Monday, November 30, 2009

And an egg in his beer

I'm not particularly interested in 1940's history or movies, more than other periods, it's just that this is where I happen to be at the moment. Which is why it is so fun to stumble about in the old archives of TIME Magazine.

Here's a fantastic - and possibly, hopefully ironic - letter to the editor, from the Dec. 18, 1944 issue:
Sirs: The G.I. Bill of Rights, while practically assuring every veteran a Chris-Craft speed boat, two cars in every garage, a home in the country, a penthouse, and an egg in his beer, has, in our opinion, failed to deal with a question which is destined to present one of the most controversial issues of the postwar world. To wit: Will the returning G.I. be able to maintain the same balance of power in his home that he enjoyed in the halcyon days, or will the female of the species assert herself and declare the "old order" relegated to the limbo of nostalgic memories? . . . Upon settlement of this question rests the stability of the state and the determination of whether G.I. Joe is to enjoy the freedoms he fought for. (PVT.) ED G. LANCASTER Camp Claiborne, La.
Also, a first-hand account of D-Day.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why I still watch Hungry Beast


40's movies marathon - part 48

Jane Eyre (1944, USA) - A series of unfortunate events. It's all quite ridiculous, but I love the style: Almost a horror movie, set in an alternate England of fog, shadows and sadists. I haven't read the novel, is it the same or meant to be taken seriously? Watched it all.

The Suspect (1944, USA) - Kind middle-aged Charles Laughton gets a lover and murders his wife. I can understand why. Watched: 16 minutes. In one scene, (this is set in 1902), his girlfriend walks into a London tobacco store. The shopkeeper says, "we don't sell cigarettes to women", and she says, "no, of course not." What?!

Jungle Woman (1944, USA) - Animals turned into people. People turned into animals. Watched: 13 minutes.

The Canterville Ghost (1944, USA) - American soldiers ain't afraid of no ghosts, but one of them is afraid of battle, and freezes when he's supposed to shoot at Germans. It takes the help of a six year old girl and the Canterville ghost to teach him bravery. Watched it all. (Btw, the "well-known fact" that most WWII soldiers never fired at the enemy is probably untrue.)

It Happened Tomorrow (1944, USA) - A journalist gets hold of tomorrow's newspaper. Nobody believes him, and no wonder, when he's so annoying about it. Watched: 24 minutes.

Frenchman's Creek (1944, USA) - Joan Fontaine, a 17th century lady, leaves her fool of a husband to seek quiet at the coast, where she is kidnapped by Romantic Pirates. Bosom-heaving and sword-fights follow. Watched: 24 minutes.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

40's movies marathon - best of 1943

As a service for readers who have misunderstood the movie marathon concept, and think it's about me being nice and selecting all the Classic Movies for you, here's my favorites from 1943:

Good war movies

This Land is Mine
Five Graves to Cairo

War movies (and cartoons) that transcend good and bad, and should be watched for mindblowing historical reasons

Victory Through Air Power (Pictures)
Mission to Moscow
Private SNAFU

Dark movies from the dark continent

Vredens Dag
Le Corbeau

Axis movies

Sugata Sanshiro


The Fallen Sparrow
Shadow of a Doubt

Peculiar Britishness

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

American self-doubt

The Ox Bow Incident

Segregated musicals

Stormy Weather

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Friday, November 27, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 47

Ministry of Fear (1944, USA) - Fritz Lang imitates Hitchcock. It's all there: The regular guy running away across the country, suspected of a crime he didn't commit. The sinister spy ring with tentacles into all the best circles. Also the sense that it would all have been simpler if he'd just come clean with the police from the start. But what would be the fun of that? Watched it all.

Cry of the Werewolf (1944, USA) - Begins with a werewolf princess living in hiding among gypsies, (yay!), but then there's the same old story where a couple of normal people struggle with how to fit the strange things they've experienced into their boring rational worldviews. Yes yes, werewolves and vampires and voodoo rituals are real, now get on with the movie. Watched: 17 minutes.

On Approval (1944, UK) - Two aristocrats and their friends move out onto an island for a month to see if they could stand being married to each other. Watched it all. I love how the introduction tries to show the contrast between the modern 40's and the naughty 90's.

Bathing Beauty (1944, USA) - Apparently an excuse to show off beautiful swimsuit models in Technicolor. Unfortunately I hate the music. Watched: 8 minutes, then fast forwarded to see if there was any good music at all. There was, and also a man in a tutu, and a message at the end about how this movie will be shown to soldiers overseas, which I think they appreciated.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Victory Through Air Power (1943)

Some pictures from Victory Through Air Power, the 1943 Disney movie I mentioned earlier, a crazy stunt pulled by Walt Disney to change the Allied war strategy.

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40's movies marathon - part 46

Victory Through Air Power (1943, USA) - Not propaganda as such, but an argument made by Disney and an ex-Russian pilot, aimed in part at the Allied governments, about how air power should be used to win the war. It's informative, awe-inducing, and quirky in that Disney way. Opens with a history of flight, and ends with scenes of the fiery hell Allied bombers will rain on Japan's industrial areas once they learn how to overcome the great distances. Can you believe the magnificent arrogance of Walt Disney, to use his own army of animators to convince Roosevelt of some idea he's just picked up from a book? Unbelievable. Fantastic. Watched it all.

The White Cliffs of Dover
(1944, USA) - An American nurse waits for casualties to arrive from the front, and goes into flashback mode to tell us why she loves America's dear cousins, the English. Watched: 13 minutes.

The Lodger (1944, USA) - I don't see how Jack the Ripper could have escaped the police all that time if he'd seemed so shifty and shadowy as this lodger does. Watched: 12 minutes.

Double Exposure (1944, USA) - A magazine where photographers fake their pictures and the owner is a health freak hires a Woman Photographer, causing shock and confusion. I'm not sure what to make of the intro text: "New York - Where half the girls are working girls .. and the other half are working men." What? Watched: 13 minutes.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

50 years of Cab Calloway

Jumpin Jive

Reefer Man

Minnie the Moocher


40's movies marathon - part 45

Le Corbeau (1943, France) - An anonymous letter writer spreads dark accusations in a small town. The town is so full of depraved people that practically everyone could be the culprit, or at least are so unlikeable that you don't mind them being falsely accused of it. Watched it all.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943, USA) - By the undead eyebrows of Bela Lugosi, how many are there of these? Watched: 10 minutes.

Watch on the Rhine (1943, USA) - European exiles from both sides meet in the US. Pretty dull considering the screenplay is written by Dashiell Hammett. Watched: 32 minutes.

Lady of Burlesque (1943, USA) - Life at a burlesque theatre, with relatively little clothes for a '43 movie, and a good sense of fun, including a fistfight between a room full of dancing girls and cops. Watched: 24 minutes.

Stormy Weather (1943, USA) - Jazz musical with an all-black cast. Is that progress or segregation? Watched the musical numbers, skipped everything between. One singer looked and sounded oddly familiar: Turns out he's Cab Calloway, who I remembered from The Blues Brothers, 37 years later.

The Mysterious Doctor (1943, USA) - This isn't The Doctor at all, just some medical doctor who wanders by accident into one of those isolated, evil villages England is so full of. Watched: 7 minutes.

Bataan (1943, USA) - Soldiers hold a bridge in the Philippines. Big explosions and men staring somberly out into the jungle follows. Watched: 28 minutes.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 44

Old Acquaintance (1943, USA) - Bette Davis writes thoughtful books that critics love but readers don't. Miriam Hopkins writes romantic trash that sells well. They're the greatest of friends, but you just know that a Bette Davis movie is going to turn out bitter, and so it does. Watched it all. Based on a play by John Van Druten, who apparently saw nothing odd in writing a play about a critically acclaimed playwright who happens to be a wonderful person, and her stupid friend who makes tons of money.

Ladies' Day (1943, USA) - Meet a team of baseball players and their loud, nasally voiced dames. Watched: 14 minutes.

Ghost on the Loose (1943, USA) - The East Side Kids and Bela Lugosi have certainly fallen far since the 30's. Watched: 4 minutes.

Millions Like Us (1943, UK) - An ordinary family in wartime London. Perhaps a little too ordinary. Watched: 19 minutes.

The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler (1943, USA) - Life in Nazi Austria, as imagined by someone who has vaguely heard about it in the news. Watched: 6 minutes, then fast forwarded to see the strange death, in which a Mel Brooks lookalike dressed as a Hitler double is shot.

Corvette K-225 (1943, USA) - Sailors on the Atlantic etc. No chance of seeing car chases, the Corvette in question is a ship. Watched: 5 minutes.

Tonight We Raid Calais (1943, USA) - Spy infiltrates France, after a miraculous escape from the laws of bullet physics. Watched: 6 minutes.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nothing will be left to chance, to random impulse, to irrational narcissistic whim

In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven from 1971, a therapist gets a patient who can change the world with his dreams. When things change, they change so that it has always been that way, and nobody knows the difference.

The therapist believes he can use this power to make the world a better place, and also get himself a nicer office, and he starts to take control over the patient's dreams. He gradually changes the world from an over-populated, starving, war-crazed mess to a sparsely populated, well-fed world that is ordered according to his ideals. Which include eugenics and state-run child upbringing.

And everybody knows it's always been like that.

This is a story about utopianism versus real life. The therapist never gets exactly what he wants. The dark side of human nature keeps reasserting itself. And when he gets what he wants, there's a price. To solve over-population, the dreamer's subconscious invents a plague in which billions of people died. To solve race conflicts, everyone must turn the same grey skincolor. The world becomes gradually duller, joyless.

Le Guin introduces the chapters with taoist quotes, and the patient eventually arrives at a taoist point of view: You can't force your will on the world, even when you think you're right. You have to respect the dynamics of things as they are.

Or as Lao Tzu says in Ron Hogan's creative translation of Tao The Ching:
Stop doing stuff all the time,
and watch what happens.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 43

Shadow of a Doubt (1943, USA) - Nice uncle Charlie comes to visit his small-town relatives. He brings large wads of cash, jewelry with other people's names on it, and a nihilistic philosophy of life. Watched it all.

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943, USA) - Self-congratulatory musical about Hollywood actors. Watched: 10 minutes, then fast-forwarded through the rest to see if it's also a patriotic war musical. Doesn't seem to be, but one can never be too sure.

Destination Tokyo (1943, USA) - Whenever I see Cary Grant I expect him to crack a joke and offer a drink. Which makes it hard to take him seriously as a submarine captain. Watched: 11 minutes.

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943, UK) - Opens with a raven with a taste for blood. How cool is that? But the rest isn't so impressive. Watched: 15 minutes.

Son of Dracula (1943, USA) - The 1943 idea of horror was to play ghostly music while a bat flies across the screen. Watched: 11 minutes.

Whistling in Brooklyn (1943, USA) - A serial killer story, the first in this marathon. I hate serial killer stories. Watched: 4 minutes.

Private SNAFU (1943-45, USA) - A series of educational cartoons for soldiers, made by Frank Capra, Dr. Seuss, Fritz Freleng, Chuck Jones - and Mel Blanc. Which means they're also hilarious. Here's my favorite, which explains that even if you are a super-awesome super-soldier with super-powers, you still maybe ought to read the field manual. "The Americans are on our side, you know."

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I am not a number, I am a free man

This is one of my favorite TV intros, from The Prisoner (1967):

Music by Ron Grainer, who also wrote the theme for Dr. Who.

There's now a remake of The Prisoner, which began airing this weekend.

I'm not convinced by it. It's certainly different from the original. It's okay that it's different, of course. James Caviezel shouldn't be the same Number Six as Patrick McGoohan any more than Daniel Craig should be the same James Bond as Sean Connery. You have to change, or there's no point in a remake. But so far I don't like it.

Here's one way in which it's different: The premise of both series is that a man is imprisoned in a surreal environment, an isolated village, where someone tries to break his mind. But Caviezel's Number Six is a victim. McGoohan never was. McGoohan was always in charge. Caviezel plays Number Six like a character from Lost. McGoohan played him like free will incarnated. Someone who doesn't bend. Who falls when he's struck, but always gets back up again.

Caviezel's Number Six is someone you can feel sorry for, sympathize with. McGoohan's Number Six is someone you can admire, be inspired by.

I'll try to watch the new series on its own terms. But if you haven't seen the original, that's the place to start. Despite the .. weird second half of the series.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Datalagringsdirektivet: Kjekt å ha!

En av konsekvensene av Stopp Datalagringsdirektivet ser ut til å være at de som støtter datalagringsdirektivet nå ser seg nødt til å komme ut i mediene og faktisk forsvare det. Sist ut er John Ståle Stamnes fra KRIPOS, som skriver i Aftenposten at politiet trenger all denne informasjonen for å fange pedofile, og .. eh, beskytte personvernet ditt.

Det er noe halvhjertet over dette. Jeg får en kjekt å ha-følelse: Jo takk, denne informasjonen skal vi nok finne en bruk for. En eller annen gang.

Og det vil de nok. Desto mer politiet vet om oss, desto lettere vil det være å forhindre og etterforske forbrytelser. Men vi betaler for det med privatliv. For noen typer informasjon er gevinsten stor og kostnaden liten. Andre ganger er gevinsten liten og kostnaden stor.

Jeg synes det å lagre hvilke IP-adresser du er i kontakt med, hvem du ringer, og hvor du var da du ringte, er en stor kostnad. Da holder det ikke med en litt nølende: Det kunne jo hende vi fakket en pedofil.

Vi gir bort personvernet vårt på mange områder, gjennom teknologivalgene vi gjør hver eneste dag. F.eks. hver gang du sender en ukryptert e-post. Det bekymrer meg. Men denne trusselen er i det minste desentralisert og kaotisk.

Det som virkelig bekymrer meg er når myndighetene ser på dette, og sier: Hm, tro om vi kunne samle og organisere alle disse dataene. Datalagringsdirektivet er et videre skritt i denne retningen.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Andrew Marr's history of modern Britain

I've been enjoying Andrew Marr's BBC documentary series about the history of 20th century Britain. First The History of Modern Britain (2007), about the second half of the century, and now the ongoing The Making of Modern Britain, about the first half.

Marr focuses on social history. He looks at how people saw the world and their place in it, and how this changed over time. He portrays the rise of mass politics, and shifting power networks. It's not primarily about telling "what happened", cramming as many big events as possible into the story, but about how people perceived things at the time.

The central events of the story are events that changed those perceptions, or illustrates them. I like history that allows the past to speak in its own voice, and Andrew Marr does that well here. He digs up these gems that seem to capture a mood or a turning point. Little facts and events, or just a short piece of footage, that force you to broaden your view of a period.

But he's also opinionated, in the same evenhanded way that I liked in Rick Perlstein's book Nixonland.

It all breaks down as he approaches the present, of course, with platitudes and odd priorities, but all history at that level does. It's hard to understand change you're right in the middle of. But the rest of the series gives an idea of the kind of insights historians will one day provide about our own time. I can't wait.


The Autobiography of a Jeep (1943)

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 42

Ossessione (1943, Italy) - A hobo arrives at a café, and starts seducing the wife of the owner. He succeeds, and now there's a fat, opera-loving husband to get rid off. Based on The Postman Always Rings Twice. Watched it all.

The More the Merrier (1943, USA) - The Odd Couple, wartime edition, with Jean Arthur as Jack Lemmon, Charles Coburn as Walter Matthau, and Washington D.C. as New York. Also starring Joel McCrea as Sir Destined-to-hook-up-with-Jean-Arthur. Not bad, but the farce gets a little too goofy. Watched: 34 minutes.

Our Enemy the Japanese (1943, USA) - It turns out that Japan isn't awesome after all. They're fanatical murderers, whose minds are completely alien to a Westerner. Watched it all.

Hangmen Also Die (1943, USA) - Reinhard Heydrich, a cartoonish Nazi villain, wants the Czechs to respect his authoritah. Watched: 6 minutes.

Phantom of the Opera (1943, USA) - A Romantically disfigured violinist spreads terror and music at the opera house. Not a great movie, but the music is good, and it's not by Andrew Llllloyd Webber. Somewhat different from the original by Terry Pratchett. Watched it all. The opening credits say Fritz Leiber has a role, and throughout the movie I tried to guess who he was. Turns out he's playing Franz Liszt as an old man, and that the Leiber in question is Leiber Sr., the actor, not his son Leiber Jr., the author. Makes sense.

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Slipp skoledataene fri

Nettavisen har analysert de nasjonale prøvene og funnet ut at private skoler gjør det best i engelsk.

Det er morsomt å se leserkommentarene: Jammen, det er ikke så enkelt allikevel, fordi ..

Selvsagt er det ikke så enkelt. Det er derfor man trenger å offentliggjøre denne typen data, slik at vi kan analysere dem, og finne ut hva det er som skiller de gode skolene fra de dårlige. Hva er det de beste gjør riktig? Er dette noe resten kan etterligne?

Tilhengere av offentlig skolemonopol kan ikke både påstå at dette er den beste løsningen, og samtidig forsøke å hemmeligholde alle tall som kan brukes til å vurdere påstanden.

Selv tror jeg ikke skoler blir bedre fordi de er private. Men hvis vi skal lære oss hvordan man skal drive gode skoler - for vi er ikke akkurat der ennå - så trenger vi skoler som har frihet til å eksperimentere. Så kan vi vurdere resultatene, og de dårlige skolene kan lære av de gode.

Private skoler er en naturlig del av dette, og frihet til å velge. Men viktigst av alt er å offentliggjøre data om tilstanden på hver enkelt skole. Det virker ganske lite troverdig når noen sier: "Dette er best! Stol på oss! Men vi vil ikke fortelle deg hvordan vi vet at det er slik. Du kunne jo misforstå tallene."

Hypotese: Offentlig skole er best. Flott, så legg ut alle tallene, og la foreldre velge fritt. Stemmer hypotesen er det ingenting å frykte.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Vis dere nå, som nybrottsmenn og ikke som nølende ekspeditører for avholdenhet

Med en fersk finanskrise forhåpentligvis mer bak oss enn foran oss, passer det godt å kikke litt nærmere på den forrige. Bankerott (1993) av Stein Imset og Gunnar Stavrum forteller historien om de villeste årene i nyere norsk bankhistorie. En periode som begynte med liberalisering og endte med milliardtap og statlig overtagelse av storbankene.

Hvert kapittel følger omtrent samme mønster: En traust regionalbank møter 80-tallets økonomiske tøvær med friskt mot. De dytter millioner i hendene på luringer med spinnville prosjekter. Problemene som så oppstår møter banken i fire stadier: 1 - gi de dårligste kundene mer penger, 2 - budsjettjuks så det ser ut som det går bra, 3 - fusjonering med andre, forhåpentligvis mer stabile banker, 4 - total kollaps og statlig inngripen.

Bank etter bank gjør de samme tabbene. Hadde dette vært en roman ville det vært kjedelig forutsigbart, og ikke helt troverdig.

Imset og Stavrum legger skylden på Willoch-regjeringen, for å ha oppmuntret til utlånseksplosjonen, og på et umodent bankvesen, som brukte sin nyvunnete frihet til å avholde historiens dyreste hjemme alene-fest.

Lærdommen er at finansielle institusjoner ikke alltid vet sitt eget økonomiske beste. Spesielt ikke når de har blitt skjermet fra virkeligheten gjennom tiår med kvelende reguleringer.

Imset og Stavrum skriver at krisen kunne vært unngått hvis aktørene hadde kjent sin bankhistorie, for den var et ekko av tidligere kriser. På samme måte er det mye her som går igjen i dagens finanskrise. Lære, denne gangen?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 41

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943, UK) - Follows the life of an English soldier, a veteran of the Boer war. As the decades pass, he grows more and more out of touch with his country, until, at the time of the Second World War, he's seen as a stuffy remnant of the past. His old German friend explains why: He's a gentleman, but "this isn't a gentleman's war". There's no room for fair play when you're fighting for your existence. Bittersweet comedy that sees both sides: Britain has learned a lesson, and has become bolder and quicker on its feet, but it has also lost something. Watched it all.

Submarine Alert (1943, USA) - All expenses were spared: The Japanese voices are made by running the audio track backwards. Watched: 7 minutes.

Crazy House (1943, USA) - Olsen and Johnson wants to make a followup to Hellzapoppin, their nonsensical 1941 comedy. And that's the plot of their followup, which is just as nonsensical, and pretty funny. The real star here is Cass Daley, pictured above. Watched it all.

Around the World (1943, USA) - A patriotic war musical. I hate patriotic war musicals. Watched: 6 minutes.

The Ox Bow Incident (1943, USA) - A real western, at last: A dark tale from the borderland between law and anarchy. A man is murdered, and a lynch mob is formed. It starts roaming around the countryside in the middle of the night, looking for someone to hang. Watched it all.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who wants me to write about John Galt?

It's fun to see the search queries people use to find your site. Here's two from probably the same person: ""babes on broadway" publicity still spanked" and ""bright eyes(1934)" spanking". Spanking scenes from old movies is one very specific fetish that I'm unable to cater to. Shirley Temple movies particularly so.

Then there are the automated search queries, set up by people who want to follow blog posts about a particular topic. When I review books, I often get a hit from the author's name the next day. I actually do the same thing myself, in order to hunt down and ridicule anyone who says anything bad about me.

But here's one that baffles me: " "atlas shrugged"" What makes it odd is that this query has given me regular hits for over a month.

Somebody wants to be notified immediately the next time I write about Atlas Shrugged. Don't ask me why. Fetish queries (" "atlas shrugged" spanking") I can understand. This, less so. It's a bit passive aggressive. "Hey, it's your blog and you write about whatever you want to. I just want you to know that if you ever do write about this book that I love/hate, I'll be there immediately to read it, because that's how much I care. But hey, you know, whatever."

So I'll make a deal: If whoever is doing this explains why they care, I might write a post about Ayn Rand.

Also, my deepest apologies to all Ayn Rand spanking enthusiasts I've now accidentally led here.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 40

The Fallen Sparrow (1943, USA) - A veteran of the Spanish civil war tries to solve his friend's murder. He meets a creepy Norwegian history professor whose stories about ancient torture techniques causes memories from his own torture in a Spanish prison to resurface, slowly driving him insane. Watched it all.

War of the Wildcats (1943, USA) - Ah, the good old days, when men were assholes. Watched: 11 minutes.

The Mad Ghoul (1943, USA) - A mad scientist has invented a method whereby you can make a person undead, and then, simply by transplanting a new heart into their body, make them alive again. God knows why. Watched: 12 minutes, then fast forwarded to see the ghoul, a drowsy student.

San Demetrio, London (1943, UK) - Cheerful sailors cross the Atlantic. Watched: 10 minutes.

The Heavenly Body (1943, USA) - William Powell is an uninteresting astronomer surrounded by stupid women and stupid black subordinates. Watched: 7 minutes.

Flesh and Fantasy (1943, USA) - Moderately spooky stories, told badly. Watched: 8 minutes.

Tender Comrade (1943, USA) - Makes coming home on leave to Ginger Rogers seem dull. Watched: 6 minutes.

The Cross of Lorraine (1943, USA) - French prisoners of war are sent to a Nazi labor camp, where they're guarded by Peter Lorre. Watched: 23 minutes.

Hello Frisco, Hello (1943, USA) - The good thing about this musical is that it isn't about the war. Watched: 6 minutes.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

The joys of being a cultural interpreter

That Fjordman post reminded me of how tempting it is to be a cultural interpreter.

A cultural interpreter is someone who explains their culture to outsiders who know little else about it. This is a powerful role to play. You can be marginal voice inside the culture, but a great authority to people outside it. You can shape the worldview of the outsiders in a way you could only dream of doing with insiders.

A language barrier makes the interpreter particularly powerful, but the barrier can also be that there's not much information available at all, or that your audience is too lazy to check other sources.

Fjordman, the anti-Muslim version of Johan Galtung, often plays this role in his descriptions of Norway's descent into a Muslim hellhole. So does the commenter "kritisk borger" when he explains to the readers of Gates of Vienna that "the majority in Norway believes that they are being overtaxed, by unscrupulous politicians". Which is stupid. But who there is going to contradict him?

I've played this game myself, back when I had mostly foreign readers. It frightened me to realize that I could write almost anything about Norway, in an authoritative voice, and nobody would know if it was bullshit. I've written a lot of stupid things. I don't want that power.

Which means: Don't be fooled by marginal interpreters from other cultures. The reason they're talking to you may be that you don't know enough to tell that they're nuts.


Living with terrorism (revisited)

Fjordman writes about me on Gates of Vienna, a blog where people who are afraid of Muslims can come together and talk about their fears. The recent massacre at Fort Hood by a Muslim causes him to remember, and mock, something I once wrote about how to live with the threat of terrorism:
Brave is sitting down calmly on a plane behind a row of suspicious-looking Arabs, ignoring your own fears, because you know those fears are irrational, and because even if there’s a chance that they are terrorists, it is more important to you to preserve an open and tolerant society than to survive this trip.
I don't always agree with things I've written years ago, but I hit this on the head. The context was that passengers had refused to let their airplane take off unless suspicious-looking passengers were thrown out first.

And what I wrote was that, yes, it has happened that passengers who look suspicious actually are terrorists, but it is so unlikely that it is cowardly to cause trouble over it. It's okay to be afraid, because we're often afraid for no good reason, but it's what you do with that fear that defines you.

If what you do is cause some poor guy to miss his airplane just because he has a big beard, then you're a coward.

This applies elsewhere too. Life can be scary, but you still have to cross the street.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

40's movies marathon - part 39

Gung Ho! (1943, USA) - We follow the 2nd Marine Raiders from training to their first combat on Makin Island. Their motivations for signing up are fairly unbowdlerized: One wants to impress a girl, another "just don't like Japs". When they're transported by submarine, some of them panic, and the movie makes that seem okay, because submarines are scary. And when the fighting starts, it's random and brutal. Watched it all. IMDB reviewers call it jingoistic propaganda, which is true but not relevant, and cliched, which is silly. This is a movie that defines what later becomes cliches. But it's not realistic: The real battle of Makin Island was a near-failure, and I doubt that Japanese soldiers went into combat with an evil sneer on their face.

Mr Lucky (1943, USA) - This war is going too far. Now they're drafting gangsters. Also, the gangster world is going too far. They've allowed themselves to be taken over by Cary Grant. Watched: 18 minutes.

Madame Curie (1943, USA) - "She was poor .. she was beautiful." Science is hard, let's look dramatically into the camera instead, while violins play in the background to underscore what an extremely Historical Person this is. Watched: 7 minutes.

The Outlaw (1943, USA) - Doc Holliday falls in love with Billy the Kid, which makes his former lover Pat Garrett jealous. I think. Watched: 14 minutes. Wikipedia says Howard Hughes invented a special bra to emphasize the breasts of the female lead, Jane Russell, so this movie swings both ways.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stopp Datalagringsdirektivet

Jeg var på stiftelsesmøtet for Stopp Datalagringsdirektivet i dag. Alle partiene unntatt Arbeiderpartiet deltok. Det er morsomt å se hvor bredt denne saken favner. FrP og Rødt brukte samme talerstol til å si nesten de samme tingene. Det tror jeg ikke jeg får oppleve igjen på en stund.

På en skjerm bak talerne kunne du se antallet personer som støtter kampanjen. Tallet steg jevnt og trutt gjennom hele møtet. Jeg synes du skal skrive deg på listen her, så stiger det enda litt mer.

Stopp Datalagringsdirektivet har Lars Henrik Michelsen som leder, Vampus og Virrvarr som nestledere, og andre bloggere som Pleym og Vox Populi som initiativtagere. Ser vi konturene av at nettaktivisme kan være med på å sette politisk dagsorden? Det blir spennende å se hva dette blir til. Selve stiftelsen har iallefall skaffet oppmerksomhet, og det var mye presse tilstede.

Her kan du lese mer om hvorfor jeg er mot datalagringsdirektivet, fra bloggkampanjen i sommer.


Monday, November 2, 2009

A small wooden puppet approaches from the north

In his preface to Gardens of the Moon, Steven Erikson dares the reader to give up. There'll be no gradual introduction to the world he has created. You're thrown right in the middle of it, with confusing events happening unexplained, and a shitload of characters to get to know. If you don't like it, go read something else.

I'm vulnerable to reverse psychology, so I accept the challenge. And for the first few hundred pages the story jumps and runs without waiting for you to catch up. Later it slows down. Gardens of the Moon does the opposite of certain sprawling fantasy novels - it begins confusingly, and converges towards the end.

The story is that an empire is invading a city, and the gods interfere. The gods are merciless beings who use humans as tools for their own purposes, and the leaders of the empire are no better. So there's death and eternal damnation in all directions. Also a mad puppet, a girl posessed by an evil god, and an ancient beast reawakened from its eternal slumber.

So there's little to be happy about in this world. Erikson says in his preface that his aim was to write an ambitious novel, and, well, I don't think that it is. It's an ambitious attempt at world building, but it's not an ambitious novel. The bleak setting is too restrictive for that.

There are many sequels to Gardens of the Moon, but thankfully they're self-contained novels. I haven't decided if I'll read them.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

5 milliarder millioner trillioner fantasillioner multiplioner og 16 øre

Tor Andre har testet Kindle, og synes det er greit å ta farvel med papirboken:
Styrken til papir ligger i kombinasjonen av skumming og dybdelesing, ikke luftig nostalgi om lukten og følelsen av et fysisk produkt. Den holdningen ligner litt for mye på villfarelsen til musikkbransjen om betydningen av CD-plater.

Praktbøker vil fremdeles fungere som et nisjeprodukt, men i fremtiden vil det komme lesebrett som klarer å kombinere leseligheten til e-ink og grensesnittet på nettet. Da er papir blåst av banen som lesemedium nummer en.
Jeg testet e-bøker for noen år siden. Det var ikke for meg. Jeg kom fram til at jeg har samme forhold til papirbøker som Onkel Skrue har til pengene sine. Det er de samme bøkene selv om de er elektroniske. Men det er ikke det samme allikevel.

Jeg liker å fylle bokhyllene mine til bristepunktet.

Jeg liker å bruker bøker som veggdekorasjon.

Jeg liker å brette bøkene mine, lage eselører, skrive navnet mitt, og sette teite ex libris-merker i dem.

Og jeg liker å ha en bokkø stående på gulvet til å organisere lesingen med.

Men mest av alt liker jeg å legge alle bøkene ut på gulvet og bade i dem.

Leiligheten min ville rett og slett se naken ut uten papirbøker. Så der står jeg. Det er ikke slik at papirbøker er riktig og e-bøker feil. Men for meg er det ikke noe tema.

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40's movies marathon - part 38

Yellow Canary (1943, UK) - An English woman makes everyone uncomfortable by being pro-Nazi, and possibly a traitor. She's exiled to Canada(?!), and spies and eye-patch-wearing Nazis follow along on the trip. Best line, spoken by a rich old woman to her husband, while their boat is being boarded by Germans: "Wouldn't it be nice to do something violent?" Watched it all.

Air Force (1943, USA) - Wholesome pilots set out for the Pacific. Watched: 8 minutes.

Thousands Cheer (1943, USA) - The patriotic war musical is a repulsive concept. Patriotic war movies can be good. So can musicals. But mix them together, and the result is quite demonic. Watched: 8 minutes, then fast-forwarded through the musical numbers, which were all spawned in the hell-pit of Satan.

The Man from Down Under (1943, USA) - An Australian soldier adopts two orphans after the Great War, because one of them is good at boxing. That seems like a unbelievable thing to do. Watched: 11 minutes.

I Walked with a Zombie (1943, USA) - I can't figure out these old zombie movies, where the zombies are just reanimated corpses without a will of their own. This one aims for a classy feel, as if there's a message here, possibly about slavery. Watched: 17 minutes.

Stage Door Canteen (1943, USA) - I have a horrible suspicion that those troops on the train are headed into a patriotic war musical. Dear God no! Watched: 6 minutes.

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