Thursday, December 30, 2004

R.I.P. Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag, the author, activist and self-defined "zealot of seriousness" whose voracious mind and provocative prose made her a leading intellectual of the past half century, died Tuesday 28 December, 2004. She was 71.

Sontag died at 7:10 a.m. Tuesday, said Esther Carver, a spokeswoman for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.

The hospital declined to release a cause of death. Sontag had been treated for breast cancer in the 1970s.

Sontag called herself a "besotted aesthete," an "obsessed moralist" and a "zealot of seriousness." Tall and commanding, her very presence suggested grand, passionate drama: eyes the richest brown; thick, black hair accented by a bolt of white; the voice deep and assured; her expression a severe stare or a wry smile, as if amused by a joke only she could tell.

She wrote a best-selling historical novel, "The Volcano Lover," and in 2000 won the National Book Award for the historical novel "In America." But her greatest literary impact was as an essayist.

The 1964 piece "Notes on Camp," which established her as a major new writer, popularized the "so bad it's good" attitude toward popular culture, applicable to everything from "Swan Lake" to feather boas. In "Against Interpretation," this most analytical of writers worried that critical analysis interfered with art's "incantatory, magical" power.

She also wrote such influential works as "Illness as Metaphor," in which she examined how disease had been alternately romanticized and demonized, and "On Photography," in which she argued pictures sometimes distance viewers from the subject matter. "On Photography" received a National Book Critics Circle award in 1978. "Regarding the Pain of Others," a partial refutation of "On Photography," was an NBCC finalist in 2004.

She read authors from all over the world and is credited with introducing such European intellectuals as Roland Barthes and Elias Canetti to American readers.

"I know of no other intellectual who is so clear-minded with a capacity to link, to connect, to relate," Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican novelist, once said. "She is unique."

Unlike many American writers, she was deeply involved in politics, even after the 1960s. From 1987-89, Sontag served as president of American chapter of the writers organization PEN. When the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Salman Rushdie's death because of the alleged blasphemy of "The Satanic Verses," she helped lead protests in the literary community.

Sontag campaigned relentlessly for human rights and throughout the 1990s traveled to the region of Yugoslavia, calling for international action against the growing civil war. In 1993, she visited Sarajevo and staged a production of "Waiting for Godot."

Reading and writing

The daughter of a fur trader, she was born Susan Rosenblatt in New York in 1933, and also spent her early years in Tucson, Arizona, and Los Angeles. Her mother was an alcoholic; her father died when she was 5. Her mother later married an Army officer, Capt. Nathan Sontag.

Susan Sontag remembered her childhood as "one long prison sentence." She skipped three grades and graduated from high school at 15; the principal told her she was wasting her time there. Her mother, meanwhile, warned if she did not stop reading she would never marry.

Her mother was wrong. At the University of Chicago, she attended a lecture by Philip Rieff, a social psychologist and historian. They were married 10 days later. She was 17, he 28. "He was passionate, he was bookish, he was pure," she later said of him.

By the mid-1960s, she and Rieff were divorced (they had a son, David, born in 1952), and Sontag had emerged in New York's literary society. She was known for her essays, but also wrote fiction, although not so successfully at first. "Death Kit" and "The Benefactor" were experimental novels few found worth getting through.

"Unfortunately, Miss Sontag's intelligence is still greater than her talent," Gore Vidal wrote in a 1967 review of "Death Kit."

"Yet ... once she has freed herself of literature, she will have the power to make it, and there are not many American writers one can say that of."

Her fiction became more accessible. She wrote an acclaimed short story about AIDS, "The Way We Live Now," and a best-selling novel, "The Volcano Lover," about Lord Nelson and his mistress Lady Hamilton.

In 2000, her novel "In America," about the 19th-century Polish actress Helena Modjeska, was a commercial disappointment and was criticized for the uncredited use of material from fiction and nonfiction sources. Nonetheless, Sontag won the National Book Award.


Sontag's work also included making the films "Duet For Cannibals" and "Brother Carl" and writing the play "Alice in Bed," based on the life of Alice James, the ailing sister of Henry and William James. Sontag appeared as herself in Woody Allen's mock documentary, "Zelig."

In 1999 she wrote an essay for "Women," a compilation of portraits by her longtime companion, photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Sontag did not practice the art of restrained discourse. Writing in the 1960s about the Vietnam War she declared "the white race is the cancer of human history." Days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, she criticized U.S. foreign policy and offered backhanded praise for the hijackers.

"Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a 'cowardly' attack on 'civilization' or 'liberty' or 'humanity' or 'the free world' but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?" she wrote in The New Yorker.

"In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards."

Even among sympathetic souls, she found reason to contend. At a 1998 dinner, she was one of three given a Writers For Writers Award for contributions to others in the field. Sontag spoke after fellow guest of honor E.L. Doctorow, who urged writers to treat each other as "colleagues" and worried about the isolation of what he called "print culture."

"I agree with Mr. Doctorow that we are all colleagues, but there are perhaps too many of us," Sontag stated.

"Nobody has to be a writer. Print culture may be under siege, but there has been an enormous inflation in the number of books printed, and very few of these could be considered part of literature. ... Unlike what has been said here before, for me the primary obligation is human solidarity."

Susan Sontag obituary @ BBC

Monday, December 20, 2004

DJing At Swäg & Club Telex, Friday 17 December 2004

As if everyone cared, here are playlists by yours truly from Friday's sets at two different events. Can't tell much anything about Swäg's acts since I had to hurry to Telex after my early-night set, but as said before, it was too bad these two events serving rare quality electronic sounds in Tampere were overlapping. At Telex Putsch '79 was truly excellent live with their discofunk galore (I interviewed Sami Liuski, the other member of Putsch '79 in April 2003). Pavan from Sweden was nice too, made me think of his fellow countrymen Pluxus somehow. (But we could have used more crowd at Telex anyhow: where were all you lazy people, at home dwiddling with your Playstations, bongs and unnamed body parts...? Anyway, thanks
to all who were there.


17 December 2004,
Swäg IX
@ Café Valo, Tampere

da eklektik anyding goes set

Lalo Schifrin: Theme from Enter The Dragon
Add N to (X): Revenge of the Black Regent
Wagon Christ: How You Really Feel
Tom Tyler: No Dice
DJ Food: Scratch Your Head (Squarepusher mix)
David Bowie: Sons of the Silent Age
Scott Walker / The Walker Brothers: Orpheus
Manuel Göttsching: E2-E4 - Ruhige Nervosität
Itäväylä: Black Diamond Express
Vainio Väisänen Vega: Medal
Green Velvet: Flash
Autechre: Flutter
Aphex Twin: Children Talking
Nilsson: Everybody's Talking


17 December 2004,
Club Telex
@ Yo-Talo, Tampere

da relentless elektro trainspotta fanboy set

Yellow Magic Orchestra: Computer Game
Analog Fingerprints: Taxes For Trash
Mesak: Back To The Future
Carl A. Finlow: Electro Commando
D.I.E.: 313Frequency
Max Durante & Keith Tucker: Digital System
Mojojojo: Krak@tak
Auxmen: We Rock Like This
Drexciya: Depressurization
69: Ladies & Gentlemen
Blastromen: Sexy Droid
Aux 88: I Need To Freak (Microknow Vocal Remix)
VCS-2600: Debug Scan
Imatran Voima: Commando
Club Telex Noise Ensemble: KVY (Legowelt mix)
Dave Clarke: No One's Driving
Dynamix II: Pledge Your Allegiance To Electro Funk
Bass Junkie: Deep Bass Matrix (vocal)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Reindeer Disko 2 by DJ pHinn

Since our Estonian friends liked so much the Reindeer Disko selection I made for their Net radio Kohviradio.Com last June, they asked me for another selection (not an actual mix), so click "reindeer disko 2 by dj phinn" at:

The tracks:

1. Munich Machine: La Nuit Blanche
2. Yello: Daily Disco
3. Propaganda: P-Machinery
4. Blake Baxter: Forever And A Day
5. Unidentified Sound Objects: AAEagle 2
6. Dick Hyman: Give It Up Or Turn It Loose
7. Perrey & Kingsley: One Note Samba - Spanish Flea
8. Prince: Bob George
9. Blastromen: Sexy Droid
10. Kompleksi vs Citizen Omega: Bioluminescence
11. Der Zyklus: Biometric ID
12. Calico Wall: I'm A Living Sickness
13. Coil: Love's Secret Domain
14. Chicks on Speed & The No Heads: Madalyn Albright's Answer
15. Carola & Heikki Sarmanto Trio: The Flame

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Bad Mags!

I just found this brilliant site called Bad Mags. As it says, it features cover art from different sorts of sleazy US magazines from the 1950s onwards. Crime, occult sex, skin flicks, gossips, bikers, rock'n'roll -- the seedy underside of America! Ungawa!

This links nice to FinnSleaze, my own cover gallery of (mostly) 1970s Finnish men's magazines. (Its mirrorsite has also a bit more images.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Official Truth Of Finland

In his latest Net column, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (of Finland's Social-Democratic Party) criticizes Finnish media:

"In Finland, there is undergoing a clear and systematic campaign to change the social and foreign policies in Finland. One does not have to argument this view with any conspiracy theories, it is enough to keep following Finnish main media to see how its agenda has become harder, its message more right-wing."

Especially Tuomioja criticizes Helsingin Sanomat, the largest morning newspaper in Finland, for actively propagating these views.

The Helsingin Sanomat chief editor Janne Virkkunen quotes on the paper's head column the German leftist playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht who, while staying as a refugee in Finland during World War II, wrote about the Finns being a people, who "keeps silent in two languages".

Virkkunen claims that Finland is still the country of one official truth, which shuns presenting any alternatives and dissidence, just as in the era of Soviet Union, when Finland's foreign and domestic policy were heavily dictated by our Eastern neighbour; making the Western observers come up with the term "Finlandisierung" about this delicate tightrope-walking type of political balance, where the Finns had to nourish good relations with Russians but also prove their being another Western democracy.

Virkkunen also quotes the recent " Roadmap to Finland's Future Success" report by EVA, Finnish Business and Policy Forum. The report summarizes: "The message is clear: Finnish society must finally create an attractive environment for working, entrepreneurship and ownership –- otherwise Finland’s long term success cannot be guaranteed." In Tuomioja's opinion, it is these sort of views, that represent Finland's "Official Truth" at the moment -- neo-liberalist, right-wing, anti-welfare state -- the type of which Helsingin Sanomat and other head columns in Finland are trying to propagate at the moment.

Erkki Tuomioja quotes another poem by Bertolt Brecht: "Wouldn't it be easier to disintegrate the people and elect someone else in their stead?". Tuomioja thinks this is something that could well be directed to EVA and Finnish employees who represent the current powers that be, their message to the people being: "They should work twice as much with a wage twice as small, so they elite could enjoy their own double income, preferably without the disturbing intervention by taxes", as Tuomioja puts it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Who's Got To Flex?

There has been recently a lot of discussion here in Finland that our working life should be more "flexible", but in the end, I think the people who've got to "flex" the most there under these models recommended by the business world are the employees who have to work harder with lower pay, under the uncertainty of possibly being sacked any moment... but we are inflexible welfare state pinkos here, of course. Today's economy mantras are efficiency and productivity, but it seems only a narrow elite is able to enjoy the fruits thereof.

While at the same time, the wages of job-cutters rise handsomely.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Pan sonic receives Finnish State Prize for Arts

From Finnish Music Information Centre:

The Arts Council of Finland has announced the annual State Prizes for Arts on November 9. The recipients are film director Klaus Härö, choreographer Marjo Kuusela, and electronic music duo Pan sonic. Each prize is worth 13.000 euros.

Formed by Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen in 1993, Pan sonic has made a durable reputation within the sphere of experimental electronic music, leading the way of the "Northern sound" of international renown.

Pan sonic are among the outpourings of the lively Turku electronic music scene that combined the best aspects of techno, performance and minimalism in the 1990s. Around the same time, Sähkö Recordings was founded, and Pan sonic soon became its most successful artist being equally home at the music festivals as well as art museums and installations.

Since 1995, the British label Mute/Blast First has issued Pan sonic albums Vakio" (1995), Kulma (1997), A (1999) ja Aaltopiiri (2001). This year the ambitious duo released a 4-CD work Kesto, of which title means, literally, length. Their recent live performances include concerts in Berlin Biennale, Tampere Biennale, and Biennale Musica in Venice.


And my comments:

Well, this is great that Pan sonic finally get the recognition they deserve in their own home country, but one could ask if this was really so if they hadn't manage to make it internationally. I don't think so.

Finnish people usually are really wary of anything that breaks new ground; without their international recognition Pan sonic (or Jimi Tenor or Vladislav Delay or...) would be still considered some sort of marginal freaks here, probably even laughed at. The Finnish way: jealousy and bitterness -- people who create something different and out of the ordinary crushed either by indifference, silence or direct hostility. Finnish media and music industry usually want stylish and easily consumed copies of currently-fashionable Anglo-American pop products for an artist to get any major media coverage here. The lowest common denominator thinking prevails.

You either have to get yourself international recognition before anyone takes any note here, or then drink yourself to death or commit suicide and become celebrated only posthumously; maybe even decades after your death. Local examples are various; probably someone like Erkki Kurenniemi being finally "discovered" after 40 years he created his major work is a refreshing exception too. But then, grass always being greener behind the fence, I don't think this is exclusively a Finnish phenomenon...


And here is an interesting sidenote I found, an excerpt from Avanto Festival's info magazine; concerning their forthcoming gig of Germany's Alec Empire...

"In Finland, Alec Empire remains rather unknown, even after much hype from the British media, which is usually devoutly followed by Finnish scenesters. This may encourage some discouraging generalisations about the state of our cultural climate. Or can we imagine Bomfunk MC's become radicalized, should the skinhead MP Tony Halme's demagoguery lead to action? Now seemingly on the wane, the Finnish
electronic music scene was dominated throughout the 90's by mindless hedonism and cursorily post-modernist pseudo-philosophies, with the approval of the media and even some art museums. These sorts of connotations may even have caused the alternative activists' scene to shun experimental electronic music, as well."

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Review of DaDaDa @ BBC Site

Here's a review of London's DaDaDa: Strategies Against Marketecture exhibition where I participate with my pHinnMilk Comics:

Acid Mothers/Circle/Vialka: Live at Klubi, Tampere

Something about last Tuesday night's psychedelic rawk spectacle here at the Klubi club our of little Tahm-peh-reh town...

Vialka from France were a boy-girl duo of a guitarist and drummer (just don't mention White Stripes here), and were quite funny after I got over my first shock. A bespectacled ethnomusicology student-looking girl wearing something that looked like an ethnic regional costume, drumming like a berserk and singing/wailing in the style of Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex. One song was obviously about how shitty everything is. Peaches, eat your heart out. The guitarist having a silly long goatee à la that Queens of the Stone Age guy. In his white shirt he looked like a deranged Amish. The music was a sort of punk-prog combination with folkish overtones, complicated song structures, tempo changes, etc.; like punk but played by music conservatory students who are into prog-rock.

Circle I hadn't seen in ages, but were really worth waiting for, to say the least. Before the gig I had a chance to talk with Circle's jovial bassist Jussi Lehtisalo, one of the nicest guys I know in music scene, and I donated him also Kompleksi's demo. Circle started with a longish ambient-drone mood, then turning to something which sounded at times like Can, at times like Spacemen 3. Not exactly their gargantuan rifforamas of yesteryear, but something more subtle. One guitarist sang blues-like vocals, keyboardist Mika Rättö wailed in Damo Suzuki-style. Another fine gig from Circle, still the best Finnish band of this type (Krautrock/postrock/psychedelia).

Acid Mothers Temple And The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. (whatever that ) from Japan I had missed when they visited in Tampere two years ago. And to be honest, I was a bit wary of hearing them live for the first time, since at least the only album I've got from them, New Geocentric World, was a bit too heavy jamming to my own tastes.

But I suppose Acid Mothers are a band actually best heard live, since for me this gig was just spectacular: Kawabata Makoto and his merry (furry) men leading loud monster jams consisting of psychedelia, Krautrock, Hendrix, Black Sabbath, et al.; and lo and behold, it worked fine for me, and what has been rare for me lately, got my old ruined body moving. But then, I guess I've always been just a hippie in disguise. Just hypnotic and physical. I still don't know if I'm going to get more Acid Mothers albums for home listening, but as a live experience they were wonderful. With Circle, this night felt sound-wise like a time machine leap to the early 1970s, but I guess in this case retro is not that bad a word...

Monday, November 01, 2004

Transhumanism - One Of The Most Dangerous Ideas In The World?

Francis Fukuyama calls at the September 2004 edition of Foreign Policy Transhumanism one of the "most dangerous ideas in the world". Fukuyama criticizes transhumanists that they're, through biotechnology, trying to create a Nietzschean superhuman far exceeding those qualities created by natural evolution. Here Nick Bostrom of transhumanists answers to Fukuyama.

I think transhumanists are typical utopia builders living in their high spheres but not exactly having a touchpoint with actual every-day reality. If we become physical and mental superhumans, will that also solve the economical and environmental problems of our current culture; not to speak about wars, terrorism and so on?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

pHinnWeb Politics - A New Mailing List Starts

This new group is meant for the discussion of political issues that would be off-topic for the pHinnWeb's mailing list. Differing political opinions are tolerated (bar extreme right-wing, chauvinistic-nationalist, racist, sexist, homophobic, religious bigot, etc. views) but all members are advised to follow netiquette. The discussion on this list is mostly in English.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Jori Hulkkonen On The Sad State Of Finnish Music Journalism

Here's a quickie translation of this column by Jori Hulkkonen which appears today at the Nyt weekend supplement of Helsingin Sanomat and can be read in Finnish here.

The Electronic Bubble
- pop journalism without electricity

[Jori Hulkkonen, 22.10.2004]

Finnish pop journalism has returned, after a few more hopeful years, to the state that has always been taken for granted -- the Helsinki-based rock journalism.

Obviously the new writer generation, when writing for Finnish music magazines, has to legitimate their own place there by continuing along the conservative style of those mags. It is the outcome of either a conscious process, or then the starting journalists only try to be faithful to the assumed agenda of their employer or their perceived cultural Zeitgeist.

This trend that started a couple of years ago, has gone so far during this year that you haven't been able to find articles on electronic music or reviews even from those magazines specialized in pop music -- not taking into account some domestic exceptions or electronic rockers like Prodigy.

What has been most characteristic to these articles, though, has been their division in two. On the other hand, there's the naive lack of criticism towards electronic music coming from Finland. For some peculiar reason, domestic media has taken on the image of Finland being some sort of a New Mecca for electronic music, and that the last glimmer of hope for the dying genre is here amidst the Arctic

On the other hand, it is not uncommon that all genres of electronic music are just made up into bundles, and it is all overlooked as a phenomenon that already had its heyday in the 90s.

It has to be admitted that this is quite understandable concerning Finnish marketplace that holds an emphasis with rock music. Local radio stations seem to have already lost the more alternative electronic music, and its future without open and critical press only seems hopeless.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Limits To Growth

The Club of Rome published in 1972 a book called The Limits to Growth, which gained a huge success. The book predicted, based on computer calculations, how the population growth, industrialisation, the increase in food production and pollution are going to expand in such an increasing volume that a total collapse is expected in only a hundred years' time.

Using a technique known as systems dynamics, developed by Professor Jay Forrester at MIT, a large-scale computer model was constructed to simulate likely future outcomes of the world economy. The most prominent feature of systems dynamics is the use of feedback loops to explain behaviour. The feedback loop is a closed path that connects an action to its effect on the surrounding conditions which, in turn, can influence further action.

There are two feedback loops, negative and positive, the total outcome of which would create pessimist or optimist models depicted in the book. Using some over-simplified examples here, pollution and damage to the biosphere caused by industry would be a negative feedback loop; on the other hand, the jobs and prosperity created by that same industry would be a positive feedback loop. The different combinations of these feedback loops would have an effect on whether the future developments would be benevolent or not.

The basic message of the Club of Rome in 1972 was that there will be a collapse if the population increase and industry growth go on without any limitations. The turning point was to be in twenty years. Dennis L. Meadows, one of the writers of Limits to Growth, tells that the calculations of 1972 were just checked for the third edition of the book, and that the predictions had become true within the accuracy of a few per cent units.

Dennis L. Meadows says that the limits were exceeded in 1980; now we are twenty per cent above those limits, and have to turn back. According to Meadows the modern world differs from the state of sustained development as much as the ancient Mesopotamia would differ from the world of industrial era.

During its recent summit in Helsinki the Club of Rome didn't speak about the limits to growth any more but the "limits of ignorance". Their concern is that the risks are well known, but in spite of that, no changes are put through. (One recent example of this would be USA's reluctance to accept the proposed Kyoto Protocol.)

The real problem here is that almost religion-like current economic thinking, which emphasizes the idea of ongoing and continuing growth. Unfortunately, it only seems that this growth can be gained at the expense of natural resources and people's mental well-being. We can't buy happiness.

More info @ DieOff.Org

Fair Warning? The Club of Rome Revisited

Beyond The Limits To Growth

Monday, October 11, 2004

Without Conscience

Dr. Robert D. Hare, considered one of the world's foremost experts in the area of psychopathy, is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. His book Without Conscience is now translated also in Finnish.

The pioneer of the research of psychopathy was Dr. Hervey Cleckley who released in 1941 a book called The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-Called Psychopathic Personality. Later on, Dr. Robert D. Hare came up with his Psychopathology Checklist to assess the main characteristics of psychopathic behaviour.

The psychopathic (or sociopathic) syndrome consists of many different symptoms. In every-day use of this term people normally consider psychopaths as dangerous and hardened criminals they have learned to know from media, but reality is far more complex. A psychopath has a good self-esteem, he is self-centered and dominating. A psychopath can be a person with short attention span, of impulsive and unpredictable behaviour; with no real emotional ties to other people, a parasite taking from others but never giving anything back. He feels no empathy nor love; neither guilt, remorse or shame. A psychopath may be great in pretending these emotions, but not able to really feel them.

Psychopathy is characterised as a narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissism and psychopathy are not exactly the same thing, even though they are close to each other. Robert D. Hare says that what is common to a narcissist and psychopath is that they both love themselves, but only a psychopath takes advantage of other people.

Hare emphasizes that there are psychopaths in any communities and social classes. He estimates there are two per cent of them in populace. Psychopaths are often those well off in society; great manipulators with fluent verbal output and charming appearance. A psychopath loves power and considers himself intelligent and bright, but mostly only has an average IQ.

What is problematic considering his environment is that it is really hard to recognize a psychotic there. These modern times favour those values that are characteristic for psychopaths: selfishness, greed, superficial human relations and elbow tactics.

Excerpt from Hervey Cleckley's The Mask of Sanity

Antisocial Personality, Sociopathy, and Psychopathy

See also:

Psychopathological Cult Leaders

Friday, October 08, 2004

DaDaDa: Strategies Against Marketecture

Pil and Galia Kollectiv are an artist couple from Jerusalem, Israel, who moved to England a couple of years ago. I got to know them through Chicks on Speed -- how else -- when the Chix performed in Israel in 2000 for an event called Trash which was organized by Pil and Galia, and I put a photo report of that event to pHinnWeb's CoS page. We got in e-mail correspondence, and now they're having an exhibition at London's Temporary Contemporary Gallery, and asked for my pHinnMilk Comics collages to be displayed there too. There will be a computer at the gallery on which one can browse through pHinnMilk Comics. I guess it's unnecessary to say that I'm pretty excited about my own "outsider art" being exposed this way...

DaDaDa: Strategies Against Marketecture
Curated by Pil & Galia Kollectiv

@ Temporary Contemporary
2nd Floor, Atlantic House
The Old Seager Distillery
Deptford Bridge
London SE8 4JT

22 October - 21 November, 2004
Fri-Sun 12-6pm

Private View: Thursday 21st October 18.30-22.00

The exhibition is a unique opportunity to explore the visual aesthetics of resistance. Taking in work that mixes up art, music and design, artists from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Finland and the UK, provide a critical and often playful opposition to contemporary hyper-structured consumer culture. 'DaDaDa: Strategies against Marketecture' deals in appropriation & DIY revolution, craft & hi-tech collage through 2D, video, music and installation pieces that examine the relationship between present technologies and the more traditional cut and paste methods employed by ideologically motivated artists in the twentieth century, a movement from Mertz assemblages to current computer screen manipulations.

As well as a live performance from Anat Ben-David on the opening night, the exhibition will be accompanied by a fanzine format catalogue with texts by Amanda Beech and Avi Pitchon and a limited edition compilation CD featuring: 3puen, Anat Ben David, Charlie Megira, Chicks on Speed, DAT Politics, Gelbart, Frederik Schikowski, Simon Bookish and Patrick Wolf.

Strategien gegen Architekturen (vols. I-III) is a series of three compilations documenting the music of German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, famed for their attempts to conquer the repressed rebuilt surfaces of postwar Berlin by beating on the physical structures of the city and using them as instruments. "Far from suggesting that the buildings should be destroyed, they attempted to release the cacophony they perceived to be trapped within the static forms, motivating the energy potential in solid objects". As for marketecture, nobody's quite sure what that is. The Internet's Word Spy dictionary has it that it is:

marketecture (mar.kuh.TEK.chur) n. 1. A new computer architecture that is being marketed aggressively despite the fact that it doesn't yet exist as a finished product. 2. The design and structure of a market or a marketing campaign. Also: marchitecture.

Elsewhere it is refered to as the business perspective of the system's architecture.

To us, however, it is like Einstürzende Neubauten¹s city, a repressed, hyperdefined space that needs to be conquered. We are surrounded by the collapsing new buildings of mass mediated consumer culture, which we seek not to destroy but to make our own, to release their buried meanings. These are the raw materials on which we impose our strategies.

The exhibition features artists, writers and musicians, who each strategically position themselves in relation to this great living/dead cityscape. Some find ready made objects, sounds, ideas in the debris, using them against the grain to reveal a truer nature. Others add pixel to pixel or frame to frame to explore the beauty seen only through the eye of the machine. Some see spaceships in tea cups, insects in shopping carts, pagans in Tesco, erotic eruptions in videogame consoles and wonderful weird druid songs in polyphonic ring tones. Others dance to a different tune, recorded on makeshift instruments in a bedroom all their own. This is democracy with a Œd¹ for d.i.y., and you're welcome to make your own.

Artists: Anat Ben-David, Jessica Broas, Chicks on Speed, DAT Politics, Christopher Dobrowolski, Pil & Galia Kollectiv, Mister Ministeck, Noriko Okaku, Erkki Rautio, ROR (Revolutions on Request), Hiraki Sawa, Hideyuki Sawayanagi, Dallas Seitz.

A review @ BBC site (with image gallery)

See also:

Turn to the Left

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Right Man And The Fear Of Losing Face

These excerpts are from Colin Wilson's A Criminal History Of Mankind (1984).

Here Wilson discusses the interesting psychological concept of the "Right Man", which might in other uses also be called the "Dominant Male" or the "Alpha Male", though we are, of course, speaking here about the negative extremes in behaviour of this human type, not just ordinary dominance or leadership.

The "Right Men" can be domestic household tyrants terrorizing their families but they can be found in all fields of life: in business, politics, art, culture. Everyone must have encountered one: a dominating boss, school headmaster or teacher, army officer, father, son, boyfriend, bully.

Essential here is that the "Right Man" must always have his way and is afraid of losing face above all ("How dare you talk to me this way?"): anything that might be an indication of his infallibility or erroneous ways, something that he can never admit.

And if things don't exactly go his way, he may scare people into submission by breaking into outbursts of rage or downright violence. He may demand absolute faithfulness from his woman but "play around" himself, since as a God-like "Right Man" this is his divine prerogative (he thinks). Colin Wilson also points out that there are "Right Women" too, so this is not exclusively male behaviour.

"The notion of 'losing face' suggests an interesting alternative line of thought. It is obviously connected, for example, with the cruelty of Himmler and Stalin when their absolute authority was questioned. They were both men with a touchy sense of self-esteem, so that their response to any suspected insult was vindictive rage. Another characteristic of both men was a conviction they they were always right, and a total inability to admit that they might ever be wrong."

"Himmlers and Stalins are, fortunately, rare; but the type is surprisingly common. The credit for recognising this goes to A.E. Van Vogt who is also the author of a number of brilliant psychological studies. Van Vogt's concept of the 'Right Man' or 'violent man' is so important to the understanding of criminality that it deserves to be considered at length..."


"In 1954, Van Vogt began work on a war novel called The Violent Man, which was set in a Chinese prison camp. The commandant of the camp is one of those savagely authoritarian figures who would instantly, and without hesitation, order the execution of anyone who challenges his authority. Van Vogt was creating the type from observation of men like Hitler and Stalin. And, as he thought about the murderous behaviour of the commandant, he found himself wondering: 'What could motivate a man like that?' Why is it that some men believe that anyone who contradicts them is either dishonest or downright wicked? Do they really believe, in their heart of hearts, that they are gods who are incapable of being fallible? If so are, are they in some sense insane, like a man who thinks he is Julius Caesar?"

"Looking around for examples, it struck Van Vogt that male authoritarian behaviour is far too commonplace to be regarded as insanity. [...] [For example,] marriage seems to bring out the 'authoritarian' personality in many males, according to Van Vogt's observation."


"... 'the violent man' or the 'Right Man' [...] is a man driven by a manic need for self-esteem -- to feel he is a 'somebody'. He is obsessed by the question of 'losing face', so will never, under any circumstances, admit that he might be in the wrong."


"Equally interesting is the wild, insane jealousy. Most of us are subject to jealousy, since the notion that someone we care about prefers someone else is an assault on our amour propre. But the Right Man, whose self-esteem is like a constantly festering sore spot, fliers into a frenzy at the thought, and becomes capable of murder."

"Van Vogt points out that the Right Man is an 'idealist' -- that is, he lives in his own mental world and does his best to ignore aspects of reality that conflict with it. Like the Communists' rewriting of history, reality can always be 'adjusted' later to fit his glorified picture of himself. In his mental world, women are delightful, adoring, faithful creatures who wait patiently for the right man -- in both senses of the word -- before they surrender their virginity. He is living in a world of adolescent fantasy. No doubt there was something gentle and submissive about the nurse that made her seem the ideal person to bolster his self-esteem, the permanent wife and mother who is waiting in a clean apron when he get back from a weekend with mistress..."

"Perhaps Van Vogt's most intriguing insight into the Right Man was his discovery that he can be destroyed if 'the worm turns' -- that is, if his wife or some dependant leaves him. Under such circumstances, he may beg and plead, promising to behave better in the future. If that fails, there may be alcoholism, drug addiction, even suicide. She has kicked out the foundations of his sandcastle. For when a Right Man finds a woman who seems submissive and admiring, it deepens his self-confidence, fills him with a sense of his own worth. (We can see the mechanism in operation with Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.) No matter how badly he treats her, he has to keep on believing that, in the last analysis, she recognises him as the most remarkable man she will ever meet. She is the guarantee of his 'primacy', his uniqueness; now it doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks. He may desert her and his children; that only proves how 'strong' he is, how indifferent to the usual sentimentality. But if she deserts him, he has been pushed back to square one: the helpless child in a hostile universe. 'Most violent men are failures', says Van Vogt; so to desert them is to hand them over to their own worst suspicions about themselves. It is this recognition that leads Van Vogt to write: 'Realise that most Right Men deserve some sympathy, for they are struggling with an unbelievable inner horror; however, if they give way to the impulse to hit or choke, they are losing the battle, are on the the way to the ultimate disaster... of their subjective universe of self-justification."

"And what happens when the Right Man is not a failure, when his 'uniqueness' is acknowledged by the world? Oddly enough, it makes little or no difference. His problem is lack of emotional control and a deep-seated sense of inferiority; so success cannot reach the parts of the mind that are the root of the problem."


"The Right Man hates losing face; if he suspects that his threats are not being taken seriously, he is capable of carrying them out, purely for the sake of appearances."

"Van Vogt makes the basic observation that the central characteristic of the Right Man is the 'decision to be out of control, in some particular area'. We all have to learn self-control to deal with the real world and other people. But with some particular person -- a mother, a wife, a child -- we may decide that this effort is not necessary and allow ourselves to explode. But -- and here we come to the very heart of the matter -- this decision creates, so to speak, a permanent weakpoint in the boiler, the point at which it always bursts."


"He feels he [is] justified in exploding, like an angry god. [...] he feels he is inflicting just punishment."

"What is so interesting here is the way the Right Man's violent emotion reinforces his sense of being justified, and his sense of justification increases his rage. He is locked into a kind of vicious spiral, and he cannot escape until he has spent his fury. [...] The Right Man feels that his rage is a storm that has to be allowed to blow itself out, no matter what damage it causes. But this also means that he is the slave of an impulse he cannot control; his property, even the lives of those that he loves, are at the mercy of his emotions. This is part of the 'unbelievable inner horror' that Van Vogt talks about."


"This is 'magical thinking' -- allowing a desire or emotion to convince you of something your reason tells you to be untrue. [...] Magical thinking provides a key to the Right Man."

"What causes 'right mannishness'? Van Vogt suggest that it is because the world has always been dominated by males."


"But then, this explanation implies that there is no such thing as a Right Woman -- in fact, Van Vogt says as much. This is untrue." [...] the central characteristic of the Right Woman is the same as that of the Right Man: that she is convinced that having her own way is a law of nature, and that anyone who opposes this deserves the harshest possible treatment. It is the god (or goddess) syndrome."


"... the one thingthat becomes obvious in all cases of Right Men is that their attacks are not somehow inevitable'; some of their worst misdemeanours are carefully planned and calculated, and determinedly carried out. The Right Man does these things because he thinks they will help him to achieve his own way, which is what interests him."

"And this in turn makes it plain that the Right Man problem is a problem of highly dominant people. Dominance is a subject of enormous interest to biologists and zoologists because the percentage of dominant animals -- or human beings -- seems to be amazingly constant. [...] biological studies have confirmed [... that ...] for some odd reason, precisely five per cent -- one in twenty -- of any animal group are dominant -- have leadership qualities."


"The 'average' member of the dominant five per cent sees no reason why he should not be rich and famous too. He experiences anger and frustration at his lack of 'primacy', and is willing to consider unorthodox methods of elbowing his way to the fore. This clearly explains a great deal about the rising levels of crime and violence in our society."


"We can also see how large numbers of these dominant individuals develop into 'Right Men'. In every school with five hundred pupils there are about twnety-five dominant ones struggling for primacy. Some of these have natural advantages: they are good athletes, good scholars, good debaters. (And there are, of course plenty of non-dominant pupils who are gifted enough to carry away some of the prizes.) Inevitably, a percentage of the dominant pupils have no particular talent or gift; some may be downright stupid. How is such a person to satisfy his urge to primacy? He will, inevitably, choose to express his dominance in any ways that are possible. If he has good looks or charm, he may be satisfied with the admiration of female pupils. If he has some specific talent which is not regarded as important by his schoolmasters -- a good ear for music, a natural gift of observation, a vivid imagination -- he may become a lonely 'outsider', living in his own private world. (Such individuals may develop into Schuberts, Darwins, Balzacs.) But it is just as likely that he will try to take short-cuts to prominence and become a bully, a cheat or a delinquent."

"The main problem of these ungifted 'outsiders' is that they are bound to feel that the world has treated them unfairly. And the normal human reaction to a sense of unfairness is an upsurge of self-pity. Self-pity and the sense of injustice make them vulnerable and unstable. And we have only to observe such people to see that they are usually their own worst enemies. Their moods alternate between aggressiveness and sulkiness, both of which alienate those who might otherwise be glad to help them. If they possess some degree of charm or intelligence, they may succeed in making themselves acceptable to other people; but sooner or later the resentment and self-pity break through, and lead to mistrust and rejection."

"The very essence of their problem is the question of self-discipline. Dominant human beings are more impatient than others, because they have more vital energy. Impatience leads them to look for short-cuts. [...] Civilisation, as Freud pointed out, demands self-discipline on the part of its members. No one can be licenced to threaten people with carving knives."


"When the Right Man explodes into violence, all the energy is wasted. Worse still, it destroys the banks of the canal. So in permitting himself free expression of his negative emotions he is indulging in a process of slow but sure self-erosion -- the emotional counterpart of physical incontinence. Without proper 'drainage', his inner being turns into a kind of swamp or sewage farm. This is why most of the violent men of history, from Alexander the Great to Stalin, have ended up as psychotics. Without the power to control their negative emotions, they become incapable of any state of sustained well-being."

See also:
Colin Wilson interview, August 2005

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Ice Cold Hatred

How long would it take before he got over the ice cold hatred?

He remembered his father raging to his mother. Every time that happened, father got so worked out that he was shaking out of sheer anger, words coming out as a hiss from between his teeth.

Cold hatred inside of him, it was almost inhuman. It was so cold it burned him. He could feel his blood boiling like cryogenic nitrogen in room temperature.

He had learned restraint, not to show those feelings mulling inside him. His face was a cold emotionless mask, so hard he had to keep the hatred from emerging.

Where did all this hatred come from? He didn't like the thoughts in his head but they came and went independent of his volition.

Cold hatred was a reaction of a wounded animal, pushed into a corner. Every day the same thought would circulate through his brain: "I hate you". There were so many things, situations and people who made him do that; his soul grabbed, held as hostage by ice cold hatred.

As long as this hatred reigned over him, all those feelings that he mistook for love were only signs of his obsession, his unwillingness to let go, to hold on to something that was not there. His soul would be just an empty husk, reality a monster constantly trying to devour him.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Charisma And Passive Aggressiveness

Ignatius Loyola once said: "Everyone's friend is no one's friend".

I know a person who's a perfectly pleasant nice guy.

People like him because he's great in "lobbying": knows how to talk nice to people, knows how to be charming; for example, by dropping little humorous remarks during a conversation that leave you almost enchanted; and giving an impression that he really cares about you and is always willing to be of help and assistance to you. Nevertheless, I've noticed this person can be very negative under his pleasant surface; this is indicated, for example, how he can suddenly snap at you by saying something sarcastic, which makes you totally surprised and embarrassed.

These off-hand remarks make you think there's a lot of negativity hidden beneath those ongoing niceties. There's also a certain tendency to passive aggressiveness in this person, I'd say. He never insults or attacks you directly, but you can always "read between the lines" that he somehow disapproves you. There's never a direct answer "No" from him, but a sense of hesitation and reluctance always reeking out. "Sweet outside, bitter inside" is almost the sense you might get from this person.

Is there some sort of basic inner uncertainty in people like these that they try to compensate with this behaviour of trying to please everyone? Is their deep inner bitterness a result of their unconscious desire to rebel against their assumed roles as nice guys or girls, who feel they're always supposed to help and assist, to resolve conflicts of the others, and generally please everyone -- and that way trying to gain people's acceptance?

I often wonder what "charisma" in people consists of. Does there exist in some people a certain "God-given" gift of gab and inner radiance; or is it just more an innate skill to speak your way around the people, to convince and persuade, perhaps combined with good looks and excellent social skills? Because a "charismatic" person can be totally empty inside.

They can charm the masses, but if you have a chance to talk with them face-to-face, they might collapse like an empty balloon which has no hot air left. This sort of outer brilliance and inner void typifies a narcissistic person. One example of this sort of "charisma" in history is Hitler, a man who was able to hypnotize the masses but was a totally unremarkable petty-bourgeois mediocrity behind all that pomp and circumstance.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Loneliness Of A Long-Distance pHinn

It's the complaint time again, but since no-one ever reads this blog, I think I can whine here for all of my heart's content. Taking the risk of coming off arrogant.

Well, if that imaginary one person who has gotten lost accidentally to this blog might have noticed, I've been quite busy now with my blog site; it's good for all sort of babble and things that interest me, that would be too off-topic for pHinnWeb's own mailing list on Finnish electronic/experimental music.

In fact, the list has been pretty quiet lately, bar the event infos etc., mostly sent by yours truly. I don't know why, but it seems no one is into actually discussing music and artists creating it, and it feels somehow futile to push people into talking if they're not into it... The only discussion will usually start when people talk tech about downloading or things like that, but as a totally non-technological person that just bores me. I want to hear about the philosophy of music, about the ideas of people who create it, about its connection to the whole culture at large. Things like that.

Well, perhaps it's hard for people who don't speak English as their first language, or are not used to express themselves verbally in a multisyllabic language, to contribute to that sort of discussion, but it's a shame in any case. As for myself, I think I'm at the moment drawn into more esoteric sounds or my (non-electronic) oldie favourites. Electro or techno or that adjoining culture don't make me feel too excited at the moment, and that's the sad truth. I maintain the Website and list out of some sort of sense of duty, as misguided as that might be, waiting for the more exciting things to come my way. Or getting my excitement just from totally other things than electrotechnoblaahblaah (just watch this blog for any hints, o my one and only reader).

To be honest, I'm bored myself with the usual Finnish club culture and many of those people involved with it: cartoon characters with no depth, living from party to party. These people don't read books, are not interested in culture other than Playstations and playing with their little cellphones; only their little navel-gazing world of trends, clubs, electronic toys, fashion and mental junk food. It seems more interesting things happen somewhere else, but would it be it's too esoteric for your usual electro/techno fanboy?

And I'm personally tired with this DJ culture anyway; I'm not into being a "star DJ" myself or anything, but sometimes it feels whenever spinning records as DJ pHinn, I'm mostly marginalised into obscurity, always pushed into a little corner; that "warm-up" spot early in the evening or that little "chill-out" type of room. I guess writing music myself excites me more at the moment than playing someone else's stuff for indifferent and ignorant people.

Maybe it is just that I'm getting old, then? That I don't get any more excitement from this culture like I used to? Or perhaps this culture has just become shit? Oh, the nostalgia for the old times... But then, my position has always been that of an outsider. I don't grow dim-eyed about "the good old days", since in my case they always felt mostly like lousy times. I think the best times of my life are now; I just guess I still have to keep on creating my own world and keep myself entertained by my own efforts, as always, and not depend on what the others have got to offer.

Health Report September 2004

All last summer I had troubles with my large intestine, which meant some pain down there and also a continuing diarrhea (which resulted in haemorrhoids). Therefore I had to take drastic measures and stop drinking coffee altogether and switch to green tea, and also I had to give up any cola drinks, junk food and limit my eating of pasta, my favourite food. Obviously those problems resulted from the years of my consuming large amounts of those foods and drinks: it's not easy to cut off bad living habits until your body starts to give some warning signs. I tried eating Carbon Medicinalis pills for a while, but the best relief, however, were given by Biophilus capsules, containing "dry-frozen" lactobacteria. All those symptoms mentioned above seem to have gone now, but I still have to maintain a sort of a diet, and can't eat much anything after my evening tea. So far, so good. Well, the good thing here has been that I've managed to lose some weight; I tend to be a bit stocky, with a round face and tendency to have a double chin, which is inherited from my family. I'm now feeling much better, and I hope this will go on.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Mental Alaska And The New Weird Of America

(Arttu Partinen and Jan Anderzén of Mental Alaska club)

Exposing the idea of conventionally linear time and associated moments of progress and modernity as an essentially arbitrary, artificial construct was always a key part of the psychedelic experience. It's no surprise, then, that from this vantage point, the way psychedelic music has developed seems almost ass backwards. As part of the never-ending quest for a vibration so deranging that it would unhinge your skull for good, the most exploratory of today's psychedelic musicians -- Tower Recordings, NNCK, Vibracathedral Orchestra -- have arguably regressed, abandoning technocratic modes and secondhand signifiers ('technique', wah-wah pedals, sometimes even electricity) in favour of going caveman. In place of the marriage of superhuman technique and outlaw noise pioneered by first generation cosmonauts like Jimi Hendrix and The Grateful Dead, wordless vocals, atonal acoustic jams, free percussive punk-outs and an approach to structure primarily informed by the huge ensemble waves generated by Sun Ra, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler's orchestras now dominate. The music has come full circle, a marriage of avant garde and savage mind birthing, a primal music that is formally precocious. It really isn't about the notes anymore.
- David Keenan in The Wire review for Alkuhärkä by Kemialliset Ystävät

Last night the local Mental Alaska club had from the States Black Forest/Black Sea, Fursaxa, Christina Carter, and the local act Avarus ("avaruus" is the Finnish word for "space", they only spell it with one "u"); combining folk, psychedelia, drone and improvisation. Black Forest/Black Sea visited Mental Alaska already last year. The duo of Jeffrey Alexander and Miriam Goldberg, playing guitar and cello respectively, did some serene songs, which got properly freaked-out in the end. Avarus did a Sun Ra/Godz type of improvisation stuff with some suitably silly sounds. Fursaxa and Christina Carter I liked the most, they're both one-woman acts and with very good vocals. A Native American-looking Fursaxa sang in a very strong voice (a psychedelic Joan Baez for the 21st century?) and played maracas(?) and strummed chords from her guitar, also playing and singing along to pre-recorded droney sounds and vocal harmonies, which sounded a bit like Gregorian chants, some of it very ambientish and quite mystical. I liked it very much, unlike two hicks sitting next to me who couldn't get it and also had to comment it all the time Beavis and Butthead-like ("this seems to be a freak night", "this is so 70s", etc.) To my relief it was finally too much to them, and they left. After the gig I bought from Jan of Kemialliset Ystävät, who was selling tickets, two of Fursaxa's CDRs, The Cult From Moon Mountain and her latest, Amulet. Very sublime. Christina Carter was also lovely, singing with an angel-like voice (somehow I started to think of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star) and playing psychedelic chords with her guitar. I would also have liked to have gotten her CD, but unfortunately I was out of money by that time. Well, c'est la vie. A big hand to Mental Alaska guys Arttu, Jan & co. for bringing these artists to Finland. Kulttuuriteko.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Hard Revolution by George Pelecanos

I just read the latest by George Pelecanos, Hard Revolution, which is a prequel to his earlier books Right As Rain, Hell To Pay and Soul Circus; depicting the life of an African-American private investigator Derek Strange (and his white sidekick Terry Quinn) in Washington D.C., the location of Pelecanos' all books. These three books were very fluently written crime stories with occasional flashes of brilliance, even though the black-and-white pairing of a sensible older man and a young hothead and a combination of gory violence and clean family values made me think of those morally questionable Lethal Weapon movies (sadistic violence onscreen balanced by glorifying the values of your basic American nuclear family). Though Pelecanos is far better than those dreary Mel Gibson biopics.

Nevertheless, this time we have to do without Strange's ill-fated Irish partner Terry Quinn, who isn't even born yet in the tumultous year of 1968 when Hard Revolution takes place.

In fact, the story starts even nine years earlier, in 1959, when Derek Strange is a boy of twelve hanging out with a Greek-American Billy Georgelakos whose father owns a diner where Derek's father Darius Strange works as a grill man. Derek's mother Alethea works as a maid for the family of a hardened cop Frank Vaughn and his liberal wife who continuously embarrasses Alethea with her remarks intended to show how enlightened she is on the black liberation. We are also introduced Derek's smart and bookish, "troubled but good", older brother Dennis, who gets involved with a bad company, which will be crucial in how the events of 1968 are going to unfold. Then there are a couple of obligatory white racist redneck greasers Buzz Stewart and Walter "Shorty" Hess, who will also be entwined in the later storyline. Their future associate, neighbourhood bully Dominic Martini will provoke Derek to commit a theft in a local corner store, the outcome of which event will be crucial in his later development.

A leap to 1968. Derek Strange, now 21, is a rookie cop working with his partner Troy Peters, another whitey with good intentions for the black struggle but still missing it from the actual African-American perspective. Dennis is now the black sheep of the Strange family, a small-time drug dealer carrying with him a copy of Eldridge Cleaver's Soul On Ice and hanging out with his no-good acquaintances, the murderous Alvin Jones and the womanizer Kenneth Willis. Jones and Willis plan a robbery of a local shop with Dennis Strange as their unwilling partner; while at the same time Stewart and Hess with their reluctant associate Dominic Martini -- who has given up his bullyish behaviour after a stint in Vietnam -- run over an innocent black boy in a drunken hate crime, then are going to commit together a bank robbery. As the backdrop we live the time of Martin Luther's King's murder and the ensuing Washington D.C. riots. The violent drama will unfold both on a common and private level.

Well, Hard Revolution has generally received rave reviews -- reading of which last spring made me eagerly wait for months for the paperback edition to arrive to my local bookstore -- though personally I have some reservations of my own. Perhaps this is so because I can't help comparing the works of George Pelecanos to my own favourite crime writer James Ellroy whose American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand also take place in the tumultous times of the Kennedys' and Martin Luther King's murders but are seen instead from the perspective of white racist redneck criminals and the Mob. (I just can't wait for the third installment of the trilogy, Police Gazette, which should be out in 2005.)

James Ellroy's books are furious rollercoaster rides where the distinction between "good guys" and "bad guys" is often blurred or impossible: his characters are obsessed, at their best morally ambivalent, violent, racist, crooked, greedy and sexually lusty, if not downright perverted. The outlook of Ellroy on American life is subversive, even anarchic; a critical viewpoint that could be interpreted "leftist", which is quite surprising knowing Ellroy's own conservative background. Reading American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand two years ago was something short of a revelation to me; it was like Ellroy had succeeded in totally capturing how the (American) system works; with its combined trappings of money, politics, media and crime. The mixture of well-researched historical happenings and people and convoluted fictional characters made reading those books a hell of an experience (as also Ellroy's ingenious "L.A. Quartet"). James Ellroy is clearly a man with a Vision. Perhaps Ellroy's genius is why a comparison even to such an undoubtedly excellent writer as George Pelecanos might be just unfavourable.

Nevertheless, there's no denying of Pelecanos' skills, whose writing style could be called cinematic (Pelecanos also works as a film producer); with a breakneck pace that gives the readers no chance to leave the book from his/her hands before it's over.

Also important are Pelecanos' emphasis on the African-American life and culture and the points he continually makes of the difficulty of different races living together and understanding each other (especially in opposition to Ellroy's overtly racist characters, which make reading his books sometimes problematic). I only find difficult the idealization of the "good" family life in Pelecanos' books in opposition to the "bad" life of crime. There's a sense of a black and white "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" thinking and morality familiar from the cowboy movies (Derek Strange is a big fan of Westerns, and Sergio Leone's films with Ennio Morricone's music are namechecked here often), often leading to simplistic and not totally satisfying solutions: the bad guy gets killed in the end, the hero goes back to his sweetheart and that solves it all. It's continuously emphasized what being a "man" is and what it is not, and what his "honour" consists of. Therefore these are clean-cut morality plays; I guess I personally see James Ellroy's more ambiguous psychological vision more "realistic" in comparison.

Pelecanos is also a big music fan dropping all the time references to his favourite artists and records. In his Nick Stefanos books those are mostly rock, punk, new wave and indie; here they are funk and soul -- Pelecanos has even made Derek Strange a music obsessive the type of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, knowing by heart the catalogue numbers of his favourite soul labels (there was a companion CD of 60s soul and r&b with the book's early edition). It's a matter of one's personal taste if these ongoing music references feel somewhat contrived and slow down the reading, or will they add to the Zeitgeist of the era his books are depicting.

To summarize somehow: yes, George Pelecanos is a good writer and his books are well worth reading, but in the end, they still leave something to be desired, at least to this reader.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Decisive Moment

The photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) was the Zen master of the decisive moment. One can get a perfect photograph only when they eye, heart and mind are aligned right. One has to seize the moment, the moment of truth. You can't get a picture if you want it -- they come and bite you. If you want, you don't get anything. You either get it or you don't get it.

Can you seize the decisive moment, or will you lose it forever?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

RIP: Russ Meyer

Russ Meyer, a master of sexploitation filmmaking who was called "king of the nudies" or "King Leer" for such soft-core pornography classics as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Vixen, has died. He was 82.

Russ Meyer, who also directed the major studio release Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, died Saturday 18 September 2004 at his home in the Hollywood Hills, according to his company, RM Films International Inc. Spokeswoman Janice Cowart said Meyer had suffered from dementia and died of complications of pneumonia.

Something of a one-man studio, Russ Meyer produced, directed, financed, wrote, edited and shot 23 tantalizing but teasing films that pioneered a genre of skinflicks with much violence and large-busted women but little sex. The titles of the X-rated fare that made him millions are descriptive — The Immoral Mr. Teas, Erotica, Wild Gals of the Naked West, Heavenly Bodies, Mudhoney, Mondo Topless, Common Law Cabin, Supervixens and Europe in the Raw.

"I love big-breasted women with wasp waists," he told the London Times in 1999, two decades after making his final film. "I love them with big cleavages." Little wonder that Time magazine critic Richard Corliss called Meyer's films "bosomacious melodramas" or that Meyer came to be viewed as an auteur.

In a 1996 interview with The Associated Press, Meyer described his films as "passion plays ... beauty against something that's totally evil." Meyer was unapologetic for his movies, arguing the onscreen female nudity put customers in theater seats. But he maintained that women liked the films. "The girls kick the hell out of the guys. I've always played well at the Ivy League — Cornell, Dartmouth. I have never encountered a berating woman," he said. "Stag films were the earliest version of pornographic movies, but then they got hard-core, and I didn't," he told the AP. "Mine are put-ons, send-ups, humorous. I think I've got an ability to provoke, be teasing, be provocative. "It's all a joke."

But with age came grace -- and admiration -- as Meyer's work was honoured at film festivals around the world including at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood and the National Film Theater in London. His movies were discussed in classes at Yale and Harvard, and purchased by such respectable institutions as the New York Museum of Modern Art.

In 2002, an exhibit of his striking pinup and studio still photos from the 1950s and 1960s was staged at the prestigious Feigen Gallery in New York, which also handles the work of the late caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.

When the Russ Meyer Film Festival opened at Los Angeles' Vagabond Theater in 1992, Times film writer Kevin Thomas wrote: "No one projects heterosexual male sex fantasies with greater gusto and resolute dedication than Meyer, who at heart is a puritan and who has always been a bigger tease than any burlesque queen. His world is populated with an abundance of pneumatic women carefully photographed to make them look as cantilevered as possible, dirty old men and blockhead heroes plus dialogue heavy with double-entendre."

By the time Meyer made Vixen in 1969, Thomas wrote in the 1992 article on the festival, "Meyer pictures had begun to look like good clean fun for adults, and with great disarming heartiness he tackles not only adultery, homosexuality and incest but also takes a couple of potshots at communists and racial prejudice."

Meyer's films continue to engender debate, which may explain their popularity in film classes at USC and across the country. A San Francisco Chronicle critic labeled the 1966 Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! as "the worst film ever made," but director John Waters has called it "beyond doubt, the best movie ever made … possibly better than any film that will ever be made in the future." (The film fared poorly at the box office in its original release but was a hit on the art house circuit 30 years later.) Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! is about three go-go girl club dancers who go on a vengeful murder spree against the men who did them wrong. "This film is not derogatory to women," Meyer said. "There were three tough cookies to deal with. Besides, they get what's coming."

In further homage, three rock groups have named themselves for Meyer films -- Mudhoney, Vixen and Faster Pussycat.

Because of Meyer's uncanny ability to produce visual films on a low budget -- his initial The Immoral Mr. Teas in 1959 returned $1 million on his $24,000 investment and the 1969 Vixen earned $6 million on a $76,000 investment -- then-20th Century Fox president Richard D. Zanuck hired Meyer for mainstream studio projects.

First came 1970's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a satirical in-name-only sequel to 1967's Valley of the Dolls made from the bestselling Jacqueline Susann novel. Written by movie critic Roger Ebert, the X-rated sequel proved popular and in many ways a better movie than the original. However, New York critic John Simon derided Beyond the Valley of the Dolls as "awful, stupid and preposterous" but said the film was "also weirdly funny and a real curio, rather like a Grandma Moses illustration for a work by the Marquis de Sade", according to Halliwell's Film and Video Guide. As Leonard Maltin says in his 2004 Movie and Video Guide, two "prominent critics" even selected Beyond as one of the 10 best U.S. films from 1968 to 1978.

The film was Meyer's favourite. "It is by far the most important film I ever made", he told the Toronto Star in 1995. "Roger and I embrace that one to our bosoms, or co-bosoms."

Ebert evaluated Meyer's oeuvre in an article in Playboy in 1995, the year Beyond recirculated: "Meyer uses his productions, I believe, to recapture the joy he felt during the formative and most enjoyable period of his life -- the war. It was then that he formed lifelong friendships, discovered his skill as a cameraman and experienced, in a French bordello, his sexual awakening with a buxom partner who became the archetype of the R.M. woman."

Pleased with Meyer's work on Beyond, Zanuck handed him The Seven Minutes, which was based on Irving Wallace's bestselling novel about a pornography trial. But the mainstream 1971 film, featuring such well-known character actors as Philip Carey, Yvonne De Carlo and John Carradine and also Meyer's onetime wife Edy Williams, failed at the box office.

Meyer returned to his own RM Films International Inc. and made movies that were fodder for drive-in theaters and audiences not quite ready for the blatant sex that later became standard fare. As drive-ins dwindled and tastes changed, Meyer wound down his filmmaking with Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens in 1979.

In recent years, he had discussed making another film with Ebert to be titled The Bra of God. But the project never materialized.

Born in Oakland on March 21, 1922, Meyer was the son of a police officer and a nurse. With money borrowed from his mother, he bought an 8-millimeter Univex "picture-taking machine" when he was 12 and began making amateur films.

He was in junior college when an ad for combat photographers for the Army Signal Corps lured him to Hollywood. Sent to France and Germany, Meyer was credited with shooting combat films and newsreels under some of the most dangerous conditions in World War II.

At the same time, he was honing skills for high-speed, somewhat disjointed cinematography that would force grudging critics to admire his art, however vulgar. Even critics who panned his movies praised his work behind the camera.

After the war, Meyer worked as a cinematographer for Southern Pacific Railroad and occasionally was a still photographer on studio sets, including Guys and Dolls and Giant.

He also began photographing models for nude magazines and parlayed that expertise into photographing some of the first centerfold layouts for Playboy magazine. He married one of the playmates, Eve Turner, for whom he named his first company, Eve Productions.

In 1992, Meyer published his three-volume autobiography, Clean Breast: The Life and Loves of Russ Meyer with such chapter titles as "Mammaries Are Made of This."

Meyer married and divorced and lived with a series of models, playmates, strippers and actresses. His studio said he left no survivors.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Exotica Of Extreme Japan

Japan intrigues me in all its extremity and its certain cultural manifestations, which can seem totally strange and weird for a Western observer.

I emphasize I don't want to fall into any Euro-centric, xenophobic or even racistic prejudices here. "White man's burden" type of colonialistic thinking is always typified by its morbid fascination with anything reeking of "exoticism", "alien", "other" -- which can sometimes make "healthy" (or "scientific") interest in foreign cultures seem problematic or at least ambivalent.

Think of, for example, the Western interest in Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, etc.) which started with the 19th century Theosophists, continued with C.G. Jung and found its modern expression in the 1950s with American Beat Generation writers; or any phenomenon of "tribal" culture found from the so called Third World countries or the outskirts of "our" civilization: the "new primitivism" and its fascination with Native American cultures both in North and South America, the 1950s "Tiki" fad of Hawaiian/Polynesian origin, fashionable Maori tattoos of New Zealand, the all-encompassing New Age mysticism combining Hopi Indian beliefs to Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism; even the whole genre of "World Music", just to mention some examples.

Of course, as mentioned, it can get very difficult to discern the faddish interest in anything "exotic" from the genuine interest and sympathy for foreign cultures, and it's not really my task to find out which is which actually. Perhaps one can find here certain traces of Rousseau's 18th century "Back to Nature" thinking, but personally I'm more interested now in the hybrids of so called primitive or traditional cultures with our technological, modern way of life. Therefore Japan.

It's fascinating how in Japanese culture one can find Western influences that have mutated into something totally different and new, when it finds its expression in Japanese milieu and its characteristic and traditional way of thinking, code of conduct and mentality, which can appear as peculiar to us Westerners. I understand that Japanese tradition emphasizes heavily group pressure and conformity which can seem totally opposite to Western ideas of individualism and "personal freedom".

Could it be that certain expressions of contemporary Japanese culture are then some sort of "safety valves" to let off this steam: that mental pressure which is created by a strongly conforming culture? Thus, for example the often extremely violent/sexual content of manga comics or Japanese film could be expression of this psychopathology which can't be outvented in any other way in society which emphasizes a strict code of conduct, honour and conformity. And therefore these explicit and even antisocial, often unaccepted forms of expression act, in fact, as a preserving factor in society?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Japanese Red Army

A wave of student radicalism swept through the whole world in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Vietnam war, American civil rights movement, May of 1968 in Paris, the "Spring of Prague" followed by Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in the same year and the 1973 military coup in Chile were catalysts in this international turmoil. Here in Finland the pinnacle of cultural radicalism was the Marxist-Leninist Taistolaiset movement, who leaned heavily in their ideology towards the Soviet Union. There was a lot of heated discussion on revolutionary dialectism, but in the end the dogmatic Taistolaiset rhetoric was more violent than their actions. This was not the case in Japan, however, where the terrorist organisation Japanese Red Army was formed.

The Japanese Red Army had its roots in the leftist student movement, who opposed the US-Japan security treaty of 1960, which was renewed ten years later. Japan hosted American military bases, and arms shipments (including napalm) and maintenance for the Vietnam war were operated from these bases. Furthermore, the leftist students pointed an accusing finger to Japan's own past as a "fascistic occupator".

The revolt against high officials started at the elite university of Todai as well as at Nichidai, which was a more working class-based university with the massive attendance of 100.000 students. In 1967 in the village of Sanzurika north of Tokyo students together with local farmers were waging war with the government over the construction of Narita International Airport. Farmers were expected to relocate from the lands of their ancestors, which they refused, and they were joined by students who saw the construction of Narita purely in geopolitical terms. Students also blocked in October 1968 the Shinjuku Railway Station through which travelled the trains carrying arms supplies meant for the Vietnamese war. The student activist organisation Zenkyoto demanded academic reforms and democratization of the university. Different Japanese activist factions were known for their helmets of different colours (for example, Communists wore yellow helmets): these were useful in the incidents of gebabo or gewalt, violent staves.

Zenkyoto prevented the entrance examination for fiscal year by barricades and then they occupied the Yasuda Hall of Todai in January 1969. There was a riot police siege around the building and Molotov cocktails were thrown. When the occupation ended after three days, 768 students were arrested, 170 policemen and 47 students having been injured.

The Yasuda incident was a major blow for the Japanese student movement, after which took place the fragmention into various of socialist, communist and anarchist fractions.

Some of those undertook the way of armed revolt. The Red Army, which had reorganised itself in 1971, attacked banks and police stations. They carried out a series of attacks around the world: the most notorious was the machine gun and grenade attack at Israel's Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion) in 1972, a massacre which left 26 dead and 78 injured. There were also two Japanese airliner hijackings -- in 1970 a Red Army faction forced a JAL plane to fly to the North Korean capital Pyongyang -- and an attempted takeover of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The group based itself in Lebanon in the 1970s, where they linked up with Palestinian extremists.

On February 19, 1972, five members of the Red Army, or Rengô Sekigun, took a hostage and shut themselves up in a Asama mountain villa in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, but were finally arrested on February 28. The battle between the radicals and the police was broadcast live on television: both NHK and commercial broadcasters relayed more than 10 hours of footage of the incident. Police ended the siege by crushing the villa with a crane and demolition ball. After the suppression of the revolt, it turned out that the far-left radicals had committed brutal purge murders within themselves under the name of sôkatsu (summary) while they were leading a fugitive life. To many people the Asama Sansô incident meant the final failure of the New Left mass movement. Purge murder victims numbered 12. Three were shot dead in the Asama Sansô battle.

Radical film-makers such as Shinsuke Ogawa also joined the student revolt with their controversial films (not to talk about the era's other films of subversion and violence, or such Japanese sexploitation genres as pink eiga or roman porno -- and of course Nagisa Oshima's In the Realm of Senses). Shinsuke had already documented the struggle against the construction of the Narita Airport.

Films directed by Koji Wakamatsu, Yoshishige Yoshida, Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima pursued revolutionary politics and questioned the repressive side of Japanese society. After 1968, Wakamatsu's films had become increasingly political -- not least because Wakamatsu's screenwriter Masao Adachi became heavily involved with the politics of the extreme left. Adachi, who directed seven pink eiga, eventually became a member of the Japanese Red Army. In 1973 he left Japan to join the Palestinian Liberation Front PFLP in Lebanon where he stayed until he was extradited to Japan in March 2000. After a trial and brief prison term, he has returned to the film industry with plans for a new movie.

In April 1988, Japanese Red Army operative Yu Kikumura was arrested with explosives on the New Jersey Turnpike, apparently planning an attack to coincide with the bombing of a USO club in Naples, a suspected JRA operation that killed five, including a US servicewoman. He was convicted of the charges and is serving a lengthy prison sentence in the United States. Tsutomu Shirosaki, captured in 1996, is also jailed in the United States. In 2000, Lebanon deported to Japan four members it arrested in 1997, but granted a fifth operative, Kozo Okamoto, political asylum. Red Army's long-time leader Fusako Shigenobu, "the Red Queen", was arrested in Osaka in November 2000 after having been previously living in Lebanon for thirty years.

Friday, September 17, 2004

John Titor Hoax

John Titor was (will be?) supposedly a time traveller from 2036, who visited our era in 2000 and 2001, and left behind him a trail of e-mail messages telling a bit about the times to come. According to Mr. Titor, USA should be in for another Civil War, starting just about these days. Well, wake me up when it starts. It's amazing how time after time people fall for these prophets of doom: the world should have ended myriads of times now, if all the predictions put forth in the course of world history would have become reality. The idea of apocalypse is obviously deeply ingrained in our culture. I admit I have an interest in all things called "paranormal" or "supernatural" or whatever, but then, I guess I'm a bit of a sucker for anything fanciful. Unfortunately, in my own life I haven't experienced much anything out of ordinary, except perhaps some occasions of synchronistic telepathy, some vague forebodings of future happenings (not actually "knowing" what's going to happen, but just a feeling that something is "in the air"), but then, maybe there's really nothing "supernatural" about having developed a sort of an intuition about people and the connections of this world. (I wish I had a time machine now: my allotted time here at the library computer is about to end, and I can't write more today.)

Some spooky things @ pHinnWeb

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Geography Of Violence

He wanted to live like Native Americans of his romantic fantasies, but the desert of brownstone was the only dwelling he knew of. Its forests were asphalt and concrete, its air dust and exhaust fumes, its territorial marks stains of oil and graffitis. Everyone passing him on the street was a stranger; everyone was alone in the crowd. The tribes would gather evenings at bars, kept in touch through the Internet. In the end everyone was lonely, and as for him, he was a wanderer in the desolation of stone. Only reflections everywhere in the maze of mirrors, his face repeated thousand-fold and distorted. The fragile mirror people easily broken; everyone of them a seven years' misfortune. His face was tempered into a mask which didn't let any emotions through. He was only passing through, the ostensible indifference was the means of survival in the city.

By night the city became a labyrinth of fear. The predators surfaced out of their hiding holes: the beasts pushed into a corner, knowing no other recourse than to attack. It was wisest only to walk fast; not to glance around if one didn't want to end up in the middle of a turf struggle, where everyone could become the victim of random, senseless violence. It was the only way to react for those downtrodden and pushed into a corner; the only indication of power they didn't really have: a turf fight over a filthy patch of the street. When one was part of a gang, it was easy to kick a lonely victim in the head; a victim who had no ways to defend oneself or to fight back. The only reason for this punishment being that one was in the wrong time in the wrong place.

The anatomy of a human beast was created in the suburbs where tens of children were pushed into school classes, being taught from the very beginning that one was no-one and nothing, and nothing matters. The parents were not interested: just warm up yourself some pizza in the microwave oven, here's a tenner, now get off my feet. The upbringing was taken care by the street and violent entertainment of TV, movies and computer games. No responsibility for anything or anyone. Thus is created human filth. Rats pushed into a corner.

Simulacra Dolorosa

The world has fragmented into smithereens, everything having become simulation. If you hit, beat up, shoot one into a bloody mess with pump-action shotgun; hack off body members and the head with samurai sword, it's all only a game on computer display. Critics keep praising the genius of his generation, a film director churning out ballets of gore for the silver screen, manifacturing corpses as if on a conveyor belt, accompanied by spurting spray of blood.

Jesus himself has become a character in the cinema of violence, whose ardous torture to death these so called Christians queue up to see, enjoying the righteous suffering. Suicide bombers wishing to become martyrs blow up themselves and hundreds of bystanders into pieces, thus securing themselves their place in paradise with lovely maidens and flowing honey (at least this is what they are made to believe). The only existing superpower and its military industry keep each other propped up, when cluster bombs grind towns into the ground, and the propaganda machinery of television takes care that people get their daily violence porn, for which the tone is set up political and religious leaven. Killing is a big business.

At the homefront, though, the greatest concern is for how many mobile phones they are able to sell this year, will they keep their market share, or will they have to transfer their factories to the third world countries. If there was another crash, one could spectate again stockbrokers making fancy dives off the skyscraper windows, just as on the 11th of September, when the New York skyline was filled with the sight of burning people.

Life mediated through the computer screen, TV, mobile phone display -- not as lived. It is even easier to retreat into the artificially created virtual worlds, even harder to exit them. The spectacle factory manufactures dreams for the masses. While the "real" reality means endless queues to the supermarket cash register, the grey sky drizzling sleet, a wino vomiting bile, the artificial reality of mass entertainment offers us the life of luxury for millionaires at a French chateau, the butler picking up a bottle of champagne from the frosty silver bucket and popping it open; supermodels with long legs exiting stretch limousines in the crossfire of flashlights. Well, at least this is the dream they want to sell us through TV and gossipy magazines.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Deep-focus photography

BBC News Website tells that a specially shaped camera lens and processing method to ensure images are always in focus has been developed. This research started for military purposes (what else?). Deep-focus is the same technique Gregg Toland used for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.

Monday, September 13, 2004


"The future holds nothing but confrontation."
- Public Enemy

I see life as an ongoing conflict. A conflict between not only individuals, economies, and nations but also of hierarchies, ideologies, religions and hegemonies. Conflicting interests, wishes, hopes and dreams. Even though Friedrich Nietzsche has become every tyrant's and bully's best friend, Nietzsche's idea of "Will To Power" still prevails. Every day is a struggle for survival on multiple levels. Is this struggle really necessary for our continuing existence and improvement or could we actually do without it? We have been dehumanized and turned into a part of machinery. Efficiency and ability to compete with others require that, or so they say. One has to compete with one's fellow human beings for education, jobs and income, finding a mate, housing; if you're an artist or a creative person, for publicity; just on every imaginable field of life. I have to be ready to be resourceful, competitive, aggressive and ensure my own Lebensraum, by any means necessary. To rip open throats with my bare teeth if required, but do it in the nicest and most business-like way necessary:

"There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill"
- John Lennon: 'Working Class Hero'

And not everyone can take this competion in the long run; there are people who can't stand a chance in the first place. Thus are created society's miscasts, the people on the fringe, the people which you see on the street and pace up. Don't get deceived by the game: for everyone who's bound to win, there are masses of those who don't.

There are those who think the current system or way of life can't last. Therefore, how about an alternative paradigm, based on co-operation and helping each other, instead of competition and dog-eat-dog? In the long run, our survival may even depend on that.