Sunday, May 31, 2009

Valgkamp 2009 - Landsmøtevideoer

Som en del av min ortogonale valgkampdekning forsøker jeg å se alt som er lagt ut av videoer fra de aktuelle partienes landsmøter. Her er noen lav- og høydepunkter så langt, de fleste av dem fra Fremskrittspartiets landsmøte, fordi de har den overlegent beste tilstedeværelsen på YouTube.

Aina Stenersen, leder i Oslo FpU, roper høyt om kriminalpolitikk, til vekselvis overbærende smil, flauhet og applaus fra forsamlingen:

Mette Hanekamhaug fra FrP snakker om integrering slik jeg skulle ønske partiet alltid gjorde det, med fokus på likestilling og valgfrihet. I den grad jeg sympatiserer med FrP i dette spørsmålet er det med det som sies her.

Mazyar Keshvari i FrP synes vi skal slutte å snakke med alle land vi er uenige med:

Ove Vanebo, leder av FpU, argumenterer for aktiv dødshjelp utifra gode liberale prinsipper:

Dakars Henrik Asheim, leder i Unge Høyre, er et "offer" for rødgrønn skolepolitikk. Han og hele hans generasjon har blitt utsatt for et "ran" som har sørget for at "tusenvis av ungdom" har fått "drømmene sine knust". Jeg får plutselig et bilde av Håkon Lie som stormer inn på scenen, trekker gutten etter øra ut i bakgården, og banker ham opp.


Valgkamp 2009 - Miljøvern

I valgkampåpningen foretok jeg en kjapp og usaklig oppsummering av partiene det er uaktuelt at jeg stemmer på i år. Kun Venstre, Høyre og Fremskrittspartiet står igjen. Jeg er en vingler, og har sjelden stemt på samme parti to valg på rad, men det har som regel vært ett av disse tre. Det er de jeg nå vil fokusere på, ett emne om gangen. I dag: Miljøvern.

Jeg har et ambivalent forhold til miljøvern. Jeg er for miljøvern, men skeptisk til miljøvernere. De framstår ofte som dogmatiske, med en naturmystisisme jeg ikke deler. Miljøvern er til for mennesket. Ingen skal leve i fattigdom for å bevare utrydningstruete dyrearter eller lette på rike idealisters samvittighet. Samtidig er det først og fremst verdens fattige som lider av miljøproblemer og klimakaos.

FrP har liten troverdighet i dette spørsmålet. De har tonet ned klimaskepsisen, (en skepsis jeg ikke deler lenger), men det er tydelig at for FrP er miljøvern en pliktsak. Lyspunktet er at de er åpne for kjernekraft. Kanskje er det et blindspor, men isåfall et forfriskende udogmatisk blindspor.

Høyre står litt sånn midt i mellom.

Venstre kommer klart best ut. Jeg liker ambisjonene, og selv om jeg tror mange av de foreslåtte tiltakene vil være dyre og/eller meningsløse, så må noen gå i front for å eksperimentere med løsninger, for å finne ut hva som fungerer, og gjøre nye oppdagelser. Hvis ikke Norge, hvem?

Oppsummert i blogbite-vennlig logoform:


Saturday, May 30, 2009

At least I knew it was a game

My captor now lifted the wire noose until I stood. I was conscious, as I have been on several similar occasions, that we were in some sense playing a game. We were pretending that I was totally in his power, when in fact I might have refused to rise until he had either strangled me or called over some of his comrades to carry me. I could have done several other things as well - seized the wire and tried to wrest it from him, struck him in the face. I might have escaped, been killed, been rendered unconscious, or plunged into agony; but I could not actually be forced to do as I did.

At least I knew it was a game, and I smiled as he sheathed Terminus Est and led me to where Jonas stood.

Jonas said, "We've done no harm. Return my friend's sword and give us back our animals, and we will go."

There was no reply. In silence the two praetorians (four fluthering sparrows, it seemed) caught our destriers and led them away. How like us those animals were, walking patiently they knew not where, their massive heads following thin strips of leather. Nine-tenths of life, so it seems to me, consists of these surrenders.
- Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator


40's movies marathon - part 10

Errol Flynn as Jeb Stuart, being treated by happy, recaptured slaves in Santa Fe Trail (1940)Raymond Massey as John Brown in Santa Fe Trail (1940)Ronald Reagan as George Custer, and Errol Flynn as Jeb Stuart, in Santa Fe Trail (1940)Santa Fe Trail (1940, USA) - John Brown and his gang of evil abolitionists terrorize Kansas in the 1850's, but Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan come to the rescue. The overall message is that reasonable people may disagree about slavery, but only fanatics are strongly opposed to it, and it's a shame that Northern abolitionists caused a civil war over such a minor issue. In one surreal scene, one of the bad guys, acting all shifty and evil, tries to smuggle runaway slaves on the train. In another, slaves freed by Brown welcome their recapture by the army, because they miss their owners. Watched it all, mostly because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I'm not sure what fascinates me more: The real history of John Brown, (who arguably was a terrorist), or the fact that a pro-slavery telling of his story stars major actors and a future president - and was one of the top movies of the year. IMDB reviewers say Santa Fe Trail is an inaccurate but honest look at the origins of the Civil War, which is fucking stupid.

Pride and Prejudice (1940, USA) - I think I can only stand upper class twits when they're being murdered or being decadent. Here they're fluttering about like butterflies, trying to land advantageous marriages. Good God, why?! Watched: 12 minutes.

The Mummy's Hand (1940, USA) - A secret Egyptian priesthood has kept a mummy alive but imprisoned for 3000 years. Stupid pseudo-archeologists arrive. Watched: 25 minutes.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mors stupebit et natura, cum resurget creatura

Juno Reactor - Tanta Pena

The Arch - Ribdancer

Juno Reactor - Conquistador I

Juno Reactor - Conquistador II


Endeavored to wear it ever since

As if some invisible hand had spread a curtain over us, the shadows of the trees fell upon the howdah. The glitter of billions of shards of glass was left behind with the staring of the dead eyes, and we entered into the coolness and green shade of the high forest. Among those mighty trunks even the baluchither, though he stood three times the height of a man, seemed no more than a little, scurrying beast [..]

And it came to me that these trees had been hardly smaller when I was yet unborn, and had stood as they stood now when I was a child playing among the cypresses and peaceful tombs of our necropolis, and that they would stand yet, drinking in the last light of the dying sun, even as now, when I had been dead as long as those who rested there. I saw how little it weighed on the scale of things whether I lived or died, though my life was precious to me. And of those two thoughts I forged a mood by which I stood ready to grasp each smallest chance to live, yet in which I cared not too much whether I saved myself or not. By that mood, as I think, I did live; it has been so good a friend to me that I have endeavored to wear it ever since, succeeding not always, but often.
- Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In the gutty, in the grutty, down the rooves and all the scruppy

Stanley Unwin - The Pidey Pipeload of Hamling

Stanley Unwin - The Populode of the Musicolly


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

40's moves marathon - part 9

The Letter (1940, USA) - Bette Davis kills a man who tries to rape her, but, this being film noir, (the first in this marathon), there "is in existence a letter" which undermines that story. Features Davis at her manipulative best. The story is set in British Singapore, a place where the Chinese fall into one of two categories: Ingratiating crooks, and insidious Fu Manchus. Watched it all.

Where's That Fire (1940, UK) - Will Hay is an incompetent fireman. Hilarity ensues. Watched: 7 minutes.

One Million B.C.
(1940, USA) "Now keep in mind he can't control / When the movies begin or end / Because he used the extra parts / To make his robot friends." Watched: 12 minutes.

Kitty Foyle (1940, USA) - Women were much happier before they got the vote. Now they must work, and choose a husband, and even fight with men for a seat on the bus. Watched: 11 minutes.

The Blue Bird (1940, USA) - Yargh! It's Mecha-Shirley Temple! Run! Watched: 37 seconds.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940, USA) - Starving farmers go on a road trip in post-apocalyptic America. The only place that treats them right is a collectivist farm run by a Department of Agriculture official who looks like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, after which both Tom Joad and his mother ascend, he to become the Spirit of the Revolution, she to become the Spirit of the American People. Watched it all.

Labels: ,

A perfect moment, (a recipe)

1. A new pair of ear plugs that block out surrounding sounds and sit comfortably in my ear.
2. Two albums with a high nostalgic value: Neil Young's Harvest, and Tangerine Dream's Tyger.
3. An hour or so on the bus, with a good book to read.

It's raining. Traffic is slow. The bus scratches another car, stops for a while, throws everybody out. New bus, more waiting. None of it matters. Traffic stops and starts, it's all just part of the scenery. I'm not even reading any more, just looking out the window, smiling.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Valgkamp 2009 herved åpnet

Det er Stortingsvalg i år. Jeg liker valg - det er alltid fint å få bekreftet hvem som egentlig bestemmer - men jeg hater valgkampen i mediene. Planen i år er derfor å avholde min egen personlige valgkamp, ortogonalt med den andre.

Et av målene med valgkampen er å finne et parti å stemme på, noe jeg synes det er greit å gjøre så tidlig som mulig, (men ikke tidligere). Men først: partiene som ikke engang er oppe til vurdering.

RødtFor: Vi har prøvd kommunisme i resten av verden, så da kan vi like godt prøve det i Norge også. Kanskje det ikke blir sultkatastrofe denne gangen.
Mot: Jeg slipper neppe inn i partieliten, og må derfor stå i kø som alle andre.

Sosialistisk VenstrepartiFor: Tiden i regjering har avslørt dem som lydige sosialdemokrater.
Mot: Se neste parti.

ArbeiderpartietFor: Pålitelige administratorer som ikke gjør noe ugagn.
Mot: Sosialdemokratiet har oppnådd sine mål. Alt de har bygget som er verdt å ta vare på er ukontroversielt over hele spekteret, fra SV til FrP. Slipp til noen andre nå.

Kristelig FolkepartiFor: Deus vult.
Mot: Gud er død. Religion i politikk burde følge etter.

SenterpartietFor: Ren og skjær vrangvilje?
Mot: Alle sosialdemokratiets tåpeligste og farligste ideer samlet på ett sted.

Lesere som kan telle vil se at det nå gjenstår minst 10 aktuelle partier og lister. Ytterst observante lesere vil imidlertid innse at alle unntatt 3 av disse, (muligens enda færre), kun utgjør øvelser i lokal- og/eller ekstremdemokrati, og trygt kan avfeies.

Neste: Jakten fortsetter!

Labels: ,

40's movies marathon - part 8

The Mark of Zorro (1940, USA) - A perfect Zorro, far better than any swashbuckler Errol Flynn ever made. But why nobody connects the voice of the masked bandit with the recently arrived gentleman from Spain, and why Zorro thinks he can be a hero of both the people and the nobility of California, is beyond me. Watched it all.

The Torrid Zone (1940, USA) - I'm fascinated by Hollywood's use of banana republics as an oasis of dirty bars, loose women and gentlemen rogues. Not enough to watch this, though. Watched: 8 minutes.

Arizona (1940, USA) - Civil War era Tucson is a place of folksy, enterprising American men, and one folksy, enterprising American woman, all trying to carve out a living while the threat of war, bandits and injuns hangs over their heads. Most Westerns deal with the breakdown of law and order, but here there's a sense of there being no society at all except what individuals build for themselves, giving the movie the feel of a political manifesto. You almost expect Lazarus Long to show up. Watched it all.

Down Argentine Way (1940, USA) - From this failed government attempt at courting Latin American opinion (true!), we learn that Argentina is both exotic, friendly and safe. Why, the aristocrats are so friendly and safe that they only speak English, and require translators when they talk to the stereotypical commoners who serve them. Watched: 8 minutes.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not at all times have been so bold

In the brown book in my sabretache there was the tale of an angel who, coming to Urth on some petty mission or other, was struck by a child's arrow and died. With her gleaming robes all dyed by her heart's blood even as the boulevards were stained by the expiring life of the sun, she encountered Gabriel himself. His sword blazed in one hand, his great two-headed ax swung in the other, and across his back, suspended on the rainbow, hung the very battle horn of Heaven. "Where wend you, little one," asked Gabriel, "with your breast more scarlet than the robin's?" "I am killed," the angel said, "and I return to merge my substance once more with the Pancreator. "Do not be absurd. You are an angel, a pure spirit, and cannot die." "But I am dead," said the angel, "nevertheless." You have observed the wasting of my blood - do you not observe also that it no longer issues in straining spurtings, but only seeps sluggishly? Note the pallor of my countenance. Is not the touch of an angel warm and bright? Take my hand and you will imagine you hold a horror new dragged from some stagnant pool. Taste my breath - is it not fetid, foul, and nidorous?" Gabriel answered nothing, and at last the angel said, "Brother and better, even if I have not convinced you with all my proofs, I pray you stand aside. I would rid the universe of my presence." "I am convinced indeed," Gabriel said, stepping from the other's way. "It is only that I was thinking that had I known we might perish, I would not at all times have been so bold."
- Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer


Never believe anything you read about Norway or Scandinavia

Here's some advice for my foreign readers.

Every once in a while pundits bring up Scandinavia as an example of why one should or should not walk down some political or cultural road. In American politics, Sweden in particular is the archetype of socialism and cultural liberalism, but Norway may be used instead if that better proves the point one is making.

Never believe any of it.

Here's why: We're small countries. People don't care what happens here, except when they're out to make a point. There's no reason why they should. Which means there are basically two sources of information available about Scandinavian countries: Statistics and myth.

Statistics are reliable, but difficult to interpret correctly, especially without the right context, a role that is often then filled by myth.

So don't believe anything you read. If you must believe something, choose the alternative that is the most boring. As in:

"Does Norway prove that socialism works?" No, because we've abandoned so much of it.

"Does Norway prove that all socialist ideas are bad?" No, because we've kept several of them, and we're doing okay.

"Should everybody copy Norway?" That would probably be difficult.

The same applies to anything Norwegians tell you about their country, which falls into three categories: People who boast about it because it's the only place they know, people who complain about it because it's the only place they know, and English-writing bloggers with marginal viewpoints.

You can, of course, believe everything I've written here. Or can you?!


Cow vs man, kung-fu style

Found when somebody told me to check out "the mancow video". By which he actually meant the waterboarding video of radio host Erik "Mancow" Muller:

.. which is interesting, but far less spectacular.


Friday, May 22, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 7

Boom Town (1940, USA) - Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable are oil prospectors (and occasional thieves) who strike big, go bust, fall out, make up, etc. etc. This goes on for about 20 years. There Will Be Free Market Ideology, (a little bit, at the end - yay!) Watched it all.

The Bank Dick (1940, USA) - I've been disappointed by the comedies of this period. Even including the occasional funny screwball comedy, the first to hold up to even a lesser Marx Brothers is this W. C. Fields movie. The plot .. ah, who cares? I laughed. Watched it all.

Seven Sinners (1940, USA) - Marlene Dietrich has fallen since her earlier movies, which this feels like a regurgitation of. Watched: 15 minutes.

Die Rothschilds - Aktien auf Waterloo (1940, Germany) - When I watched The House of Rothschild, a pro-Jewish movie about the rise of the Rothschild bank, I had no idea how influential it had been on anti-semitic German movies. Die Ewige Jude used a distorting sample from it to prove Jewish greed, and this movies refutes it, retelling the same events from an anti-semitic and anti-capitalist perspective. Watched: 25 minutes.

The Ghost Breakers
(1940, USA) - It was a dark and stormy night. The lights went out, and Bob Hope told a joke about painting his stupid black servant white, so he could see him in the dark. Watched: 8 minutes.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Og debatten går i sirkler som en nattsvermer rundt flammen

Det blir litt smålig å skulle sitte og prikke i Det Norske Selvbildet hele tiden. Joda, det er mye å ha moro med, men det er et lite land, så hvor viktig er det? Hvorfor ikke like gjerne dra til en norsk småby, og skrive harmdirrende og satirisk om lokale småkonger? Eller gå på jakt etter Narvestadene i nabolaget ditt? Selvsagt er vi noen fjols, hvem er ikke det?

Jeg er derfor i utgangspunktet skeptisk til bøker med titler som Verdens beste land, men jeg velger å gi Nina Witoszek en sjanse. Jeg er i humør for litt nasjonal navlebeskuing. Deler av resultatet er som forventet. Witoszek dekonstruerer Det Norske Selvbildet, og får med seg både sekstiåtterne og Rehmans mullahløft på turen. De vanlige holdeplassene.

Har hun rett? Ja, jo. Sikkert. Jeg tenker: Herregud da, sikt høyere. Skru av medievirkeligheten. Lytt og se rundt deg, og fortell meg så hva du ser. Det blir for mye ord på ord i høytsvevende idéhistoriske luftslott, for lite konkret.

De historiske trådene her er mer interessante. Det er også perspektivene fra utlendinger som har flyttet hit, og pamfletten avslutter langt sterkere enn den begynner, med noe som nærmer seg en skarp analyse av Norge og dets plass i Europa. Resultatet stiger allikevel aldri høyere enn solid intellektuell kulturkritikk, et felt hvor Norge er så vant til middelmådige bidrag at vi kanskje bør være takknemlige, men som iallefall jeg er lunken til.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yes, this is all very interesting, Number One


Om en atomkrig brøt løs, skulle vi iallefall ha nok av kjøtt og egg, smør og melk

Det er en del av meg som godter seg over at Fremskrittspartiet i dag er et reelt regjeringsalternativ. Det er den delen som husker hvor skammelig det var å sympatisere med disse Gærne Rasistene for noen år siden, og selv i dag er jeg ikke fremmed for å gi dem en sjanse, eller iallefall smile skadefro om de kommer til makten. Såpass svir hånlatteren fremdeles.

FrP-landet - Norge etter valget i 2009? er derfor et naturlig bokvalg. Skribenter med ulike (stort sett kritiske) ståsted har kikket på FrP's partiprogram, for å tenke seg hvordan et FrP-Norge vil kunne se ut. Har vi lyst til å bo der?

Her er det mye rart. Norsklærer Thomas Hylland Eriksen retter kommafeil i utdanningsplanen deres. Steinar Lem tør ikke mer enn forsiktig antyde at han selv overgår FrP i muslimfrykt, og trekker heller en lydig paralell mellom miljøprogrammet deres og Mein Kampf.

Jostein Gripsrud snakker fint om at det ikke er finkultur som sådan vi bør subsidiere, men selve kulturbredden. Jeg fritar ham hyklerstemplet den dagen han går i spissen for anime-kvote på NRK. Ikke bredde på den måten? Neivel.

I det hele tatt blir dette litt flaut. Skribentene famler etter å finne noe å sette fingeren på, og avslører mer seg selv enn FrP - med Paul Chaffey, Janne Haaland Matlary, Martine Aurdal og Hege Storhaug som saklige unntak. Nå er jo også et partiprogram ment å være svulstig og vanskelig å gripe tak i, men så langt er dette en god start på valgkampen for Fremskrittspartiet.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 18, 2009

17. mai i Norge? Kjedelig!

På jobben holder vi på å bygge opp et utviklerteam i India, noe som så langt har gått forbausende bra. Dyktige folk, og god stemning på begge sider. Alle utviklerne jobber først et par måneder i Norge for å bli kjent med oss og produktene våre, og så jobber de videre fra Bangalore, med hyppig bruk av videokonferanser. Ideen er ikke å sette ut arbeid til en gjeng langt borte, og få noe ferdig tilbake en stund senere, men at de skal være en aktiv del av utviklerteamene våre.

Vi har tatt et par grep for å introdusere dem til Norge, et land de før bare såvidt hadde hørt om. De har vært på busstur på Vestlandet, vi har (ubevisst, tror jeg) gjenskapt en episode av Ut i vår hage ved å forsøke å lære dem å gå på ski, (noe som faktisk er ufattelig morsomt å se på), og når de reiser hjem får de hvert sitt teite turisttroll. Og nå før helgen insisterte jeg på at de måtte dra inn til Oslo sentrum på 17. mai. "It's the biggest event in Norway", sa jeg. "You have to be there."

Så, i dag: Hvordan var det? "Boring."

Åja. Vel, jo, det er det jo. Om jeg var der? Nei .. det er noen år siden. Det er jo egentlig mest for barn og foreldre. Når jeg tenker meg om er det faktisk litt kjedelig. Barnemarsjering og flagg. Men det er litt søtt da.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 6

Fantasia (1940, USA) - Oh. My. God. Yes. This is the second movie in this marathon to make me cry. The .. the vision of it. I'm stunned. We're watching an old culture give birth to a new. Absorbed it all.

Rebecca (1940, USA) - Laurence Olivier's wife dies, and the timid woman he marries on the rebound fails to live up to her predecessor, in whose shadow she now lives. In a way she's even outacted by the memory of this character we never meet. Fantastic Hitchcock. Watched it all.

The Long Voyage Home (1940, USA) - Follows a crew of sailors from a night of alcohol and prostitutes in the West Indies, through dangerous waters in the Atlantic, to another night of alcohol and prostitutes in England. Excellent wartime drama, with little plot, much atmosphere. Watched it all.

My Favorite Wife (1940, USA) - Sometimes Cary Grant goofing around is exactly what a movie needs. Other times it isn't. Grant thinks his wife is dead, so he marries a second, but then his first wife returns. Farce ensues. Watched: 17 minutes.

Dark Command (1940, USA) - John Wayne plays George W. Bush, an illiterate Texan who runs for election as Marshal in a Kansas town against Al Gore, a book learned snob. Bush wins, pushing Gore over the edge to a career of criminal PowerPoint presentations. Fine movie on the border between Civil War drama and Western. Watched it all.

Labels: ,

Ekte sekstiåttere fulgte i sine foreldres fotspor

Når jeg umiddelbart plukket opp Ekte sekstiåttere av Tor Egil Førland og Trine Rogg Korsvik da jeg så den i bokhandelen var det først og fremst fordi jeg er lei av å høre om dem. Jeg er lei av "68'er" som besvergelse, et skjellsord man kan fylle med antydninger om virkelighetsfjerne men allmektige venstresidetullinger. Jeg er lei av å høre om deres ideologiske forbrytelser og deres totale makt over norsk kulturliv. Det er lenge siden. De nærmer seg pensjonsalder. Nok nå.

Derfor Ekte sekstiåttere, som kaldt reduserer myter til statistikk. Ekte sekstiåttere - her definert som radikale Blindern-studenter i perioden 1964-73 - var unge menn, de ble stadig mer radikale utover sekstitallet, de gikk i foreldrenes politiske fotspor, og var svært lunkne til hasj og amerikansk counterculture. Arbeiderklassen var godt representert. Kvinnene deltok, men sjelden som ledere. Ml'erne var få, men veldig godt organiserte. Så sier tallene. Her er det tabeller som viser hvem sekstiåtterne egentlig var og hva de egentlig stod for, blandet med anonyme sekstiåtteres minner fra denne tiden, og intervjuer med profilerte eksemplarer.

Flotte greier. Fra myte til sosiologi og historie. Som besvergelse er sekstiåtter-begrepet utdatert - i den grad vi fremdeles lever med arven etter dem er det fordi senere generasjoner selv har valgt å føre den videre, så la oss så heller oppspore og undersøke disse. Som historie er dette derimot relevant og spennende.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 5

The Thief of Bagdad (1940, UK) - Have you read the Sandman story where Harun al-Rashid asks to have Baghdad moved into the world of dreams, where its wonders can be preserved against decay and death forever, pure and impossible? Well, this is that place, captured perfectly. Watched it all.

I Love You Again (1940, USA) - William Powell, an upstanding citizen, anti-vice fundraiser and overall tee-totalling bore, gets knocked over the head, and wakes up as William Powell, a charming crook. His wife Myrna Loy finds this quite an improvement. Watched it all.

Slightly Honorable (1940, USA) - There are several sparks of life in this movie, including the description of a Pacific island paradise that leads up to the picture above, but that doesn't prevent it from being bad. Watched: 14 minutes.

Michael Shayne, Private Detective (1940, USA) - Crime movie that verges hesitantly on the edge of noir. Now just replace the friendly detective with Humphrey Boghart, and the nice young woman who has an endearing gambling problem with a femme fatale.. Watched: 15 minutes.

The Stranger on the Third Floor (1940, USA) - Something tells me that the obviously guilty defendant is innocent, and that the so far unintroduced Peter Lorre is both strange, murderous, and residing on the third floor. Watched: 12 minutes.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

But Time putt a trick on him

The faeries in Susanna Clarke's world are not friendly little creatures with magic wands, but the faeries of folklore: Dangerous creatures who live on the border between sanity and madness. This border is also a physical border. There are many places in England where you can cross into Faerie, often unawares. A bridge, a bush, a forest. Inside, time moves differently, and common sense is useless. Whether you're chained to an insect-ridden bed or a guest at a wonderful palace may depend entirely on which eye you're seeing with.

I'm not sure what I could say about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell to do it justice. Luckily I'm not reviewing Clarke's debut novel, but The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, a collection of stories set in the same alternate England. These are the stories Clarke published during the ten years she spent writing Strange. The emphasis is more on women than in her novel, and more on faeries than on magic. The style is the same, 19th century fiction with eyebrows slightly raised, but lighter, without the oppressive mood of Strange's subplots.

This is a clear recommendation for anyone who liked Strange. Another recommendation: Hope Mirrlees's Lud-in-the-Mist, Clarke's 1926 forerunner. Lud-in-the-Mist uses the same theme of a land of common sense and a Faerie land of madness that border each other, with people crossing from one to the other with curious results. Strange is more accomplished, with its alternate history of English magic, but what made it great was also there in Lud-in-the-Mist.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Online tax records revisited

I got this e-mail today:
Just read your blog (the note on the publishing of income tax records online in Norway) and I was wondering if you would mind lending me a hand.

I studied in Norway for less than a year, as part of a masters program. I recently googled my name, and my age and income (which was zero!) comes in in links from and From reading your blog I gathered that this practice came to be in this decade and that it has been debated. Would you let me know if you are aware of any way to have this information become guarded from the internet? Or has it been decided that it's something that will remain public and searchable online?

I have no problem with someone from Norway accessing this information in a public database, but it strikes me as odd that anyone around the world will have this information come up readily as soon as they google my name.
Here's what I wrote about this in 2003 - jeez, has it been that long? Contrary to what I expected at the time, the practice has continued. It continues because the opposition to it is based on quaint principles like privacy, while the supporters have fun and curiosity on their side. No contest.

So my reply: Nope. Sorry. But only the latest two years are displayed, so for this student who only lived here a year they should go away eventually.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 4

My Little Chickadee (1940, USA) - When Mae West is good, she's very good. When she's bad, she's better. No, actually, when she's bad she's just bad. But this is one of her good ones. Chased out of town by the prudes for flirting with the local gentleman bandit, she finds herself another town with the usual sheriff/crook/idealist triangle. Features W. C. Fields in bed with a goat, and Mae West teaching a class of unruly teenage boys. Watched it all.

The Howards of Virginia (1940, USA) - Cary Grant (36) plays an unconvincing early 20's Matt Howard, young Thomas Jefferson's comical sidekick, in this patriotic movie where the slaves always seem to hover right outside of the screen. Credited with being the flop that taught Grant never to star in costume dramas. Watched: 16 minutes.

Three Faces West (1940, USA) - A doctor from Vienna finds wartime refuge in the US, but in order not to cause competition for big-city doctors, he cheerfully allows himself to be auctioned on a radio show to whatever tiny backwater town wants him. I'm sure the producers didn't find this premise the least bit condescending. Watched: 15 minutes.

Li'l Abner (1940, USA) - Bad comic book adaptations have a long history. Watched: 4 minutes.

The Lady in Question (1940, USA) - French drama comedies haven't impressed me so far, and neither does this American drama comedy set in France. A bicycle store owner becomes juror at a murder trial. Hilarity Ensues. Watched: 13 minutes.

Labels: ,

Where the falling angel meets the rising ape

The idea that gods exist only to the extent that we believe in them is kind of a fantasy cliché, but the reason it is overused is that it is a good idea, and very effective when used right. One of the authors who does use it right is Terry Pratchett, who applies this theme to many of the Discworld novels, and particularly Small Gods and Hogfather.

Hogfather is the best of these two, and one of the best of the series. The Discworld Santa Claus has been killed, and suddenly new gods are appearing rapidly, (the god of hangovers, the god of indigestion, the god that steals your socks, etc.), to fill up the belief vacuum. Death and Death's granddaughter are on the case, and it all builds up beautifully to one of the best exchanges of the series.

Hogfather doesn't rely much on backstory, so it's a good introduction if you haven't read any Discworld novels. There was also a fine mini series made from it in 2006, which I recommend if you're unsure about tackling the books. (And .. huh, seems they've now filmed The Colour of Magic as well. Will check it out.)


I need to do something about my book addiction

Nah, not really. If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.

However, from a practical viewpoint, it is probably a good idea to limit book purchases to an amount that can be safely balanced on the floor. This book queue pushes the limit - it is just about to tip over. (In which case I have this picture, and can put it all back in the right order.)


Saturday, May 9, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 3

Dr Cyclops (1940, USA) - Hey, a mad scientist sci-fi! In Technicolor! A biologist moves into the Amazon jungle to learn to harness the power of Radioactivity over Life and Death, which, properly harnessed, he uses to turn big creatures into small creatures. He turns horses into .. small horses, pigs into .. small pigs, and people into .. small people. It's a diabolical plan that is sheer elegance in its simplicity. (Step three: Profit!) Preposterous and fun. Watched it all.

His Girl Friday (1940, USA) - Goofy-boy Cary Grant tries to prevent his ex-wife from giving up her career as a journalist to settle down as some loser insurance salesman's baby machine. They team up to prevent the hanging of a man who .. isn't exactly innocent as such, but all he did was shoot a "colored cop", and a man shouldn't hang just because a city's "colored vote" demands it, now should he? This is a quite fantastic movie, (as well as fantastically loud). Best line, when Grant tells the news desk to clear the front page: "Never mind the European war, we've got something much bigger!" Watched it all.

Der Ewige Jude (1940, Germany) - "There are 4 million Jews in Poland", says the narrator, and what can one possibly add to that? The focus in this documentary is on the Eternal Jew as a parasite who embodies everything that is evil about individualism and capitalism. However civilized some European Jews may appear, there's always a filthy money-grabbing rat underneath. Watched it all.

Labels: ,

If there's anything you want, anything at all

Juno Reactor - Guardian Angel

Juno Reactor - God is God

Laibach - God is God

Orbital - Choice


The 64 kiloword event

Here at the Max 256 blog we don't celebrate anniversaries, only multiples of 256 and other round numbers. This is entry number 256, which means there are currently no more than 65 536 words (or 64 kilowords, for certain definitions of "kilo" and "word") in the blog. Who else can say the same thing with such precision?! Amazing.

Best of all, this is only the first out of many magical number events you have to look forward to over the coming years, such as the 128 kiloword event next year, the 256 kiloword event in late 2011, the megaword event in ca 2021, and the gigaword event some time around the year 15 989. That's a party you don't want to miss - tell your children to tell their children! (This year's celebration, however, has been cancelled to avoid sending the wrong signals in this time of economic hardship.)

What can you expect from the next 256 entries? Ideas in the planning stage include: A dictionary marathon, lolcatz (cats with funny captions!), anthologies of my favorite Twitter messages, a pictorial series on the growth of the grass outside my window, and fashion advice. Enjoy!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Occasioner, author, and continuer of the said unnatural, cruel and bloody wars

Royalists, parliamentarians, independents, puritans, presbyterians, catholics, soldiers, English, Irish, Scots, all plotting in shifting alliances - the English civil war period was a complex event, and Michael Braddick's God's Fury, England's Fire doesn't make it much clearer. That's not in itself a bad thing. I think one of the jobs of a historian is to confuse us, to help us understand how unclear and complex historical events really were. Contrast that to the charlatans who treat history as a well of clear moral lessons for our time. I don't want clarity from history. I want truth.

But to this unavoidable challenge Braddick adds the avoidable one of unclear language. As he himself might put it: the passive voice is highly present in the pages of this book, representing a challenge of interpretation for the reader, who finds themselves in a continous linguistic struggle for understanding. Ie.: Braddick writes poorly, which makes the book hard to read. Nobody ever does anything here, things just sort of happen. When, at the end, Charles I is executed, (I mean martyred), you'll almost believe the axe flew by its own accord.

That's a shame, because this is a fascinating subject. I'm most interested in the cultural aspects. The collision of ideas and beliefs and practices, daily life in the shadow of political and religious upheaval. Some examples: A witty prisoner, censorship by ear-cropping, and descriptions of the cost of war for common soldiers. Fine and vivid writing, which unfortunately is not representative of the whole.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 2

Pinocchio (1940, USA) - Little boys who don't obey their parents will be seduced by foreign girls and kidnapped by gypsies and pedophiles. The subtexts of Pinocchio are rather disturbing, and should not be explored too closely, but this is fine anime. Watched it all.

The Westerner (1940, USA) - Some phony judge hangs people for the slighest offense, which is very wrong of him, and then Gary Cooper comes along. A western comedy where the humor is so quiet you can hear the crickets chirping. Watched: 21 minutes.

The Great McGinty (1940, USA) - Hobo makes big in politics, then ends up in run-down bar in a "banana republic", (so says the intro text). Watched: 19 minutes.

Night train to Munich (1940, UK) - Spy thriller about some stupid Czech super weapon that mustn't fall into Nazi hands. The daughter of the weapon's inventor is sent to a concentration camp, a tiresome little place where the guards talk sternly to you, and from which she easily escapes with the help of a fellow inmate. Or is it all .. a trick?!! Interesting use of miniatures for architectural special effects. Watched: 17 minutes.

Waterloo Bridge (1940, USA) - Love story set in the shadow of World War I, as remembered at the outbreak of World War II. I predict an unexpected reunion at the end, before the now middle-aged officer once again leaves tragically for war. Watched: 17 minutes.

Labels: ,

So did I

Yes yes yes.

(In tomorrow's installment of "You know you're a geek when ..", two unlucky contestants will settle the relative worth of Firefly and Babylon 5 using LotR weapon replicas.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Because even psytrance sounds better when you add Anne Clark

Electric Universe - The Prayer (2009 version)

Electric Universe & Space Time - Experiences Outside Time

Electric Universe - Tune Up


A diagnostic distinction between those who died howling like dogs and those who died screaming

Others died accidentally. Ralph Hopton was severely wounded when a casually placed tobacco pipe ignited barrels of gunpowder and two other soldiers in his army died from the accidental discharge of muskets. Edward Morton was blown up, along with his four children and his house, while mixing gunpowder for the royal army. His wife's escape was said to be providential, since she had tried to dissuade him from doing this work for the royalists. Another judgement was visited on Captain Starker, inspecting the loot taken from the capture of Houghton Tower in Lancashire. One of the company lit a pipe, which ignited the powder, killing himself, his captain and sixty of his comrades. The consequent burn and shatter wounds were horrifying.


Many of the fallen died of their wounds, often in pain and some time after the battle. John Hampden took six days to die of wounds received at the battle of Chalgrove Field, six agonizing days. Care of the wounded was taken seriously but was limited by both resources and expertise. Wiseman, seeking to learn from his battlefield experiences, seems to have made a diagnostic distinction between those who died howling like dogs and those who died screaming. [..] Shattered bones and the threat of infection were the principal dangers. As Wiseman noted, an undressed wound was within days full of maggots. Amputation was often done immediately, while the wounded men were still in shock, since their courage might fail them later.
- Michael Braddick, God's Fury, England's Fire


Sunday, May 3, 2009

It was on this occasion that Prynne lost the first parts of his ears

Under Charles I, Alexander Leighton and William Prynne suffered alongside their books. In fact Prynne suffered the revival of burnings by the public hangman, in 1634. His Histrio-Mastix had denounced stage plays, and included attacks on female actors, at just about the time that Henrietta Maria appeared in a court masque. The timing was ambiguous - the criticism might have predated knowledge of the Queen's participation - but the implication was a dangerous one. However, Histrio-Matix was dangerous as much for its tone - highly intemperate and disrespectful - as its content and this earned it special treatment. Lord Cottington, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ordered it to be 'burnt in the most public manner that can be. The manner in other countries is ... to be burnt by the hangman, though not used in England. Yet I wish it may, in respect of the strangeness and heinousness of the matter contained in it, to have a strange manner of burning, therefore I shall desire it may be so burnt by the hand of the hangman'. It was on this occasion that Prynne lost the first parts of his ears: set in a pillory at Westminster and Cheapside, one of his ears cropped in each place and copies of his book burned before him. It was said that he nearly suffocated from the smoke.
- Michael Braddick, God's Fury, England's Fire