30 August 2009

Yle och Moskvakorrespondenten

I dagens HBL (söndag 30.8) ingår en bra debattartikel om nedläggningen av Yle:s svenska Moskvakorrespondent. Läs den (också bra artikel här). Här framkommer flera saker. En sak som är intressant är jämförelsen mellan Sveriges Radio och Yle. I Sverige satsar man på att ha journalister stationerade på en mängd hörn i världen. p1 har en mängd program som innehåller initierade reportage från olika håll i världen. Yle, däremot, nöjer sig med ett fåtal korrespondenter. Att den svenska Moskvakorrespondenten hotas att dras in är skandalöst. Ryssland är en väldigt viktig region där det händer saker hela tiden. Det är tänkt att en enda journalist ska ta över jobbet och sköta det på två språk. Det här borgar för sämre kvalitet och färre reportage på svenska.

I'm not going anywhere.

Somehow, I love this place. Åbo. Crazy political decisions have blessed it with an ugly city centre but even the ugly things have a certain charm to them. Sometimes I consider other options. Going away for a while. But suddenly, it dawns on me; god, I am attached to this place! It's not just that I happen to spend my days here, I live here, I feel at home here. I talked to R about it, about the sheer joy of familiar paths, familiar corners, familiar smells, a familiar gutter, a familiar tree, a familiar car, a familiar grey slab of a building, a familiar face, a familiar door. Small things that matter to me. Rush hour at Puhakka/Kerttulin kievari and the folks hanging out there/ Bristol and the regulars/ the thai place at klockringaregatan /whiskey bar /bokcafé, anarchist café! / quiet afternoons at the city library / kiinan muuri - my local dining room at the beautifully named kiinanmyllynkatu / the café on Mariegatan where I have salami sandwitches with egg and pickled gherkin / 8raita/ reading books hunched in a booth at Hunter's inn / the dark corners at Linnanpubi. Afternoon strolls along the river, to the harbor, porth arthur.
There are lots of fucked-up things here, too. Local politics is a joke. Cultural politics is a joke. Every second bar is turned into a sports bar. Cinema culture is non-existing. People are grumpy sometimes. Finnish-Swedish (åa-)snobs. Äijin are everywhere. But there's nothing quite like strolling along tavastgatan on a chilly, sunny autumn afternoon, like today. Fuck, even the dogs are smiling.
What I like about Åbo are the folks who are not busy, who are easygoing, who don't rush through life, who enjoy doing nothing, who enjoy quiet conversation. And there are a few of them.

28 August 2009


wiki.answers is a really fun site. people ask questions and sometimes there are answers. the questions can be read as a snapshot of human existence in internetized, wikipediazed, late-capitalism. i'm not intending to be sarcastic. i'm just saying this is kind of fascinating. an assortment of recent questions (you can read it as a small exercise in poetry if you want):

what can be marketed?
name the four sources of drugs?
what is the going rate of house cleaning in los angeles?
what advantages or disadvantages would a number system based on 20 have?
how to make hair grow faster?
what is a fram filter cross reference onan dop832830?
what is a substitution reading?
who was the black girl to go to the white school back then?
where can you find a 90 toyota pick up windshield wiper diagram?
what is the relationship between sociology and social problems?
did lindsey lohan ever do porn?
what is the cost of living differences between Dallas TX and Singapore?
is there a difference between Rhumatism and Arthritis?
can humans eat apple snails?
what is the street value of kadian 100 mg?
what are the correct use in a sentence of is?
comparisons between how much cows versus people eat in calories?
Are true religions made in China?
what is the value of winchester model 12 shotgun with serial number 1050320?
what year did the romans die?
is the heart part of the digestive system?
is adam hicks a Christian?
is global warming logical why or why not?
how do you fix holes in the wall?
how do you down the anger of the customers?
why don't I have as much faith in God as the next person?
what is psychomotor education?
when did britney spears die?
lost 2 litres of blood?
do you need a business license to start a cupcake business in your home?
how do you save in digimon world 2?
is john travolta Really a woman?
Marx believed there could be a peaceful overthrow of the government economic system by the workers?
what sounds do frogs make?
what kind of sound does the giant burrowing frog make?
jak vymenit vanu you vw passat?
are asian women looking for American men?
how long you live with a weak heart?
how do you use force in a sentence?
what are science methods in research methodology?
what kind of pill is a small yellow round pill with 6 or 9 on one side and 949 on the other side?
how many popstars are there in the world?
how did Sargon make life easier for the Sumerians?
how long is Meth in your blood?
how many calories should a athletic 13 year old girl eat a day?
how do humans levitate?

My beslippered foot is tapping the floor (that's an approximation to dance). I listen to Billie Holiday: "Don't explain". Then I put on Nina Simone's version of the same song. I think to myself: "They don't make music like that anymore, do they?"
Yes, I am that person. You'd better pour me a shot of whiskey now, son.
It only gets worse. I wear a robe the style of which dignifies Michael Douglas in Wonder boys. This morning, the literary magazine Pirkka landed on the doormat. I leaf through recipies & special offers. Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert and gruesome middle age. It's only a question of time before I'll extol realism in politics; plain, human decency, "nice" culture and "virtuoso" musicians.

27 August 2009

At the pub. Writer guy/journalist guy/economist. He talks about himself. We've met him before. He says the same things. Over and over. About education. "BILDUNG doesn't exist anymore!" He said that the last time, and he says it now. Our mate will have a kid in a while. Mr. Journalist asks what "kind" it will be. It will, our mate quietly announces, be a girl. Mr. Journalist whispers: "Yeah yeah yeah - you know they are different .... very different .... boys and girls.... girls and boys.... these boys have energy... You gotta keep an eye on them...."
And then he talks about fucking BILDUNG again.
And then he talks about what university was like in '68.
And then he asks if we are students, and
what do you girls study, anyway?


I really look forward to reading this book: Cultural Politics of Analytic Philosophy
Britishness and the Spectre of Europe
(out next year on Continuum). Chapter one: Nazi Philosophy.

watching films by Louis Malle, part one

Without realizing it myself, I've watched two movies by Louis Malle today. In the first movie I watched, Les Amants, a few minutes of the beginning was missing, so I only had to guess who the director was. Anyway, it was a crappy, crappy movie about middle-aged woman who kindles an affair with a young man. She-is-oh-so-bored-but-now.... It's Jeanne Moreau and all. It was considered controversial to the contemporaries - because of some sexual content. Blah, whatever. This was so god damn French so god damn lyrical and I fiercely hated it almost immediately.
The second one was a documentary (I am ploughing through the contents of a Louis Malle documentary DVD-box) - ....And the pursuit of happiness, from 1986. The guy's career spans quite a few years, all right. This one was about immigrants in the US. It was interesting to see how little has changed (the same racist slurs by politicians etc.). Malle presents himself as a sympathetic guy who travels around in the US to conduct interviews with different people to investigate experiences of living in the US. They are all OK but somehow I am left with the feeling that Malle has not really succeeded in creating the kind of political document that he sometimes seems to aspire to. There is, however, a few good scenes. In one of them, we watch the family of Somoza gathered in a suburb house, filled with luxurious trinkets - it's so good to be in the US (as a dictator family). But I didn't really get an impression of what Malle wanted to say here and how the choice of interviews was to be understood. Most of the people he talked to lead a comfortable life.
All in all, I am quite amaze to find out that it's the same guy who directed these two movies. What a coincidence I happened to watch them the same day.
Not so impressed by Louis Malle so far.

Jgrzinich - Insular regions (2005)

I wrote the name Jgrzinich on a slip of paper as I read something. Then I forgot about it. I found the paper, and googled the name. Jgrzinich is John Grzinich. He makes, among other things, sound art, ambient music and field recordings. The record I read about was Insular regions. I ordered it from Ikuisuus*. It was worth it. According to the booklet, the sounds are all recorded in Mooste, a village in Estonia. What Grzinich evokes are the ghosts of abandoned Soviet buildings. The record contains sounds recorded in an oil tank, a metal barn, in the forest, an old granary, on a lake and an estate mansion. There are two compositions. The first, ".e27 : n58" comprises a layer of drones (that sound like an organ, almost) and lots of clattering sounds in the background. The landscape we hear (is it a montage of different recordings or are all sounds recorded on the same location? I'm not sure.) really comes alive - or, should we say, what I imagine is somebody aimlessly moving around in this very industrial setting. The second composition, "..second portal", is a bit quieter than the first (that said, the first is not really loud, either). Drones surface the track here, too, but they keep changing form, one note persisting while another one fades out. That makes the music interesting. Beneath that, I imagine hearing creaking objects within the barn, and then, towards the end of the composition, I hear the forest, the wind and the frozen lake. Dripping sounds; the big Winter; silence.

I really want to say lots of things about this record but everything comes out silly. Listen for yourselves. It requires your full attention, though, otherwise it might turn bland. Insular regions will, I am sure, turn into one of my favorite records. The liner notes on the record sleeve give a glimpse into the world that the record evokes. Grzinich talks about the listening experiences he had while collecting his material, and he also writes a few things about Mooste. His notes are really helpful in attending to the music.

(Fans of Thomas Köner's Permafrost might like this.)

* I highly recommend this shop (they have a range of rare stuff from experimental rock to ambient music to noise to....). Fast delivery, good prices and friendly service. I got a few bonus records from the label. Nice.

24 August 2009

The Slits - Cut

You know about The Slits. Most probably you do. If you don't, listen to Cut (1979). It's nothing-but-essentials punk, broken reggae rhythms, clattery instruments and lots of fun. And the occasional great lyrics. It's great.

23 August 2009

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

There is simply no going wrong in a movie that stars Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon and Alan Arkin - and Alec Baldwin, who hasn't really impressed me before, but makes quite an outstanding job in this one. In my book, Glengarry Glen Ross contains every element of a funny movie: grumpy old men, profane language and cynical business talk. According to IMDB, the word 'fuck' is uttered 138 times. The merit of the film is really its witty, fast-paced dialogue. Theatrical - yeah - it's based on a play (by David Mamet), but that was not really a problem (dialogue-heavy, limited sets & time span). Another merit: murky mise-en-scene that matches up to the seediness of the story. And yet another merit: good acting, intense, lurid. What it's about? Corrupted salesmen. Real estate business. Robbery. Deceit. Being a loser or a winner - being prey or preyd upon. Stuff like that. It's one of the most cynical depictions of business I've ever seen.
I'm sure I will return to this movie a good few times. It's hilarious, in the best sense.
I fucking loved it and so will you.

21 August 2009

kön, igen

så här står det i kulturtidskriften Aftonbladet:

IAAF utreder om storfavoriten på 800 meter verkligen är kvinna

Caster Semenya, 18, är storfavorit på 800 meter.

En mycket omdiskuterad sådan.

Anledningen: Hennes maskulina utseende.

– Hon är väldigt, väldigt manlig, säger NRK:s expert, förre höjdhopparen Steinar Hoen.

Mycket talande formuleringar här. HON ÄR VÄLDIGT, VÄLDIGT MANLIG!!
Nu har hennes "kromosomuppsättning" undersökts. I en DN-artikel fördjupas könsmetafysiken ytterligare, den här formuleringen är en epistemologisk pärla som jag ska använda i filosofiska sammanhang många år framöver:

"Om en idrottare själv tror att hon är en kvinna är det ju inte ett medvetet fusk. Om man medvetet har fuskat blir man däremot diskad, säger Nick Davies till TT."

Tror du att du är kvinna?
Eller som man säger i Malax (åtminstone på TV):
E du flikka?

20 August 2009

Thomas Bernhard: Utplåning: ett sönderfall

Det är läge för Thomas Bernhard nu. Surgubben Bernhard. Tjatiga Bernhard. Tidigare har jag läst en del av hans böcker om livet på sanatorium. (Kylan /Andhämtningen /Wittgensteins brorson) Nu är det dags för Utplåningen, hans sista roman. Jag tror att den kom ut första gången 1986. Det är kanske inte överraskande, om man vet något om Bernhard, att romanen handlar om det vidriga, unkna, motbjudande Österrike, det imbecilla, nationalsocialistiska landet som pöser på sin egendomsklump. Handling: en intellektuell, förmögen man (som tydligen heter Murau) meddelas att hans föräldrar och bror har dött i en bilolycka. Han ska åka till hembygden Wolfsegg för att reda upp praktikaliteter. Ja, that's it. Det är en monolog där huvudpersonen målar upp allt det skitiga med Österrike. Själv bor han i Rom och lever ett isolerat liv som tutor. Föräldrarna och släkten okvädas (fadern som endast läste Oberösterreichische Landwirtschaftszeitung och Kassaboken) men också allt från det klumpiga tyska språket till bristen på intellektualism. Bernhards malande stil är milt sagt enerverande. Stilen är kompakt och huvudpersonen går på som en bulldozer. Ingen respit. Redan visuellt sett, när man öppnar boken, ser man dess kompakthet: boken saknar stycken. Men Bernhard är också rolig och självironisk (redan i början av boken listar huvudpersonen viktiga böcker, bl.a. T. Bernhards då). Huvudpersonen är småsint, bitter och hejdlöst självgod. Det är klart att han måste vara en parodi. Så här kan det låta då huvudpersonen dissar sin bror:

Överhuvudtaget blev han mycket snabbt i alla hänseenden lik sin far. [....] Om trettio år, har jag ofta tänkt, är han som din far. Han hade över huvud taget antagit alla sin och alltså även min fars vanor. Han hade, som hans och min far, mycket snart blivit en maklig människa, som alltid bara låtsades att han var verksam, medan han i verkligheten var overksamheten själv, han förevisade en person, om vilken det måste sägas att han är oavbrutet verksam, arbetar rastlöst, aldrig unnar sig ett ögonblicks ro och allt detta naturligtvis enbart för familjen, som alltid ville se honom sådan han framställde sig, men familjen tog på allvar vad han framställde och insåg inte, eller ville helt enkelt inte inse, att den bara betraktade en skådespelare, inte ett ögonblick den som i sin medfödda maklighet föskanskade sig bakom skådespelaren; i verkligheten arbetade min bror precis lika litet som min far, han spelade alltid bara detta av alla beundrade oavbrutna arbete och denna oavbrutna arbetsiver, som tillfredsställde dem och som när allt kom omkring också tillfredsställde honom själv, eftersom han själv plötsligt inte längre förmådde inse att han bara skådespelade sin arbetsiver för familjen, men i verkligheten inte alls hade den. Min far skådespelade på livstid den oerhört arbetsamme, om inte arbetsgalne jordbrukaren, som aldrig kommer till ro ens för ett ögonblick, eftersom han inte kan unna sig en sådan ro av idel familjekänsla, precis likadant min bror, som fullkomligt naturtroget har övertagit detta skådespeleri av min far, båda hade de snart förstått att det räcker med att spela arbete, utan att verkligen utföra det. [....] Största delen av mänskligheten, framför allt i Mellaneuropa, hycklar arbete, skådespelar oavbrutet arbete och fulländrar upp till hög ålder detta skådespelande arbete, som har precis lika litet att göra med verkligt arbete som det verkliga och faktiska skådespeleriet med det verkliga och faktiska livet. [....]

Och ett par satser senare, efter att ha ondgjort sig över att människor hellre spelar än lever, repeterar berättarrösten för säkerhets skull att bror och far sin inte arbetar utan skådespelar... Men nu tillägger han också att detta är en sjuka som omfattar hela samhället, också enkelt folk låtsas arbeta. Ja, och han slutar förstås med att säga att alla skådespelar. Bernhard lyckas måla upp något av en arbetsideologi, trots allt. Speciellt det slags frenetiska verksamhet som ägnas åt Familjen och Fosterlandet har väl ofta just denna skådespelande anstrykning (uppoffring, en "rättskaffens och arbetsam" man, osv.). Men förstås sitter berättarrösten med trumf på hand. Han är ju intellektuell. Och den intellektuelles overksamhet är naturligtvis det finaste arbetet: äkta, utan skådespeleri.

En av de roligaste sakerna med den här romanen är det sömlösa sätt som en diatrib övergår i en annan. Från att gnälla om arbetet-som-föreställning kommer Bernhard omärkligt in på berättarens "skuttande" systrar, också de aktörer på den motbjudande arbetsscenen: "de skuttar hela dagen, de går inte, de skuttar ur köket ut i korridoren och tillbaka och in i den så kallade salongen och tillbaka igen, de går faktiskt inte, de skuttar, jag ser att de skuttar och har förblivit de barn de ännu var för trettio år sedan...." Redan en sådan sats visar vilket slags humor den gode Bernhard gödslar på med i sin roman. Jag gillar.

(Jag har själv en icke obetydlig grinig, överdrivande, diabolisk bernhardtendens, kanske det är därför jag står ut med den här typen av texter. Jag vet inte om det är bra eller dåligt att läsa Bernhard. You tell me.)

18 August 2009

via en essä i dn och bo I cavefors' knäppa och ibland roliga blogg hamnar jag på Ny tids hemsida. där fäller poeten och författaren, surrealisten Stefan Hammarén, ett roligt omdöme om finlandssvensk litteratur:
- Den duger ju inte ens som tantsnusk. Vem ska läsa den?

17 August 2009

"We literally could not have fought this war without women" - pseudo-feminism in support of war

i'm reading an article in the New York Times about women serving in the troops in Iraq. "Women at arms: living and fighting alongside men, and fitting in." The content of the article does not surprise me. A lot of ink is spilled over the question of sex. Do soliders have sex? Are they allowed to? How about pregnancy? Heterosexist shit like that. As females are shipped to Iraq, "special" problems arise. And then: "Women in today’s military say they do not feel the same pressure to prove themselves. They adapt and expect others to adapt. They preserve their femininity without making much of it." Women are sooooo adaptable! They preserve their femininity without making much of it! It's like WOW! These good, good women serving their Country alongside their good, good comerades without loosing what we all consider being of a supreme imprtance: femininity. These good patriots are so intent on the Mission that women and men can actually sleep on the same truck floor! Oh the novelty! And a gunner woman, too!

But: "Women are barred from joining combat branches like the infantry, armor, Special Forces and most field artillery units and from doing support jobs while living with those smaller units. Women can lead some male troops into combat as officers, but they cannot serve with them in battle."

According to the article, women have had "a transformative effect" on the military camps? How? Have Americans stopped killing civilians now, or what? Have they stopped fighting and started to do needlework instead, or what? Have the womenfolk brought some good old empathy to these troops? Well, heh, the transformative effect is....separate showers and trailers, basically.
How does the article end? Well, with stories about peeing, of course.

A woman is characterized by a) being fucked by a man b) becoming pregnant c) needing "privacy" d) wanting to preserve her femininity e) having special needs because of peeing.
Besides that, any woman can do anything she WANTS! In a Great liberal country like the US!

Irony aside, there are tons of things about this article that make me angry, but the major thing is that women "fitting in", "fighting alongside the men" makes war seem like gym class or a group of people playing video games or driving a lorry. The army is treated like "any other corporation". There was an earlier article about women in the army called "G.I Jane breaks the combat barrier". "Women have repeatedly proven their mettle in battle." What kind of description of war is that? Women proving YES WE CAN KILL TOO! Fine, then. Good for you. Great stuff to be proud of. The integration of women in the army is advocated to be yet another thing that proves USA to be a country that values Freedom and Tolerance and Equality. (Some writers and journalists have made a simliar point; women in the army and the freedom of Iraqi women are basically precious argumentative tools in the game of winning over the public (of various countries). "The war in Iraq is all about freeing the Iraqi WOMEN from the bad, bad terrorist men."

“As horrible as this war has been, I fully believe it has given women so many opportunities in the military,” said Linsay Rousseau Burnett, who was one of the first women to serve as a communication specialist with a brigade combat team in Iraq. “Before, they didn’t have the option.”

Plus: in these article rape is treated much like a practical little thingy to be dealt with in a smart way. Rape: something that happens to happen when women are around men. "Rape kits are now common in the war zones." But a moment of reflection, please. Rape is a weapon in war. All around the globe. Women are targets. It's war logic. It's the sexist logic of war. That women in the army can be targets in this way, too, doesn't change shit. If concerned about rape in war.... "they [female soldiers] have proved indispensible in their ability to interact with and search Iraqi and Afghanistan women for weapons, a job men cannot do for cultural reasons." Smart move to bring the females, fellas!

amen, brothers and sisters, let's fight them terrorists together.

*contains minor streaks of irony.
*Obviously, the problem is not that women serve in the army. serve in the army if you like. the problem is that war is justified and smothered over in pseudo-feminist, liberal bullshit propaganda like this.

boduf songs

With titles like "Puke a pitch black rainbow to the sun" and "oh celebrate your vague words and coquettish sovereignty", Boduf songs could have been a tediously pretentious album. In style, at least on a shallow level, it resembles a lot of quiet guitar strummers and finger-pickers out there. Mat Sweet's whispering, husky voice provide a good material for the quiet richness of how he phrases the lyrics. Upon first listen, his songs might appear monotonous, but I guess the small changes in melody begin to stand out as one get used to the songs. The mix is beautifully executed, placing Sweet's whispery, intimate voice at the centre. Somehow, Boduf songs carves out a landscape that keeps me in thrall even though their music is not really that groundbreaking as Sweet has lots in common with psych folk contemporaries out there (Six organs of admittance, Current 93 etc.). And like some of his colleagues, Sweet makes spectral, wistful songs with gothic imagery. About spiders and stuff, I guess. Like Lars von Trier's Antichrist (without the woman-bashing), nature's evil forces looming over human life as a blanket of doom. Instruments are kept to a minimum on all his records. Beyond the guitar, played sparsely, there is a chord of keybord here, a clashing cymbal there. It works, what can I say. Those who like Greg Weeks/Espers and that lot might like this, too. And Rivulets, another too overlooked artist, builds atmospheres that are kindled with the fear&dread evoked by Boduf songs.
His latest album, How shadows chase the balance might, at times, be catchier than the earlier releases. Hell, some songs are embellished with drums! And the banjo-driven "last glimmer on a hill at dusk" has a steady melody for sure and I suppose it is the most "cheerful" songs Sweet has ever written (oh wait, lyrically, darkness prevails). Sweet's voice sounds fresh and sometimes it feels like he uses a larger spectrum of his voice (on gorgeous "Quiet when group" he uses a higher pitch). "Things not to be done on the sabbath" is a standout track, in which Sweet's guitar and banjo work is simply shimmering but, on the other hand, this is a far less experimental affair than his earlier albums, which is a bit of a shame - a sprinkle of noise is always (or mostly) fun.
Still, it's not all sugary melancholia. There are some disturbing sounds in the background of many songs that add a layer to the atmosphere.
I predict that How shadows chase the balance will be one of those albums that I will play now and then many years from now, just like Boduf songs.

Well, to make my case: Boduf songs is a good artist and you should listen to his songs.

16 August 2009

bad sleep/no sleep. bed. this room used to be my grandmother's. jan guillou on p1 sommar. guillou is bitter. i am drunk. i better be. i fall asleep as guillou explains why olof palme is a hateful person. picture: åland: chic persons/tractor/congress&culture house. it's the middle of the night. i have a highland park in my stomach. i go home. i don't think about volley ball championship. i don't think about raimond gaita. i don't think about old times. i think about nothing. café julius. a moment of quiet contemplation.
de ha inga rägna någge fast dom ha lova/ja å kommer ni ihåg dom där anderssons / dom är alla döda dom! /en ny kärring ha han skaffa sä han där/ det är komplicerat! / han va lots, andersson! / hon va amper hon / och han växt upp i amerika och sen kom han hem / elias å göta å runar/ å de va hanses syster som gift sig me hondär...../ ja kusin till per-erik å / nä vart de int / nä inga vet ja /...kusin....? /så är de ju / de ha rägna på gottland säjer dom / ja han göte han har aldrig arbeta en dag fast han är femtitvå och nog är det lite konstit / de gick som de gick de, inga mera me de / jonä, no e de / jo,jo,nä / man visst ju hur de sku sluta.

9 August 2009

Dory Previn

Great picture! Dory Previn. She looks like she's from a movie by Wim Wenders. She made a few albums in the seventies after having made music for movies in the sixties. I've got a compilation which is pretty great: The art of Dory Previn. Chamber-pop-ish arrangements. Her lyrics are fabulous sometimes. Wry, word-wringing pieces. Try "beware of young girls". But really, I love this picture. She is a tree.

fuck-up epistemology

If this happens one more time I will evaporate into a heap of green slime:
"artsy" club / club kids / gendered bathroom. Girl with silvery top stares at me. stares hard & rude. Tweaky voice: "yOU know this is the GIRLS' bathroom DON'T YOU?" and I say with a voice that expresses a hundred years of exhaustion: "Yeah, I KNOW!" She just stares back at me. Bluntly. Like she thinks: this is not the way it should be.
Fuck, what kind of epistemology is this?
I mean, hey, this girl was like 20 years old. are people getting more and more fascist-minded about gender or what? why?
Next time I'm in a place like that, I'm gonna walk straight up to some silver-top wearing girl and say: "hey, kid, you know this is the GIRLS' bathroom!?" Wonder how she would react?

8 August 2009

James Ellroy - White Jazz

White Jazz ends James Ellroy's LA Quartet series, of which I've read three (White jazz/the big nowhere/LA Confidential). Of the books I've read by Ellroy, White Jazz is by far the most experimental. Comprising the stream-of-consciousness of a ruthless cop & ruthless hitman, Dave Klein, it is not always an easy read, but it's rewarding if you stick with it, despite momentous incomprehensibility. I'm hardly a big admirer of crime fiction. Ellroy's novels are not mainly interesting in a whodunnit-way. They are fascinating because of the worlds they evoke. The blood-splashed, sin-indulging LA of the fifties, in this case. Cops/politicians/prostitutes/mob men/drug dealers/Hollywood folks - in James Ellroy's LA, their paths intersect in a throbbing mishmash of corruption, greed and survival. White Jazz is all dense text. Fragments of dialogue. Great dialogue. Tons of characters. Plots that make up a sinewy tangle where ends might meet (or not).
Most of all White Jazz prides in its style. Ellroy's use with words is shimmering, pulsating, disintegrating. White Jazz is a nightmare, impressionist almost-dream state of mind. Dave Klein's story starts off like this, and it might give you an idea of the style:

The job: take down a bookie mill, let the press in - get some ink to compete with the flight probe. Some fruit sweating a sodomy beef snitched: fourteen phones, a race wire. Exley's memo said show some force, squeeze the witnesses at the hotel later - find out what the Feds had planned. In person: 'If things get untoward, don't let the reporters take pictures. You're an attorney, Lieutenant. Remember how clean Bob Gallauder likes his cases.' I hate Exley. Exley thinks I bought law school with bribe money. I said four men, shotguns, Junior Stemmons as co-boss. Exley: 'Jackets and ties; this will end up on TV. And no stray bullets - you're working for me, not Mickey Cohen. Someday I'll shove a bribe list down his throat.

White Jazz is about many things. Rivalries within the police department. Rivalries in the world of crime. And then it is also about obsession, memory and inner demons. Dave Klein is an asshole, doing what he can to survive, dealing with whomever will grant him profits/a moment of security/who will not snitch on him. And then I haven't said anything about his relation to women. Classic Ellroy territory.

White jazz is to be adapted to the big screen. Great news - I hope. It will be interesting to see if the more "experimental" aspect of the novel will have any impact on the movie (for some reason, I doubt it). The list of actors has been revised many times as there seems to have been lots of problems all through the production process. But dammit, Nick Nolte as Dave Klein would have been perfect (George Clooney - no way.)

5 August 2009

Six feet under

I'm watching re-runs of Six feet under on TV. I can't believe how good that show is. I can watch almost all episodes over and over again, only to be positively baffled by how good some scenes are. Every single scene with Mrs. Fischer is perfectly glowing. She is glowing. Many of the Ruth-scenes end in silence. The camera focuses on her face. Or the room. On the surface, nothing really dramatic has happened, but what the series so ingeniously captures is those moments of silent rage, silent disappointment or silent reconciliation. Some complain that there's too much plot in Six feet under. Yeah, maybe that's right. But, for me, what has continued to move me in it are the small, awkward moments. But on the other hand, I always get mad at those who say that Six feet under is all about "quirky characters". Maybe it was in the first season or so, but it became more serious as time went by.
To be honest, I've never seen an actor as good as Frances Conroy who plays Ruth. In a small, small scene, she expresses a complete spectrum of emotions, a history of repressed feelings, lost hopes. Ruth mopping the floor, Ruth peeking into a room, Ruth wondering where everybody's at. And it was brilliant how she, and the rest of the characters as well, kept changing as she was thrown into new situations. Boy, I wish there were more actors like Frances Conroy!

4 August 2009

on writing

At the moment, I write for a living. Some fools pay me money to do that, which I, from time to time, find amusing and a bit scary. A thesis. In philosophy. It is faaaaar from ready. I have loads and loads of work to do and some things I haven't even started. Most of the time, I amble and ramble (did that rhyme? Yes it did.).
Lately, I've been thinking about style. About the aims & intentions I have in my writing (and thinking). How I get insecure about what these aims are - exactly. I am reading one of my texts to make revisions on it, slaughter the darlings, the trolls and other necessary things. Every now and again, I have a strange reaction to the text. I don't recognize the voice. There are chunks of texts so contorted by academic standards that I hardly recognize myself in them. Or, should I say: I see a misfired attempt to write Conventional Thesis.
It's a telling fact that the best bit in the text is a bullshit footnote about the crazy psychologist in Riget, Pigernes Ole. In that footnote I have managed to write something I can live with, stylistically. The rest of the text - full of formal expressions, abstractions and petty excuses. Many expressions show that I am simply not too sure what I want to say. "In a certain sense..." In WHAT god damn sense? And is that even English? I DON'T KNOW!! But the writingmachine keeps writing it.
I don't know where those expressions I churn out almost mechanically even come from. Do they inhabit a planet of their own, attacking my writing from there? Extraterrestrial terrorists? Perhaps. Possibly.
"A focal point of critique"....what? Do I have to write like that? I don't fucking want to. It's bad. It's fluff. I hate fluff. I hate fluff in novels. I hate fluff in academic writing. So why do I write sentence after sentence of pointless fluff? Many reasons: too scared to take a more rigid style. That sounds like a paradox, I know, 'cause we tend to think that rigid thinking and style follows a scientific blueprint. Another reason: too lazy. Another: need to decide what I want to say. Need to think harder. Cut the crap. Get to the essentials. The problem is I can only know what I want to say by a shitload of exploration of writing. The hard task is to go about the revisioning of these wanderings with a stern, stern hand. ("The bloody hard road" etc.)
Another thing is English. I still have lots and lots of work to do to write decent English. I mean English sentences not abundant with grammatical and idiomatical mistakes. - That is one reason why I keep this horrendous blob, sorry, blog. This problem makes me even more aware of my stylistic insecurities. When I write in English, I tend to imitate a particular style, rather than write in a style that suits what I want to say. E.g.: I try the more complicated word just to show off a little. The result: the text become moronic, me not even noticing it because I am too obsessed with writing "nice". And, you know, I imitate what comes most natural to me. "The wittgensteinians". I start a sentence, "there is no general...." and then I gag, unable to finish it. I start another sentence, "We tend to think that..." then luckily I come to think of my stern friend Y, We-hater Y ("who ARE "we"????) and I proceed to push the dear old DELETE-button.
Hello, blank screen. Misery/misery/micery.
But what scares me most is that I'll write a thesis in which the thinking could be shipped straight off to the graveyard (dig&dig fast). To be honest, how many philosophers have you read whose texts have really preserved the liveliness of thinking? A few. The best. Not many.
This scares the shit out of me, it really does. Sometimes it scares me so much that I don't even feel like writing at all. Like: I don't want to burp all of this text-crap. Like: I really have to make an effort but it is immensly laborious. The truth: self-obsession is the worst enemy of writing.

PS: I am NOT talking about style in the sense that I want to prop up a boring argument with elegant style. I just want to write what I mean without taking refuge in scientific nonsense-language or linguistic doodle. But as Malcolm Tucker in the brilliant Brittish TV-series The Thick of it would have it: "YER ON YER OOUN" (yelled in coarse Scottish accent).

2 August 2009

on the road with David Lynch

It's 4 a.m in the morning. I make a pot of coffee. The sun will be up in a while. I can't possibly go to bed - I bumped into David Lynch's on the road project "Interview project" and just have to watch all episodes. Now. A team has travelled around in the US, conducting interviews with random people along the road. The episodes are really short, like three minutes or four. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. I intend to re-watch Straight story sometimes soon.

Mahmoud Ahmed

Mahmoud Ahmed is a singer from Ethiopia. Ethiopiques vol 6, Almaz, contain his first album from 1973 plus his first single from 1971. I came upon his music by chance, and was immediately thrilled. Some of the songs have a jazz vibe, others have a tinge of soul music. The horns on this record have an awsome sound and the rhytms are simply great, too. The atmosphere of the album is joyous and sad at the same time, regrettably I don't understand the lyrics.
There is simply no bad moment on the whole record; everything is brilliant.
I know nothing about music from Ethiopia. Now I want to learn more. Recommendation: to be played extremely loud.

The Baader-Meinhof Complex

Some of my friends have praised The Baader-Meinhof Complex as a film that realistically deals with RAF both as a bunch of flesh-and-blood people and as a political reaction. Other friends were not so impressed. Interestingly, the opinions on this film have been very diverse.
I wasn't very excited by this film. As I did not know much about RAF, there is one or two things I learned by watching the film. But I do not think that I learned much about the stuff that these people reacted against. The political context of RAF was, in my opinion, missing almost completely. As political drama, this was a let down (but not really as disappointing as Oliver Stone's recent film W., which I watch today as well.) My main impression of the whole thing is that it lacked focus; the director was perhaps not too sure what he wanted to do, what kind of story he wanted to tell. Too much material was squeezed into the story.
Most of the characters very underdeveloped and as time went by I simply stopped caring about the story. (Maybe the novel, on which the film is based, has a clearer aim?) The first part of the film was all right, but the last part was a mess.
At some points, violence was romanticized, but in other scenes, especially towards the end of the film, the scenes involving violence tended to be much darker. This was one of the good things about the movie. The shift from a certain naivitety to an increasing sense of desperation and lack of control was one theme that was developed quite well.
Early in the film, we see a big crowd protesting against the arrival of the Iranian Shah. The crowd is brutally attacked by the police. That scene was maybe the best one in the film, very powerful. This particular scene had what many others lacked: tension, rage.
The lack of Concluding Judgement was also a relief. For the most part, he viewer was free to make up her own mind how to understand the story. (But I must admit that the depiction of RAF as violence-crazed kids might have involved some form of "judgement", the film hardly gives a sympathetic image of the RAF.)
The Baader-Meinhof Complex was, to me, simply a pretty dull viewing experience. Cinematography: well not really special, classy, striving towards that "documentary feel". Maybe someone else will (or have?) made a more interesting film about RAF.