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.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Michel Onfray On The Slavery By Economists

These following quoted excerpts (via Voima magazine) are from Michel Onfray's book The Politics of a Rebel. A Study on Resistance and Uncompromising Nature. The English translation from Finnish version by Tapani Kilpeläinen (and all ensuing mistakes) my own.

"In the politics the incurably melancholic are only those who want to keep the rules of the game unchanged: capitalism winning as the unruly, infuriated liberalism. It is to the advantage of them to promote the idea that there is only an enormous global movement we can't disengage ourselves from. Without the spirit of oppositional resistance to the totalitarism of standardized thinking, the economic monotheism and the end of history will soon force one to obey their own laws, thus accomplishing a dictatorship with no equal in history."

So, this is how Michel Onfray writes. I think 'Economism' is the one, only and true religion of our days; the economists being the high priests, and the stock exchanges being the temples of worship. 'Liberalism', the word loved by the economists is nothing but a pernicious oxymoron since the notion of 'liberty' included in that very word means the total opposite of freedom for the great majority -- who work more and earn less to keep the minority of economists and shareholders satisfied. One should think that automation, computers and new technology would decrease people's workload, but in these days of quartal capitalism it seems people (i.e., those 'happy ones' still holding on to their jobs in the age of mass unemployment) have to work longer hours under greater stress to maintain their current living standard, and to meet the demands of this well-greased machinery. Michael Onfray goes on here:

"Technology in itself is not good or evil, but its use dictates whether it's excellent or not. Therefore one has to celebrate and develop all technologies, the novelty of which allows economy, or, prevents the kind of sacrificing of dignity which is allowed under capitalistic means of production."

"The machine should not be submitted only to its owner seeking profit and benefit, but also to the relieving of any tasks and even to reducing the working hours. This preconceives the ethical regulation of mechanization and blind production. Every such victory in ethics would mean the retreat of the devout ideology of the believers in capital."

"Returning enchantment to the world can only happen by ending the religiously celebrated economism which is now understood as the only possible social bond. It is vitally necessary to subordinate the economy to the laws of politics. As long as the contrary situation goes on, only the law of marketplace can win, without there being any counterbalance. Thanatos has been chosen as the protecting god of the unrestrained capitalism. Its shadow and its cross, its fetishistic divinity are to blame for the burnt offering and daily sacrifices made to it."

"To work less, better and in other ways, to separate the income and the workload: one has to strive for economy which is submitted to the people and their liberation, to serve the cause of people reclaiming themselves back to themselves."

Monday, September 06, 2004

Yo-Talo, Tampere

"A man of some intelligence cannot fail, in any environment where fate thrusts him, to become interested in its workings however much he may dislike or disapprove of them. Thus reluctant, scholarly conscripts study regimental histories, and professional men who've fallen by the wayside write excellent studies about jails."

- Colin MacInnes

When you're 18, a person of 25 seems awfully old. So, I can't even imagine my case in the eyes of these youngsters. In any case, the Yo-Talo club of Tampere, Finland, has been my regular haunting place for over twelve years now.

A bit about the background of Yo-Talo, which is short for "Ylioppilastalo" (Student Union House), an old Jugendstil house from the early 20th century. Yo-Talo's bar is called "Pankki" ("Bank"); the name coming from the building's original purpose as an office of Yhdyspankki, which was built in 1901, designed by the architect Gustav Nyström, who had studied in Vienna, which influenced also the Austrian-style of Jugend (known also as Art Deco) of this building. The street level was used as a bank hall for the customers, the bank vault was located in the basement, and the luxurious upstairs apartments were spared for the high executives of the bank.

In 1912 there was revealed an embezzlement by the bank director Nils Idman, who had among all given loose credit to his personal friends. The losses in current money were about 23.5 million euros. Mr. Idman was sentenced to prison for fifteen years. Also bankrupted alongside Nils Idman was his brother Fredrik "Fedi" Idman, who had guaranteed loans for the said bank. Fedi, who was in charge of Hatanpää's Mansion, had to sell his enormous property to the City of Tampere.

The building still housed the bank until the Second World War, after which it was used as municipal offices and warehouses. The building was donated to the Tampere University's Student Union in 1967, which was the start of the now-legendary Yo-Talo club, hosting gigs for many famous rock bands and disco nights. Nowadays Yo-Talo works as a corporated restaurant, successfully run by one Mr. Timo Isomäki, the stocky Renaissance Prince-like character with curly long hair.

It's quite easy for me to find my way to Yo-Talo, since I only live two blocks from there, I've got a VIP card entitling me to jump the long Saturday night queue of punters behind the door and get in free (yes, before I got the card I've spent many chilling winter night hours quieing up) and they sell me cheap bewerages! But in my defense I've got to say that I've worked to receive my VIP status, unlike some people who've just been lucky to know the right people... Bastards. Namely, I've DJed many a night at Yo-Talo; with Club Telex and some other events.

What kind of people usually frequent Yo-Talo, then? Students, of course, but increasingly teenyboppers and local B-boys. I'm old enough to remember the old school of the Yo-Talo goers of post-punk generation and the heyday of old Suomirock; the current uniform of which were the black second-hand jackets and jeans. Today it's mostly watered-down MTV/R&B style, nothing too flashy or sexy though, or the recycled "ironic" 70s/80s gear of indie pop fans, often bought second-hand from the UFF shops (Scandinavian counterpart to UK's Oxfam).

In the mid-to-late 1990s the Britpop style and bands were popular at Yo-Talo, but since the Tampere Britpoppers got too old (or moved to Helsinki), the emphasis has moved to hip hop/R&B styles or whatever the indie kids are into these days: the NME-celebrated bands of the new wave of garage rock or punk-funk or (God forbid) a sort of electroclash style. But anything by The Smiths or Depeche Mode is bound to fill the Yo-Talo dancefloor even these days.

As for me, I'm quite content with my outsider position among these elfish teenyboppers and little white B-boys of Yo-Talo. Sipping my beer or cider alone somewhere in the youthful crowd of the whiz bang pow kids, watching their silly drunken antics. Sometimes I might meet a friend to talk to but these days more often than not I'm there just on my own, as "Just Another Fucking Observer". I guess the kids are thinking that this funny-looking old geezer in tinted aviator spectacles, black combat fatigues and electro T-shirts is always there, like as part of the furniture, but I don't mind.

The good thing about Yo-Talo is that it's always relatively peaceful there; you don't get any old drunks vomiting all over you or wasting your time with some incomprehensible babble, or any latent psychopaths on amphetamine trying to beat you up, since those people frequent just the other bars in Tampere.

The Yo-Talo's programme is usually just the same: during the week days band nights or various clubs dedicated to DJ music; every Saturday a disco night, which follow each other weekly approximately in this order: Alternative Night by DJs Henkka & Mikko, Pauli Kallio's Rhythm and Groove (old soul, funk and new R&B), Bigpop with DJs Sami and Riku (a.k.a. Tampere's drum'n'bass king Infekto) and the latest newcomer, OK Pop with DJs Antti Lähde and Antti Koivumäki, who replaced the Britpop-run Pop-Disko with DJs Tero and Jani (towards the end Tero and Jani got increasingly arrogant; giggling drunk to themselves and competing on how cheesy one could go, with the trashiest hit songs of the yesteryear: Don Johnson's 'Heartbeat', 'Together We Are Strong' by Julio Iglesias and Pia Zadora, and so on).

Other DJs don't usually make much of a fuss of themselves; only Sami and Riku are willing to provide some sort of a "show": towards the end of the night they take their shirts off and do a wild dance standing over the DJ booth, shouting to the people to raise their hands; often the sleeves of 12-inch records as their headgear (alcohol probably has something to contribute to this extraordinary performance). It's silly, to say the least, but the people -- who are by this time piss-drunk -- seem to go nuts every time; especially when these DJs play crap yesteryear's hits like Europe's 'Final Countdown'.

The thing with Yo-Talo's disco nights is that when you have frequented them for a while, you'll find out that the DJs always play pretty much the same songs, without daring to divert from the "formula" or "playlist" and taking the risk of draining the dancefloor, so sometimes it feels they might as well replace the DJs with a jukebox filled to the brim with all the crowd-pleasing "hits", such as Beyoncé's 'Crazy In Love' or Outkast's 'Hey Ya'. And The Smiths. This playing it for safe used to really irritate me, but I'm beyond caring now. (See: Discophrenia.)

I don't know: maybe I'm too old for this club shit, but on the other hand I don't have much else in my life to spend my weekend evenings with. For me it's obligatory socializing since I very much tend to be of a loner type: anything to avoid cabin fever and becoming too strange on your own. So, Yo-Talo is my easy option there. I used to bother about it -- shouldn't I get a life finally, and leave this whole scene behind -- but I guess now I'm beyond all care.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Trappings Of An Ego

When you're young, you think you're immortal. One day you will find it's not exactly so. My failing health has made that notion painfully clear since the last couple of months and drained me of some of my simple-minded vitality. Perhaps that relentless need to keep pushing on is one of the reasons to my recent ailments: in the way of psychosomatic symptoms. I'm a combination of physical frailty and a sort of mental vitality, I think.

I'm afraid to say I'm a bit of a narcissistic personality, though I can't claim to draw attention to myself through my pretty face, handsome body, my person or my external habitus, but through the things I do. I'm very much a "you are what you do and anything else doesn't matter" person. That's probably because of my upbringing, the environment I grew up in, and so on. There was (and is) a certain pressure around me all the time to be ambitious, to "do things in life" but on the other way, to conform. One grows up under conflicting forces, each of them pushing in different directions; the result being one becomes a cracked personality, slightly at least. And if one intends to stay "whole", there seems to be no other option than "The Great Refusal". The refusal not to conform, the refusal to follow no other path which is not of one's own choosing only, the refusal not to do things because "everyone else" is doing them. And that refusal can make one's life very hard, though admittedly, interesting too. Double bind, double bind, double bind.

One of the basic traits of my personality is, I think, that I thrive on people's admiration, and feel crushed if I receive any negative feedback or no attention at all. Yes, another ego trap. That's probably a major reason why I stopped my academic studies: I felt like a total nobody at the university. I only managed to get some positive attention with my extracurricular activities: when I started pHinnWeb.

Let me tell here about Finnish culture. Here in Finland being modest, not boasting or making a fuss of oneself, is considered a virtue. Which is to cause certain friction with today's international culture of emphasizing the meaning of the individual's virtues; in other words, the current "Me Me Me" cult of business and entertainment! No wonder I feel awkward all the time when I ought to be doing "PR" for myself, and on the other hand, when the domestic culture around me doesn't exactly accept that sort of behaviour. Another double bind.

I think I'm a very utilitaristic person; I just can't "hang out" with people and talk niceties with them unless I can feel it serves a certain purpose. Otherwise I get bored, become uninterested. Are people there for me just to be used, for different purposes serving myself; do they not have any meaning to me just as themselves? It is a very grim thought, but I can't get rid of it. Sometimes I feel there's something very unhuman in me: as if I was only some sort of a machine, which has to keep rolling on for a certain goal, and everything else along the road would be just a vehicle to reach that goal...

Again, do not think that I would accept here submitting to the role of a typical psychobabble therapy talk victim. I know I possess a strong tendency to introspection, to psychoanalyze myself all the time (which can get tedious, I admit); perhaps that constant need to reassess myself is there to save me from the worst excesses of selfishness, being ego-centred, narcissism, of becoming an unfeeling psychopathic monster. Perhaps...

I only wish now I was in a better physical health. Gentlemen don't talk about their health problems, but then, I guess I'm not a gentleman (add big smiley here).