Thursday, March 31, 2011

How Does Chernobyl Sound like?

In the midst of sad and tragic occurrences happening in Japan right now, people have remembered another old incident involving radiation and nuclear plants. Namely, April 26, 1986 and Chernobyl. 25 years have passed, and now the once dead ghost town seems to be puzzling with journalists, extreme travelers and well, nature. In 1986, the reactor of Chernobyl nuclear power plant (80 miles north of Kiev) exploded and spew out enough radioactivity to make up Hiroshima bombing 100 times over. Nature recovered, albeit barely. Strange deformities and tumors are abundant and visible on the fauna of the area, yet, they strive and exist.

The remains of the evil reactor were covered with a concrete sarcophagus 25 years ago- but it is slowly caving in and needs to be replaced. The poisonous mix of radioactive isotopes underneath the crumbling covering is still alive and well for the next 24 000 years. This certainly gives chills when thinking about the situation in Japan.

Sound artist Peter Cusack has recorded the sound scape of Chernobyl in 2006, and his recordings give hope for the once barren and sterile land. I highly recommend listening to his otherwork as well, like the sounds of the Azerbaijan oil fields. All Cusack´s recordings involve areas of environmental damage.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Soviet Propaganda and Science Fiction

The art form of science fiction is a clever tool when depicting the unimaginable: alternate worlds, technology beyond our possibilities, other life forms and para-psychological theories. It liberates the imagination to see over to the other side: what could be, what might one day be possible. Just remember, back in the day cell phones and televisions were science fiction for Jules Verne.  Scifi can be useful in freeing our minds from the shackles of everyday rationality, but it is also a handy little weapon in the wars of propaganda.When done artfully, scifi can be armored to either question the prevalent political system or to reinforce it.

Coincidentally, the first science fiction movie on space travel was not done in the US, but in the newly formed Soviet Union by the filmmaker Yakov Protazanov. Aelita: The Queen of Mars (1924) was a silent film, based on a novel by Alexei Tolstoy. Protazanov´s work has undoubtedly influenced a number of later works in the same genre, most notably  Fritz Lang´s  famous Metropolis (1927).

The film was produced during the hype years of the "new era of communism", New Economic Policy. NEP stemmed from Lenin´s belief in introducing moderate "mixed-market" -measures into socialism. One of the signs of the new lax attitude was allowing foreign investment into the country, which produced a more commercially driven cinema production house, owned in part by a German organisation. Thus Mezhrabpom-Rus was able to give birth to Aelita, which arose from a curious marriage between the Soviet ideals on socialism and the good old Western capitalist business sense. The elaborate costumes and expensive set design were undoubtedly a result of this fruitful union.

Of course, Lenin understood the propaganda value of cinema. There is no question about it. At the time, the public did not understand the carefully orchestrated view on reality given by a motion picture. (One might ask if they sometimes still don´t). Aelita, however, did not receive a concordantly warm welcome from the comrades. It was deemed too Westernized, too bourgeois, and lacking short on socialist ideals. As time went by, the movie fell out of favor with the official Communist line completely. The movie attempted to portray a somewhat clear view on the Soviet society going through a transition- all re/presented in a strange space setting on an Martian planet.

The plot tells the story of a  group of people coming from  a post-war Soviet Union, traveling to Mars on a rocket ship. On Mars they help lead a rebellion against a ruling elite group- how fitting, one might ask. The plot offers the prerequisite love affair between the queen Aelita (pronounced almost like ´elite´) and the leader of the soviet group, Los. The affair is doomed, and Aelita is not to be trusted (like capitalism). After a series of tumultuous events, Los returns to Earth with his group of fellow-minded comrades. After impossible utopia, they find solace from the reality of Communism. Individualistic hedonism has been replaced with social duty and shared purpose.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Happy Houseguest: Mr. Julian Assange

What´s it like to have a famous friend over for a night? Or two? Or maybe a night too many?

I´ve heard a bundle of stories, but I won´t go namedropping here. Not classy, not even in a very retro sense of the way. This couple does not feel shame, however. And why should they -the man is after all  our very own international man of mystery and suspense who is directing " a consuming, dangerous human rights project". (See the dating ad) If this story is true, it paints a picture of a sad case of obsession and selfishness, complete disregard for other people´s possessions and feelings. Then again, maybe we should approach this with a hint of suspicion. After all, the pesky western government officials sure know how to use propaganda to their advantage.

What puzzles me is how all those ladies fall for a  white-haired ghostly elf with a laptop attached to the hip.
 I´m starting to think he should take a  much needed break from all those serious leaking assignments. Instead,
he could write a bestseller for all the lonely men out there in the style of  "WikiArt of Seduction: How the Deviant and Spooky can bag ´em and leave ´em" . Success guaranteed.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Look! She really does not care!

It is amazing the stuff they can sell with women´s bodies. Even now. Here´s an ad from "The Saturday Evening Post" from the golden fifties. This was the age of rising consumerism, belief on a never ending supply of energy, resources and constant economic growth. Women were curvier, blonder and well, "domesticated". At least according to the image this commercial portrays. She seems to be having an orgasm from the simple pleasure of having her breasts being watered by a random strange man. (Seriously, how can that happen? Do you know how cold that hosed down water usually is?) Hmm, I have a feeling this whole picture could be just a metaphor for something quite else going on between a man and a woman. I might be wrong. But the illustrator must have/had some imagination going on in that head of his.

Her hair, makeup and the entire outfit look high maintenance. Yet she does not mind it all being ruined by a splash of water. Because she doesn´t care! Everyone wants to win the Miss wet t-shirt contest, orchestrated by a man in a lab coat -all in the name of science. The things we just have to do, or what, ladies?

And this ad was brought to you by the Continental Oil Company, defunct company since 2002.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Blue Valentine : A review

Are we slaves to the gender roles we inherit from our parents? Is our parents’ relationship a deeming factor in the forms our own later romances take? Despite many reviews claiming otherwise, this film is not about the end of love. It is a sad depiction of wounded people looking for security, shelter and significance and mistaking dependency for love.

“Blue Valentine” moves between the past and now, fluctuating between images of youth  and hopefulness and  maturity and utter despair. Happiness in life is not quaranteed, and does not come easy, at least for the couple of this story. From the beginning the audience senses that something is not quite right; the equilibrium is shaking from its roots.

In flashbacks from the past, Cindy (Michelle Williams) is a bright young student from a middle-class family, aiming for medical school. Her vice, however, is bad boys. Brutish fellow student, Bobby Ontario (Mike Vogel)  uses her as he pleases, yet she is unable to turn him down. His treatment of her seems atrocious to us, but somehow she is willing to accept it with a resigned look on her face. Ontario is physically and emotionally aggressive, and in his arrogance he resembles Cindy´s father. This clearly eviscerates director Derek Cianfrance´s message: daughters seek fathers in their lovers.

The other side of the unlucky couple, Dean ( Ryan Gosling), is first presented to us as a carefree young drifter, working as a furniture remover intermittently. He works for a small change, moving in and out of people´s homes while idealizing life and love. His background appears troublesome, having his father leave him when he was 10. One day suddenly, he finds the woman he thinks will give him what he is after: the true meaning of life, pure love. He enters her life in a convenient time – she has just left bad boy Ontario and is questioning herself. Cindy appears awkward of the attention Dean showers her with, yet she goes along with it. Suddenly she finds herself pregnant to her arrogant ex, but she cannot go through with the abortion.  In a moving scene at the abortion clinic, we find out she lost her virginity at the tender age of 13, and has had sex with a multitude of men. It is painfully clear that she has sought attention and male approval which has been denied from her in her home. Dean consoles her, promises to marry her and take care of things.  Solution appears easy, and Cindy agrees to it. In a bittersweet scene, we see Dean playing the mandolin to her, while singing the song “we always hurt the ones we love”.

The couple is shown us again years later. Their dog dies after having escaped from the yard. Neither of the two take responsibility. Accumulated problems arise to the surface and a disastrous 24 hours follow. Cindy is worn out of the hectic family life and works as a nurse. Having given up her intellectual pursuits she is bitter and resentful towards her husband. Having lost his looks and even temper, Dean is slowly succumbing to alcoholism. Having a family is too much for him, and he appears lazy and cynical. Dean denies the financial situation they face and seems ill-equipped for the realities of life.  In a moment of desperation he books a room in a cheesy motel; a theme room named “future” seems ironic, since the real future for the couple seems bleak and nonexistent. A horrific night follows, during which Dean tries desperately to hold on to her wife, who has given up long ago. (If she even ever was as committed to their marriage as him). The idea of love is a pure obsession for him, and he is painfully dependent on Cindy.

Cindy demands him to show some ambition and direction in his life. Dean does not comprehend this: ”why do I have to make money out of potential?” While he tries to have sex with her, she seems paralyzed and trapped, denying him of any access to intimacy. The messiness of their situation culminates in a fight Dean later tries to start with Cindy´s boss: he is more angry at himself than anybody else and can´t seem to find a way to fix something that was broken from the very beginning.

Derek Cianfrance´s movie is a serious attempt to depict a malfunctioning marriage, and how our innate desire to belong somewhere and be loved can lead us astray. The movie has shades of Sam Mendes´ brilliant “Revolutionary road”, yet it captures a very realistic view on people´s motives and defense mechanisms in the face of abandonment. The autopsy of a dead relationship is never pretty, but in this movie, it becomes sickeningly repulsive.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bitesize pops: "Tigerblood" is the Word of the Day

Happy international Women´s Day! How fittingly, the first three posts are dedicated for all those of us feeling that "tigerblood" running through our veins.

Feeling overly narcissistic? Nobody can match the greatness called You, and only you? Fear no more, your royal solitude might have come to an end.  A new dating site promises to use hi-tech face recognition technology to find your ideal mate- someone who looks just like you! Now it really is like looking into the mirror every day, and saying to yourself :"I love you, you are the best". Although an exact replica would just be plain creepy, so he/she might just resemble your noble likeness.

A Study based on an impressive sampling of 311 people found out that superficial women like to post a lot of pictures of themselves to Facebook and maintain larger than average networks. Gee, I never would have thought of that. You always learn new things.

Tired of seeing any mention online of the Mr. Tigerblood himself? here´s some fast relief:  Tinted Sheen, the Charlie Sheen browser blocker. Works in Chrome and Firefox. Over 2000 downloads and growing. If in need of extra blocking power, try the Justin Bieber -option, as well.

Despite earlier reports on retiring the entire NIN altogether, it looks like Trent Reznor is planning new material for his "band". I guess the recent Oscar- win from "The Social Network" energized his return back to his roots.

Phil Collins is retiring from music due to health problems. The rumors of his alleged deafness have been circling for years.

Ron Moore´s new series "17th Precinct" is filled with actors from this Battlestar Galactica -series.

The concept around the new REM -album sounds intriguing. The band has hired a bunch of directors to guest direct video clips for each of the new tracks on their upcoming "Collapse into Now." And yes, James Franco is one of them. Boy, that man sure wants the crown as the 21st century renaissance man.

And finally, some amazing footage of a new volcanic fissure currently erupting in Hawaii.