29 February 2008

Dog day afternoon

When I started watching Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet/1975) my expectations were low. I took a deep breath and awaited a long and boring movie about machismo bank robbers. But from the initial minutes onwards, I was totally enthralled by the story and the way it was told. The plot is very simple. Three robbers walk into a bank and they all seem to think that the job will be done in a few moments. One of the robbers, confessing it being unable for him to get through with the robbery, deserts the others while the remaining duo find themselves trapped inside the bank as a horde of police officers gather outside. Sonny, a character pinpointed by Al Pacino with grace and humor, is the brain behind the events and he negotiates with the police about how to resolve the hostage situation so that nobody gets hurt.

While these events are all quite conventional elements of the genre, there is much in the film that offers a much more unique take on the subject. The film contains, I soon found out, many interesting comments about political movements active in the beginning of the 70's. As the police gathers outside the bank, a bustling, roaring crowd turns up as well. The crowd displays their contempt for the police, which, for them, represents the illegitimate violence in the same way as did the war in Vietnam.

Violence is treated in a far more realistic way than what is usually the case. In this film, the mere presence of a gun creates tension and fear. When violence actually takes place, the effect is immediate and brutal.

The motive of the robbery is soon revealed. Sonny needs money to fund a sex change operation for his lover. This theme is well worked out, and I was very impressed by the critical stance of the film (even though I was slightly worried that I tended to think along the lines of the film being "before its time"). The two lovers were simply portrayed as two people who are seen as outcasts by the surrounding society. The gentle performance of Pacino in this context was great.

From a more historical point of view; it was interesting to see that "the gay movement" was depicted as a strong societal movement. In an amusing scene, the other robberer, a gloomy character called Sal, is agonized because TV reporters claim them being "two homosexual bank robbers". Sonny tries to pacify him by telling him it's no big deal, but Sal keeps nagging about it in scene after scene. This scene is no exception; many moments in the film provide for a quiet sense of humour. Jokes about swear-words among the bank tellers, the stern, ridiculous face of a police officer, the nervous demenour of Sonny's not-so-brainy-partner Sal. (The Swedish translation of the title of the film is, btw, En satans eftermiddag - good choice!)

Dog day afternoon even surpasses my other favorite hostage-theme movie -Albino alligator (1996).

27 February 2008

idolizing wednesday: Valerie Solanas

A witty, sarcastic, insightful and important book, The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas is one of the texts that have had a great impact on my thinking. It is not a book eager to please and it is not a book that is easy to digest. It doesn't contain blueprints for anything, yet the message is clear. This world is fucked up, because we fucked it up.

In the preface of Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche writes that an attempt to understand his philosophy, his aphoristic style, can be compared to the rumination of cows. "Of course, in order to practice this style of reading as an art, one thing is above all essential—something that today has been thoroughly forgotten (and so it will require still more time before my writings are “readable”)—something for which one almost needs to be a cow, at any rate not a modern man—rumination." I think this can be said of The SCUM Manifesto as well. You need a good stomach.

Solanas' text is packed with disclosure. It is written from the perspective of rage and this is an essential aspect to keep in mind when reading it.
On a general level it can be said that some things are revealed only from a perspective of anger or rage. It is unclear what it would mean to fight for justice if injustices and cruelty would never anger us. The concept of "injustice" and "cruelty" are related to particular responses, but this is not a psychological point about human inclinations. (There is a huge discussion about this in post-wittgensteinian philosophy, but I won't go into that now.)
It's Ok for some to be angry, for others - less so.

Glorified male anger. "Angry young men". Testosterone. Males waging their just, lonesome wars (accompanied by a squaking guitar, a car, a dog or a bottle of Jack Daniel's.) Male anger and the dark secrets of Humanity. Existentialism.
Feminist anger is reduced to female hysteria. Silly PMS women who don't know their place in the world yet. (They will learn, or will be forced to learn.) Have you considered a visit at the psychiatrist's, dear? There are pills for those hormones, babe. Why don't you sit down at the negotiation table instead, be a man, be a consultant! Why don't you write a tract in the footsteps of Rawls, disentagling the conceptual links between justice and liberalism? Or write a love story, a simple love story. A little empathy, becoming for each woman. Why don't you calm down? Don't be so aggressive. A hobby would be good for you. Or a boyfriend.

23 February 2008

21 February 2008

Feminism, power and powerlessness

Feminist theory and gendered power: background

Power is a tricky concept, in that it tends to get muddled in abstractions. S has pointed out to me how common it is among feminist thinkers to employ a totalitarian concept of power in descriptions of "partriarchy", so that all human relations are described as power relations and so that patriarchal power seem to be inevitable, omnipresent and without alternative. A system of power inscribed in language ("male", "female"). We cannot escape language (according to this post-structuralist picture), but we can, at best, try to get around the Law by means of an act of parody or a process of re-thinking. Employed in this way, the concept of power appears both cynical and strangely forceless. It seems to loose its specificity; the way we talk about "power" to describe a particular type of situation from a particular point of view.

I have to admit I have no idea whatsoever what "re-thinking" is supposed to mean. I don't understand in what way feminist writers have placed their hopes in "re-thinking". (Braidotti is one writer who takes a liking to this concept.) Perhaps I have to read more in order to understand it.

Even so, this picture of inescapable power has important connections with many experiences of gendered power. I've been trying to think of examples from my own life of having encountered situations that allow descriptions in terms of impersonal, gendered power. A few years ago, I worked at a research institute. I was assigned a project in which I was to conduct interviews with people working in the maritime industry. I knew next to nothing about most of the technical things that were brought up by the interviewees. There was talk about a lot of computer programs the function of which I had no clue about. Most of the time I felt that I asked questions that, to them, were either strange or obviously stupid. The guys I talked to had been working in the same place for many years. I absolutely detested these situations, because they transformed me into, not only a person unfamiliar with the maritime industry, but also a woman. A Woman who is expected to express "her" lack of knowledge in a joking, pleasant, apologetic manner, so that "she" can move on to ask yet another silly question about social relations at the workplace.

Shopping clothes. No matter which department I settle for, I get ugly looks. "What the hell are you doing here?" After two minutes of desperate wandering, I am on the verge of an outburst of obscenities. Catch-22. (There are exceptions; once, a dead-pan clerk offered me valuable advice of how to buy myself a nice suit. He didn't smirk, and I was thankful for that. Then I got mad for being "thankful".)

In situations like these I feel awkwardly helpless. No matter what I do, I will be seen as a female (or male, in some cases) creature and my actions will be understood in the light of what people think it means to be that creature.

I have no wish to impersonate a particular sex or gender. I want to be a cyborg.

Generality and power

To some extent, there is a level of impersonality at play in gendered power. When a bureaucrat has overstepped the boundaries of her job, we talk about an excess of arbitrary power. Gendered power seems to be an altogether different form of "power" It is not necessarily the type of power a person excercises in order to reach some specific goal. Gendered power seems to contain an element of generality or, more to the point, an appeal to generality. Even if there is some story of self-gratification lurking behind oppression in terms of gender, the forms this oppression takes seem intelligible independently of the personal agenda of the oppressive parties.

The point is perhaps that it is usually unclear who is the oppressive party. Gendered power is often personified (i.e. we blame somebody, a specific person, for excersicing it), but it also has to be understood in other, more general, ways and it is here that it gets strangely complicated.

It's easier to start reflecting on power from the point of view of powerlessness. When a person experiences a state of powerlessness she does not necessarily desire to be granted more power. Sometimes I simply wish that the entire situation would change; that the perspective of power (gender) would cease to be relevant. In the interview situation referred to above, I did not hope that the situation would improve by power being allocated to a different person (i.e. me). I just wanted to do my job, without being seen as an embodiment of the Female Researcher.

The powerlessness related to oppression in terms of gender can hardly be understood solely on the basis of evil oppressors. But if that is so, in relation to what am I feeling powerless? T brought up the following, good example. He recalled that he was once involved in a team-work excercise at school. His teacher exclaimed, after noticing the group-formations: "Oh, so you ended up with the girls!" T hadn't even thought about his team-mates as girls until she mentioned it. The perspective of gender was introduced to him from the outside. But of course he knew what the teacher meant, the perspective she introduced to him was already familiar. Here, for example, it makes sense to say that he felt helpless in relation to a perspective but this doesn't, I suppose, remove the feeling of helplessness from the concrete situations and the persons who introduce a perspective.

The generality I have in mind does, of course, not eradicate personal responsibility. "Why did you do it?" The force of the "you" is not alleviated or toned down if the centrality of an impersonal intelligibiilty is emphasized. If we want to say something about something as being an instance of gendered power, we have to see it from the point of view of the intelligibility - however evil - of gendered talk and concepts.

Butler's often used notion of "being hailed" illuminates something of what it means that one is viewed as a gendered being. One turns into something, a Woman, a Man, a Queer, by being addressed as something. (This point is quite specific, it cannot be applied to anything. I haven't said anything about "identity", nor do I want to.) Gendered power often takes the form of a transferred gaze, one looks at oneself with the eyes of the oppressive system. In the interview situation I've been talking about, I really came to experience myself as a silly, female researcher who asks shallow questions about things I know nothing about. I was infuriated to be seen as a woman, but it was difficult to escape the perspective I was confronted with - the reactions of another person. But the difficulty seems to have nothing to do with a metaphysical contraint, of language or something else. The difficulty is a moral difficuly.

I don't know how to go on from here, I can't think clearly about it.

Jelinek's Lust

I am reading Elfriede Jelinek at the moment. Lust, a novel published in 1989, is a relentless disclosure of a state of power and powerlessness that turns us into walking clichés, the mere skeletons of human beings. In her book, power and powerlessness are impersonal aspects of the world - the world of capitalism, a world in which everything is a commodity, be it nature, sex, food or something else. All relations are described as impersonal, characterized by greed and domination. In the characters of the book, power and powerlessness are intertwined. The oppressor is the oppressed from a different point of view. The book contains no story in the traditional sense of the word and it also lacks dialogue. Descriptions of persons are kept bluntly minimal.

Lust is a rambling account of the (pseudo-)relation between The Direktor, a factory owner, and his wife. There are also paralell stories, but these are simply different takes on the same nexus of power. The Direktor's attitudes towards his workers and his attitude towards his wife are portrayed in very similar ways.

Jelinek wages her war with dry puns, word-play and repetition. One of the positive aspects about the style of the book is that it, by reducing people to "types", does not lend itself to psychologistic readings. By psychologistic readings I am thinking about the explanatory schemes of "personal characteristics". The reader is introduced to a perspective from which it is not possible to see actions as expressive of persons. Everything is ambiguous, everything is crude. "Lust", the title of the book, is probably to be understood ironically. In the world of brutal capitalism, there can be no lust, no joy, and no love.

This said, I do have some problems with the way Jelinek imagines a world in which everything is reduced to power and violence. It's as if she does not allow for any alternatives, and this makes it difficult to know how to read the book. (The difference between political books and books who simply present the dystopia of the modern world.) But I appreciate that she acknowledges how gendered power is related to other forms of power and that we must start with very fundamental questions about what kind of world we live in if we are to get clearer about this.


The most interesting thing that happened to me this week was that I scalded my hand with a hot, hot mug of coffee. Then I dragged myself to the library, where my sins were absolved for the amount of 9 euros. But the librarian is very nice, so that's OK.

My life is nothing but stunning grandour.

15 February 2008

Sentimental bullshit or My ode to a life of leisure or Why I am bound to disappoint my Boss, whoever that is

Have you ever felt that there are particular days in your life that are set apart from the humdrum drizzle of habits, work and leisure? I thought about this today. Waking up, the dreadful memory of one too many shots of tequila hammering in my entire bodily system, I watched the sunlight and the eerie light outside. I went over to J's place, and S2 joined us for coffee. We sat languidly at a café, quietly talking about daily affairs and practical matters. The hangover was bad, but not overwhelmingly so. We walked around for some time, and then bumped into P, with whom we enjoyed another session of tea and good talk. I walked around for one more hour, attending to some business. When I headed home, I noticed how terribly cold it was. I watched the end of Mystery train, but it wasn't anything to write home about, really. Started to watch another movie, Birdcage Inn. Just as half-lame as the other. Nothing of significance happened today, but it was a good day. Hanging around with people with no particular immediate intentions or plans for the day, no rush. A gentle atmosphere. A day in between everything else.

I am beginning to think this entry is just an expression of how imbued I am in an ideology of work, according to which almost anything one pursues in one's life is a form of work. Aimed at results, being limited to certain conventions of "a normal procedure". The worry about "productivity". Leisure is OK, if it is devoted to edifying activities. Am I advocating the ideal of the oblomovian life? No. I simply wish that dreadful and bored half-activity would not make up such a large portion in my life.

These thoughts are partly inspired by a book I am reading, The Ideology of Work by P.D. Anthony. The book is both a historical description of different ideas about the role of work in our lives and a critical reflection on the idea that work is the central part of human relations.

12 February 2008

Worst film ever seen

Garbriel Garcia Marquez is, I reckon, a popular writer. I read one of his books many years ago and I finally realized I don't like literature that in any way belong under the heading of "an epic novel". "Family chronicle" - even worse. Unknowingly, tonight I went to watch a movie based on a Marquez novel. Cronaca di una morte annunciata by Francesco Rosi. At first, I was slightly impressed by the beautiful scenery and I started to think this might actually be a good movie. Rupert Everett, all right then. The film set out to elicit the finest, most delicate emotions in it's viewers by telling the story of a bunch of tragic, stone-faced men and their quest for honor and romance (A bunch of women, moving around like shadows or ghosts: looked at, raped, "loved"). At least two orchestras emphasizing the tragedy of it all - the oh-so-human-whatever.
This was bad, bad, bad. I take back everything I've ever said about you, Mel. Braveheart was, after all, er, a quite brilliant film - in comparison.

11 February 2008

Remembrance of things past nr. 1: Anslagstavlan

During my childhood, state television broadcasting was intermittantly interrupted by an assemblage of information films produced by various public authorities. Swedish viewers were warned about the harmful effects of alcohol, about the importance of wearing a life jacket when at sea and, in addition to this, we were provided with information about various laws, of which the ordinary citizen needs to be aware in her day-to-day life. The content was presented in a slightly amusing, but still very admonitory way. I present to you: anslagstavlan!
I don't watch Swedish TV that often anymore, but I wonder whether this form of state paternalism still exists. Maybe it does.

9 February 2008

"But When Are You Going To Get A Proper Job?"

Hanging out with philosophers usually implies some talk about people's (non-philosophers') strange ideas about philosophy and what it is like to be a philosophy student. Two days ago, my friends & I were procrastinating in a bar. It was fairly late. A girl sat down at our table and started talking about the perilous life of students who have been so unwise as to have devoted themselves to the humanities. She talked to us about her husband who is writing his master's thesis in history. He realized he didn't want to be a historian after all and that his education will not guarantee him a job anyway. He realized electrical installations was his thing. The gist of the story was that students of the humanities are more likely to end up regretting their choices than others. We all thought that her "words of warning" were outrageously rude.

Every time I meet my bourgeoise relatives they ask me what I intend to do after I finish my Ph.D. Well, I tell them, I will work on it for many more years and I haven't really got any concrete plans for the future. After that I am inclined to describe my current situation so that it will appear to be a job, and not an education. I am really pissed off that it's so hard for them to acknowledge the toil of a Ph.D as work. And it is almost like this: by emphasizing that something is a job, work, one is proving the "properness" or "usefulness" of something. Crazy. Symptomatically, my relatives tend to react positively when they hear that I am doing some teaching. "Being a teacher" almost resembles a proper, bourgeoise job. What is a proper job, for them? A fat paycheck, a respectable title. It's a job that one can talk about in a way that makes it clear for everyone what one is doing. A job that can be talked about normally, in the same uninvolved, disinterested and non-personal way my relatives talk about everything else.

When I tell people that I am a student of philosophy the most common reaction is a reserved "Oh..." and perhaps "That must be difficult." Very few ask questions about what philosophy is. (Perhaps most think that philosophy is about defining the meaning of life...) If one is challenged to try to say something, it is not easy to elucidate what are the characterizing traits of philosophy. "Philosophy is not an empirical science because it's concern is conceptual problems." Does that sound interesting? No? Heh. The difficulty here is that a discussion about what philosophy is will necessarily be a philosophical discussion. If the person one is talking to is not interested in this kind of exchange, then it is really hard to say anything about what philosophy is.

When I was in high school, I was quite convinced that philosophy solves the deepest questions, the most difficult questions, about reality and existence. In philosophy we are, I thought, taking a stand in essential debates - "Is there a God?", "What is the relation between the soul and the body", and, indeed, "what is the meaning of life". It was this attitude that I was equipped with upon heading for the Philosophy Department at uni. Even though I was vaguely intrigued by the Wittgensteinian approach to philosophy at our place, I soon found myself frustrated. Wittgenstein, and his followers, say so little. I constantly felt that these philosophers ended the philosophical investigations where they should begin. We end up with nothing, I complained. My prime interest during this period was, and I am not kidding, solipsism. Oh well, the sturm-und-drang of youth. It took me quite a few years to realize that philosophical investigations will not lead to any discoveries.

But I should not make fun of these pictures of philosophy and this trouble with the nature of philosophy. Questions about what a philosophical investigation is don't go away. Such questions are a part of what it is to do philosophy. When I am struggling to get clear about the topic of my thesis, I have to be asking myself: what kind of question is this? Is it, really, a philosophical question or is it something else (psychology, sociology)? When one is embarking upon tackling a new philosophical question one will be confronted with the nature of philosophical question afresh.

5 February 2008

"The law of supply and demand"

Price-gouging is a term used to point out over-pricing of goods, e.g. in the state of an emergency (like the hurrican in New Orleans a few years ago) in which some suppliers are tempted to take advantage of the situation by charging high prices for essential goods. In some parts of the US, price-gouging is a crime.

This guy argues that price-gouging is, in fact, a good thing. According to his argument, those who really need a specific scarce good (be it food, petrol or something else?), will also be willing to pay a high price for it. "The station owner is actually doing his customers a favor by charging a high price because he stays open much longer to sell all his limited gas to those who most in need." He explains that suppliers are motivated to keep providing the goods, despite the costs, if the prices are kept high enough. "Those in need will pay". The world of pure economics. The law of supply and demand is actually considered as the one and only thing of importance in the practices of buying and selling things. Of course there is no easy solutions here (in a situation of non-emergency, I have mixed feelings about Americans complaining about high petrol prices), but the picture of the customer in this guy's text is hopelessly naive.

"Both economic theory and several thousand years of historical experience clearly demonstrate uncontrolled prices and markets provide more goods and services to those who really need or desire them far better than attempts at government control."


An homage to NATO?

Icebreaker International (somtimes they are called Icebreaker) have made two concept albums, "Distant Early Warning" and "Trein Maersk: A Report to the NATOarts Board of Directors". DEW is an homage to the "distant early warning system". During the cold war, radar stations along the coast of Canada and Alaska were set up to protect the North American continent from Soviet missiles and (later) to monitor Soviet air activity. Some of the stations were decommissioned after the cold war but others are still functioning.

Being an album about the cold war and the arctic surroundings of the Alaskan coast, the music of DEW is stripped-down, icy, droning electronica/post-rock (don't worry, it's not of the GSYBE! proportion). Some songs are dominated by the mere humming sound of, supposedly, radar signals, while other compositions contain a various assortment of instrument. The music is abstract without being boring and the theme is very well developed and illustrated by the sonic world of the album.

The second album, "Trein Maersk", is, according to this site, the result of the two members' trip on the container ship Trein Maersk to various international sea ports. From the website (NATOarts): "Their mission, as specified by the NATOarts Board of Directors, was to produce an audio report that would promote free international trade." Is this a joke? Are they leftists trying to depict the sound of a global economy? Take a look at the web site and there's no doubt about it. "Trein Maersk" is a more diverse record than the first, more upbeat as well. Some songs even express a frenzy delirious state. It's hard to explain why I actually like this band. The music, especially on "Trein Maersk" is somewhat repulsive, but for me that repulsiveness is suitable for making something of the theme - free trade and the global economy. I was returning to Turku after Christmas, killing time on the horrendous Viking Line. Trying to get some sleep, in the state of half-drunkenness, I was listening to "Trein Maersk" in headphones. That was a great experience. (I'm being phenomenological again.)

"Mr. Break and Mr. Perls hope that this document [Trein Maersk] will serve as a tool to open national markets to free and unfettered global exchange." (From NATOarts) And:

"NATOarts is an international arts organization which seeks to promote global security and stability through the exhibition of works of conceptual art. It is governed by a nineteen-member board of directors, with representation from each of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states."

My immediate reaction when reading this is that the current ideology of international free trade is compared to the rhetoric of the cold war, with the effect of parody. The point here is perhaps that the "free trade" frenzy is no less ideological than anti-soviet propaganda during the height of the cold war.

3 February 2008

Ellen Page & Juno

Yesterday, The Independent featured an interview with actress Ellen Page. The reason why I read it was that I was really impressed with her acting skills in Hard Candy, a movie about a girl setting up a date with a paedophile in order to teach him one or two things about the world. It's a brutal film, but that's a good thing, mostly. Having read a few interviews with Page, I reckon she is a tough and insightful kid, who seems to be a lot more aware of & honest about the bad stuff going on in the entertainment industry than most actors. Last year, Little Miss Sunshine was nominated for Best Film at the Oscars. This year, the indie mafia is represented by Juno, the film in which Page stars the leading part. You might think it's dumb to be happy about Academy Awards nominations, but isn't it a good thing that decent films get the attention they deserve? I think it is.

I scurried off to watch Juno and it turned out to be worthwile. (After the one and only indie movie theater was closed a month ago, I have mixed feelings about going to the movies, but perhaps it's OK to support the few good movies that are box-officed.) The theme of the film, teenage pregnancy, could've been handled from the usual gender-stereotypical perspectives; women who are dying to have kids and are all gored-up in the depths of Womanhood or women being victimized by an unexpected pregnancy. Juno contained nothing of that, even though it did discuss these perspectives from a critical point of view. Juno is just a smart, tough kid who accidentally gets pregnant. She is not happy about it, but an abortion is not an option for her (and here the film did a fabulous job of presenting her feelings, which were not reduced to, for example, a positioning in relation to the "pro-life movement"). I think this is the best film I've even seen about pregnancy and child-birth, the reason being the way the film did not say anything general about the topic, "general" compared those movies that aspire to reveal Universal Truths about life and death. I don't say the film did not say anything at all about these things. It did. But I got the impression that the story was intended to make us approach things from a point of view where different experiences of pregnancy and child-birth are taken into account, rather than one experience being given the status of Essential Female Experience. (Juno's feelings about pregnancy were contrasted with those of the woman who was to adopt the child, the understanding, however worried, concern shown by her parents, the way her friend Bleek dealt with it - etc.)

I know I've got a thing for American indie movies (there are lots of exceptions of course). Perhaps that's a bad thing, I don't know. I appreciated Juno for the same reasons that I was blown away by Little Miss Sunshine - that is, for their lack of cynical world-weariness. I know there were things in Juno that we've seen in indie films before; quote-friendly dialogue, indie gems on the soundtrack (in this case, Cat Power and Kimya Dawson) and play with styles. But that didn't matter much. Juno made me happy. Having said that, my friend, who is even more immersed in philosophy-speak than I am, will accuse me of being "phenomenological". Perhaps that is what I am, I don't care.

PS: I am confused about this article - I think I get the point about the risk that actors are always made to represent a particular stereotype ("the nerd", "the funny guy", "the sexy cat") but I have some problems with the way Ramqvist tends to associate flannel shirts and converse sneakers with moral-panicking conservatives. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding something.

2 February 2008


Sometimes, you find music that you feel completely at home with. For me, Rivulets is that kind of band. The core of Rivulets is singer/songwriter Nathan Amundsen, who has been making music since the end of the 90's. The very first song I heard by Rivulets was "Get out alive". That song always elicits mixed feelings in me. Reverb and echo dominate the tune, a song that borders on ambience. Tiny creaks of the acoustic guitar. Drone. Hints of piano. The singing is soothing and frightening at the same time. Amundsen's minimal arrangement (esp. on the earlier albums) evokes something unsettling, something scary-yet-to-come. His lyrics are simple, and taken by themselves they may seem quite trivial. But Amundsen's voice unravel layers of emotion while singing simple lines such as "I miss my grandparents." Corny? Well, listen to the music first. The first two records sound as if recorded in a church and one of them actually was. His records share the same kind of ghostly quality as I've come across on Jason Molina (the guy from Songs; Ohia) albums. If I would sum up what his music is like I would choose the word glacial. On his new album, You are my home, Amundsen has, at least to some extent, left his previous minimal arrangements behind for a much lusher and more full-fledged sound picture. Embellished. As one reviewer puts it: "Nathan seems to have traded some mystery for more efficiency, some subtlety for more clarity, and some depth for more immediacy." For me, this new turn in the soundscapes was a little disappointing (I am actually kosher enough to detest the inclusion of actual, proper drumming), but I am looking forward to hearing what he'll do next. And the album is by no means bad, it just lacks the magic of the first two ones.

Listen to "Steamed glass" from Debridement and be amazed. What a great song.

If you want to compare his music to anything, then I'd mention José Gonzales, Low, Red house painters and Mark Hollis. And Soul whirling somewhere. But his music is, I think, not possible to imagine based on a list of references. The atmospheres his music conjures up are something special.

"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion"

R and I often end up discussing the responsibilities and roles of a teacher. R has been a teacher now for a few years and we always have great discussions about her occupation. Based on her anecdotes and her worries, I've realized how much influence over the students one has as a teacher and, perhaps even more importantly, I've realized that some teachers take that influence very seriously, so that reflecting on it becomes important. R often talks about the way her teaching reflects her, as a person, as someone who has a particular picture of the world and particular ideas about how things should be. When voicing these concerns, I usually reassure her that her students most probably appreciate her critical stance towards her subject, that her teaching is characterized by a concern for what is essential in the occupations that her students will engage in later on, but that she also teaches them things that are important on a more general, political level. But of course, she says, she doesn't want her students to give her views the force of law. It's easy to understand her worries.

Yesterday, drinking our after-work beers, we mulled over the way people often end up saying: "everybody is entitled to their own opinion" when there is a situation, in which one is afraid that one easily persuades people to think like oneself. "Everybody is entitled to their own opinions" gives a comfortable liberal, soothing impression. But, as a matter of fact, opinions, if they are to be taken seriously, are not something that a person simply has. For the record, there are some opinions, about which one could simply say that disagreement doesn't matter. This, however, does not make discussions superfluous or stupid, these are simply the cases where disagreement cannot intelligibly cause agony (some discussions about art have this character, others do not). But this is not the standard case. We care about what others think because we care about them. Their thinking is not only to be seen in spoken opinions, but in everything else as well. Granted, of course, that she really means what she says. There are also many situations, in which we would ascribe to somebody a particular thought/opinion (etc.), even though she hasn't asserted it verbally. "Watching her frown, I realize she doesn't like the present at all." At the end of a heated debate, I may angrily exclaim: "Think whatever you want, I don't care."

Once we are aware of these various cases, "everyone is entitled to their own opinion" looses something of its status of Positive Slogan. The reason why opinions are sometimes shuffled into a sacred Personal Zone is probably simply that we are afraid that our influence over other people is of a problematic. But if the world is pictured as a state of two alternatives, these being either a state of thought-hegemony or that everyone has the right to think whatever she wants, then that would be a very sad world. A world where power relations are inescapable and without alternatives.