Monthly Archives: April 2010

Why I hate music reviews

Where do the iTunes store find all those snotty album reviewers?  I haven’t read music reviews for ages, but on iTunes you can’t avoid them.  The review is right there when you click on an album, the first thing you see.  You have to actively look away, and we all know how hard it is to deliberately not look at something.

It’s not that the reviewers don’t like music I like.  It’s the way they seem to think they can capture all the strengths and weaknesses of the albums in purely descriptive words.  There’s no joy or anger.  Music doesn’t make them feel anything, it’s just an object to describe the components of.  All done while establishing a clear hierarchy, with the bemused, objective reviewer on top, begrudgingly tolerating the efforts of the lowly artist.  Their greatest joy is to point out the “weaker” efforts of an otherwise great artist.

I’ve probably done this often enough myself.  But by God I try hard not to.  I hope I never write anything like “.. an intriguing update of classic ’80s garage and disco in the same fashion that Daft Punk rewired Chicago acid house for 1997′s Homework.”  Or “.. a nothing-else-remains-but-us ballad pumped up into a huge dramatic romance/dance number, commanding in its mock orchestral/choir scope.”


It might be excusable if music reviews served a point.  They don’t.  They’re useless.  Just link to a sample, and let me decide.  Tell me it’s awesome.  Tell me it sucks.  But don’t put your ego between me and the music.

40’s movies marathon – part 96

Out of the Past (1947) - Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer

Out of the Past (1947, USA, Tourneur) – Kirk Douglas hires Robert Mitchum to find his girl, who has run away because he’s a creep.  Watched it all.  Robert Mitchum feels out of place in the 40′s, like he’s just hanging around, waiting for the 50′s to arrive.

Intrigue (1947, USA, Marin) – An ex-pilot gone rogue walks into the headquarters of a Shanghai mafia and tells the sexy female boss that because women are too soft and gentle to be good at crime, she should partner up with him, and they’ll share the profits fifty-fifty.  She accepts, and kisses him.  Wow, these male fantasies sure can get stupid.  Watched: 26 minutes.

Dead Reckoning (1947, USA, Cromwell) – Some guy has a shady past of some kind, and Humphrey Bogart’s not going to stand for it.  Watched: 14 minutes.

The Lady From Shanghai (1947) - Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth

The Lady From Shanghai (1947, USA, Welles) – Rita Hayworth is so taken with Orson Welles that she sends her husband to hire him to work on her yacht.  Kinky!  Also suspicious.  Watched it all, but I’m not sure I like it.  It’s a bit self-conscious, as if making a regular noir wasn’t good enough, so Welles had to show off with nuclear-age existensialism and an unusually implausible murder plot.

Carnegie Hall (1947, USA, Ulmer) – Even the cleaning women at Carnegie Hall are morally elevated by working in such culturally superior surroundings.  Watched: 7 minutes.

Magic Town (1947, USA, Wellman) – Pollster James Stewart discovers a statistician’s utopia: A town where everyone thinks exactly like the nation as a whole.  Phase 3: Profit!  Watched: 12 minutes.

A Norwegian tea party movement?

I haven’t paid much attention to the tea party movement in the US.  The problem with Norwegians is that everyone thinks they’re an expert on American politics.  It’s our favorite reality show.  My way of protesting that is to disengage, and reserve judgment.

But this weekend the Norwegian Progress Party invited Tim Phillips from Americans For Prosperity to speak at their party convention.  So I looked into what they’re all about.  The opinion in Norway is that these protesters are a bunch of racist wackos.  But given our track record in understanding American politics, that doesn’t count for much.

The thing is: Organizations have one opinion.  Movements have a thousand.  The question is not what sign you’ll find at some rally, but what it is that all these people have in common, what are the ideas that bind them together?  The answer, it seems, is fiscal conservatism: tax reduction, limited government, market liberalism.

I would love it if otherwise non-activist Norwegians were to regularly show up with their friends and families to protest for lower taxes, smaller government, and open markets.  And I would love it if the Progress Party, a hybrid of social democratic, conservative and libertarian ideas, would move further in that direction.   Please do.

Grassroots movements like this is a sign of health, even if they also attract the wackos.  But importing this to Norway requires that we change how we see our relationship with the government – that we learn to see ourselves as citizens, not subjects or clients.  That’s hard.  But possible.

Worse still is the well-read menace, who’s hardly started dinner before she’s praising Virgil

Juvenal - The Sixteen Satires

The drawback of reading ancient books is that the publishers fill them with academic junk.  Lines are numbered like they’re biblical verses, there are more pages of endnotes than there are in the text itself, and, before you can even get started, you’re expected to read a 100-page scholarly introduction.  God forbid anyone should read these texts without first being told exactly how they’re supposed to feel about them.

I think I know what Juvenal would say about that.  He’s a mean bastard.  He wrote 16 satires, or, as we would call them today, rants, just to tell us that everyone in Rome totally sucks.  All the men are closet homosexuals, and all the women whores.  And, like, once, he was invited for dinner to a rich guy, and was served bad food.  There’s no proper morals any more, and the youths are all doing reality TV nowadays, all with their rollerskates and their walkmans and their stepping on my goddam lawn.

The glory of Antiquity rubs off on anything that has survived the ages, but the truth is that Juvenal’s Satires are just the ramblings of some old misanthrope.  You can appreciate them for the clever way in which he whines, but it’s still whining.  I gave up half-way, fed up.  This is the age of internet flaming.  Juvenal is a good flamer, but I hope nobody takes the angriest thing I ever wrote online and preserve it for 2000 years, and publish it with endnotes and a long academic introduction.  Please don’t.

40’s movies marathon – part 95

Black Narcissus (1947) - Deborah Kerr

Black Narcissus (1947, UK, Powell & Pressburger) – Deborah Kerr goes to start a nunnery in an abandoned palace in the Himalayas, where something about the air, the mountains, and the erotic paintings on the walls reminds the nuns of earthly pleasures and the lives they left behind.  This is not a horror movie, which may be why it’s so scary.  Watched it all.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947, Japan, Ozu) – A homeless boy shows up in a neighbourhood, and nobody wants to help him.  They have enough to worry about already, what with no longer being able to reap the benefits of the greater Asian prosperity sphere.  Watched: 19 minutes.

The Sea of Grass (1947) - Spencer Tracy

The Sea of Grass (1947, USA, Kazan) – Interesting: A western where the uncaring big landowner is mostly in the right, the poor homesteaders who want a share of his land are misguided, and the idealist who opposes him is kind of an asshole.  Katharine Hepburn befriends all three, trying to bridge their opposing interests, but fails.  I guess the movie does too, but I like what it could have been.  Watched it all.

The October Man (1947, UK, Baker) – I was hoping the traumatic accident John Mills is in would give him an interesting case of madness, but he’s just a little sad, and keeps getting better.  Watched: 21 minutes.

Heaven Only Knows (1947, USA, Rogell) – Another of those movies where the amusingly bureaucratic angels of Heaven interfere with events on Earth.  Watched: 7 minutes.

Hvitt kvalitetssikkel går aldri av moten

Eskil Aasmul - Trygdesnylterboken (2010)

Trygdesnylterboken av Eskil Aasmul høres ut som en samfunnsrefsers oppgjør med samtiden, eventuelt en howto for latsabber, men dette er stort sett bare moro.

To trygdesnyltere som er ute etter å tyne staten for mest mulig penger snubler over den vanvittig hemmelige makten bak makten, og blir jaget av agenter opp i taket på nærmeste flyplass.  Der finner de en skjult verden av samfunnets utstøtte, som har degenerert til borgerkrig mellom femi-nazier og macho-nazier.

Det henger ikke sammen hele veien, men for det meste er dette voldsomt morsomt, og boken er aller best når den tar avstikkere fra handlingen, så som i historien til Homedalsbyen, og legenden om Trygdesnyltermannen.  Det er litt Terry Pratchett over det: Kjapt, konsist, spinnvilt, og med ideer under humoren.

Dette vil jeg ha mer av.  Ryktene sier at forfatteren har kommet seg ut av trygdetilværelsen, men vi kan håpe han finner tid til å skrive mer allikevel.  (Full disclosure: Jeg slo Aasmul 10-5 i foosball i dag.)

Boka er primært utgitt som gratis e-bok, på et forlag som passer godt til det konspiratoriske innholdet, men for de av oss som har et nostalgisk forhold til papirbøker har han også lagt den ut på Lulu.

40’s movies marathon – part 94

Brighton Rock (1947) - Richard Attenborough

Brighton Rock (1947, UK, Boulting) – A journalist runs into trouble with the Brighton Mafia, which is run by a sadistic 17-year old.  I think this is the earliest English gangster movie I’ve seen – and right from the start they make it their own.  It feels dirtier than the American counterparts.  Watched it all.

The Long Night (1947, USA, Litvak) – One of my favorite things about watching a movie is when I gradually realize that it’s a remake of something I’ve seen before, and I’m trying to remember which one.  I don’t know why, it’s just a wonderful feeling.  In this case, it’s Le Jour se Lève from 1939, which was pretty good, and this is more or less the same movie.  Watched: 18 minutes.

The Senator was Indiscreet (1947) - Michael Powell

The Senator was Indiscreet (1947, USA, Kaufman) – Senile old fool William Powell wants to become president, with only the help of his vaguely statesmanlike looks, a public relations expert, and a diary full of embarassing secrets.  Watched it all.

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947, USA, Lewin) -  George Sanders seems to have been typecast as the arrogant 19th century gentleman.  Every time he opens his mouth it sounds like he’s bored and secretly thinking depraved thoughts about the dimwitted woman he’s talking to.  Watched: 24 minutes.

My Favorite Brunette (1947, USA, Nugent) – According to Britannica, Bob Hope represented “the comic tastes of the World War II generation, by whom wit and wordplay were highly valued”.  That is so sad.  So very very sad.  But at least they won the war.  Watched: 5 minutes.

Pakistanske storfamilier, hipstere med engangsgriller, solbrune trygdemisbrukere og omstreifende ungdomsgjenger

Aslak Nore - Ekstremistan (2009)

Jeg har gått rundt med deja vu i forhold til tittelen på Aslak Nores Ekstremistan.  Det slo meg faktisk ikke at han hadde hentet den fra Nassim Taleb, mannen bak min favorittbok fra 2000-tallet, The Black Swan.  Jeg innrømmer det: Jeg er en fordomsfull snobb, som tenker at norske skribenter stort sett sitter og gruppeonanerer på ett eller annet kulturhus.  Inntil det motsatte er bevist.

Nore skriver at Norge er i endring, og kanskje er denne boken en del av den endringen, dette at nordmenn nå sitter og tenker på ting som tillitsdynamikk i flerkulturelle samfunn og evolusjonsbiologiske tilnærminger til rettsvesenet.  Ideer beveger seg kjappere, og vi blir mindre like.  Jeg sier ja takk til et slikt Norge, fordi det er mye bedre enn det forrige.

Og jeg sier ja takk til denne boken.  Den er ærlig og nyansert og fri for ekstreme forenklinger.  Ekstremistan er ikke et partsinnlegg fra en Kulturkriger i den bitre debatten vi alle kjenner og hater, men snarere et utgangspunkt for en ny debatt om det flerkulturelle Norge.

Boken overlapper delvis med Harald Eias serie Hjernevask i innhold og stil, og har blitt møtt med noe av den samme syrlige, nedlatende kritikken.  Den tonen er jeg så forbannet lei av.  Selvsagt er svarene Nore kommer med diskuterbare, i den grad han leverer noen svar. Men han leter på interessante steder. Hva i all verden er alternativet?

Jeg gir ikke helt opp fordommene mine om norske skribenter. Fordommer er gøy. Men det er enda gøyere å få dem motbevist.

40′s movies marathon – best of 1946

Trends of the year: Everyone’s making noir, and it’s getting a bit old.  The only funny comedy team of the 30′s and 40′s makes their last movie.  Horror isn’t particularly scary, but it’s getting to a point where it’s no longer just some guy in monster makeup walking through the fog.  And Britain keeps doing their own thing.

Favorite moments: A pilot jumping to his death, Peter Lorre going mad, two professional killers walking into a diner, Vincent Price being EVIL, and Rita Hayworth being indecent.

British invasion

A Matter of Life and Death

Great Expectations

I See a Dark Stranger

The Captive Heart

Green for Danger

Pink String and Sealing Wax



The Big Sleep

The Killers

The Blue Dahlia


Noir on Ice


The yearly Hitchcock


Post-war reality check

Till the End of Time

The Best Years of Our Lives

Creeps, freaks and amputated limbs

House of Horrors


The Beast with Five Fingers

Depressed Europeans



Ivan the Terrible – Part 2

The rest

The Razor’s Edge

It’s a Wonderful Life

Three Strangers


A Night in Casablanca

40’s movies marathon – part 93

Make Mine Music (1946) - Disney - Singing Whale

Make Mine Music (1946, USA) – A cheaper-looking Fantasia.  I must find out what was going on at Disney in the mid-40′s.  They released all these mediocre movies that were also pretty inventive – and fun, especially when you don’t know what to expect.  But still mediocre.  I loved the jazz numbers, though, and the one with the singing whale.  Watched it all.

Paisan (1946, Italy, Rossellini) – Short stories from the invasion of Italy.  In the first, it seems the filmmakers just grabbed some random G.I.’s and put them in front of a camera.  Their dialogue is possibly more convincing if you don’t understand any English at all.  Watched: 10 minutes.

Ride the Pink Horse (1947) - Robert Montgomery

Ride the Pink Horse (1947, USA, Montgomery) – An American tough guy arrives in Mexico to take revenge on a gangster who killed his friend, but mostly he just walks calmly about town being awesome.  I think what I love most about this movie is Robert Montgomery’s voice.  Watched it all.

I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now (1947, USA, Bacon) – A troubadour who cares little for money and less for fame travels around the country spreading joy and harmony.  That’s what the intro text says, and I’ve decided to take it at its word.  Watched: 4 minutes.

13 Rue Madeleine (1947, USA, Hathaway) – There are right ways and wrong ways to make a spy movie.  Starting it with 6 minutes of newsreel-style exposition is one of the wrong ways.  Watched: 7 minutes.