30 July 2008

Conversations ii

My friend is visiting. We have endless conversations, many of which would be of great feminist/psychoanalytic/marxist interest. The exchanges between us could be excerpts from Nathalie Sarraute's The Planetarium:
- Have you not considered buying a new table for your TV? [energetic, conversational tone]
- Why? [imitating real exasperation]
- But you made it at school! It's old.
- I did. It was nice. Anders helped me. It is a nice table. Solid.
- That color...
- It's retro.... I like mustard yellow.
- No, your apartment looks like a child's room.
- I don't care. I'm a hippie.
- No you're not. But you could get a new table. From IKEA. To make your apartment look more grown-up.
- I don't fancy the grown-up look.
- I know. Your such a lad.
- Uh...
- Let's go to IKEA. You'll find something. New furniture. New stuff. For your apartment. It will look nicer.
- I don't like IKEA.
- But it can't look like this forever, your place.
- Look, I don't want any furniture. I like it the way it is.
- But more grown-up...
- I don't care a rap about that.
- you could get...
- ... You could buy a coctail cabinet... From IKEA.
- -------

29 July 2008


I hardly ever watch action movies. It is even less probable that I go to the movies to watch big explosions and gunpowder. My friend bribed me into watching Batman - dark knight with her. Was this a political parody? Or was it a shady tribute to shady political ideas ("this is an endless war. We won't call those who fight it heroes, but still, somebody's got to do it")?

23 July 2008

man-sized agony: on the idea of "the crisis of masculinity"

Today I read it again. 'Finnish boys and young men are miserable'. Their mental health are, it is stated, worse than 'we' (?) used to think. "Grown men and knowledge about boys are needed in ordinary life, in schools and in health care. We should learn more about the needs of boys, about their development and what torments boys and in what ways they express that they don't feel good." (HBL, 22.07). This is a piece of advice from expert doctors at "Befolkningsskyddet" (at their home page translated as "Rescue services"). Provided we give this a very charitable reading, I would agree with it: the gender matrices of masculinity are fucked up and of course that is something that afflicts people, all of us, in one way or other. But I suspect that is not, at least not mainly (mabye they would talk about "destructive gender roles" or something) that they are talking about. Observation nr. one: They are talking exclusively about boys.

The doctors seem to say that boys have peculiar problems of a psychological nature of which we need to gain empirical knowledge, so that they can be dealt with. (There is another charitable reading I will say more about later: that we look away from the way masculinity is oppressive, not only to women, but also to men.) It's time to talk about things that we normally keep quit about, they most probably suggest (the insufficient, sublimating state of vittuperkelesaatana). The first part of the quoted sentence, "Grown men [....] are needed in ordinary life, schools and in healt care." Why do they put it like this? Well, it might not be too far-fetched an interpretation if we take them to say that there is something about grown men, their sex/gender that makes them more insightful with regards to the troubled minds of young males. From this can be derived a pretty essentialist idea about sex/gender, according to which these are something we, in a very simple and concrete sense, have. Thus: males have their peculiar problems, and guys are, because they are male, more well-prepared to understand the nature of these problems (and perhaps take appropriate action? - "role models").

Girls and women have, for a very long time, been the object of psychologizing and diagnoziation. One might even go as far as proposing that some ways of talking about "women" and femininity are internally related to talking about something as a psychological tic, a diagnosis or a psychological phenomenon. (Do I have to mention examples? PMS, hysteria, self-indulgence, "empathy", "tears come so easily for women....") Well, are we seeing the same development, but a male set of psychologisms? Yeah maybe. But the interesting thing, of course, is how these "psychologisms" are used. "Boys with psychological problems need understanding from other men." Well - what might be the point of saying such a thing? "Little Teddy is prone to act aggressively. His dad, who is a baseball player, will teach him a few things about turning his aggression into something creative. After all, boys will be boys." In this example, Teddy's anger, gushes of rage or what it might be, is treated as something that does not express anything about him, about his life, his relation to others. No: aggression is some sort of force that may be directed against different objects, some of which are more socially accepted than others (it's much nicer to be a baseball player than a serial killer).

The assumption here seems to be that there is a "male nature" that needs to be understood (and the next assumption is that males have a direct access to this understanding). The folks from "Befolkningsförbundet" claim that "there is a lot of pressure in growing up to be a man. You are either a winner or a loser. These models may be prohibited by means of recognitions of [boys'] need for help." Again: if we opt for a charitable reading, we may give these doctors credits for talking openly about the way people are crushed under stupid gender patterns. But there is still something in the article that makes me doubt whether they would say this. I hint a trust in "the good masculinity".

The common idea (and I don't necessarily want to ascribe this to the doctors in question), anyway, is that there is a lot of anguish because males are confused. Why? Because of the changing gender roles. It is no longer (here we go again) socially accepted for men to treat women as house slaves and sex slaves, thus, they must adapt into something else - but what? The problem is, many would say, that there is no clear model of what to be "as a man". Males are confused because there are too many masculinities. And hence the psychological crisis of young boys (but according to this argument, grown-up men would be in no better position to offer guiding to their juniors). You might ask why I am critical of this way of talking about "men in crisis". One reason (and it is a weighty one for me) is that social acceptability, combined with some hypothesis about "male nature", seem to be presupposed here. As if the main purpose in life for men - the way to harmony & happiness - is spelled a solid masculinity. Well, folks, if you ask me, that is fluff. One may be confused about what kind of person one is, about what kind of person "one should be". But I would say that a part of this confusion is that one is worrying about being "a particular kind of person". Instead of, you know, living the best one can.

At present, I am reading Paris-Dakar by Jens Liljestrand. It is a good book precisely because in it, Liljestrand questions the idea that there is a form of untainted, absolving masculinity in which troubled men takes comfort during hard times. His point seems to be that men are tormented by masculinity, that masculinity is a hang-up, a ghost, a false escape. In a next to perfect pitch, Liljestrand goes through the gendered clichés. In one of the short stories of Paris-Dakar, the author presents the respectable man who is seen as boring among his friends but who is good at organizing stuff. When he can't even hold on to that picture of himself, his entire existence is breaking down. Liljestrand's stories are packed with men who "feel miserable". But to use the psychologistic language that I referred to above would not fit the perspective he writes from. The pain he masterfully depicts is not dissolved by pointing at the dream of a solid masculinity. The problem is, I agree, Identity. But the book provides an argument against it. Every form of it. Identity is the problem (sickness unto death, if you will).

22 July 2008

Haneke: 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls (1994)

There is something about 71 fragments - a chronology of chance (directed by Michael Haneke) that made quite an impression on me. Like several other movies during the 90's and the 00's, Haneke explores the place of chance in human life. Like several, maybe too many?, other movies, it is the way the story is told that makes us reflect on chance, destiny and the fragility of human life. We have seen a thousand more or less contrived techniques of weaving stories together and thereby obtaining some sort of dramatic denouement. The moral intentions of these films may be praiseworthy, but this sort of artistic device has almost become a one-trick pony by now. (Well, I'm having Babel, Crash and a few others in mind) Superficially, 71 fragments is not that different. Separate stories are told, and towards the end of the film the threads are tied together. But let's get into the details. Haneke works with (mostly) short, intense scenes which are often, as it were, cut off in the middle of the action, even in the middle of a sentence. There is a pause between every scene. A few seconds of black screen. No music, no nothing. All scenes are bristling with tension. The characters are portrayed in what they do and what they say, they are revealed in small, ordinary things. But, remarkably, we are acquainted with them immediately. In the span of a few minutes, I feel terribly close to them. (I don't feel that way very often when watching movies, but I came to think of Elephant by Gus van Sant here, for several, some of them obvious, reasons) That doesn't mean we know a lot about them. We know next to nothing about the characters, many times not even their names, but that don't make them any less real. I hesitate to point it out, but a character may be experienced as believable, as "real", without this having anything to do with identification. Sure, there is some sort of "detachment" at play here (see here) but 'detachment' here simply means that we are given the space to look for ourselves. The emotions we may feel are not forced upon us (by means of manipulation, sugary descriptions, etc.).

Sometimes just a scene depicting a guy playing ping-pong by himself is loaded with the force to express so much. The explosive, mesmerizing, character of the pictures is difficult to put into words. In one scene, a middle-aged couple are having dinner. In that small scene, we watch the facade drop while their lives fall apart. But even though there is an "explosion" here, it is treated carefully. The aftermath, the stretched-out picture of two agonized faces. Two pair of hands holding on to a fork and a knife for dear life.

Sequences from the news are shown repeatedly. We watch the same sequences - about the war in the former Yogoslavia, and the Michael Jackson child molesting scandal. Jackson & genocide. In the setting of the evening news, they are presented as being of equal interest, as "information". "This happened today". (This particular aspect of the movie could easily have become extremely tasteless and - you know - cheap, but I think there are some redeeming traits of his "media criticism") I suppose one thing I came to think of while watching 71 fragments is how pictures do move us, shake us, but that there is no given form of how to give an honest account of something that is evil or corrupt. The violence that is included in Haneke's film is not graphical. It is only hinted at, or it takes other than physical forms. I find this film being a slightly more rewarding, much deeper, account of violence and cruelty than, for example, Funny games (1997) even though they might share some themes in common (a discussion about how to portray violence without it becoming exploitation or entertainment).

"Haneke is a purveyor of contemporary alienation". That expression is off-putting. But maybe there's a hint of truth in it nonetheless.

21 July 2008

Genesis Breyer P-orridge

You might be familiar with Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Here's a link to an interesting interview with Genesis Meyer P-orridge. A lot of the things he says, his persona, are very sympathetic. Some of the stuff he talks about are a bit strange. At least he seems to have an interesting comprehension of gender. Go have a look:


20 July 2008

Jafar Panahi

I don't want to contribute to stupid stereotypes, but there are some things about the Iranian movies I've seen (many of them banned in Iran) that set them apart. The natural feel of the dialogue, intriguing depictions of urban Teheran - not to mention the gentle, subtle sense of humour that is present in many of these, often bleak and politically critical, contemporary Iranian films. During the last few weeks, I've watched some films by Jafar Panahi. On this blog, I've talked about one of his films, Offside, before. The film, which depict the eager attempts of female football fans to sneak into an important soccer game unnoticed, is still one of my favorite Panahi film. Oppression of women, its day-to-day expression, is also what is the central theme of The Circle (2000). I liked the principle of storytelling in that film, how the camera follows the story of one or several women, only to switch its attention to others. the women characters were quite mysterious, and many of the circumstances of their lives were left untold (we learned that several of the characters were on a temporary leave from prison, but their crimes were not revealed). But I had some doubts about the first part of the film. I was simply never really absorbed in the story. But that said, the film is well worth watching. Offside felt like a much more forceful statement (even though not in a traditional sense as "serious" as the other), while I, at times, felt that The Cirle lost something of its importance/immediacy by lumping women's life together, so that they, to some extent, were portrayed exclusively as victims of oppression and not as individuals fighting their ways through life. As much as I am a bit critical, I also understand that one of the cruelties Panahi wanted to comment on is the way women's lives are weaved together in a common fear of the police, and other things. It is a mark of oppression that it makes people into a gray mass, that people are made to believe that's what they (and others) are. Perhaps I had better say that the lumping together, the, if I may say so, anonymity of the stories, were not the problem, but the artistic realization was not completely satisfactory.

I was much impressed by two films by Panahi in which the protagonists were (female) children. The best of these two, The White balloon (1995), revolves around a girl's desire to purchase a fish for the new year's eve celebration. A fair comparison may be made to The Apple by Samira Makhmalbaf, an equally simple and forceful story about children in Teheran, but it is worth pointing out that Makmalbaf's film is much more political. The story of The white balloon takes place "in real time". The temporal range of the story equals that of the film, the result being energetic; a steamy portrayal of new year's eve in Teheran. The gist of the story? Razieh asks her parents for money to buy a goldfish. She insists that the fish should be a fat one. On her way to the fish monger's, she looses her money a few times, but regains it. But then there is the accident of the money falling down on the street, into the store owner's cellar. The kid's wanderings in Teheran contain many interesting encounters, great location, and dialogue filled to the brim with life. This could just as well be a film for kids, not only about them.

The temporal principle of The Mirror (1997) is the same as in The White balloon. Here, we see a little girl waiting for her mother outside the school building. She has enough of waiting, and tries to make her way home all alone. Somewhere in the middle of the film, the "actor" playing the kid getting lost on her way home says she is tired of acting. After that the crew follows the "real" odyssey of making one's way home as a (female) kid in Teheran. Of course, Panahi plays with quite a few film conventions ("what is real", pictures as representations, "mirrors", "plot" etc) but I simply enjoyed watching it, and put most of the theoretical questions aside (for better or for worse, I don't know).

17 July 2008

Gösta & business

Gösta's hand trembles. This was the door, this was the house. Once, it was his life. Now, the tools. Fine. Let's go inside. Let's have a look. Gösta's chair, Gösta's desk. Gösta rummages through the documents. Gösta finds what he is looking for. The figures, the names, the locations. There will be no complications. They trust Gösta. They are expecting him at noon. He knows where to go. He knows the face he should look for. Everything is settled.

Once, it was his life. Gösta had contacts. Gösta knew things. He was around. He recalls the lunch breaks; kauppalehti and the curvy worries of the stock market. Bad Chinese food. CEO:s and delicious coffee. Coffee stomachs rumbled and the clock was ticking. Like a bad sign: time is money. You are but the embodiment of it. Deal with it, kid. They told him stories about India, the outbacks of the jungle, the endless seas. The arctic steppe. The heat of the southern sun. These stories were jokes, edification, moral guiding, professional advice - spiritual numbing. A disclosure of realism. He was driven towards it. It felt good. He surfed the wave. "If you intend to work here, you must not grow soft-feeted." said Boss, eyes of blue steel. "Don't take it personally." "This is the way it works." Boss wants them to believe they will change everything. There's endless possibilities, endless challenges. His voice is infectiously sweet, alluring, seductive. You have to leave everything behind, Gösta. Forget everything you learned. Forget everything. Step into the room and look into the light. Look into my eyes and try to look like you believe it. You want to. I know it. You do.

Gösta listens to the hum of the document destroyer. Serious business, it is. Gösta learns a word: clandestine. Gösta learns the rules: this is important shit, one step in the wrong direction, and you've destroyed everything. Everything. It will destroy you, too. This is not for the eyes of the world to see. If you're involved in serious business, you can't run around telling everybody about it. You understand. The professional knows when to keep quiet. The professional never forgets who he represents. He keeps an eye open. Keep an eye on the next guy. Close the door, will ya. Let's talk. We're in for something BIG. The whole place is in a frenzy. Nobody eats, nobody sleeps. Nobody counts the hours. It's happening.

The distinction between soft values and hard values is glued into Gösta's mind. Hard values are hard facts. Tangible, real, concrete. But we are only humans. Humans are tricky. Humans get in the way of stuff. Machines, projects, plans. Humans are silly. But they can be managed and management takes on different forms. Business is a whole, consisting of many parts. Gösta reads books about human resources. Gösta writes masterpiece reports. Team building, Capacities, integration, core values, value creation. Gösta grows deeper into nu-speak, biz-speak, no-speak. Gösta's mind is a blank. Gösta is afraid of himself and what he has become.

Gösta jots down figures. Gösta sweats and makes things up. Gösta falls asleep on his desk. A nap. Nobody will notice, too busy. Gösta drinks 8 cups of coffee. In the afternoon, he sneaks out of the office. "An errand". Gösta and Gösta's mate hole up in a cafe nearby. One of them is smoking. One of them is complaining. Gösta eats a donut. It's another quarter, Gösta. It's another round. The leaves are changing color, and Gösta realizes something. He packs the bag with the computer, the documents and his coffee mug. His Powerpoint conclusions (five points about morality & management). It's a cloudy day. There's no wind. He throws all this shit into the river. Gösta's history rests in the company of rusty bikes and rubble. Gösta walks down the street.

15 July 2008

Notes from an island

It's a shame that Tove Jansson is mostly associated with the Moomin characters she created. Not to say that these books and cartoons weren't great - they are. It's just that her other books, and her art, have remained quite off the radar. My sister used to talk a lot about her and Tuulikki Pietilä's book "Anteckningar från en ö", published in 1996. I read the book, and was moved by it. In "Haru, yksinäisten saari" ("Haru - ensamhetens ö"), video clips filmed by Jansson & Pietilä are accompanied by Birgitta Ulfsson's reading of some of the texts (in Finnish for some reason, maybe there are two copies of the film?). Ulfsson's humorous delivery fits the material since it brings out its warmth, a no-nonsense perception of life in the archipelago.

Jansson & Pietilä spent many summers in the Pellinge archipelago, on an island inhabited by nobody else - Klovharun. Jansson writes about their day-to-day life on the secluded island. She talks about the surroundings, but there's no hints of pastoral sentimentalism. Her observations are dry, and very evocative. There's joy, melancholy and grief. Ordinary things: how they grow more quiet, as there is so little to talk about, how they talk about the weather, how every small change of weather becomes interesting. Having grown up in the archipelago, I am familiar with this enormous fascination with weather. That it can mean different things. That you can say: "there's northerly wind" in a thousand ways, all of them expressing different things, depending on the context.

But it is the pictures, the clips, that truly make the text come alive. The transformations of nature; wind, sunshine, rain, but also the daily activities of fishing, resting, boat trips - dancing.

When I read the book, my immediate reaction was that this is one of the most moving accounts of love I've ever come across in my life. That impression stuck with me as I was watching the film. There's the way one of the women films the other, gently. Watching their faces, usually smiling, cracking up into a hearty, beaming smile. It is very beautiful. They are very beautiful. Just watching the pictures and listening to Jansson's matter of fact tales of Pietilä's skillfullness with regards to machines, their inventions, their boredom - convey so much.

RinneRadio, an excellent Finnish jazz/electronica band, performs most of the music of the film. A tasteful choice of music, if you ask me. The only thing that puzzled me - amused me! - was the use of Scott McKenzie's "If your going to San Franscisco (wear flowers in your hair)" in combination with pictures of one of the women's joyous dancing movements. It's a long way from Frisco to Pellinge. But maybe that's the point.

I also want to recommend the documentary about Pietilä's and Jansson's travels together, "Tove & Tooti i Europa" (2004).

12 July 2008

Religious knives: It's after dark

Religious knives - not familiar to me until recently. The group has been making music for a while and the members are, so I've heard, involved in a lot of other hip projects. All I've got is It's after dark. For the moment, I don't need anything else. This is: The Doors at their druggiest, Morrison-the-crazy-shaman / Panda bear (Young prayer) or Grizzly bear-ish otherworldliness / Suicide's Suicide / Slow, slow, slow / Droooones. Sweet drones. Turn it up, let the speakers explode!

11 July 2008

Resnais: Night and fog

In 2000, or 2001, I travelled around in eastern Europe. I spent a few days in Krakow. When I arrived, I happened to meet a young man who studied to become a priest. We wandered around town. We talked and had a coffee. He dragged me along to a castle that I cared nothing about, but I pretended I did. He was talkative, but there were some things about him that made me wonder. I confided to him my doubts about visiting Auschwitz. For some reason, he didn't really want to discuss it (and maybe I understand him). Instead, he was eager to offer me practical advice about how to get there, the bus routes, the time tables. I spent a restless night at a strange place. Eventually, I decided to go.

I found the right bus stop. It was not difficult, as there were groups of tourists waiting. A group of people were carrying McDonald's bags. On the bus, the stale smell of burgers & chips made me feel sick in my stomach. The ride took about 1 1/2 hour. The sun was shining, and I observed the small, quite neat-looking, villages that surround the concentration camp. I wandered around the area in silence, having declined the offer of an audioguide. There were enough voices in my head. Is this a museum? No, and yes. No. I looked at the mountains of glasses, hair, and kids' shoes that were on display. The barracks. At one point, I was overwhelmed by it all and my head started to spin. I sat down on a doorstep while a never-ending stream of people walked by. Some were quiet. Some were talking incessantly.

Another bus took me to Birkenau. It was a trip of about 15 minutes. On that bus, there was dead silence. Most of the tourists came in groups, but they were not so many. It was quite windy, and the sunlight had the bleakness of late afternoon. The first thing I noticed was the tower and the entrance. I walked. I walked fast. I walked through the open fields, the nakedness of the landscape forcing itself upon me, until I reached the edge of the woods. That felt like a relief, somehow. Looking out on the fields, the place felt huge, the railtracks worming their way into eternity. Most of the buildings are gone. Many were destroyed by the Germans in 1945. In the woods, there were some rusty rubble, a wooden table, a spooky glade. I felt empty inside, and turned back. An American, elderly woman passed me by. "I noticed you a while ago. You're really having a walk," she said, cheerfully, as if we were on a hike together. I nodded, and found my way to the bus stop, which was situated outside the camp, maybe 500 meters away. All the same, it was an altogether different world. I sat down on the asphalt. There were a lot of kids on the bus. They were not tourists, they were living in the area, going to town. I listened to the sound of their happy voices, and maybe I fell asleep for a while. Back in Krakow, I headed straight to my shabby lodging, and spent the night looking at the wall in front of me. It was a nunnery that accepted foreign (not religiously affiliated) tourists. At 2 am, a group of noisy Americans stumbled in. Their steps and their voices resonated in the whole building. I think I took comfort in a book, but I can't recall which one.

I just watched Night and fog by Alain Resnais.

9 July 2008

Political self-righteousness

From today's Independent:

Speaking in Hokkaido yesterday, the Prime Minister admitted that Britain was facing a "difficult economic time", but insisted that it was not a fault of his leadership. "Every country in the world is facing a difficult economic time because of what has happened in oil prices and food prices," said Mr Brown. "I think I am the right person to take people through these difficult times."

Mr Brown's "reassuring words" illuminate a thousand reasons for why I feel more and more pessimistic about politics & politicians. If the concerns of politicians are primarily directed at convincing potential voters of why they are not to blame for the present economic situation, then the future does not look good. And I strongly doubt that the economic crisis of the world is resolved by the Genius of Mr. Brown.

8 July 2008

Need more sources - Shed

I'm devouring lazy vacation days. When I get up - at some ungodly hour - I don't know how the day will be spent. Need more sources, a Brittish band affiliated with (gorgeous) The Boats, provides the perfect soundtrack for a day like this. I'm listening to Shed, released in 2007. The music of it is warm and good-natured, packed with swirling strings and sublime guitar patterns. There's repetitive piano figures. On some tracks, there's drums; on "Storm", a steadfast beat makes up the backbone of the song and on "snow" an electronic beat breaths some space into the languid pace of the song. While listening to the record, I read an article about Virginia Woolf's To the lighthouse. While reading it, my impressions of the novel, its patches of subdued force, became a part of the music. The dinner gatherings. The wordless interaction. The Isle of Skye, changes of weather. Shed has nothing of the iciness or the dramatic minimalism one can hear on many contemporary electro-accoustic releases. The moods of the songs shift, but there's a sense of glimmering happiness streaming through it all. The songs of the album bear weather-related titles, which makes perfect sense. "Spring", for example, is driven by a melody that floats around, the pace above mid-tempo, tambourines. The attention shifts from strings to drums to piano, everything being performed with warmth and ease. There's some similarities between this and "neo-classical" artists such as Goldmund, Helios and Sylvain Chauveau, (and maybe Colleen) but the full-fledged sound, and the specificity of the mood of Shed makes it unique.

2 July 2008

Gösta on the islands of gold and myrrh

For the Åländers, Viking Line is what Mayflower was for the oppressed English pilgrims. On the 6th of december every year, when the shops are closed and when there are visible Finnish flags, 99 % of the population on Åland flee to Stockholm. Entrepreneurship, business, trade - and some depraved ships. That's the shit here.

Shell - favourable prizes for fuel and diesel. The Åländers disagree. Gösta witnessess the traces of the true opinions of the Åland people. The Åländer's constitutional right to drive his fucking car, two blocks. Gösta watches the Åland heart burst, the Åland fist hit. The Åland spirit is set free. It's set free!

Gösta recalls the days of high school angst; Camus & The Cure & anomie in general. Gösta spent the afternoons at the blue, fluffy library, hunched up with a book. Gösta did not care much about learning, but he thought he did. There was nothing else to do. Gösta wishes he'd spent his youth on healthier things. Boozing, like the rest.
Gösta puts on his best suit, brings along his monocle and heads for the dance floor of Arkipelag, a waterhole for middle-aged Ålänaders who think they are young and Åländers who act like they are 59 even though they are 25. Gösta needs a drink. Gösta needs ten drinks. There's no drink that can adapt the mind to a place like this. But there are many ways to dull the mind, the ears and the heart. Gösta visits the night club and, listening to a cover band playing Ska vi älska, så ska vi älska till Buddy Holly, Gösta gets a small taste of what life on Guántanamo bay might be like. The difference is that Gösta, a brave anthropologist, chose to be here. Gösta wonders what Westermarck would have done. Gösta contemplates the relativity of morals. Gösta questions his own.

On the way home from Arkipelag, the streets are empty. Gösta & research assistant eat hot dogs at Rökka (the new Rökka). Gösta eats two. Gösta wonders whether life should be this way. He plays with a cat before hitting the sack. The research assistant's cat. Gösta goes to sleep and has a dream about you. You ask something about bars and Gösta bends forward close-close to whisper all he knows in your ear. In the elevator of his house, which is not really his house, Gösta howls a song by Blind Willie Johnson. "I know his blood can make me whole."

Gösta looks at the bright lights. If there's a car, there's a driver. Or a ghost. Gösta's head spins with bad dreams and Viking Line liquor. Gösta's mind is soothed by poorly written political prose about hegemony and the global power of the US.

Culture & congress house of Mariehamn. There will be doors that lead nowhere. There will be music that is stone. There will be no blood. The building will be painted pink and it will be decorated with flags.

Gösta sniggers at the crazy word "självstyrelsegården", the "parliament". That's a building that looks like it was built in DDR. Åländers nurse nationalism of a sort that is hard to pin down. It's unclear whether all the fuss is about money, or sheer, you know, need for collectivity.

Gösta packs his bag with Det Åländska folkets historia, band 1-5, and sits down in central Mariehamn to show off the depths of his knowledge and the benevolence of his attitude. Gösta weeps in front of Julius Sundblom, the liberator, the founding father of the autonomous people of Åland (which has, of course, existed as long as time itself, as the world itself). "Erected by the Åland people" ("rest av Ålands folk") is written on the plinth of the statue.

North Korea has portraits of Kim Jong il, Åland launches slogans of its own: "time is money!" The favorite expression among the Åländers is: "de lönar sig..." or "de lönar sig inga..." ("it's worthwhile") Gösta eats cake and leaves town.