. Jag tänker på allt detta då jag helt enkelt inte kan låta bli att läsa om Kungens jultal i DN. Jultal? Varför håller en figur som Kungen tal? Kungen ska ju inte driva politik. DN citerar följande djupsinnighet:

"Finanskrisen och dess återverkningar gick som en röd tråd genom Kungens årliga jultal till svenskar i Sverige och utomlands. Han riktade sig till alla de som på olika sätt drabbats av finanskrisen och efterföljande lågkonjunktur. - Vi har tydligt blivit påminda om att vi lever i en gemensam värld och är beroende av varandra, sa Kungen.Kungen talade också om de möjligheter som trots allt följer på en finanskris och att den kan vara ett första steg mot en bättre värld. - Världens ledare har, med stor kraft och beslutsamhet, agerat gemensamt. Det finns inga självklara lösningar, men det är ändå hoppfullt att se samarbetet och dialogen mellan olika stater. [...] Kungen avslutade sitt tal med att prata om vikten av en rik kultur och traditioner för att få fäste i tillvaron och hur viktig litteratur, konst och musik är för vårt välbefinnande. - Jag tror att det har blivit allt viktigare i den gränslösa värld vi lever i idag, att ha tillgång till ett rikt kulturliv som både kan ge samhörighet och trygghet, sa Kungen."

Lågvattenmärkt från Kungen - och från mig.

Fish farming, raccoon dogs & Christmas


Cats, dogs, hens, pigs and squirrels. And fish. This is what my relatives talk about. We discuss procedures in the fish farm. My cousin works there, occasionally. When she was younger, she was a truckdriver. Even though she keeps a low profile, she is respected by everybody. She confesses that the floundering fish fighting for its life makes her uneasy. At that, my father chuckles heartily. That's the sentimentality of the womenfolk, he mutters in his head. We take a deep look into the oily content of our coffee mugs. Mine is decorated with a happy pink pig. They used electric shocks to kill the fish. They don't use them anymore. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was too expensive. Who work in the fish farm? Stiff fingers. The smell. The stigma of working there. My relatives start to reflect on why no "ortsbo" works there full-time. Unsurprisingly, They don't get far. The subject is dropped. Let's discuss brake systems instead. Some people are not considered to be "ortsbo", a real villager, even though they've lived here a really long time. That son of a bitch troll of a man, whatever he is called, driving that moped, fishing our waters.... Troll of a man... His good-for-nothing son, what will become of him? Awwright, it's under his influence that the others... The same people who are considered to be outsiders because they have the wrong job or the wrong background are suddenly embraced by the community when the subject of village eccentrics is brought up. They are welcomed as candidates, as a continuation of village craziness and stubborn oddballity. There is a new generation, my aunt observes with an easy-going, pleased smile, her arms relaxedly stretched behind her neck. Be calm! There will be things to talk about in the future, too. There is a future!


We gather in my aunt's house. Upon seeing uncle B, my father declares: "This might be the only winter we get." He tries to appear manly, cheerful. They talk about the sloping economy in the same tone. The sobriety with which comings and goings, ups and downs, turns and twists, the good and the bad, is acknowledged. As always on these occasions, my father wears his purple-brown party pullover. The crowd is held back by a slightly anxious atmosphere, an atmosphere of suspense. We wait for aunt A to bring the coffee. Coffee & cake have a pacifying effect on us all.

At some point, L the dog makes his dignified appearance. L goes to sleep by the feet of his mistress. L is brown and black, white neck. A bit podgy, but that only adds to his dignity and joviality. L owns the room. "Who let him in?" my aunt angrily inquires, as she offers us another round of delicious coffee. When I was a kid, I hung out at my cousin's place, reigned by Rex the dog. My aunt never liked the dog. Ghost!, she hollered at him while he slinked away towards the door. I didn't like him either. I was scared of him.

Uncle Bs mother, E., is 82 years old. In good shape. When she sees us, she exclaims that this is the only time she ever gets to meet us. She smiles cordially and her ladylike necklace glows around her neck. We nod. That's the only exchange we have during the occasion, and the same thing will happen next year. The year after that. E's husband passed away a few years ago. He was a man following his own paths. He shot crows for sport. I don't know what he did for a living.
Maybe he was a sailor.



I stare into the ligths of the christmas tree and the 80's wallpaper, a massive sunset artificially romanticizing the room. I suddenly remember the bomb shelter under the house in which my cousin and I used to play. To climb down to there you had to open a secret hatch that was hidden in a closet, almost like in an Enid Blython mystery story. It was dark and clammy in there. It was hard to breathe. As a kid, I loved that place.



My father and the other men slouching on the sofa - there has always been a gender dyad, cutting through the room - engage in a long conversation about raccoon dogs. There are plenty of them out here. Uncle B wonders at the acting skills of the raccoon dogs. Whenever they feel threatened, they play dead. His younger brother lends him a piece of advice. Poke the goddamn raccoon dog in the eye. Check whether it blinks.



I go for small walks. I stand by the ocean, on the bridge. The bridge rubs against the . I listen to the creaks and the wash of water upon rocks. The waves are big. A family of swans pass by. The waves lap the shore, I could listen to it all day. A tiny layer of snow covers the ground. Sun beams gleam through a thick cloud and the crispness of the air numbs my cheeks.



My high school town doesn't make me seasick anymore. There was a time I could hardly walk the streets without feeling seriously woozy. I go to see some of my old friends. One of them is pregnant. I tried to be polite (I repressed the question: why future generations?). My other friend got herself a guinea pig. She talked about the wheel that enchants the guinea pig, then she goes on to bemoan her own.

At night, teenybop spectres make my head their home while bulldozers ravage in my stomach. I travel the time tunnel, accompanied by my grandmother's moraclock which has not left the house, even though she has. The clock tolls 2, 3, 4 and 5. I think about her. She used to smoke cigarettes hunched over the stove while I got ready for school. She made eggs and porridge. She listned to the news in Finnish. She turned to look at me with a humorous, sly expression on her face. I told her when I'd be home. She asked me to buy a few things from the store. We had a language of our own. Other people did not always understand her. There were times I had a hard time, too. I remember Gunnar Björling:

You go the/ words/ and where/ were you, it was/ I know not and/ that to your ear/ wants/ and with the eye/ just with finger

24 December 2008

The Dylan Group


The Dylan Group. A bad name for a good band. The music of the Dylan Group has nothing in common with Bob D. (As a side remark: I can't stand that Dylan) I'm listening to an early album of the now, I think, retired band. It's called It's all about (Rimshots and Faulty wiring) and was released in 1998. One of the band members is also a member of Mice Parade. The latter band being a bit more well known, it might be illuminating to add that their music have similarities. Both have, for example, a knack of creating enigmatic grooves and otherworldly atmospheres that paradoxically still manage to feel rustic and down to earth. Both bands also exploit one of the most brilliant instruments in the world: the vibraphone. What is special about It's all about... is that is is centered around the melodies created by the vibraphone. In this regard, they tread the territory that Bohren & der club of Gore has marked as their own. (The choir appearing on Bittersweet could have been stolen from Dolores)

But the Bohren comparison is not to be stretched to far. There are other elements on this album, too, that makes it a very dynamic and exciting listening experience. Just to tickle your imagination a bit, I want to mention that there is a part of the record in which the dreamy landscape of the vibraphones is exchanged for a blizzard of merzbow-like static noise. But interestingly enough, there is also lots of percussion in here. At times The Dylan Group arrives at, for lack of a better description, the rhytmic complexity of math rock. The similarity with The Mercury Program is very striking (are they famous? I don't know.). It's all about... moves effortlessly from spikier, almost aggressive, moments to more contemplative moods. And, man, don't they even throw in some dinner jazz too! So: from the experimental to teh Corny. That is inspiring.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, you might also like: Chicago Underground Duo, The Drift, American Analog Set.

21 December 2008

Stockholm.

I Stockholm möts vi av ett skri. "Passa er! Det är hela jävla världen!" Skylten talar samma språk. Vi fördriver tiden såsom finländare på besök i konungariket har gjort sedan urminnes tider. Morgonen gryr i ett pissindränkt McDonalds. Cookielandet.

19 December 2008

The Sundays

Dammit, this is pop. Reading, writing and arithmetic. I can hardly spell 'arithmetic'. The Sundays. 1990. You might have heard them on the soundtrack of Buffy. Jangly, in the best sense ever.

17 December 2008

Jordens förtegna tillrop


På jobbet läser jag Heidegger. Konstverkets ursprung. Det är en bonnig bok. Heidegger utlägger donets tjänlighet. Detta gör han genom en lång utredning om bondskornas varande:

"Ur den dunkla öppningen till skodonens uttrampade inre stirrar arbetsstegens möda. I skodonens styvnade tyngd finns uppdämd inhärigheten i de långsamma stegen längs de vitt utsträckta och ständigt ensartade fårorna på åkern, över vilken en snål vind viner. Vid lädret låder jordmånens fukt och fetma. Under sulorna drar markvägens enslighet förbi, allt medan aftonen sjunker. I skodonen klingar jordens förtegna tillrop, dess stillsamma skänkande av mognande säd och dess outtalade vägran att släppa till sig på det vintriga värdets öde träda. Genom dess don drar den klaglösa ängslan för brödets trygghet, den ordlösa fröjden över att nöden än en gång är överstånden, bävan vid födelsens ankomst, och skälvan inför den från alla håll hotande döden. Dessa don hör jorden till, de är hägnade i bondkvinnans värld. Ur denna hägnande hemmahörighet stiger donen själva fram till sitt vilande i sig själva." (Heidegger: Konstverkets ursprung, (Stockholm: Daidalos, 1987) s. 28.)

Vad tusan är 'inhärighet'?

15 December 2008

Insomnia

I need to change my rotten ways. That is, I have to whip myself into working people's working hours. My dear employer has introduced a new performance monitoring system. Well, they reassure us it is not. But it is.Time allocation. I will have to turn in reports. Dear Empoyer, dear Academy of F, I present to you my whereabouts:

9.00-10.30: Sleeps (in bed).
10.30-11: Checks e-mails.
11.00-12.00: Talks to Y.
12.00-14.00: Is distracted.
14.00-15.00: Coffee.
15.00 - 16.00: Sleeps (in chair).
16.00-16.30: Works on dissertation.
16.30-17.00: Considers going home.

So, anyway. I try to fix my sleeping hours to a more normal schedule. It's a bitch. I try anyway. As soon as I lay me down to sleep, my mind wakes up. A huge span of awareness. My skin itches. My mind is hustle and bustle. My skin burns. Feet start tapping a rhytm. I try to calm myself down. I try to think of nothing. Impossible. There is a title of a book I try to remember. The author. Hattie... Hilda... Holly... Thoughs transform into physical entities, moving around the body. Who said thinking is in the head? There are thoughts in my feet and my hands and my stomach. Fucking ants. I start worrying. I float around on a mat of self-obsession. A bad lump. I summon it and it appears. Have I payed that bill? Should I go check the drawers? Cars driving by throw reflections on the wall. I look at these. The lightness of the room hurts the eyes. I listen to the hum of the heater. A creak. A click. Somebody is in the elevator. It's next to my wall. Next to my ear. I hear the rustle of a key. The door opening & shutting. I wonder what my neighbor has been up to. I tell myself not to think. Not of x. Not of y. Not of z. Not of motherfucking x. Keep it at bay. As I try to suffocate the thought, it reappears all the more insistent, all the more indubitable. Technicolor vivid. Try to think of neutral stuff. Swedish kings from 1300 to now. In a frenzy I have a go at it. Karl X Gustav. I've worked up a sweat, temples throbbing, bones aching. Gustav IV Adolf. Sheets wriggling, covers flying. My bed jumps up and down. As if on a storming sea. My body forms itself into different shapes. I twitch and turn. I'm sure I will never sleep again. What time is it? My mind grabs onto the subject of work. Arendt & Marx & me & alienation & what is politics, really. I shut that down. Fast. A melody appears. I try to suppress it, but it overpowers me. I try to remember how the melody goes. Is. That. ABBA. Yes. It. Is. I imagine dawn is drawing near. The wee small piss hours. I will never sleep and never rest.

14 December 2008

In the news

On Sundays I read newspapers. The quiet library is a nice burrow to hide out in. All sorts of people go there. The place is crowded but still very calm. The architects have really put a great deal of though in what the building is used for. There are big, yellow chairs in which I could spend all day. And best of all: there are no freakin' kids around. They have their own spot.

In the news: Astrid Thors (Swedish People's Party), who is minister of migration & european affairs, has submitted a bill on residence permits to the parliament for review. There have been many interpretations on what the bill actually states, but many politicians seem to be in agreement that it allows for a too "liberal" refugee policy. Anyway, in news articles, the bill is presented to make residence permits easier to obtain for refugees. It will be easier for the person who has been granted a residence permit to bring her/his family to Finland. Those who oppose the bill make a great point out of "criminals being allowed residence permits if some technicalities prevent Finnish governments from sending them back". I sense some populism going on here.... The Coalition Youth League (Kokoomus/Coalition = conservative party) accuses Thors' bill of being too lax and, additionally, that it contains a number of loopholes. They propose that Thors resign, the reason stated being that she has a "deviant notion of legality than most Finns". And what is more, they advocate that a "too liberal" policy will lead to "social and cultural problems".
Source1. Source2

Even the mayor of Helsinki, Jussi Pajunen, has said things on his blog that indicates that his view on immigration are far from positive (it is not an innocent thing to say that every fourth inhabitant of Helsinki in the year 2025 is of immigrant background - he says it, well, in a very loaded context.). Conservative bloggers talk about Thors' bill as opening up the prospect for criminals and other scum living off earnest, Finnish taxpayers' hard work.

As if this were not enough: a petition on the Internet expressing a disapproval of Thors' bill warns the Public about the slipping slope of "liberal policies". Over 13.000 people have signed the damn thing.

What happened? One of the parliament's comittees (Hallintovaliokunta) rejected Thors bill, in consequence of which the bill was compromised. Source. Source. (If I am not mistaken, both the Centre and the Coalition party were opposed to the original bill)

A background to all this is that Finland is a country that accepts far fewer asylum seekers than do, for example, Sweden. For the very few who are granted a stable residence permit, the existing laws have created a lot of problems. Many refugees live under uncertain circumstances, in which bureaucrats' decisions are pending endlessly and under which granted rights are few. There are the so-called B-permits, that don't allow people to work. The new, compromised bill has a solution for that, whereas it does not make it easier for families to join their relatives who have been granted residence permit. There were also changes with regard to the possibility to be granted a stable residence permit - Thors was too lax in that regard, too, the committee has decided. Politicians argue that a compromise will make the law more in line with the standards prescribed by EU.

I don't even have the strength to comment on all this. I hope you will understand. I am not too familiar with the original bill, so I cannot say anything about how progressive it really is. But the discussions surrounding it give me the creeps.

**

On a different note, I read an article stating that a very great number of rapes take place on board of the Viking Line cruisers. What upset me, except for this fact, was how the Viking Line representative responded to this predicament. He said that a lot of people travel with Viking Line and that only a very, very few of them are raped. Bad. God. Damn. Answer. Sir.

12 December 2008

Bra saker x 5

1. The Cats of Mirikitani är en dokumentär från 2006 som handlar om mötet mellan den åttioårige Jimmy Mirikitani, en konstnär som slagit bo utanför en matsylta i New York, och dokumentärfilmaren Linda Hattendorf. Efter 9/11 flyttar Miritikani tillfälligt in hos filmaren. Dokumentären handlar om allt från Mirikitanis upplevelser av koncentrationslägret i Tule Lake (där japanska immigranter spärrades in efter Pearl Harbor) till Mirikitanis misstänksamhet mot det amerikanska "välfärds"systemet (där ett social security number är A och O). Vad som gör dokumentären så fantastisk är att Hattendorf låter berättelsen fara dit den far. Hon klistrar inte på någon Stor Struktur. Också Hattendorfs katt, och andra katter, spelar betydande roller i filmen. Mina associationer driver iväg med mig. Mitt i allt kommer jag på migsjälv med att tänka på min (nu bortgångna) mormor. Järnvilja. Det här är en mycket enkel film. Gott så. Filmen tycks dessutom ha fått riktigt skaplig distribution, vilket är kul!

2. Jag halkar in på ett konstigt spår. Jojje Wadenius: "Den jag älskar heter Örjan". Småqueer barnmusik från 1969. Nu kan ni tycka att tramsfaktorn på bloggen sköt i höjden, men lyssna, då'rå.

3. Det är synd att jag läser så lite serier. S. lånade mig Einsteins fru av Liv Strömquist. Jag läser första delen en natt från kl. 2 till 5 a.m. Det rör sig om helt fantastiska feministiska analyser av saker som Marx' riktiga relation till proletärerna, den babyloniska skökan och diskussionen om "naturligt beteende". Och Jackson Pollock! Denna jävel om vilket det gjorts en riktigt insmickrande film som heter, ahem, Pollock. Strömquist sticker hål på det "manliga geniet". Den manliga konstnären som lider. Liv Strömquists bullshitsradar är påslaget. Just Pollock-serien är fullständigt brilliant, både texter och bilder är på kornet. Strömquist beskriver partiarkatets logik. "Ett klyschigt fenomen i ett partiarkat är att en massa svinhotta, coola tjejer kan vara ihop med ett astråkigt fuckface, men ändå känna sig underlägsna, osäkra och förtäras av en helt orealistisk svartsjuka p.g.a. att man införlivat en vidrig, sexistisk verklighetsuppfattning om att man själv inte har något värde." Word. Strömquist ställer viktiga livsfrågor om Samtidssverige: "Varför vill så många manliga regissörer skildra samma sak: att en oneurotisk arbetarklassflicka slänger av sig paltorna och säger 'ta mig' på dalmål?" Bra fråga. Albumet avslutas med en klartänkt betraktelse om John & Yoko.

4. Skivan "No New York" (V/A). DNA. James Chance & the contortions. Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. Mars. Godsaker från No-wave-vågen.

5. Det är nu dags för mig att börja läsa del fem i Prousts romansvit På spaning efter den tid som flytt. Denna del heter "Den fångna". När jag börjar läsa Proust är det alltid med ett slags spänd förväntan. Boken inleds så här:

"Redan på morgonen, medan jag låg kvar med ansiktet vänt mot väggen och ännu inte hunnit se vilken nyans dagen hade ovanför de tjocka gardinerna, visste jag hurudant vädret skulle bli. De första ljuden utifrån gatan hade underrättat mig därom, vare sig de nådde mig sordinerade och vilsna genom fuktig luft eller vibrerande som pilar i en högvälvd, iskall och ren morgon ekande tomma rymd; redan den första spårvagnens rullande hade sagt mig om den kurande i regnet eller var på väg mot en himmelsblå horisont."

Jag roar mig över följande artikel ur Läkartidningen som av någon outgrundlig orsak envisas med att dra in Proust i ett resonemang om genetiska grunder för val av partners. (Läkartidningen? Den läser jag ju alltid! Tre exemplar ständigt under huvudkudden.) Om mina ögon inte bedrar mig är det här en artikel från i fjol. "Studier med MR-teknik har visat att hjärnans dopaminerga belöningssystem är involverat i förälskelsens positiva, lustfyllda känslor. Det har varit av evolutionär betydelse inte bara att kopulera utan också att verkligen ge sig tid att vinna rätt partner." Snälla, snälla tomten: säg att den här artikeln är en parodi.

Warum läuft Herr R. Amok?


The aptly titled Warum läuft Herr R. Amok?, one of Fassbinder's earlier films, is one of the most excruciating film experiences I've ever gone through. Herr R. lives with his wife and kid. His parents seem to live with them, too. He works as a draftsman at a, I think, architect office. In the beginning of the film, we don't see a lot of what goes on with Herr R. He is just there. When his co-workers deliver crude jokes, he sits, statue-like, with a blank expression. He smokes copiously. All characters do. We see Herr R. walk into a record shop. He has heard a song on the radio, if only he could remember what song it was. As he tries to explain to the clerk girls what records he wants to by, the girls can't stop giggling. Herr R. knows he is ridiculous. Or does he? The scene is absolutely impossible to hold at a distance. I find myself longing for verfremdungseffekts, the stylized distancing that Fassbinder employs in so many of his other films. Watching Herr R ramble on emptily in a speech held to his co-workers on one of their parties hits too close to home. Looking at Herr R.s drunken, exhilarated face & how he is being mercilessly watched by his boss - makes me hold my finger close, close to the STOP-button. It's brutal. It's brutal in a way that makes me think about The Office (only without the relief of humor) or Michael Haneke or Winterberg's Festen. There are, however, hints of humor: the dull drawings of house-boxes that preoccupy the office workers make for a humorous expression of the alienation all characters are placed in. I also remember the scene in which Herr R. drills his son to pronounce "sch" correctly.

Warum läuft Herr R. Amok? pins me down to my own reactions. I feel embarrassed when watching the never-ending, totally trivial chit-chat about Othello. I feel annoyed at the stupidity of the characters. I am disgusted at Herr R.s mother. Fassbinder succeeds - maybe too shrewdly? - in making us take on Herr R.s perspective. I simply cannot resist. I would like to compare the film experience to tooth-ache or having one's arm bent behind one's back. This is not only a psychological comment about my "feelings". It is, I would rather say, internal to the point of the film that we react this way. The title of the film poses a question. Why does Herr R. run amok? - There is no answer whatsoever in terms of "psychological reasons" or "circumstances". The only answer there is are the things we see; banal chit-chat, a wife, eager to please, listening to her girlfriend's blabberings about a ski-trip in the fucking alps. He is blamed for carelessness at work. Stuff like that. We are not, mark my words, asked to "draw our one conclusions". There is no room for that. Instead, we are forced to watch. A reviewer on IMDB sullenly comments: "depth? important statements? subtext? NEIN!" For me, that is exactly what epitomizes the greatness of the film. Drab is drab and humdrum is humdrum.

11 December 2008

Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh


My familiarity with science fiction literature is, to say the least, not anything to write home about. I've read Solaris by Stanislav Lem, mostly because I liked the Tarkovsky version of the film. Off the top of my head, that, and a cyber punk story written by William Gibson, are the only science fiction books I remember ever having read. The idea of science fiction literature seems thrilling to some extent, but my very prejudiced hunch about science fiction literature is that it erects a massive structure of plot combined with a world building principle that, in the end, boils down to a science fetisch. I'm not that interested in the future of science, to give you my honest opinion. I think that we tend to have a way too exaggerated belief in science as the driving force of changes in human life.

My friend M talked a great deal about Cyteen, a science fiction novel written by C.J. Cherry, published in 1988. His enthusiasm about the book made me curious, and I decided to read it. At a snail's pace, I did. At first, as I dived into the story, I was very confused. I felt I was not equipped with a perspicuous presentation of the form of life the book depicts. This didn't prevent me from reading on and I gradually gave up on the desire to have the structure of the world of the novel all laid out before me, summed up in heavyweight sentences. Instead, I realize that we don't have a perspicuous presentation of our own world either. What would that even look like? The stylistic dimension of Cyteen that first appeared harrowingly fragmentary to me, is rather quite true to life. We have differing descriptions of what goes on. Politics, economics and technology don't occupy a settled position in our lives.

Cyteen is a planet on which humans settled in the year 2201. By then, humans had already built stations on other planets and the economy on earth had degenerated increasingly. Travelling had altered radically due to the invention of faster-than-light space probes. Cyteen consists of "pockets of breathable atmosphere in an otherwise deadly environment". The novel revolves around the region of Reseune, a research zone in which some the planet's inhabitants is bred in genetics labs, some of which are azi, "assistants" (a form of slaves) to human beings who mostly learn things taking "tape", which means that they don't learn stuff in the setting of human interaction, but rather, by means of subconscious stimulation. Non-azi also take tape to some degree.

A circle of politicians and researchers make up the gallery of characters, which makes it only natural that Cyteen explores the intermingling of politics and science. At the beginning of the novel, Ariane Emory, an important genetic designer/politician, is murdered. A researcher named Jordan Warrick is, it appears, the perpetrator. A clone of Emory, Ariane II, is bred to take up Emory's work where she finished it. See, Ariane is also a clone psychologically. Through childhood and adolescence, Ariane II struggles with her position as successor, as somebody for whom destiny is sealed, as somebody who has to reach a particular "standard". Ariane I was the leader of a political party called The Expansionists, the agenda of which is to expand the union of stations surrounding Cyteen and also to continue the cloning technology. From an early age, Ariane II, aided by her two security azi, gains entrance to the world of politics. Ariane I and II have a complicated bond to the Warrick family, who are also gifted researchers: personal relationships are linked to political ones so that it is never quite clear what is what.

Cherryh paints a dark, suffocating even, panorama of political and scientific life. There are no hints of indulgence in technological trinkets; Cyteen is the dystopia of science. (In my academic work, I struggle with understanding Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition, after having read Cyteen, I have a much stronger grasp of what "world-alienation". "alienation from the life-world", could mean.)

Cherryh depicts a political system dependent on blackmail, secret inverventions and a totalitarian network of surveillance. Her novel could be said to incorporate a light streak of Foucauldian views on power as the personal relationships of the book are impossible to understand apart from the roles science, politics and technology play in the characthers' lives. Cherryh's attempts at developing a nu-speak of Reseune makes the centrality of technological psychology particularly evident. The characters of Cyteen often talk about themselves as if from a third person perspective, using the language of tape interventions and detached psychology. This is a world of "psychsets", a world in which spontaneous reactions are reduced to irrational "flux". Grant and Justin are lovers. They also grew up together. Justin's father is sent away as he is accused of the murder. Eventually, Justin is allowed to visit. Grant, however, is not. Left behind at Reseune, he worries about what will happen. Will security tamper with him? Security could do whatever they like. Grant is the property of Reseune. In the lonely hours of the night, Grant takes some drugs that will help him get access to his psychsets. He takes some sedates to cope with the flux. - This situation is typical for the characters of Cyteen. They react to situations; but their world makes such reactions dangerous. This goes for azi and non-azi alike. Azi are slaves to non-azi. Both groups are restrained by the dangers of flux.

To be honest, I was fascinated with Cyteen more on the level of ideas than as I was impressed with it as a literary work. Cherryh's language is not so stringent as I would desire it to be. There are a few oddities. On Reseune, the treasure of curse-words seems to have been shockingly overlooked. If one would count the instances of the bland word "damn" in the novel, one would reach an impressive amount indeed. But maybe the recurrent clinging to this particular word could be interpreted as the overall impoverished sense of language (linked to the ideology of science) that Cherryh hints at in her characters? What I like about the novel is its extensive use of dialogue. It fits the story to develop a complex world a lot dissimilar from our own by means of conversation. A problem, however, is that Cherryh is prone to underestimate the complexities and layers of conversation. At some points, it bothers me that she moves on the surface.

One thing that I found a bit wearisome in Cyteen was how Cherryh was prone to hold up sex as a primordial, irrational drive that has nothing to do with society. You know the picture: dark, human passions cluttered among people striving for progress and efficiency. (Dr. F?) This said, Cherry raises the issue of heterosexism in a very admirable, subtle way. One could even say that this particular subject is treated with much more subtlety than other things. One could read stuff into that, but I prefer not to.

On the Wikipedia site for Cyteen, I find out that Cherryh is soon to publish a sequel!

8 December 2008

Perkele!


Efter ännu en skitdag med dålig koncentration (profitkvoten!) har jag för avsikt att vädra dämonerna genom att titta på Jörn Donners dokumentär Perkele! - Bilder från Finland från 1971. Det fungerar.

I Sverige är Donner känd som filmboss. I Finland är han bekant som grinig gubbe; ibland författare och regissör, ibland politiker och konsul, och ibland bara sarkastisk förståsigpåare. För ett antal år sedan läste jag [någon av dem] Donners självbiografi. Jag vet inte varför jag läste den, men den var rolig. Perkele! har, tror jag, något slags kultrykte. Min förväntning om en finsk Nyfiken var inte helt grundlös. Det var länge sedan jag såg Vilgot Sjömans filmer. De gjorde inget större intryck på mig. Det var något i tonfallet hos Sjöman & Nyman som störde mig.

Perkele!
är en bra film. Donner med kollegor lyckas fånga något slags tidsanda. Landsbygden töms på folk. Folk flyttar till Sverige. Det sups. Men filmen är inget tillbakalutat sociologiskt porträtt. Det rör sig snarare om argsinta och provokativa intervjuer med fyllgubbar, politiker, porrklubbsägare och gamla tanter. Donner vill ta reda på vad folk tycker om Finland. Han får ofta mjäkiga svar. Enträget försöker han tända något slags samhällspolitisk gnista i sina intervjuoffer, men han lyckas inte alltid. Många av de intervjuade säger att Finland är ett bra land och att de helt enkelt är intresserade av att jobba för att få mat på bordet och att det känns lite irrelevant att rösta. Donner frågar burdust om folk är nöjda med sin lön. De flesta säger sig vara nöjda. Donner tränger sig på och är obekväm. I de där scenerna känns filmen inte det minsta föråldrad. Snarare tvärtom. Men där finns också en scen med Kekkonen som får metalj i en absurd, ytterst stel ceremoni. En lokalpolitiker har militärporträtt på väggarna - han är centerpartist. Populistpolitikern Veikko Vennamo orerar vältaligt om de mindre bemedlade. En kommunpolitiker ondgör sig över att staden styrs av en minimal elit. Vänsterledaren Taisto Sinisalo talar ömsom uppgivet, ömsom hoppfullt om hur hans parti vänder sig till den finska arbetarklassen. Skildringen av finsk politik 1971 känns engagerad - och väldigt långt borta från dagens Matti Vanhanen och Jutta Urpilainen, även om vänstern just då lidit ett valnederlag. (Det känns lite skrämmande att det är Vennamo som fått nya arvtagare i finsk politik.) Donner frågar en typ som just har röstat om han anser att hans röst betyder något. Njaaa. Och kommer hans röst att påverka storföretagens styrelsesammansättning? - Varför frågar man inte sådant nu?

Många scener är roliga. Donner et. al förhör sig om krogkulturen i Lahtis. En förfriskad man redogör för stadens förlustelsetillhåll med en vokabulär som till 50 % består av finska kraftuttryck. I en annan scen jävlas Donner med två teaterskådespelare. Han envisas med att upprepade gånger fråga vad "folket vill ha". Folket vill ha operetter! Men, frågar Donner tjatigt, varför i helvete ska ni då bestämt spela Shakespear? Får ni understöd för sånt? Han vill förstås visa att skådistomtarna är ena riktiga girigbukar. Andra scener är allvarligare. I en scen talar ett gäng gubbar om arbetslösheten på landet. I en annan intervjuas en ung kvinna på Ruisrock ("Finlands Woodstock....?") om framtidsplaner. Hon säger att hon vill bli hemmafru. Det är vad hon vill. Hitta en man. Tror hon att det kommer att innebära något slags frihet? Ja, säger hon. Tro inte att Donners film är överdrivet feministisk - i en scen drar han och kollegorna med en tjej till ett hotellrum; ni kan gissa vad som händer. Scenen är satans motbjudande på alla sätt och det gör att jag har svårt att ta Donner et al. på allvar.

Perkele! - Kuvia Suomesta drivs av en energi som jag saknar i finska dokumentärproduktioner. OK, jag är inte så bevandrad på området. Men Donners samhällskritik känns argare än det mesta jag annars sett på finsk TV. Förvisso, filmen är lite populistisk men samtidigt finns det också fina element i den. Riktiga människor som får komma till tals. Och så är det roligt att höra Arja Saijonmaa sjunga om Kapitalet. Jörn Donner är i sitt esse.

7 December 2008

Lars and the real girl

The foremost reason why I went to see Lars and the real girl was, undoubtedly, the name. The story treads an interesting path somewhere in between kitchen sink realism and absurdism. There is a lot of low-key drama, coarse landscapes and silly hand-knit sweaters, all of this making for a film about people who live lives that are in no sense extraordinary. The main character, Lars, comes off as a shy young man. People are worried about him because he seems to lack all interest in relationships. An elderly women approaches him after church, just to get some updates as to his love life. Is he gay? She knows about them gays now, as her grandchild happens to be one. Lars' love life has turned into a communal affair. One day, Lars' co-worker once again asks him to have a look at some porn-related internet page. Sex dolls. Later on we find out that Lars has received a package. He lives in his brother's garage. Proudly, he declares to his brother and his wife that he has a visitor, a girlfriend. What follows is the villagers' gradual learning and acceptance of Lars' "girlfriend", the sex doll, which he treats as if it were a living person. You might think that this story seems silly and that it lacks credibility. And, well, there were moment in the film in which I thought so, too. But this did not prevent me from enjoying it.

I regard Lars and the real girl as a critique of the way we tend to psychologize and medicalize interpersonal problems. The best part of the film is the town's only doctor/shrink, played by Patricia Clarkson (who was Ruth's sister in Six feet under!). While Lars' brother eagerly tries to come up with psychological explanations and causes of Lars' behavior, Dagmar the psychologist tries to make Lars open up to her. Her gentle, but decisive approach wins the trust of her client. Or it is more to the point to say that it is not clear whether they have a client-therapist relationship at all; Lars meets her in the belief that his girlfriend has an appointment with Dr. Dagmar. Anyway, the villagers gradually stop treating Lars as a crazy person. They treat him as somebody who has certain difficulties with himself.

At times, the villagers reactions lack credibility. Lars' co-worker embodies a flat goodness that gains neither friction or reality. This is when I get the sense that the film simplifies Lars' problems and that the whole issue is sugar-coated in the characters merry adaptation to the situation. It isn't that I question the film's belief in goodness. One of the scenes, in which the ladies of the town have arrived at Lars' house to mourn the "dying" Bianca, knit-work and food bowl in hand, is moving and fun at the same time. It's simply that goodness is distorted as soon as sentimentality becomes a part of the picture. And although the overall message seems to be higly critical of the alienating language of pop-psychology, the sentimental bits about how Lars' bears the scars of a tough childhood brings that awful psychologizing right back.

A striking moment of the movie takes place as the male characters first hear of Bianca the sex doll-turned-girlfriend. Wow, they say, that's the best girlfriend one could have, silent, obedient - always ready. But this thread could have been developed much more. On the other hand: there is something preposterous about the villagers' acceptance of the sex doll as Lars' "partner". I was inclined to think that this was a sign of kindness and respect, but this might not be the case at all. Lars' asocial tendencies were treated as a fact, something that couldn't be dealt with directly, they simply waited on the situation and hoped for the best. I start to wonder what kind of outlook on human relationships and confrontations (or lack of them) the film lures its viewers into. The difference between the stereotypical sensitive-young-male in indie flicks and Lars might not be a big one: the premise is that young males with problems have to be dealt with with utter delicacy. When you think about it, there are several gender discourses, in which delusion is excused as a natural part of male identity, that males simply have to take on a deluded understanding of human relationships in order to "survive". Cf. the idea that males will, given some time and luck, grow into a more "mature understanding of women", but that it is only natural that young men have issues with women.

I have mixed feelings about Lars and the real girl. As some reviewers have pointed out, the small-town coziness evokes American self-flattery, far removed from real problems and messy ambiguities. On the other hand, it's a cute film in the business of questioning cynical brain-centred anti-humanism. But a worrying thing about this film is that I grow more and more alert to some worrying things upon more thorough reflection. In other words, I feel a little cheated.

4 December 2008

Nina Björk och naturen

Nina Björk skrev nyligen en intressant essä i DN med titeln "Vi är alla kroppar". Björk är bekant för många som den som genom sina böcker gjort feminismen tillgänglig för en bredare allmänhet. På senare år har hennes tänkande förändrats, mot en ny betoning av kroppslighet. Björks essä har en del fina poänger. Ändå är det något som bekymrar mig. För tillfället kan jag bara antydningsvis och i labyrinter få fram vad jag har i tankarna.

Jag inser att Björks essä skrivits mitt i en feministisk debatt som pågår i Sverige just nu. Det talas om nykonservatism och moralism, en våg av feminister som misstror lönearbete och socialkonstruktivism. Allt jag kan säga är att den här debatten verkar jobbig och inflammerad, men viktig. Nina Björk uppfattas tydligen som moralist numera. Hon har tydligen sagt något om "skitdrömmar" som väckt, för att citera en journalist, "ett jävla liv". Jag blir nyfiken. Läser lite. Vad säger det om mig att jag genast blir misstänksam när Björk som en rent personlig kommentar, om att åldras och förändras, säger "det är så här det blir, med barnen, med min man." - ?

I sin essä tar Björk avstamp från bilden av kvinnan som kropp och natur, och som hon säger är det här sannerligen en bild som feminister kämpat för att komma bort från. "Anatomi är inte öde." Men är det här egentligen en bra idé, frågar Björk. Låt mig säga redan här att jag inte tror att Björk är en reaktionär biologist. Hon vill i själva verket utmana rådande arbetsdelning, inte inskärpa dess "naturlighet", så i den bemärkelsen är hennes resonemang långt ifrån reaktionärt. Ändå tror jag det finns en slagsida i resonemanget som ändå blir reaktionär.

Björks koppling mellan patriarkat och ekologisk exploatering är intressant. Patriarkatets värld är "kultur" och civilisation, anständighetens och duglighetens kapitalism. Klart att vi kan se könsfrågor i relation till ett antal olika former av utsugning och brutalt utnyttjande. Så här långt är jag med henne.

"Samtidigt som kvinnorörelsen har hävdat detta har kvinnor i praktiken fortsatt att ha ansvar för människors kroppar och spåren av dessa kroppar. Vårdat små kroppar, sjuka, åldrande kroppar. Tagit hand om smuts, städning och tvätt. Torkat snor och tårar och rumpor. Ibland mot betalning, ibland av kärlek, ibland för att det ingår i förväntningarna på en Riktig Kvinna, ibland av nödtvång."

skriver Björk, och jag förstår vad hon menar; jag tänker på en dokumentär om filippinska kvinnor som försörjer sina familjer därhemma genom att arbeta för rika österrikiska familjer - från dokumentären minns jag den "tacksamma" österrikiska familjen som "avlastats" av sin "hjälp" - och så minns jag den österrikiska arbetsförmedlingen för vilken de här kvinnorna helt enkelt skulle exploateras så mycket som möjligt och det sade man t.o.m. öppet. Med rätta ställer sig Nina Björk kritisk till vår form av lönearbete (framgår av andra artiklar som hon skrivit).

Men mitt i allt detta är det något i det som Nina Björk säger som jag inte hänger med i. Hon talar om "mänsklighetens skamliga lilla hemlighet" som är vår kroppslighet och vår bundenhet till naturen. Björk ber oss betänka följande: kvinnor är kroppsliga varelser, och det samma gäller för män. De bör också betraktas som kroppsliga. På samma sätt som Hannah Arendt (även om deras politiska projekt har skillnader) vill hon alltså peka på mänsklighetens lott, människans villkor. Vi måste, verkar hon säga, ta avstånd från dualismen man-kultur och kvinna-natur. OK, det stämmer. Björk skriver att sanningen om människan är att hon lever inom naturens gränser. Och visst är det frestande att tänka att hon här ger en bra, ödmjukare bild av mänskligheten. Att naturen genom olika former av nödvändigheter och begränsningar finns där och att den sätter gränser för oss, om inte nu, så snart, och om inte just för oss, så för någon annan.

Nina Björk har rätt i att exploatering handlar om att en del av mänskligheten blir kroppsliga, beroende varelser. Hon har också rätt i att en feminism som handlar om att kvinnorna ska dela mäns makt på en kapitalistisk arbetsmarknad eller i byggandet av Civilisation inte är något att hurra för. Det finns en viktig fråga inom feminismen som handlar om vad slags frigörelse feminismen eftersträvar. Som Björk säger är det en mycket problematisk bild att kvinnorna liksom män ska "upp ur naturen".

Men det som bekymrar mig är att hon verkar säga att vi kan se något sant i den bild av "natur" som patriarkatet ofta definierar sig själv enligt. Det slår mig att det är patriarkatets språk som hon talar här. Kroppen är skamlig och naturen är ett nödvändighetens rike som förslavar oss. Hon skriver om "framstegs-" eller "transcendensfeminismen":

"Innebär inte det - bland en massa goda saker - också att feminismens mål har varit att ge även kvinnor möjlighet att blunda för mänsklighetens pinsamma lilla hemlighet om våra sköra, dödliga, beroende kroppar?"

Vaddå pinsamma lilla hemlighet? Varför säger hon så? Vad är det hon egentligen lägger in i "sköra, dödliga, beroende kroppar"? Kunde man inte i stället säga att det som Björk talar om som en konsumtionskultur med "no limits" är ett janusansikte: det är businessmannen på sitt plan, och det är våra sköra kroppar som vi antingen reduceras till eller försöker komma bort ifrån så gott det går (genom att köpa saker och tjänster). Uttryckt på ett annat sätt: det finns en massa former av misär och arbete som göms undan.

"Ska feminismen säga hallå, lyssna, på grund av arbetsdelningen mellan könen vet vi kvinnor en sanning som ni män har getts större möjlighet att blunda för: människans existens har vissa gränser, har vissa förutsättningar som vi inte är fria att förhandla oss bort ifrån?"

- Men är det inte just utgående från en kapitalistisk retorik man börjar se människolivet som i grunden begränsat och sedan måste man börja trixa med det här för att fixa till sig ett "anständigt" eller "driftigt" liv? Att ifrågasätta vad vi håller på med. Visst. Där har Björk helt rätt. Men det är nog inte så att kvinnor som exploateras på olika sätt p.g.a. sitt kön skulle leva närmare naturen så att detta skulle innebära att de besitter en existentiell insikt om människolivet. På vilket sätt befinner sig den filippinska städerskan sig tätt inpå "livet självt"? För tusan, det är ju t.ex. en svensk moderatpolitik som skapar förutsättningar för detta "nakna liv".

"Och sorry, det kommer alltid att vara ett vissa av oss. Den mänskliga närheten till kropp, natur, död och ekologiska gränser kommer alltid att existera. Frågan är bara vem som ska härbärgera ansvaret för den."

Det här låter förnuftigt på ett sätt, men jag tror ändå att det finns problem här. En kapitalistkritik kunde handla om att ifrågasätta den malthusianska bilden av att livet i grunden är en strid om begränsade naturtillgångar som alltid kommer att ha sina förlorare. Att ifrågasätta dagens ekologiska ordning måste väl inte förstås som att på ett rättvisare sätt fördela naturens skoningslösa, gruvliga utmaningar? Det handlar väl t.ex. om att kritiskt granska den plats som vi anser att vi upplåter åt "nödvändigheter" i vårt liv. Vad ser vi som nödvändigt, och varför? Vad säger det om oss i så fall? Vad säger det om mig att jag ser vissa jobb som smutsiga och vissa uppgifter som motbjudande och annat sådant som jag "måste" befatta mig med? Den här typen av frågor kommer att visa att vi inte är kroppsliga varelser i en helt allmän bemärkelse. Jag upplever att Björks text ligger allt för nära att säga att insikten om livets skörhet får oss att avstå från något viktigt och tvingar oss tillbaka på ett antal tunga, smutsiga, slitsamma jobb och uppgifter och begränsningar. Är det verkligen så hon ser "naturen" som vi ska påminna oss om och vad är i så fall den "frihet" som vi avstår från? Hon verkar ju redan säga att många av våra uppfattningar om frihet utgörs av självbedrägeri. Visst är det så. Men det placerar ju oss inte tillbaka i vår begränsadhet, direkt. Snarare handlar sådana ifrågasättanden om att reflektera över vad det är att se sig själv som begränsad eller befriad av olika omständigheter.

Björks resonemang börjar slira i mänsklighetens "pinsamma faktum". I en viss bemärkelse: Det är patriarkatet som har byggt upp ett pinsamt faktum, må det sedan röra sig om begränsade naturresurser, mensblod eller allas vår dödlighet. Föreställ dig: Businesskvinnan som diskuterar klimatfrågor och har "kluvna intressen" / blir tillfrågad om hur det står till med barnplanerna / inser att hon närmar sig pensionsåldern: vad göra: leka med barnbarnen, kanske, eller skriva sina memoarer?

För att förtydliga: kanske är det inte så fruktbart att tänka att naturen (i Björks slirande begrepp) är något givet, en "mänsklig lott", utan det vore kanske viktigare att titta på hur vi talar om frihet, nödvändighet, natur, resurser - också hur dessa olika frågor hänger ihop med våra bilder av män och kvinnor. Naturnödvändigheten i den allmänna bemärkelse som Björk ibland pratar om gör diskussionen dimmig snarare än att klargöra.

Eller så slirar det i huvudet på mig.

3 December 2008

Shulamith Firestone


On the blurb of the back of Shulamith Firestone's collection of short stories, Airless spaces, the author is described as a non-professional feminist. The term "professional feminist", to my ears, sounds like an oxymoron. "Professional feminist" conjures up the picture of a power-claden, polity-making figure whose life is spelled PRUDENCE.

The stories of Airless spaces are far removed from the Professional. On the other hand, the characters of Firestone's short stories, usually residing in mental hospitals or returning from them, live in a society in which professionalism and ableness are virtues. "Pre-voc" tells the story of Brian, who lives on disability support. His rent is about to rise. In order to support himself, he has to take a job. But it is not easy to make one's way into the labor market. Brian has to prove himself able; he has to prove that he is "ready". The story raises the question: what does it mean to be ready for the labor market? What kind of persons does the labor market desire? Brians signs up for pre-vocational training. Even that is hard to accomplish, because he has to attend another form of training first. After having finished "Pre-voc" and the other stories I feel drained, sad but a little more clear-headed. This sounds paradoxical. The stories of the book depict misery and isolation, yet they are written in a deadpan, minimalist style that never sentimentalize the mental patient's or post-mental patient's struggle with his or her life.

One story revolves around Valerie Solanas. The author met her, and didn't like her. She says that she didn't consider SCUM Manifesto a work of serious feminism and neither did she want to consider Solanas a fellow theoretician. Firestone is a famous second-wave feminist who wrote The Dialectics of sex, a work considered to epitomize marxist, radical feminism. But nonetheless, the portrait of Solanas is tender. Tender, and grim. Solanas is just as isolated and lonely as the other characters of the books. Firestone connects poverty, bureaucracy and loneliness in a striking, relentless way. Most of the stories are restricted to one page, perhaps just one paragraph. Firestone is one of the very few writers who manages to encapsulate a character, to strike a particular chord, in one single sentence. Where most authors wallow in endless descriptions of envioronments and psychological set-ups, Firestone captures a scene immediately, forcefully. She doesn't have to say much to depict a crisis, a change, an opportunity. The book is hard to read because it rings so true, it creeps so close to the skin of the reader.

Some time later, after I had moved to St. Mark's Place, I saw Valerie in the street. She asked me for a quarter, and I saw that she was begging. She had lost her apartment, and presumably her welfare. Later, a friend of mine who ran a store on St. Mark's Place said that Valerie had approached him for shelter. She was covered with sores, and wearing only a blanket to beg in. She had been out on the street approximately three months without shelter. Not long after that, she disappeared from the street entirely.

Airless spaces was published in 1998.

Bohren & der club of gore: Dolores


Pitchfork churned out an excellent review of Dolores, Bohren's new album, a few days ago. The review contains imaginative labels such as "ersatz jazz". Bohren seems to inspire just that: new attributes to describe borderline music that fits nowhere but which has such a strange familiarity to it. I tried to purchase Dolores via some major music dealer. They didn't send me the album so I downloaded it in a not-so-legal way instead. Unsurprisingly, the reviewer made several comments about the pace of the songs. When the topic is Bohren & the club of gore, this is expected. What the reviewer does not say is that when you listen to Bohren you forget the slowness of the music. You adapt to it, the music finds its way to your spine.

Bohren's albums are intriguingly varied, even though the variations, to some listeners, may appear to be minor. Thier music is always recognizably bohren. Here, the sultry noir-jazz from Sunset mission is induced with even more doses of Valium (ok, I know that the music/drugs metaphor is not so inventive). The ambient feel of Geisterfaust is kept intact at some places but on this album the group is intent on keeping it short. The songs are shockingly short - some of them clocking in at 3 to 4 minutes. As before, every instrument is played to tremendous effect; each note of xylophone, saxophone, fender rhodes piano or drums resonates audaciously, starkly. The group manufactures music which is the opposite to music in which layer-of-layer of instruments confronts the listener to a cohesive wall of sound. Bohren's sound is, for lack of better words, spacious.

With titles such as Faul, Karin and Orgelblut it is impossible not to succeed. In fact, organ is a new element in the Bohren armada. The fender rhodes evokes wistfulness, mourning and threat at the same time. I am insatiable when it comes to fender rhodes piano. Some songs are heartbreakingly direct. Still am Tresen's saxophone melody simply rips out my guts. Interestingly, the song evokes some strange sense of mournful joy, rather than the unsettling feeling of foreboding that has become Bohren's major brand.

2 December 2008

Academic work

Yesterday, my stomach was going crazy. That was not because I was nervous (or not only). I have a very few litres of blood left in my body. Not many. I felt like: I will come to your house and suck your blood. That was not a good condition for trying to stay focused in an academic seminar. My head was a blank and my stomach was waging a war of its own. I tried to respond to questions. Everything I said came out infinitely lame. I felt like an ass. Even though all of the questions were hugely relevant, I was simply not able to connect to them properly. Frustration. Worry. Most of all: Vanity.

After the seminar, I wondered, as I always do, why the hell I am working within this field. I'm not qualified. I'm not interested in philosophy. I'm stupid. I start to imagine occupations I would be more suited for. My attitudes towards other forms of work ("something easy") become embarrasingly evident and having that thrown in my face makes me instantaneously drop the thought. I am surprised to find this tendency in myself. Here I am, immersed in the thought that a job or an activity contains standards completely external to what sense I see in it. Standards! Damn it, when I actually do philosophy, while I am not bitching to myself about it, this is something I try to look upon critically.

During that moment at the seminar, I was inclined to think that I have no clue whatsoever about what a philosophical question is. It simply falls out of my hands. And it goes on like this for a few hours of soul-searching when everything appears futile, the most futile of it all being my own philosophical work. Fluff. Losing the perspective of the importantance or relevance of what one is doing is scary. It happens to me often. I wonder whether it happens to other people, too. I mean, it's one thing that one starts to see that one is mistaken about certain things. That one has not given enough thought to some issues. An altogether different situation is feeling completely at a loss in regard to an entire activity.

What did I do? At the bar, I listened to a conversation about violence, RAF and Gandhi. I was even more morose. I didn't know what to think. I shut up and I shut in. Are there circumstances under which violence is justified? Hell, I don't know. I don't know I don't know. Should I know? Is it just that I don't have the guts or the moral energy to mull this over - seriously? Here I am, sitting in a pub with a sore stomach, thinking about the prospect of violence. I felt immensly detached from the question and I did not know whether the reason was my laziness or that the question itself had a weird setting. I thought about something S wrote. We don't know which situations we will be confronted will. We don't know what shape our lives will take. We don't know what life will make us into. It's stupid and senseless to pose questions such as "are you for or against violence" or "are you for or against sex". For or against what?

What did I do? I tried the ancient trick. Two painkillers. Beer on empty stomach. Vodka, too. I wobbled home somehow and the morning air did not smell like anything and maybe it was raining, maybe not. I fell asleep in my chair.

It helped. Today I have regained the conviction that I need to write this fucking paper and that it might not be such an impossible thing to do. The comments I received yesterday help a great deal, now that I am actually able to digest them (stomach references intended). Too bad I can't read the scribbled notes because my handwriting is shite.

30 November 2008

/(&¤)&¤)=&/%)=?&¤))/

I'm feeling queasy.
  1. I watched a film about trafficking. It was a TV production called True north, which was not particularly well done. But I just couldn't shrug the story off, even though there were some sentimental bits that were hard to stomach (I thought it was very tasteless to throw in a big-time thriller soundtrack into a movie on this topic - as if it were a fucking adventure story). People pay an insane amount of money to travel to some western country while others profiteer on their misery. This gets very little attention. We hear about illegal immigration all the time, quotas, costs, borders, police and security interventions, but the human reality behind it all is mostly ignored or, should we say, repressed.
  2. I'm reading a Finnish blog (published a few days ago) in which a bloke intends to disclose the reality of the female psyche. Women, he claims, don't want caring, sober guys who cares about equality. Nope. Women want masculine, violent alphas tearing off their piece. Conclusion? Feminism is just a charade. It is the men who are the real victims in this society. Men do not sexualize women and they don't demand impossible standards of beauty. Women, on the other hand, desire guys who spend half of the day at the gym, the rest being rejected as repulsive and unsuitable for sex. What comes across here is a HUGE portion of misogyny among men who consider themselves nice (who thinks it is a brilliant thing to say "I have never behaved violently in the company of a woman....") and who look down on women as sex-crazed, obsessive creatures whose innermost dream it is to get a good rape. GODDAMMIT! Let's face the truth, dimwits. You're "victimization" thing - "those womenfolk got so much power now boo-hoo" boils down to this: you want your power back and life for you is nothing but a struggle of power where some are strong and some are weak. If you feel bad, it's the Woman who tore you apart. She so STRONG, oh, good, doesn't it hurt so bad? The male who complains that he is not an Alpha-male is simply saying that he wishes he had the guts to be a violent asshole, because that, in his world, is what women want AND HE WANTS WO-MAN (why? WHY? If he loathes them so much?). In the comments field for the blog one guy speaks with the voice of Experience. First he was a meek nerd and then he learned his lesson: if you wanna get laid, you take without asking first & women like it so much. "Since then, there hasn't been a moment where I haven't Got Some." In Finnish, a "kind man" is a man who presents himself as an Exception to the rule (which is violence): but what this shows is merely that violence is presented as an all-encompassing threat that can be resisted only by some very virtuos men (on some occasions). How screwed up is that? The guys who talk about men as being "the oppressed" are saying that they should be considered as some kind of heroes because they say they are not violent. If you are so goddamn kind, you shouldn't have to point it out to the world. I wouldn't comment on this if it weren't such an abrasingly COMMON idea.
  3. I climb the walls! I chew windows!

Laurie Anderson 'O Superman'

Laurie Anderson is known as a sort-of avantgarde artist. Surprisingly, in 1981 she got a Nr. 2 hit in the UK with "O Superman". Great song, great video, great lyrics (Who is this really? / And the voice said/this is the hand/ the hand that takes / ... / here comes the planes / they're american planes / made in america / smoking or non-smoking? / And the voice said: / Neither snow nor rain nor gloom / of night shall stay these couriers from the swift / completion of their appointed rounds.) Plus you oughta remeber the appearance of this song in Nilecity 105,6; the singingGarfield dolls.


26 November 2008

Hair metal from the 80's - part one

This was exactly what I suspected. Political debate nowadays does not take place in The New Yorker or some other fancy newspaper. You find the most serious expressions of concern for contemporary politics in the Youtube comments field for White Lion's hit song "When the children cry". What lyrical depth! A most intricate melody! (If you don't know who White Lion is, fuck off)

shuesbrushan (2 days ago) Show Hide
little child
you must show the way
to a better day
for all the young
cause you were born
for all the world to see
that we all can live
with love and peace
no more presidents
and all the wars will end
one united world
under god

latinmass9000 (2 days ago)

I guess the Supreme Court and the government should declare this song as "Unconstitutional" because of the words: "one united world under God." How true does this song seem now that Osama Bin Ladin won the election in the US.

Blo0dyKnight (1 day ago)
You mean Barack Obama, fucktard, he didnt get elected for no reason

latinmass9000 (1 day ago)
I know what his real name is. I was only calling him by his socialist name. Retard.

Blo0dyKnight (1 day ago)
sorry man, i thought you were dissing him

latinmass9000 (1 day ago)
Oh!! But I was. You see, we now have a socialist/terrorist as the 44th President of the US!!!

Blo0dyKnight (19 hours ago)
oo , in that case, fuck you latin..... OBAMA RULES

**

24 November 2008

Gösta's seasons




One morning Gösta got up early. His friends dragged him along to a café at the other side of town. He ate donuts for breakfast. Black coffee. This cafe is one of the very few independent ones, not part of some franchise brand. That is sad. Gösta wants to have his donuts at a place where people care about making donuts, rather than about the maximizing of quarterly profits. He does not want his donut to be part of value creation. Burly men work at the café, and every time Gösta has been there, laborers from the area has come there for a cup of coffee. It's a friendly, secluded place. One time, they saw a slip of paper with a picture of a hamster. The hamster was missing and the owner wanted to know whether anybody had seen it. They went for a walk. There's still so many places Gösta hasn't seen. Gösta hadn't seen the ancient boxing club before. He hadn't seen the shelter home and he hadn't seen the house covered with grafitti. It was a beautiful day. Crisp air, colors everywhere and no rush (except the hovering thought of the Office).





For a few weeks, it rained and rained. Gösta felt bad. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was something else. Gösta felt bad. He didn't do anything about it. He went for beers & lectures & stayed inside & went out & ate lunch at the cafe & talked to his colleagues about research projects & read books & fell asleep & watched TV. It didn't feel right. Gösta doesn't ask for reasons. Gösta makes up reasons. Gösta gets muddled in petty explaning. Gösta is sick of writing and done with talking. Gösta wants to shut up. Instead, Gösta engages in long, moralistic speeches. Gösta is tired of being serious and tired of not being serious enough. The paraphrases Gösta churns out, the clichés and the rest of the mindless, sentimental shit. Gösta wants piece of mind. Gösta is tired of saying: "this might not be completely thought out but...." Gösta should stop saying it. Small things bother Gösta while big things don't.


The light on Gösta's street is different every time. Gösta goes past the sleazy shops for ladies' underwear, past the closed down restaurant, past the karaoke bar, past the grocery shops that provides him with the necessities of life. Every stone of the sidewalk is familiar. There's the smell of the construction work to the left, the kebab place, the hamburger place. There's the people he sees every now and then; the lady who works in some of the shops (maybe at the optician's), the professor, the goth kid with headphones, the person who might or might not be Gösta's neighbor, some type from uni that he should recognize. Gösta hesitates to say hello. He half-waves, half-smiles. Other people consider Tavastgatan a monster of a street, an expression of ruthless city planning and cold negligence. There was a time when Gösta agreed with that. But when Gösta returns from some trip, even a small one, walking on Tavastgatan feels like an embrace made of concrete.

Tavastgatan changes its shape with the seasons. During the summer it is dusty and you can almost see the concrete breathe. Cars give rise to a small cloud of smog. In winter, a small trail of stern-looking beer-carriers and workholders keep up the life of the street. And be it winter or summer, there's always a crowd outside BAILA BAILA every Saturday night at 3 a.m. They smoke and curse and cuddle and fight and sometimes they ask if Gösta has a cigarette to spare.

Gösta visits the Island just to watch the sea. To watch the seasons change. It rains all the time. For some of his relatives, the sea is much more alive than it is to him. Dangerous, too. They tell him stories about people who drowned, people who never came back, accidents, adventures, bravuras. For them, the sea is a familiar territory, ladden with names and shapes and changes. "Did you put those fishing-nets south of Bergholmin? You know who will get mad about that...Dontcha." Gösta's father tells him about the fish that are about to disappear and the species of fish that have arrived instead. "Did you go fishing today?" they ask his father. Embedded in that question, curiosity, worry, languid conversation. They go look at today's catch. His father can't hide his pride or his disappointment. Among the villagers, Gösta's father is known to be a "real" fisherman. He is respected for that. Gösta is not sure what is implied by the "real", however. For his father, fishing is life itself, but when he talks about it he always belittles it as "a hobby", "you have to occupy yourself with something alright", "you get a few pennies out of it, right?" When guests arrive for coffee, the first thing they ask my father concerns today's fishing adventures. My father knows the good places. He knows the tricks. And the guests keep asking him how many fish he got and my father is eager to tell them the amount of lavaret or the amount of perch. Gösta doesn't know about these things. He couldn't separate lavaret from perch, anyway.



Gösta goes out in the blizzard. It's quiet-quiet. He hears the clank of some metal piece by the hospital, which looks like a glaring blob in the white, muted landscape. The creaks of steps. Subdued sounds of traffic. From a distance, he hears somebody wobble with a plastic bag of bottles. A dog barks and the wind moans in the corner of a house. The sky is yellow and bright. The wind makes the light flicker between the trees. Gösta admires the wonders of nature, but his musings are interrupted as he slides on the ice, falling elegantly on his ass. Before he rises up, he quickly looks around him to check whether anybody saw his little misadventure.

He sits at the Gardener's fireplace. There's a good smell in the room. He listens to his friends' quiet conversation about flowers, trees and cats. He sips a glass of fine liquor. He likes how they talk about people he has never met. Mostly he is quiet. The gardener chuckles. The gardener is friends with everybody, he doesn't hold grudges.

It's been a shitty autumn Gösta. You breathe the cold air and when you walk past your office in the middle of the night you dive into a heap of snow. You make an angel. You haven't done it since you were a kid. There's snow all over your clothes and inside them too. You freeze like hell. You wipe snot from your nose on your mittens just like you did as a kid. The snot immediately crystallizes. It will get better now, won't it Gösta?

23 November 2008

Finding of the day: Gallon Drunk: From the heart of town


Years ago I heard a song by Gallon Drunk by chance, "Things will change", a crazy blend of soul, raunchy rock and some...kind....of.....pseudo-gospel. Very nice, but I forgot about them. Now I've picked up one of their early albums, From the heart of town from the library. If you're not paying attention, you might mistake them for early Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, only there are a few jazzier elements here. Because singer James Johnston's voice and singing style is really redolent of Nick Cave's theatrical & exuberant croon. The other band I cannot help thinking of is Gun Club (which is a good thing). Gallon Drunk sounds like garage rock bands from the sixties or some (post-)punk from the early eighties, certainly not something released in 1993. Lots of fuzzy, rumbling guitar, cavernous sounds and sleazy brass sections. If you're lying pissed on a bar floor somewhere in the world, there might not be a better soundtrack.

22 November 2008

Fuck politeness!

I've been reading the aptly named Australian blog Fuckpoliteness for a while now. The blog indicates that there is someone, somewhere, out there who reacts to things the right way, who doesn't shy away from the FUCK YOU-finger whenever that is necessary. Go off and read this through-and-through sensible, thinking blog.

On a different note, I'm listening to Aussie indie poppers The Lucksmiths' Warmer corners. They are good, too. I need that band. They are almost the only "guitar pop" band I listen to nowadays (together with The Radio Dept.). And if you're craving for NEWSNEWS that will put all activity on the planet to a halt as people reflect in awe on the greatness of my deeds: I ventured out for a walk. My sister talked about some man who is involved in local politics. His idea of administration is that is should consist of politically appointed bureaucrats. My sister said: Weber... And I said, yes, of course. There was a time when I was a bit active in the Social Democrat party. Now I think it is rotten to - almost - the core. I have no hope whatsoever that this party has any vision at all as to how to change Finnish society for the better. They seem to be interested in one thing: to win as many elections as possible. (But who am I to complain? It is not exactly as if my head is filled to the brim with political policies.)

20 November 2008

Library Tapes - Höstluft


I woke up in the middle of the night, the room lit up by enigmatic light. I couldn't sleep. Half-slept, half-dreaming, fragments of thoughts quietly travelling in different directions, none of them having any force or shape. The state in which thoughts about work are seamlessly transformed into some hinted-at memory. Looked at the light through the curtains. Snowfall.

Lots of artists out there move around on the same territory that Library Tapes, post-rock project from Sweden, has been exploring now over the range of a few records (the latest one was released a few months ago and it is said to have taken a different turn in terms of style). Their closest neighbour might be Goldmund. But something makes Library Tapes stand out. Field recordings and piano. Ambient noise. Nothing very original in that. But still. This is employment of ambience at its most accessible, yet it is not the sonic, spaced-out sound clouds that is the flip side of trance music. Arvo Pärt, Für Elina, but something different, too.

Höstluft is creaky piano sounds. Pitchfork talks about how Library Tapes focuses on the materiality of the sound of the piano. I thought about that, too. Simple melodies. Silence. The ambient sounds range from artificial (as in machines) to natural (as in steps or a gush of wind). But its not as if ambience/field recordings are employed to augment the melodies; it could be just the other way around, melodies as a continuation of sounds. Ambience enfolds the piano and the piano enfolds ambience.

This is not stern or icy like, for example, Thomas Köner's ambient music (I mention it because I like his sense of minimalism) but nor does Library Tapes indulge in emotional drilling of the type that some post-rock acts have such a sweet tooth for. Höstluft (and their other records) sets one's associations adrift. This is minimalist music but there's nothing academic about it what so ever.