30 April 2008

Yannick Bellon: Quelque part quelqu'un

Yannick Bellon was not a familiar name to me before my sister started talking about one of her films, Quelque part quelqu'un (1972), an experimental film with hints of traditional narrative. The film revolves around a bunch of people in Paris. The different segments of the film are seemingly disconnected - we are not presented with a grand scene where all threads come together. What sets her film apart from other films is the eerie way in which music, the movements of the camera, and usage of landscape together create a sense of dread. My associations drift towards film noir, or horror movies. But there's no crime, no murderer, no gore. So, what is it that I experience as scary? In one scene, an elderly woman talks to a man at a train station. She asks the man about a particular adress. The man looks at the woman's map, and takes her to the metro. A few scenes onward: the woman seems to have reached her destination, but she has ended up in the middle of a bustling demonstration; young people carry placards, "France, get out of Chad". At the surface, there's nothing special going on here, nothing remarkable. But in the film, these small events are transformed into something exceptional. In every scene, I get a feeling that almost anything could happen, but I am not offered any ideas about what could happen next. I ponder the open character of our everyday life - however mundane, drab and boring - and in this film, everyday life is overwhelming and scary - but still very familiar. There's a lot of bustling crowds and urban scenery. In one particularly poignant scene, one of the protagonists makes his way through the crowd at the stock market. The noise, the deals, the big, evocative screen - anything could happen, but life is bound to remain the same. Most of the the conversations in the films are very plain, very ordinary. At some point, I start to think about the apocalyptic themes of Derek Jarman and early movies by Jim Jarmusch, with whom Bellon shares the fondness for urban desolation. This is a rare film in that it creates a world of its own.

I am impressed with the crew on Finnish public service TV for having the stamina to broadcast such a rare and unknown film. I trawled the internet for reviews, but found none (in English). The only thing I know about the director is that she is best known for a film about rape. She is also considered a feminist director.

25 April 2008

Dear Mr. Employer

Every now and then, I receive e-mails from my employer. Usually, these e-mails contain information about courses my employer offers to its personnel. There seems to be a recurrent theme in these "courses": personal development and "satisfaction at work". The titles of the seminars are always very flashy: "How you grow as a person" or "Learn more about yourself: happiness at the workplace". The latest offer to us is "change management". We are to learn how to deal with change. In other words; we are to learn how to shut up, accept whatever bullshit is thrown at our face and maintain a straight face even though things are going straight to hell. "Job satisfaction" and "change management" is, I suppose, a way of manipulating the employees, inplanting in them a "work ethic" that is useful from the point of view of results. You get a gym card, you are invited to seminars where you are offered free coffee & a muffin, you are offered "a stimulating exchange of information". You should be thankful. Don't complain. Manage your bad feelings (we offer you a guru from the university of XXX who'll enlighten you about the 5 steps towards personal self-exploration).

Take your job and shove it...

Management literature is nothing but lobotomy disguised as "philosophy", "psychology" or "science", but what is worse, the ass-licking language that is so prevalent in these books seems to have been embraced by the way many employers communicate with employees. In catch-phrases, big words, big offers (in reality, it's bullshit). Innovations, core-competencies, core values. Employers try to make themselves look like they care for the personal satisfaction of their employees, but in reality... At my former job, every meeting started with the manager's telling us that we are expected to develop as "professionals". "Professional" was a magic word for him but I never really got clear about what he meant by it. He talked about the grand changes that are going on, and that we have every possibility to grab our piece of the market. Everything looks great, great, great. And we are professionals. We are going places (at the market, in relation to our competitors).

Hey, Mr. Employer, I don't want you to care for my "self-realization", I want you to care about the world and our place in it. I want you to care about what you do, what we do.

24 April 2008


Suicide's self-titled album. 1977. Tougher than any, or most, punk records I've heard. "Frankie teartrop". A song about a factory worker going berzerk. This record is like Bruce Springsteen, arosen from hell, re-born as a ghost or a vampire, coming to your house to kill you or seduce you. The Shangri-Las and death-longing music from the 50's and the early 60's (listen to "Johnny"). Drum-machines, synths. Minimalism. This is not sex pistols. This is unlike everything else (but the For Carnation album springs to mind, but this is harsher, but they share something of the same desolation. Joy Division.). "Frankie teardrop/ Twenty year old Frankie/ He's married he's got a kid/ Frankie works in a factory./ He works from seven to five/He's just trying to survive./ Well let's hear it for Frankie/ Frankie, Frankie." The drums rattle, like a cricket. The synth is droning, there's not much melody. This is the real thing, this is camp, this is the real thing.

A queer community?

I understand less & less about what is going on in the world, what people talk about, about what they say is important to them. I understand less and less about myself, my own whims, reactions and inclinations. I don’t understand this gender shit, I don’t understand this sex shit. And most of all, “homosexuality and heterosexuality”, “male” and “female” - What’s that? I try to express my exasperation, but I’m sure it will come out confused, pathetic, or self-important. But, hell, I'm tryin'.

A friend talked to me about a couple we both know. They are getting married? Yeah? Good for them! The church doesn’t allow a ceremony for them. They have the wrong body parts. A few ribs, a few organs, a few misplaced pieces of flesh. Sorry, I forgot. She lost her job? Oh, fuck, that’s bad. (Isn’t that kind of procedure forbidden by law? Well, you see, there are some traditions, you have to understand….)

My uncle asks me the same question, over and over again, “do you have a boyfriend yet?” My friends talk about their trouble with men who perceive them as “motherly caretakers”, rather than lovers. We speculate over an acquaintance; straight or gay? I get pissed off about hanging out at a bar that’s nothing but flexing, machismo muscles and mini-skirts. “Signals”. “The Game”. I read the newspaper. “Woman killed by partner. He stabbed her five times and shot himself in the head.” On and on it goes.

“You don’t even know what genderqueer means, do ya?”

Recently, I watched a documentary about three “girls” who were uncomfortable in their “gender roles”, with their bodily shape. They called themselves “genderqueer”, a concept that was supposed to designate a place in-between. One of the “genderqueer” worried about how s/he was to come out as genderqueer to his/her mum. The mum lives in another city, far away. The first time around, s/he just couldn’t speak her/his mind. S/he went to visit her mum a second time, during which s/he sat down with her parent, with the intention of explaining all – why s/he dressed “as a boy”, why s/he was not merely a “lesbian”. Mummy had a hard time understanding, and the kid blurted out; “you probably don’t even know what genderqueer means, do ya?” Poor mummy shook her head, smiled confusedly. Awkward silence. The kid says nothing about relations with other people; she talks about her identity, and other people become relevant only as far as they are the ones who perceive her/him as something; genderqueer, a lesbian, a girl, a boy.

The scene had a ring of tragedy & comedy at the same time. It was so utterly unclear what it was that the kid tried to tell his/her mommy, and it was just as unclear in what way mommy would’ve “understood”, in a proper sense, so that the kid would’ve been satisfied and felt comforted. “Genderqueer”, for this person, clearly offered the hope of functioning as a liberating concept that signifies freedom from the binary gender system. A magic door. But the problem is that concepts do not save us. The introduction of a concept, in itself, does nothing. The real question, I suppose, is: in what way can the binary gender system change, and what does it, at the bottom line, mean for us to change?

I don’t intend to say that the kid’s ordeals were illusory. Far from it; something was bothering him/her, and it had to do with gender and what it means to be a particular body, to be a particular person. But new identities on the identity market do not do the job, and this was hinted at in worrying ways by what the persons in the documentary said and did (getting a sex change operation, worrying that it will not “do the trick”, that one’s problems will go nowhere). Identities, that’s taking comfort in something that is somehow independent of oneself, no matter the fervour with which identity is claimed to be the most personal, the most individual. Identity: something one claims (lays claims on), appeals to, tries to uphold, or something that is ascribed to one by somebody else (“you’re that kind of person!”). Clinging to an “identity” means that one wants to settle down an idea of who I am, an idea that is allowed to live a life of its own. A solitary, pseudo-social, notoriously collective, life.

The branded heart

It’s obvious that heterosexuality is much less of an ideology than homosexuality has become. Nobody confesses their heterosexuality; nobody comes out as a heterosexual. There’s no outspoken heterosexual bar (even though, in reality, most places are designed to fit ideas about “male” and “female”), there’s no band that presents their music as “heterosexual music”. “Homosexuality”, the idea about sexual preferences, can be traced back to a bunch of 19th century psychiatrists & physicians, and this also, I suppose, signifies the birth of “heterosexuality” of the shape that we are familiar with. The idea that there are sexual variations, and that your inclinations will (pre)determine your choice of partner is ingrained in many aspects of our thinking ("I don't think about you as a man - you know I'm not..."). A form of language that has shook hands with the language of market economy, but also with the language of biology (“signals” and “predetermination of behaviour”). Throw in some liberal ideals about rights and democracy, too. This was not the birth of gender oppression, but it’s possible to talk about particular forms of gender oppression. “Gender history” is interesting; reading historical accounts of how concepts such as “butch”, “gay” and “queer” have evolved have, for me, proved very rewarding. One gains a perspective on things, on change, and how change has been perceived (what things are considered as changes).

It is, of course, of interest that “male homosexuality” has been a far more visible phenomenon than “lesbianism” – in the Catholic Church, in contemporary media, in the stereotypes of “queers”. But these historical accounts seem to make it no easier to understand in what way these concepts are used, what they express and disclose. But I suspect you agree with me that it is quite telling, that a concept such as “bi-curious” is, at least among some people, launched as a concept that is fully intelligible as an expression of curiosity, immersing in a sea of multiplying experiences.

“5, perhaps as much as 10, percentage of the population is homosexual.” Empirical science, carefully moulded statics pies (they will not feed us, though). What the hell are we talking about here? There’s something that’s really mystifying about this way of speaking about “sexualities”. I know people have been oppressed, that there is violence, that there is injustice. My own hunch is that violence has merely been sublimated into “rights”, “identities” and “preferences”. Gay discos for queers. No tears for queers. There are specially designed commercials that will fit the queer audience, the queer need, the pink wallet. The queer does n longer lurk in the dark corners of the park, or the dark corners of the mind. Nowadays, you can bet you’ll be able to find a queer priest, a queer soldier, a queer politician. There’s visibility. But, now, what is it that has become visible, the focus of public attention? It might be – a brand. Just like McDonald’s, Wärtsilä or Benotton. This is a brand to be worn as a badge on your heart or on your sleeve.

What does the community think?

But is this all there is to “the gay community”, a flag-waving lobby group, a bit like a tobacco company, or Amnesty, or Senior Citizens of Wichita? Isn’t there a place for support, recognition, and understanding? A place where heterosexist violence is smashed? Isn’t there a lot of friendship and love out there that is not ruled by the kind of identity obsession I’ve pondered upon above? Yes, of course. But there’s something about this sense of community, of having something in common, that makes me slightly queasy. Can oppression be shared in solidarity? What is false solidarity, defined by the oppressive system? I’m reading a text by Pat Califia, “Gay men, lesbians, and sex: doing it together” and it alerts me to some interesting questions. Califia talks about how she breaks with many ideas about “the lesbian”. She has sex with gay men. But she still insists upon calling herself a lesbian. She talks about having kept a “clean record” up until she started fucking gay men, but later in the text, this is something she criticizes the gay community for; a sense of purity. Her descriptions are, however, beautiful. She talks about the notion of a biological sex being of little or no importance. Her point is that sexual labels tell us next to nothing. The essential thing is how we live. She writes: “Gay people have responded to persecution by creating our own mythology.” But she also writes, and here is where I start to wonder what she means: “I now feel that having sex with women really is a choice for me.” Califia talks about a sense of queerness that is not limited to a particular gender/sex constellation.

But queerness is still a concept that seems essential to her. There’s a lot of open questions here, no doubt. I am far from clear about what I think about the idea about "a queer community", a "sense of belonging". I read too much Kierkegaard, too much Solanas. That makes me suspicious about things. Solanas says: fuck gender, fuck sex, fuck the bourgeoise family, fuck "liberal rights", fuck the state, fuck money, fuck religion, fuck work, fuck this rotten world. Kierkegaard, in essence, says the same thing, but his tone of voice is slightly different, but his ideas are no less overwhelming than Solanas'. (I read Purity of Heart at the moment - good shit.)

PS. Speaking of queerness - this blog has received an unprecedented number of visitors since I published the John Wayne entry. Everybody wants to look at pictures of Wayne, apparently. During the last few hours, I've had visitors, interested in Mr. Wayne, from Manchester, Ohio, Toronto, Warsaw, Milwaukee, Paris and Rome. John Wayne-fans around the globe, unite. But instead of interesting details about John Wayne, I wrote a boring personal note. Ha!

20 April 2008


Gösta's epiphany. There's nothing to look at here, there's nothing here for you. Gösta says: fuck this shit, I'm leavin'.

This place is haunted, says Gösta. Gösta likes it. Gösta makes friends with the ghosts.

Gösta's window.

Gösta: it's 6 a.m. I'm going home. Gösta is alone in the world. Only the birds are awake.

Gösta needs a drink. Gösta drinks whisky while listening to The Doors on the jukebox. This place is Gösta's and no one else's.

Gösta sees a rabbit. Gösta hunts the rabbit. Two rabbits. Gösta goes home; mission failed. Gösta's rabbit escapes.
Gösta admires a crane and the erection of the city. Gösta thinks about value creation. Gösta thinks about turning all values around. Gösta considers the destruction of all values.

Gösta on the road 1. Gösta is heading for the great unknown. Where the world ends, and the sea begins. Where the music stops.

Gösta on the road 2.

Gösta's fat cloud.
Gösta at sea. The sea is grey. Gösta is glad. Gösta is at home.

17 April 2008


Suddenly growing a bit tired of listening to music on my computer, I rummaged around my old selection of tapes (I'm so proud to have them with me after all these years) for some music I haven't listened to in a long time. My stereo prides itself with a tape recorder, but the sound is converted into a hazy, distant growl. Surprisingly, that makes some music sound really, really great. I listened to old favorites; Cowboy Junkies' Rarities, B-sides and slow, sad waltzes (the ending song of that album, "My father's house", a cover of a Springsteen song, is stunning and amusing, despite its jam-like, half-finished setting; CJ at their best!). I also listen to Swedish singer Dan Fägerqvist's interpretations of Vladimir Vysotsky. The album is an uneven accomplishment, but some parts of it are really captivating; when he makes the lyrics come alive, while the music augments the lyrical atmosphere of the songs. Meanwhile, I am reading a book about Siberia, written by Magnus Londen, called Till världens ände. I like it so far. The style of writing is relaxed, and intelligent.

The reason why I picked it up at the library is that me & a friend are thinking about travelling to China on the Trans-Siberian railway. I've been dreaming about that for several years, and now the prospects look good. Something strange is going on when people say that they are "fascinated by a country", but for some reason I really want to visit Russia again. I've visited the country on short trips a few years back, but I guess there were many things I wasn't ready for then. My impression of Moscow is a scary, monumental, yet somehow intriguing, place. One of the reasons why the Trans-Siberian railway exerts such a great pull are the pictures I have in my head of the taiga, the steppe, the Baikal lake... I suppose what I have now is more a landscape rooted in fantasy, than anything real. But there are other aspects of travelling on a long-distance train that I am particularly fond of. Meeting people, finding oneself in the middle of unexpected conversations. I've done some interrailling, and I've always liked the long hours of traveling, heading for new destinations, for something about which one does not have the faintest grasp. Looking out the window and doing nothing, just looking at the landscape. Reading books. Listening to the humming sound of the train. Traveling, at best, makes oneself rely on the openness of other people, trusting and cherishing the friendliness of others.

14 April 2008

john wayne & the purposelessness of walking

Now that I am able to move around on my own two feet again, I feel like a John Wayne character that has sat on a horse for forty-five years. John Wayne is my new style in every respect.

The single most artificial aspect of walking on crutches is the purposefulness of every movement, at least if one does not fully master the technique of it, which I don't (even though one gains strengh by and by). Ordinarily, walking around is not limited to getting from place A to B. Walking includes activities such as strolling about, getting some excercise, enjoying fresh air, the sun or the view of something, buildings, cities, neighbourhoods. Walking in a demonstration. Walking in a solemn procession. Etc. A lot of activities are, as a matter of fact, a lot less purposeful than we are prone to think. G wrote a philosophical paper on "walking" once. I remember I was fascinated by it, but now I'd like to have a look at it again. He discusssed the flaneur and the way his (the prototype of a flaneur is, typically, a he) walking can be seen as a particular attitude towards the surrounding world. But I won't say a word about flamboyant dandies here, as this is a post that honors the great John Wayne, the all-american hero. Americans are not supposed to walk, they ride on horses, or in monster-cars, taxis and limos. - French sissies strutt about. Real men don't walk. (For me, the friendliness of a particular city correlates with how walking-friendly it is.)

Reviewers' corner

It's hard to find really good homepages that provide reviews of and discussions about the kind of music one happens to be interested in. As I have a knack for slow and minimal, at times experimental, rock, electronica and jazz, I recommend these sites:

  • Pitchfork: I am sometimes annoyed by the somewhat pretentious style of writing that is flourishing there (but good for one's English vocabulary), but it offers a wide assortment of reviews almost every day. Normally, I have little to say about lay-out, but the lay-out of Pitchfork is the most hideous thing I've ever seen.
  • Dusted magazine: Focuses on the more experimental side of rock, and through their page, I've stumbled upon many interesting cross-over bands (esp. rock&jazz).
  • Textura: If you're interested in electronica and ambient, this is the place. It's fun to browse the archives for obscure acts one has never heard of before. For example, it was here that I read about gorgeous Swedish folk artist Richard Jäverling for the first time (I think). Lay-out flairs are kept to a minimum, which I like.
  • Musikkguiden groove.no is a good starting point if one is interested in a specific genre. In Norwegian.
  • Opus is a blog that features reviews of many bands I like - slow, sad rock.
  • In the male-centred world of music reviews, it's good to find Wears the trousers - a zine for female artists. Great mix of good music. They used to have an archive, but it seems to be down - momentarily, I hope.
  • Boomkat is a on-line record shop, but the site is also good for finding new music.
  • http://www.psychedelicfolk.homestead.com/ is the place for all things folk, psych-folk, acid-folk, etc. A bit messy, but good.
  • A few years ago, I was adicted to the discussion board I love music - sanctuary for witty music snobs who love to hate each other - and everything 'rockism' and what not. But maybe it's different now.

If anyone has recommendations, feel free to submit.

13 April 2008

Bohren, bohren, bohren

I'm stuck with Bohren & der club of gore. It's almost impossible for me to listen to something else. Here's a great review of Geisterfaust, the group's most recent record. I agree with the reviewer that this record is different from Sunset Mission and Black earth. This is less film noir, and more...well, more doom. It reminds me of the drilling (he he) sound of Sunn O))); riffs that strech out into eternity, the melody being so slow that it disappears. I don't say I like it less, but it's different. The end of the album offers a pleasant surprise. The fist of a ghost, indeed.
It will be exciting to see what this band will do next - I like the way their sound has progressed. I haven't listened to the early records yet, but I've heard they contain more 'metal' elements, that they are harsher.

11 April 2008

"Bad times ahead" - on feeling old and weary.

My present state: growing old. I look upon my life as a medical encyclopedia, phenomena, symptoms, cures. When I meet someone, I talk at length about my bodily ailments, rather than embarking on a discussion about the goings on in the world of actions and events, of brisk initiatives and unexpected turns. Wrapped up in the naked Self, time becomes irrelevant. I no longer remember if something happened last summer, or whether it happened three years ago. It doesn't matter anway, does it? My youthly vigor is declining. I feel slightly drowsy after two beers. The music at the bar is too loud, people make too much noise. They are bothering me. I go (= crutch my way) home, listen to Nebraska, and I really like it. I like the Boss, I like the hushed stories on that album. I enjoy lounge jazz more and more, Yesterday’s new quintet, and other acts (what is next?). What is regarded as popular music at the moment, about that I have no clue whatsoever.

The pleasantries; a glass of dear old Talisker. Enjoying the harsh, dynamic taste. Scotch, single-malt – what did you think?

I watch a documentary about religious Austrians. It’s a bit tedious but it alerts me to some interesting questions about the privacy of prayer, what it means to turn to God for help and guidance.

Suddenly overcome by an urge to learn about local politics, to feel responsible, I sign up for a subscription to the local newspaper. I skim through the latest news from Nagu, Pargas, Korpo and read about one of the biggest cruisers in the world, built by Aker Yards. Aker Yards is busy, busy. The picture included in the article makes me somewhat sick in the stomach. I wonder why the cruisers mentioned in the article bear names that makes me think of G.W Bush. Freedom of the seas, Independence of the seas, Liberty of the seas.

I realize I've spent many years at the same place, with the same people. Has anything changed? I become aware of how I tend to think in terms of “what students are like nowadays” (what is next?).

I worry about going out; moving around is like an adventure, a process, - labour. Everything is labour. Now I know what Arendt means: life becomes a series of necessities one grapples with as efficiently as one can. I worry, I ruminate. I am engrossed in futilities.

People tell me I should get some clothes that are more “punk” than the style (style? Or rather the lack of it) that I am sporting right now. I realize I don’t know what this style even looks like. I assume it is something colourful, red and black perhaps, something retro. Tight jeans. Hip kids, I wheeze, despicably. Well, I go to the store, and my existential state of being-thrown-into-the-world is making itself apparent as I am forced to deal with a Big Choice: the black business shirt, or the grey business shirt? Better take the grey one.

The book I am reading at the moment: The Planetarium by Nathalie Sarraute, a book about resentment. Resentment is a state of eternity, and at the same time a state in which time passes by unnoticed. Nothing matters, except the heavy load of accusations and lingering guilt and bitterness. Resentment is the opposite of hope. It’s the point when time stops, where everything stops, and dies without you noticing it. Sarraute captures the form of attention that is expressive of resentment. Every movement a person makes, every sentence she utters, is a mark of, a proof of, her evil nature and her ill will. I read the book in the light of Nietzsche, what he says about resentment, remembrance and the blessing of forgetting.

I'm visiting the Village this weekend. I will have a change of heart; when I meet villagers of my own age, I feel much younger than them; settled down, married, with a respectable job, living in a spacious house and parking their cars in a spacious garage. They've begun to talk like their parents; matter-of-factly, gravely delivered gossip. The same tone of voice, the same interests, the same prospects. But then again, I hardly know them; we meet in passing, they ask me if I am still in school (am I? I don't know), and I ask them something about their jobs. We share formalities. At the moment, in this present state of mine, I would fit in. A bit. I hope this is a passing phase.

7 April 2008

Official homepage of.... North Korea??

A blog I'm reading on a regular basis linked to a Swedish site about North-Korea. On that blog, I found a link to The Official homepage of The Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The homepage, which is in itself one of the strangest things I've seen for a while, also contains a FAQ-page. The first question - naturally - concerns the very serious inquiry of whether it is possible to buy a signed picture of Kim Jong II. And, yes, dear reader, it is! Question nr. 13: "Is North Korea a dictatorship?" And the answer:

No, the DPRK is a single-united-party constitutional democracy guaranteeing freedom of speech and assembly to all citizens. DPRK citizens play an active role in their nation's political life at the local, regional and national levels, through their trade unions or as members of one of the nation's three political parties, which include the Workers' Party of Korea, the Chondoist Chongu Party and the Korean Social Democratic Party.

And from the section for 'politics' in North Korea: "The basic principle in the organization of the organs in the country is the Democratic Centralism. All the power organs are elected by the masses and they must answer in front of them."

Well... 'Freedom of speech & assembly for all citizens'... I once watched a documentary about a German (or Austrian?) conductor who visited North Korea and arranged a concert with a few Korean students. The documentary did not deal with political questions directly, but it did reveal the power relations between the students and the teacher, the way the students were afraid to express themself too freely to the 'foreigner'.

Famine & poverty are not recognized. The homepage mentions a serious famine in the 80's, but since the end of the 90's, everything has been fine, it is claimed.

Curiously enough, the FAQ list also contained a lengthy reply about 'homosexuals'. North Korea has "embraced science and rationalism" and therefore recognizes, and respects, that some human beings are born with this particular genetic trait. And, in a smaller print, the homepage states:

Homosexuals in the DPRK have never been subject to repression, as in many capitalist regimes around the world. However, North Koreans also place a lot of emphasis on social harmony and morals. Therefore, the DPRK rejects many characteristics of the popular gay culture in the West, which many perceive to embrace consumerism, classism and promiscuity.

This really seems to be an issue that the maker of the home page thinks has to be dealt with - it seems important that North Korea is presented as an open-minded and rational country, a country that nevertheless has lost nothing of its traditional values.

Here's another blog focusing on North Korea.

6 April 2008

A taste of honey

Darnit, A taste of honey (1961) is a great movie. Witty, sad & beautiful, no wonder Moz took a liking to it, and quoted several of the lines in his songs. The characters are quirky, but sweet. The cinematography is perfect; industrial, working class Manchester in shimmering black-and-white. The plot line, as summed up over at IMDB, is, however, far too simplifying: "The moving story of a plain young girl who becomes pregnant by a black sailor, befriends a homosexual, and gradually becomes a woman." 'Becoming a woman' is not a solution happily embraced by the film or its characters; 'becoming a woman' is rather portrayed as a sad destiny, a loss of freedom and individuality - of oneself. The theme of the film is rebellion, wanting to live the kind of life where one does not fall to pieces - if only one knew what that life looks like.
A taste of honey is a wise film about ideas related to gender, motherhood and (hetero/homo)sexuality. My association while watching it was Juno; like Juno, this is an offbeat, but well-articulated movie that is entertaining & fun but that never fails to take its subject matter seriously. The humour of the two films is somewhat similar, too.
After having seen this one, I'm interested in watching more Brittish, 'realist' movies from the 60's. Haven't seen too many, yet.
The dream has gone
But the baby is real
Oh, you did a good thing
She could have been a poet
Or, she could have been a fool
Oh, you did a bad thing
And i'm not happy
And i'm not sad

Neil Bissoondath - A casual brutality

I hadn't heard of Neil Bissoondath when I picked up one of his books, A casual brutality (1988), at a bookshop somewhere in northern Scotland. When I started reading it, the novel appeared to me much too wordy, too 'literary' - too stiff. An example: the facial & psychological traits of the characters ('her blue eyes & high cheekbones & little chin - that kind of thing.) were depicted at lenght, and this, at first, made me cringe. Sentences stretched out into eternity, packed with information. But I didn't give up, and after 100 pages, the story started to engage me. And I started to appreciate the 'heaviness' of the language. The story is centered around Raj, a doctor, born on a small caribbean island, Casaquemada, and his Canadian wife. I must confess that the destinies of the main characters were less interesting than was the socio-economical setting of the book. A society that has undergone rapid changes; economic growth, and, then, recession and political instability. The author explores various attitudes towards these changes; some characters try to take advantage of the instability, whereas others remain passive, frustrated and afraid. Raj, from whose perspective the story is unraveled, is a far from likeable character. He's not a hero in any way. Life just happens to him, and he tries to do what is required of him, but not more than that. On the surface a voice of honesty, but there was always some kind of deception going on, a deception half-anticipated, half-realized. His self-deception not only concerned his personal life, but also the reasons for his moving back to Casaquemada after having lead a quite comfortable life in Canada. The political dimension of the book was often hinted at in unexpected ways; in depictions of cities, in the dynamics between people. I found this approach successfully employed. The overall tone of the book is that of paranoia, regret and grief. But, at the same time, irony permeats everything, and this is, I guess, partly why deception always seems so threatening.

5 April 2008

Purrbot - Civil unrest

Some bands never seem to get the attention they deserve. purrbot, a one-man project from the US, is amongst these overlooked acts. A friend played the album Civil unrest and that's how I found out about the band. We're talking about quiet, mostly acoustic & guitar-based, music with lyrics that grapple with the worries of everyday life. The music is, one could say, discreet, but this does not imply it's boring. Especially the first track on the album, "Come out! Come out!" has remained with me since I first heard it. Somebody compared the band to a less fervent Xiu Xiu, but I don't know. I hope this band will make more music.

Misreading of the day

"Nu får hela Esbo gudvittring"

I was, seriously, pondering on that headline quite a few minutes before I realized - guldvittring. I was absorbed in the image of Esbo being taken over by religious frenzy; a bit like the zombie movie 28 days later, or something to that effect; people running around, looking for god. 'Gudvittring' sounds much more fun, and much more spectacular, than the Finnish ice-hockey league. I wonder what the most elegant English translation of 'gudvittring' would be... "A scent of god"? Hmmm. There must be another, more exact, translation of "vittring". A word for smelling something, and out of this, deriving information about the existence/proximity/probability of something. "Vittring" is a good word.

My head is filled with trash.

2 April 2008

Diane Cluck - Countless times

Countless times by Diane Cluck is pure magic from start to finish. It possesses a ghostly beauty you will never hear on another record. Soothing, fierce & severly enigmatic, this is music from another world. A better world. I never tire of it. It reveals itself in new ways every time I put it on and it always leaves me surprised, exhausted, exhilarated. Cluck is the master of creating layers of emotion in her songs, layers of meaning, and of subtle changes. Variations of a theme. This sounds technical, of course, but it is not, not at all. The last two tracks - "my teacher died" and "my teacher died/countless times" are unbelievably disturbing, unbelievably haunting. Resembling failed takes, incomplete takes, flawed takes, these two tracks work up a repetitive chant, "my teacher died/I was sorry/but I wasn't sorry". A choir of confused multiplications of her own voice; half-hearted handclaps; then one song seems to break into it suddenly; a carpet of funeral organs. It continues endlessly; countless times, indeed. The title of the record says so much about what this record is all about.
We are chewing on the barest bones here.

Bloody hell! On cursing

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Now, you see, I'm practically a saint. The result was quite unexpected, I do tend to swear a lot. Perhaps I'm keeping it in check on this very official, very mature little blog - apparently, I am, if the cuss-o-meter tells me so. Cursing belongs to the core of my language. If I feel that I can't use particular swear-words in the company of a particular person, then I immediately get suspicious of my relation with him/her. Cursing is also a part of the philosophical jargon at our department. At least among some of us, it is. It's fun and I guess some of it has to do with a rejection of technical, academic language (language that makes you die on the inside). I thought about this shit a bit when I started teaching, but then I realized it would be a stupid-ass idea to clean up the messy landscapes of my lingua. Censorship would mean I've totally given up the idea of trying to be myself. I don't have to drop F-bombs all the time but, still. For fuck's sake.