lördag, december 31, 2005

Fireworks and ferries

I am watching the dark sea and the horizon. Soon the fireworks will explode everywhere - in the village, and across the water. Other lights in this dark winter evening are coming from the ferries - huge vessels slowly and almost silently moving half-hidden behind the nearest islands.

I wish all readers a Happy New Year 2006!

lördag, december 24, 2005

Christmas, and other beautiful myths

Wishing you a peaceful and happy holiday!

fredag, december 23, 2005

sonate, que me veux-tu?

[found this written in Russian; thought it looked interesting:]

СОНАТА, ЧТО ТЫ ХОЧЕШЬ ОТ МЕНЯ?

[...and now for something completely different - here is MW's piece of writing about Reagan...]


The Revolutionary

During the York University’s bitter strike by tenured faculty a few years ago, I was a part-time instructor. Living on such a meager salary, library fines made a serious difference to my well-being. When I attempted to cross the picket line to return some overdue materials, however, my learned colleagues violently assaulted me.

Then as now, what I found most galling about this incident was the delusional pretentiousness of these professors. Now middle-aged and comfortable, the strike gave them a chance to relive–as a fantasy, alas–the radicalism of their youth. In their minds, these well-fed folks were not fighting to fatten their already-comfortable salaries; no, they were once again landing blows against empire, offing the establishment, or, like Homer Simpson, sticking it to the man. (That the ‟man” in this case was a penniless graduate student seems to have escaped them.)

To be sure, there were causes worth fighting in those days of their youth, especially the Viet Nam war. Today, however, their revolutionary pose is a grotesque joke. The more so, since the revolutionaries they seek to emulate were all failures. Of Stalin, nothing remains today but the general will to bend history to present purposes. Of Mao, nought but the forced labor sweat shops, now suitably retooled for global capitalism. Even Che Guevara, Romantic icon of the New Left, accomplished little, and nothing enduring.

Ironically, the complacent professors were on the side of revolution after all, in fact the only one that truly succeeded. Though that revolution brought the entire world together, it was anything but utopian. In the name of anti-collective individualism, it changed humanity’s collective experience forever. In the name of old-fashioned values, it destroyed the family, and wrought a world of dizzying complexity in the name of supposedly simple truth. An avowed enemy of intellectuals and their systems, the revolution created a truly inescapable ‘new-world’ order. Despite never firing a single weapon to gain power, it has ingrained a terrifying (and permanent) violence at the very base of social existence.

The revolution was the victory of global corporate capitalism, and the victorious revolutionary was Ronald Reagan. While his competitors may have had the intellect or cunning to understand the world afresh, Reagan simply changed it, permanently. From the global economy and its politics to basic values and ideas, nothing in our lifetime (and well beyond) will ever escape the shadow of this “narcoleptic pinhead,” as Frank Zappa so rightly described him. Working barely two hours a day, Reagan himself did virtually nothing, instead allowing a sinister crew of ideologues to run riot with the world. The revolution’s great secret was his inaction, blended with the outrageous, soothing lies he sold so well. While Reagan smiled and slept, the insanely avaricious turned our entire planet into a rigged gambling casino.

Undeniably, the revolution wrought miracles. Within two years of Reagan's election, the greatest creditor nation in human history had become its greatest debtor. By then, “trickle-down” economics had, impossibly, managed to combine ruinous levels of inflation, interest rates, and unemployment. Everything in Reagan’s Presidency grabbed historical superlatives: the sharpest upward migration of wealth, the greatest (and arguably most futile) expansion of military funding, highest number of indicted officials, largest loss of permanent jobs.

These are merely the measurable changes. No numbers could capture the long term effects of general economic deregulation, and its accompanying dislocations. The Reagan era saw the legalization and immense profusion of organized theft on a grand scale. It was now possible to take over and destroy a company by selling all its assets, borrowing money against the prospective profits. International capital transfers and currency speculation went from minor disturbances to controlling aspects of the life of every person on earth. Men who stole billions of dollars got minimal jail time, and U.S. government officials who committed capital high treason got none.

From the ostentatious vulgarity of his first Inauguration onwards, Reagan announced a declaration of war by the superwealthy against everyone else. He and his class not only emerged victorious, but gained the fervent gratitude of their defeated victims. The American working class, whose livelihoods he destroyed in the tens of millions, voted overwhelmingly for his reelection. More incredibly still, the cynical, barbarous value system Reagan espoused has become general common sense. Tax cuts which benefit a small few (and them alone) are universally accepted as a boon for all. Labour unions are reviled as the work of the devil, even among those who desperately need their protection. Economic society has become nothing but a lottery, purely dedicated to selecting a few unscrupulous individuals for fabulous riches, by any means necessary. Save for a handful of tedious radicals, no one dissents from this astonishing arrangement.

The passivity with which the world’s peoples accept such monstrous injustice beggars belief. North Americans embrace the devastation of their personal hope as an utterly natural state of things. For some, human injustice is God’s Will directly. Yet everyone else seems to welcome their own ruin just as fatalistically.

Thus the real success of the Reagan revolution lay not so much in the creation of this vicious world, but in convincing its victims that they are better off by its lawless rules. In practice, “globalization” means the planet-wide acceptance of Social Darwinism as a just and reasonable way to organize our species. Reagan destroyed not only the dream of a just society but its very possibility, anywhere in the world. Should any local administration foolishly attempt to stem the tide, globalization ensures that all its capital can disappear overnight. Deregulation has opened Pandora’s Box, and it is presently impossible to foresee how it could ever be closed again.

Our children and our children’s children will live with the consequences of allowing Ronald Reagan his retributive revolution. How could the world have gone so mad? I’ve thought long and hard, and suspect a part of the answer may lie in the psychological effects of overpopulation. A global population of several billion is simply too many, and engenders a kind of panic, a desperate need to distinguish oneself from the massive human herd. That would explain the pathetic and disgusting urge for fake aristocracy indulged by Reagan and his creepy spouse, not to mention homegrown reactionaries like “Lord” Conrad Black. At base, it may not even be money they worship, but the chance to escape the general condition through a specious pseudo-aristocracy. Since the rest of us have no such opportunity, we cope by projecting, desperately kidding ourselves that we can and do share in the unjust society. Above all, like my esteemed York University colleagues, we do everything in our power to deny what we have become: a passive mob, grateful for the opportunity to drown in our own delusions.

MWM

torsdag, december 22, 2005

"Why are you listening to this?"

[MaLj:] Some say it surprises them that I listen to music that they can't imagine is "my" genre, like some of the older songs by Madonna. Maybe they don't know I have a history of also listening to Bob Dylan; Elvis Costello; Carole King; Abba; Roxette; Cardigans; Paul Simon; Art Garfunkel; Leonard Cohen; Neil Diamond; Toto; Bryan Ferry; Beatles; Anne Murray; Barbra Streisand; Helen Reddy; Sally Oldfield; Hothouse Flowers; Elton John; Chicago; Blood, Sweat & Tears, and many many more, mostly from the 1970's. So it seems to be a problem to understand why I am not listening *only* and always to the music I explained many years ago was "my music": Bach, Beatles, folk songs, romantic Lieder, piano sonatas, hymns, and Christian pop music, but forgetting that I purchased records with and listened to jazz, Tibetan monks, opera, and symphonic music with interest and very little prejudices even then, that long time ago.

[MWM:] No matter what a list like this contains, it should never be a surprise to anyone that a composer would listen attentively to every possible expression. As I attempted to explain, in vain, to our rather dull-witted and intolerant colleague [on an internet forum for composers], the default setting for a composer must be that music is potentially useful, until proven otherwise. Useful comes first, and whether it's good or bad is, literally, secondary (and therefore trivial), to be discovered after the fact. There are some quite inept performers. for example, who have been instructive to me; I know it, and I know how and why. Groucho Marx singing Gilbert and Sullivan is one such, Anna Russell, Captain Beefheart and Marlene Dietrich some more. I've learned things about orchestration and (legato) phrasing from Muzak®, things about rhythm and sonority from Elvis & the Ventures; hell, even a trick or two from the ever-tedious mister Handel..

tisdag, december 06, 2005

Madonna at McDonalds

Musak is always a horror - because it is injustice done to musical ideas (if you can say so). Background music in shops and restaurants can be very annoying - but it can be a bliss, too.

Sometimes the "silence" without it isn't enough relaxing or interesting, so an added musical pattern can make the environment more bearable. Or - which I suppose is the idea behind the phenomenon - make people comfortable and happy when they hear a favourite song. The commercial secrets with background music are also to influence the behaviour of customers. Play calm music when you want them to stay for a long time and buy more; use uptempo music when you want a larger crowd of people to move around and buy as fast as possible; chose group-specific music when you want to attract some people and repell other.

My best memory of background music is from a small and cozy McDonalds restaurant in Gothenburg - believe it or not! It was a lazy day just after the end of the term in June 1996, and I had been to the university to collect some printed copies of my thesis and talk to a professor. On the way home, I decided to sit down and drink some Fanta and eat something McDonald-ish, all on my own (very unusual behaviour for me). The restaurant was nearly empty, and I got a table with a view over the Avenue (there is only one avenue in Gothenburg, so it's called "Avenyn" - the Avenue). And suddenly the music started. It was a cd I liked very much, and they played it from the beginning, so I stayed there for half an hour, to hear all my favourite songs on it. (OK. I'll reveal which music this was. Ahem. It's a cd with Madonna's greatest ballads...)

My worst memory of background music is from a Zara fashion shop in a shopping centre near Stockholm. I went there to look at clothes for the autumn, but could hardly concentrate on the nice things for sale, because there was music playing - and stopping - and starting - and stopping - and starting again. Nice jazz music, but a torture to hear just a few seconds of it on full volume, and then silence, and a new start. The strangest thing was that the staff people showed no reaction to this audio terror. (And of course I was too polite - and angry - to tell them what I thought of it.)

måndag, december 05, 2005

teenage poetry fragments

THE DOOR IS TURNING AND CLOSES; THE LAZY MAN TWISTS IN HIS DESK CHAIR

(Proverbs 26:14)

I - must learn how to work
Express
my knowledge
get more knowledge
get a visible will

Imagine some teachers
overestimate
the students' knowledge but
underestimate
their perception!

IQ = ? (hardly matters how much, but interesting)

You! who decide the best of society's,
invest in IQ,
even the second best,
don't believe
only in
the chatterboxes.

Is there somebody to trust
in - no - My estimation
is low of most of them
no help to trust in
No models.

and you mustn't deviate from
school and students
you could be marked as
good-for-nothing.

And now, do not
burden the friends
with your problems,
they can't do a thing
for you, they just will be
destroyed for you
and leave like in
consideration.

[---]

What's wrong in
what I do these days?
Many good ideas have I, becomes
nothingness,
retarded,
because my foundations
were poor...

Parents today
wanting children to have better lives,
more matter,
more nice things but filthy food and
nothing more is given
Poor children

[---]

We, modern youth,
being raised on
neurosedyne and donald duck,
in the genes
their chauvinist dwarfness
blooms
in earth's last flower,
the broken bud of the heart
thriving in the fat earth of city parks

[---]

The mental climate is cold. People
confused careful giggling
about the NEW
(they think)
like that were inventions by the
young

Everything is repeated,
or left, or living on
Nobody notices it.
We know too little about what is already
done, what was taught before
and also
today, or why so was
necessary
We don't even know what is
needed,
from school today, to our living.

I am more stupid than
I wish
People generally think
too little, too seldom or too small.

[---]

Listen to the heart
sound, there beats
Strained happiness
and (poisoned)

[---]

Most important: that my
Friendships
are not plagued

[---]

No help for me
nobody helps you
say Help! even.

life more beautiful than
you think
I more tired than
to hell
take it easy

Why am I sad,
why you see
where those who can
act re it

[---]

And: You miss my laugh?
you are worried?
compassion surely does not
lead to passion

The present is nothing like before
I am far taller
away
than that but
Rather
clear-sighted and
ill
than acceptable in
spite of a sick routine.

(MaLj, 1977-78)