30 November 2008


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

Laurie Anderson 'O Superman'

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

26 November 2008

Hair metal from the 80's - part one

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

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

latinmass9000 (2 days ago)

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

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

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

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

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

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


24 November 2008

Gösta's seasons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 November 2008

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

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

22 November 2008

Fuck politeness!

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

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

20 November 2008

Library Tapes - Höstluft

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

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

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

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

19 November 2008

Sexisms of the day

I skim the newspapers. The dimensions of Finnish racism and sexism never cease to overwhelm me.

  • According to Helsingin Sanomat, this is what Jukka Halla-Aho, representative of the True Finns in the Helsinki council, writes in his blog: “The number of rapes will increase in any case. Therefore, as more and more women will undoubtedly get raped, I sincerely hope that at least the right women, the green-leftist reformers and their voters, will find themselves in the clutches of the rapists, who randomly select their victims. Rather them than anyone else. With people like that nothing else works, except when their own multiculturalist views turn against them.” (translation from the HS Int’Ed) His statements have been covered in the media, which is warranted, to say the least. He is a POLITICIAN, not some random "hörhö", awwright and a part of his job is that he should be critically assessed! One of his recent comments in an interview for Helsingin Sanomat is about as far as you get in terms of craziness. Halla-Aho says that it would be fair if it is the same persons that promote "multiculturalism" that will end up being raped (source). So, Mr. Politician, you conceive rapes as being something that can be FAIRLY done to somebody? This guy is obsessed with his racist agenda and he discusses rape as a natural fact that simply "follows". He is not interested in women being hurt, he is interested in "proving" that immigrants are shady scum. I mean, how can this guy keep his position in the council? WHO THE FUCK elected him? How will he improve local politics in Helsinki? This guy belittles the attention Halla-Aho's comments have given rise to by ridiculing the "upset" women of the Green party. What can I say? If a guy in a political position talks about rape as somehow more or less warranted, then I think he should be held responsible for having said that. And he is not the only one to talk about violence against women in this sexist, racist way. That is why statements like this one should not be glossed over as some slip of the tongue or some small outburst by a fairly right-wing politician. Once again: PEOPLE VOTED FOR THIS GUY! On his blog, Halla-Aho is immersed in a pseudo-philosophical thought experiment by which he aims to prove that he is not responsible for women being raped. He pictures himself as the man of reason and criticizes those who are "upset" by his perspective for having deserted the light of Reason. - I see a general tendency in this. Violence against women is discussed in a way that transformes it into questions about RATIONALITY, totally abstract (and corrupt) perspectives on responsibility. Halla-Aho urges his readers to acknowledge that his thinking is based on a solid mattress of sound arguments. This deceives his readers into thinking that this guy is serious, that he has an open mind to things, that he does not "abandon Reason". And by that, he wants to legitimize a racist, sexist perspective. On the Helsingin Sanomat discussion board, people are discussing Principles, The Freedom of Speech and the stupidity and over-sensitivity of the Green party women. I read the following and I don't know what to think anymore:
Käsittääkseni vihreät naiset ovat osaltaan syyllisiä raiskauksien lisääntymiseen, koska he ovat ajaneet maahanmuuttopolitiikkaa, joka väistämättä lisää raiskauksia. Halla-ahon kirjoitus taas tuskin on johtanut yhtenkään raiskaukseen, joten hän tuskin voi tällaisesta olla vastuussa.

(As I understand it, the women of the Green party are partly to blame for the increase in rapes, because they have developed a type of immigration policy that will, by necessity, increase the rate of rapes. Halla-Ahos writings, on the other hand, have hardly resulted in one single rape, so he is not to blame for this.)
  • For a few weeks now, media has churned out news articles about the MTF Imatra priest who, according to his own statements, has been asked to resign from his position. As always, it's very unclear what goes on within the church. Bishop Paarma claims that Aalto's sex change is no problem for the church but that he is "surprised" about the media debate. Of course, yellow-press hunger for sensationalism may have shone through here, I don't question that. But there is something in Paarma's comments that makes it clear that he thinks this is none of our business: "don't poke into the Church's internal affairs!". This puzzles me greatly. Oppression and discrimination at the workplace is NOT a "personal affair". But what shocks me about this affair is the poll made by the newspaper Etelä-Saimaa, according to which 60 % agreed that Aalto could keep his job and how it is implied that we should take this as a sign of benevolence among people. But what about the rest - 40 %? Why the hell did they think that Aalto would not be a suitable priest or why were they unsure of what opinion to take?

Höjdpunkt & lågpunkt

G anger det syfte som "skitpapper" lämpar sig för. Perforerat, tack!

Jag undrar om "vittu ku on kovaa saatana" är lämpligt språkbruk för en akademisk avhandling. Jag tror det. I så fall: vilken är den engelska översättningen?

18 November 2008

The right to be infinitely lazy

Yesterday was a bad day. There was no particular reason, I woke up, there was no morning porridge left at the café and my fragile world was torn apart. "Grumpy" is part and parcel of my personality. I'm considering moving to some obscure English small town so that I could sit in a pub drinking pint after pint with folks my age - 70++ - and nag about that crazy old hag Geraldine or that son of a bitch Hubert who pissed in my pot of flowers while intoxicated with too much gin. While in this state of mind, toiling and working is an impossibility. 'Labare' - 'to stumble under a burden' - 'Arbeit' - 'Armut'. Every sound & movement is under my radar as my mind grows unsettled and wearisome. My ears gain superpowers. I hear dust fall to the ground, I hear frontal lobes creak, I hear the ghosts of Arken moan (they are factory workers like us). So there I sit, at my paltry desk, cursing the universe & the wicked, fallen state of Man. Then S comes around and offers me a bun. That makes me happy. I'm like the Underground man: "a little present..."

Today I do what I always do under these conditions. I take a day off. I get up at an hour that would give my employer a stroke, and I flip a few pages of academic book. Then I take a nap. After that, I listen to some music, flipping a few pages more. I eat lunch at a Chinese restaurant one block away. No need to walk far in this condition! There's 10 mugs of coffee, of course. Then I - take a nap, exhausted from coffee and from doing nothing. A few pages more. And goddamit, then office hours are past, the factory bell tolls in my head and my conscience allows me to call it a day.

15 November 2008

Fassbinder - Martha (1974)

In Fassbinder's film Martha, there is no redemption, no hope, no prospects. Martha visits Rome with her father. Her father is an asshole. He dies on the Spanish steps - this is the beginning of an odyssey of gruesome humour (or whatever one wants to call it) and Fassbinder's twisted sense of melodrama. He takes us to the dark & rotten heart of heterosexuality. There is nothing to be found there, except violence, degradation and pain.

Martha "finds love" in Helmut (I kept thinking of a particular Swedish author and couldn't stop seeing him in Helmut). The introductory scene of their encounter is a promise of romance. They glance each other, while the camera goes round and round, capturing the moment of exhilaration. Then they don't see each other for a while. They meet again, marry, and everything is instantaneously fucked up. We see them riding a rollercoaster together. Martha is scared shitless, while Helmut's face is glimmering with self-satisfaction. The lights are glaring. It is a perfect scene that sets the mood for the rest of the film, its baroque gloom.

Helmut and Martha are puppets in a violent play of the subordinated female and the violent, consuming male who wants his woman to submit to him - in an absolute sense. Do they desire each other? There is no room for desire here. In a telling scene Martha is sun-bathing. Helmut has prohibited the use of sun-oil. She falls asleep and wakes up with burning skin. This is the only point at which we see real excitement in Helmut. Her pain and disorientation turns him on. In this scene, there is Helmut and there is Female, subjugated Body (Helmut is, of course, wearing a suit).

Helmut manipulates Martha's life. She is forced to quit her job. She is imprisoned in their home which is the art of bric-a-brac through and through. Helmut, who is of course an engineer (the engineer epitomizes something, for sure) wants her to read a book. It is a book about dam constructions. She reads it after some violent persuasion. With a voice full of resignation and bitterness, she quotes some passages from the book, sitting back-to-back on the couch with her husband. It is a powerful, yet funny, scene.

After watching the film, I had a conversation with my friends about whether the film was "exaggerated" or too stylized. Personally, I wouldn't say it was. Or: it was stylized for sure, and the distancing effects are intentional, but this only helps bring home the point. The brilliance of the film consists in its lack of comforting elements. But doesn't that make it lose something in terms of realism? That depends on what kind of "realism" you look for. Like Jelinek, Fassbinder strips heterosexual violence down to its bare, naked bones, where what we see is strange and commonplace at the same time. We recognize the patterns - but Fassbinder shows how the relation between Helmut and Martha is also unsettling because it is so far removed from emotions, contact and openness. Here we have MAN WANTS WOMAN! in its brutal form.

There are hints of awareness on Martha's part, but these are only hazy hints and she's got a whole world that does not understand her (there are also hints of understanding in the relationship with a co-worker, but Fassbinder does not leave open the door to Happy Heterosexual Love in this movie). The heterosexual woman is a masochist, and the heterosexual man is a sadist who wants his lover to die. Fassbinder himself apparently said that he wanted to show that marriage is a sadomassocistic institution. The heterosexual lovers lose their sense of reality and what they gain is mutual paranoia, something that is emphasized towards the end of the film as fantasy and reality are increasingly blurred. As I understand the film, there is nothing to be understood in the relation between Martha and Helmut. Fassbinder is not dealing with psychological masochism or sadism. We are confronted with a condition of society, in which questions about "willing submission", "force" and "violence" are on a par. In this society, we become interchangeable Men and Women. There is no room for desire, or love, in this place.

The actors are fabulous. They are puppets because that's what life has made them. Their faces are like grotesque masks (the atmosphere of the film is sometimes that of a horror movie). But although we have these alienating aspects of the film - the humor, the melodrama, the colors - the strange thing is that we are still bothered by the fact that Martha and Helmut are people. Fassbinder analyzes the absurd world of heterosexuality in which there is Man and Woman and that is that, end of story.

14 November 2008

you thought you've heard it all...

Bronski Beat - The age of consent

How come I've never listened to Bronski Beat before? 80's new wave pop as its best. Singer Jimmy Somerville has a distinctive voice indeed. But it fits the music. Plus this is as catchy as it ever gets in my record collection. This is... pop music! About alienation! "Small town boy" was a hit back in 1984.

12 November 2008

Carl Th. Dreyer: Michael (1924)

Michael is a budding artist who visists a famous artist to whom he shows his sketches. The artist, Zoret, is not impressed by the sketches, but rather with the looks of the younger man, who becomes his model, muse and (probably) lover. Zoret is commissioned to paint the portrait of a Russian princess. As he has a go at the task it is embarrasingly clear that his painting is no good. Michael, however, has a completely different eye for the countess, something which initially subtly conveyed in Michael's ability to make a believable reproduction of the princess' eyes. Michael deserts his master to plunge into a love affair with the Russian princess. At the same time, Zoret stoically lets young Michael exploit him economically. Shattered because of the cruelty on the part of the loved one, he creates one last painting, the motif of which is an old man on a rock under a violent sky.

The theme of the film, unrequited or failed love, is more hinted at than exhibited in the style of melodrama (Michael has some melodramatic moments, though). Glances, a gentle rubbing of feet, small physical contact leaves the tenderness (which is far from unproblematic) between the artist and his protegé beyond doubt. But other relations are moulded sensitively as well, without becoming unclear. Dreyer's film, to me, shows how relations often have an open-ended character, so that their nature are not clear to us. Zoret's cynical journalist friend Switt tries to convince him that Michael is taking advantage of his kind heart. Switt, incessantly smoking his pipe, is always in the proximity of Zoret and here we have yet another story of unrequited love. On his death bed, Zoret exclaims that he has "seen great love" (yeahyeah, this sounds terribly silly, but you have to watch the film in order to understand), but it is not clear whether he is talking about his own feelings for Michael or whether it has finally dawned on him that Switt is the one who really loves him. There is also a parallel story of a love triangle taking place in the Zoret salon and this only adds to the sense of gloom and tragedy.

A remarkable aspect of Dreyer's film is that each and every character, no matter how great or small the part is, is carefully developed, full-fledged human being (I'm thinking of Zoret's humble servant, the art-dealer and so on).

Of course, this is also a story about art. The most interesting use of art in this film is, I think, that Dreyer focuses on the way works of art comes alive in the interface of human relations. The painting by Zoret of an almost-naked Michael is shown over and over again and it takes on new meaning as the story moves on; as a symbol of Zoret's love, but later on also as a sign of Michael's lack of feelings for Zoret as he sells the painting.

Just as in The passion of Joan of Arc Dreyer's cinematic approach conveys an almost magical attention to the human body and the human face. There are many pictures in which the stern face of Zoret expresses a thousand emotions at the same time. In one especially moving scene towards the end of the film, his face breaks up into a smile. The effect is curiously mesmerizing. The rough demeanor of the journalist friend Switt is also a true pleasure to watch as the depiction of the relation between the two men is one of the most captivating in the movie even though I did not realize it in the beginning. But not only is it faces that come alive in subtle conveyance of emotions, Dreyer's film is something of a Kammerspiel in which the rooms and the objects in the rooms glow with a mysterious, raw light. We're talking German expressionism (shadows, perspectives, angles...), naturally, but that does not really tell the whole story. In one scene, two lovers in the Zoret salon stands close to each other, while one of them is fondling a small sculpture. Also here is the fondling of the sculpture something that has a meaning as a small gesture conveying emotions between the characters.

I watched "The American version" (there is also a "European" one) with a score of piano music written by Neal Kurz. I am not an expert on silent movies, but for me, the music intermingled elegantly with the story. The film is the second screen adaptation of a novel written by Herman Bang. It would be interesting to watch Mauritz Stiller's version, too.

Michael is a superb film that explores its theme gently but forcefully. I could watch it again tomorrow.

PS Bonus trivia, Walter Slezak, who played Michael, appeared in a few episodes of the Love boat. That, you, is a dignified combo!

11 November 2008

Female blues of the 1920s

I made a blues compilation for my sister yesterday. Theme: 1920's-1930's-1940's. Female artists. More specifically, I was looking for lyrics about cheatin' men who are no good. The record was surprisingly easy to put together. I found loads of material so I had to pick out the best of the best. Bertha "Chippie" Hall. Ma Rainey. Betty Hall Jones. Ida Cox. Big Mama Thornton. Georgia White. Lil' Johnson. Bessie Smith. Billie Holiday. Memphis Minnie. Lucille Bogan. Alberta Brown. As I listened to the comp, it hit me that these blues singers deal with male violence and fucked up relations in a way that might not have appeared in music again until the riot grrrl era of the 90s. Some of the tunes are tongue-in-cheek while others are dead serious. The songs I picked out revolve around the following themes: leaving town, alone, cause the man one loves is a cheatin' pig, drinking whiskey all day and all night. Most of all, the songs say the big F to males. Lucille Bogan celebrates bull dykes in B.D. Woman blues:

Comin' a time, B.D. women they ain't going to need no men
Comin' a time, B.D. women they ain't going to need no men
Cause they way treat us is a lowdown dirty sin

B.D. women, you sure can't understand
B.D. women, you sure can't understand
They got a head like a sweet angel and they walk just like a natural

B.D. women, they all done learned their plan
B.D. women, they all done learned their plan
They can lay their jive just like a natural man

B.D. women, B.D. women, you know they sure is rough
B.D. women, B.D. women, you know they sure is rough
They all drink up plenty whiskey and they sure will strut their stuff

B.D. women, you know they work and make their dough
B.D. women, you know they work and make their dough
And when they get ready to spend it, they know they have to go

It's a good song, too. Ma Rainey has a few songs about women loving women as well. Prove it on me blues:

Folks said I'm crooked, I didn't know where she took it, I want the
whole world to know
They say I do it, ain't nobody caught me
Sure got to prove it on me
Went out last night with a crowd of my friends
They must have been women 'cause I don't like no men

Sociologically, these songs thrill me. (Listen here) How come female black artists were allowed this much freedom? To what extent can subversiveness in female blues be related to reactions against racism and oppression, themes that occupy a significant space in blues music? Who wrote the lyrics of the songs? What was the structure of the recording studio business? Who was the audience of the female so called barrelhouse blues? Black people, white people....? What did the bar culture of the 20s look like?

I am really curious about a book written by Daphne Duvall Harrison, Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920s. I hope I will get hold of it somehow. I also found an interesting article by feminist writer Lilian Faderman about subcultures in Harlem during the 20s. At the end of the essay, she discusses blues songs about woman&woman love:

"The listener to these 1920s blues apparently took whatever he or she wanted out of the songs. To the heterosexual male they were provocative. To the potentially bisexual female they were suggestive and encouraging. To the lesbian they could be affirming. One lesbian blues song, "BD's Dream," has been described by historians of 1920s and '30s music as one of the most frequently heard songs in the rent party repertoire. Of course lesbians sometimes attended rent parties in Harlem (parties where the guests would pay an entrance fee to help the tenant raise money for the rent), but those gatherings were generally predominantly heterosexual, which confirms that the song must have had terrific popularity with all manner of audiences. It is not surprising that sophisticated heterosexuals, both blacks and the tourists who were intrigued with black life and environs, were taken with such lyrics -- they were characteristic of the era: They flaunt unorthodoxy with a vengeance, but at the same time they exhibit the vestiges of discomfort toward female nonconformity and sexual autonomy that individuals who scoffed at the conventional nevertheless maintained. "

Why was the style of barrelhouse blues abandoned after the 30's? Or was it? The piano has never sounded so sleazy and the trumpet has never so joyous. Whiskey never tasted so good and life has never been so full of surprises and blows as in the songs of female blues artists from the 20's and 30's. The joy and sadness in this music is unique. What is so mesmerizing about these blues singers is also their voices, ranging from raw to elegant, from the growl to smooth, jazzy crooning - and from low to high. There's so much variation here, so much freedom of expression.

Or am I simply glorifying the historical gap, an imaginary swingin' 20s I really have no clue about (during which the US still was a very segregated, racist country). But still. There is a richness in the blues of the 20s and especially in blues performed by females. A series of blues documentaries showed on TV recently ignored this tradition completely, which was sad. Blues music still seems to be a very male business and the history of the blues is still very much centered around male blues artists.

6 November 2008

A day of equality: tits, dresses, laws

My mind is darkened. I read today's newspapers:

* Los Angeles: Voters approved "Proposition 8", the ban against same-sex marriage. The picture was published in yesterday's L.A Times. What makes these people so happy? MARRIAGE HAS BEEN SAVED!! Why the hell are they so enthusiastic about this, why do they care so much? The question is philosophically interesting ('what is joy?'). I cannot for my life guess what goes through the head of the man at the centre of the picture. "Yay! we will have the institution of marriage all for ourselves.... these nasty queer people won't be allowed to tarnish THE WHOLY MATRIMONY. super....duper! thnx you Californian people!" "The ballot measure was keenly fought with more than $70m spent on advertising by both sides - breaking national records for campaigning on a social policy initiative.", reports BBC.

* Helsinki: A Finnish-Swedish civil servant at the equality ministry gropes a few women's breasts during an official reception at the Swedish embassy. He works for the minister of equality, Stefan Wallin. Stefan thinks his partner is a good guy. He will not stop relying on his partner's "competence" (what competence? sexual harassment?). Stefan announces that his partner did this on his "spare time" and that his partner was not sent to the ambassy to preach gender equality. Nice reasoning, Stefan, very nice. Solveig Arle raises a legitimate question: "What does this say about equality in Finland if there's not even a basic understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment at the ministry in question?"

* Hufvudstadsbladet has an article about Michelle Obama. Half of the article is about her clothes. Jackie Kennedy, etc.,etc.,etc. The headline? "Michelle är sin mans klippa" ("Michelle supports her man").

* Hufvudstadsbladet's Lucia candidates. Blond, adolescent girls professing their love for children, puppies and the Choir. Plus a BIG photo. My associations drift to a certain very thrifty youth organization in a certain country long ago... But I mean... Folkhälsan...

A note from Solanas

"Daddy's Girl, passive, adaptable, respectful of and in awe of the male, allows him to impose his hideously dull chatter on her. This is not too difficult for her, as the tension and anxiety, the lack of cool, the insecurity and self-doubt, the unsureness of her own feelings and sensations that Daddy instilled in her make her perceptions superficial and render her unable to see that the male's babble is babble; like the aesthete `appreciating' the blob that's labeled `Great Art', she believes she's grooving on what bores the shit out of her. Not only does she permit his babble to dominate, she adapts her own `conversation' accordingly.

Trained from an early childhood in niceness, politeness and `dignity', in pandering to the male need to disguise his animalism, she obligingly reduces her own `conversation' to small talk, a bland, insipid avoidance of any topic beyond the utterly trivial -- or is `educated', to `intellectual' discussion, that is, impersonal discoursing on irrelevant distractions -- the Gross National Product, the Common Market, the influence of Rimbaud on symbolist painting. So adept is she at pandering that it eventually becomes second nature and she continues to pander to men even when in the company of other females only."

Further comments are not needed.

5 November 2008

Nina Ramsby & Ludvig Berghe Trio

The title of Nina Ramsby's latest release, "Du har blivit stor nu" worried me. Wtf, this sounds like bourgeoisie pop schmalz about sunday morning coffee and offspring-suburban paradise. Not to worry. The full title is "Du har blivit stor nu (en kamp!)". This is her first record with Ludvig Berghe Trio. I am not familiar with the Trio oeuvre. But I know this sounds good, even though there are some moments where I detect some clichés. Ludvig Berghe's solos get too sweet sometimes, but there are rough edges, too, but they could have been allowed more space. But musically, this is an energetic record that grabs my attention.

Nina Ramsby's vocals are far more jazzier on this album than on "Jazzen". She still keeps the vocal expression centered around a natural, breathy feel. An interesting side note is that Nina Ramsby sings like Bergman talks - serrö, e're, ha'ru (maybe she should have been possessed by a few more dämoner, though). Ramsby's clarinet & cornet solos also add to the same atmosphere of laidback reflection. I would not say that Nina Ramsby's lyrics have really grabbed me so far. Impressionistic, hints of love affairs and disappointments, tricky relations. The lyrics play a competely different role on this album than, for example, on "Visorna". Music & lyrics are tightly interwoven here, as was the case also on her collaboration with Hederos. The comparison with Monica Zetterlund is still relevant, perhaps even more so now. "Visorna" was an emotional rollercoaster for me. This record is good, but it is not a rollercoaster in the same way. Above all: there is no gendered division of labour at play here. I don't like saying it, but it is a relief. The-lovely-female-songbird should be thrown on the garbage heap, together with her colleagues the male, detached, technically competent musician.

"Du har blivit stor nu" is a dynamic composition. One explanation for this impression is the way the vocals are sometimes at the fore, and sometimes at the background of the mix. Another is there being quite a few different types of songs on the album. Sometimes a surprisingly upbeat song breaks off into what could otherwise have been too elegant, too laid-back. The performance of piano player Ludvig Berghe, along with drums and clarinet, contain variation to the extent that the music always displays an element of thrill and exploration.

Perhaps I should add that this is a grower.

4 November 2008

A note from Marx

There is something that I find to be genuinely inspiring in the young Marx' theory of alienated work. Here is one quote that is spot-on.

"My work would be a free expression of my life, and therefore a free enjoyment of my life. Presupposing private property, my work is an alienation of my life, because I work in order to live, to furnish myself with the means of living. My work is not my life. […] Presupposing private property, my individuality is so far externalized that I hate my activity; it is a torment to me and only the appearance of an activity and thus also merely a forced activity that is laid upon me through an exterior, arbitrary need, not an inner and necessary one." (From "On James Mill")

Someone who is hostile to Marx will contend that he takes man's life to be work, production, the relations of production. I'm not sure about that. I think "my work is not my life" means that my job, in a certain sense, is an occupation in which I am dead to the world, dead to myself, and dead to other people. Some people would say that this is what life should be. Torment, sacrifice, loss of self, an activity that is laid upon me. I am inclined to think that the idea that work is "character building" is always essentially connected with alienation. Glorification of externality, force and meaninglessness. I have a theory. Self-help books, management theories, "well-being at work" is methodism adapted to the raunchy capitalism of our days. We don't talk so much about the bloody sacrifice of Jesus, instead we have competence portfolios, stress management and five steps towards personal development. Submit yourself to the bloody sacrifice --- of flexibility, endless "development" and "competition".

Marx advocates that the political economy creates ascetic slaves. And now: ascetic slaves (submission!) at work - consumer slaves at home.

2 November 2008

a blog with a beard

I want to mention a blog I found recently. It's called En man med ett skägg and it carves out the love we all have for Snoddas, Tage Erlander, "Cacka" Israelsson and other names written in stone in the history of Swedish entertainment & politics. En man med ett skägg is obsessed with old men. He brings out the desire that some of us secretly nurse; to be a 70-year old man. I put on the slippers, sip on the night cap of single malt Scotch and indulge in reminiscence, recalling the days when Thore Skogman was the hippest cat around and the parliament was united in a concern for the laxing morals of the youth. My favorite posts so far in the blog quote the eerie memoir of a (in)famous Swedish lawyer, Henning Sjöström. Read all about Henning's adventures here and here.