For the record Austrians don’t much like Elfriede Jelinek

December 13th, 2004 § 2

Guardian Unlimited | Guardian Weekly | Austria, I hate you:

Her 1984 play Burgtheater caused a huge scandal. It attacked two sacred monsters of the Austrian theatre, the actors Paula Wessely and Karl Hörbiger, who picked up their careers again after the second world war despite having acted in Third Reich propaganda films. As Jelinek puts it: “I’m a little baroque cherub of revenge, and every day I carefully hone my hatred for this country.”

Her membership of the tiny Communist party from 1974-91, her flaunted feminism and her commitment to the fight against xenophobia have been lambasted by the FPO for the past decade. Haider has described her as “a deeply frustrated woman”, and some newspapers caricature her as a virago or a dominatrix….

The more Jelinek writes, the more she seems tied down to her source of inspiration, which oscillates between Munich and Vienna. It is hard to believe that she has never set foot in Britain, the United States or Russia, where she has an enthusiastic following. Austria remains her stamping ground – and her prison.

This is true. Despite her recent honours, Austrians a group do not like Jelinek. Her dark and unpleasant view of human nature is inimical to their good-natured existence. Even the drunks are harmless in Vienna, asking kindly for change or for you to buy their newspaper, rather than snarling.

I can’t judge the writing, but most do not even like her language. Confusing, unpleasant.

Strange that the Nobel committee couldn’t find an Austrian writer that Austrians actually like. Apparently there are three or four of them of high merit.

Sparrow Nights | David Gilmour | Book Review

December 13th, 2004 § 0

One of the best descriptions of a passionate woman I’ve read.


A première vue
, she seemed so immaculate, her body anyway, like a Chinese reed, slim, green-eyed, with that mop of straight blonde hair. But if you looked longer you noticed her slightly stooped posture, a button missing from her shirt cuff, here red sweater pulled up at the back; she was a woman who could leave a wet towel on a bed, so to speak. It must have been from her mother (we never got on) that she inherited a sensuality the like of which I’d never really encountered before. Not in so extreme a form anyway. Her lovemaking–and don’t worry, I’m not going embarrass either of us here—was a sort of schizophrenic experience. An authentically transforming event. Really, she carried on like a madwoman. She whispered, she swore, she blasphemed, she made demonic requests in a voice that was not her own. "Do you want to see my cunt?"…. Sometimes, after going to bed with Emma Carpenter, I wanted to call for an exorcist.

To be honest, it could make her somewhat exhausting, this capacity to be so taken over, this substitution of personalities, as if in the process of revealing herself, she was exposing to the sunlight an organ so delicate that it seemed still moist from its sheer internalness. And while she claimed to have been the one to terminate all her previous romances, I have always harboured the private suspicion that at least some of those men may have been rather relieved to see her go. One couldn’t have a comforting little screw with Emma just before one’s afternooon nap. No, it was the full spinning head and pea soup, so to speak.

But you quickly became addicted to it. You didn’t want her carrying on like that with anyone else.

Space for another quotation.

It struck me that my time with Emma had been a kind of gorgeous treading water but that her absence (follow me here) provided, in itself, a kind of happiness because it gave me a precise object of desire, without actually giving me the thing itself, the ultimate possession of which could only diminish the pleasure that came from wanting it so unequivocally. It was a pensée so exhausting that I had to take a taxi into town immediately.

Ribald anecdotes are delightful:

There were oddballs too, a hippied girl who followed me home from a lawn sale and after only the barest preliminaries asked me to spank her.

"How old are you?" I asked

"Twenty-eight," she said.

"Don’t you think this is, well, a little much for a first date?" She looked baffled. I went on. "Perhaps this is more like fifth- or sixth- date stuff."

Details of the spanking and absent Emma.

When my little hippie left the house, massaging her smouldering pink fanny, she gave her hair a toss like a pony and asked if I’d buy a dog collar and a doormat for next time. "I have a fantasy," she began, standing in the doorway. "I want to lie by your front door just like abig dog, an Afghan maybe, and wait for you to come home."….
"When I hear something at the door," she went on (it was all quite worked out), "I’ll jump up, like this"—now raising her hands to her chest and flopping them over like paws–"and if it’s justt the mailman, I’ll be so disappointed! I’ll just have to go back to my mat and lie down and wait some more."

I looked at her carefully. She didn’t seem insane. In fact, in her yellow summer dress, she was quite pretty, with a long face and freckles on her cheekbones. Perhaps it was a generational thing. Perhaps this was how young people got to know each other these days.

"I think you’re out of my league," I said softly, and touched her gently on the elbow.

"Oh," she said. "Goodbye then," and she offered me her cheek to kiss.

Raskolnikov/Humbert Humbert the narrator from Notes from Underground. Disconnection between love story and subsequent events.

Unbelievable that the protagonist wouldn’t just have the police intervene immediately after the burglary or at least after he was menaced by the Massage Parlor manager. The protagonist had nothing to fear with no wife and without a corporate job to protect. A tenured professor is free to see massage parlor hostesses or prostitutes as long as they are not students.

Which is another issue. Gilmour’s professors seem to sleep with students like it was the sixties and seventies. In my time at the University of Toronto, I knew only one woman sleeping with her professors. It was already verboten.

But that imaginary land is not such a problem. The inconsistencies in the protagonist’s character do wear however.l

After promising so much in the beginning, Sparrow Nights delivers so little. Sadly, the best of the novel is in this review. Better writing than in a detective story. One would expect the prose of a professor of French literature to be more refined, sentence structure more elaborate. Particularly as he mentions that he had been reading and appreciating Proust shortly narrating this story.

He reads more like a student of Hemingway.

Clearstream – the official unofficial money launderers for corporations and tax evaders

December 13th, 2004 § 0

Shadow system to secretly move trillions of dollars—a system that can be exploited by tax evaders, drug runners and even terrorists.:

Clearstream has a double system of accounting, with secret, non-published accounts that banks and big corporations use to make transfers they don’t want listed on the official books.

Though it is legally limited to dealing with financial institutions, Clearstream gives secret accounts to multinational corporations so they can move stocks and money free from outside scrutiny.

Clearstream carried an account for a notoriously criminal Russian bank for several years after the bank had officially “collapsed,” and clearinghouse accounts camouflaged the destinations of transfers to Colombian banks.

Clearstream operates a computer program that erases the traces of trades on request from its members.

Clearstream was used to try to hide a dubious arms deal between French authorities and the Taiwanese military.

It amazes me what we let our leaders and our wealthy get away with. The corruption within the system is monumental. The savings and loans crisis in the eighties, the Crédit Lyonnais scandal in France, Enron. There doesn’t seem to be any end to the ill-doing of the financial elite.

Consequence? A couple of peons get assassinated, another one does a couple of years of jail and the ringleaders walk free, although often – but not always – sent into a forced retirement. But with the ill-gotten wealth they enjoy, what do they care?

Not much, apparently.

When will we crack down on white-collar crime? Why should stealing car radios or groceries be a greater crime than defrauding the public on a monumental scale?

Short answer: it shouldn’t.

And the world’s prisons should be filled with white-collar criminals. Which could easily be financed with their confiscated wealth.

A few years of crackdown and the world’s stock markets will be as safe as Moscow streets became after the gangs were rounded up in the late nineties.

Who would want to commit white-collar crime if he or she knew the consequences were complete confiscation of all material assets and a decade or more in prison? Especially if he or she knew that the chances of apprehension were high.

Modify from Thomas Hauert/Zoo at Tanzquartier Wien

December 12th, 2004 § 0

Entering the hall one faces a bare enormous stagespace covered in a large square white cloth.

Above it all hangs a photograph of an apartment. A long view from the backwall through three rooms to a window in the front. The ceilings are high the windows reveal a European city – it could be Vienna, Paris or Prague. Throughout the rooms there is stuff strewn. A mess. Personal belongings. Music, sweaters, a space heater, shoes, socks, covers, books. Everything. Home of students.

The lights dim. A Handel symphony rises.

The eight dancers enter. They are all dressed as if in elaborate pyjamas with long sleeves and full trousers. The back of all the costumes is white, the front various grey and red silks. A continuum.

They begin to wander past one another around one another. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Some of them leave the stage, some of them return.

It goes on. The movement is smooth and rhythmic, if not precise. Somewhat entrancing, if not compelling. Modify03

Something like watching a clutch fly together and apart, in circles.

The music changes. We have Music for the Royal Fireworks. Now some kind of strange court dance.

Very little emotional contact between the dancers. Very little emotional contact with the audience.

Now the dancers are hot. They’ve been moving fast for nearly an hour. They come together and dance as a single great body with eight arms, a cross between a caterpillar and a butteryfly. Interesting. Now they roll as a group into one another a melange of limbs and torsos, half partouze, half students stuffing themselves into a Volkswagen for a place in the Guiness Book of World Records.

Impossibly many in such a tiny space.

The dancers break apart and run and dance again. Now a duet or two. More emotional. How did they find contact? Why? A mystery, if a happy one.

The show as if begins anew. Three strong bands of light, red, yellow and blue traverse all the dancers.

But it is the end. An hour and a half of incredible music and hypnotic movement.

The concept was interesting – an updated Baroque court entertainment – but it is let down by the quality of the performers. None can be singled out as especially bad, but there was not enough presence or physical energy in any of the performers to hold us spellbound. The same show performed by the NDT, for example, would have been almost mesmerizing.

Only one dancer stood out. He looked very much like Joseph Fiennes and shared a cool intensity and concentration with his actor counterpart. His name I cannot tell you unfortunately.

Recommended. Beautiful music and a relief from the weight of the world. Pattern and grace.

Photo © P. Meuwissen

women from german speaking lands: ordnung und sauber nicht fellatio

December 7th, 2004 § 0

for the longest time, i would have nothing to do with german speaking women even conceptually. my single experience in this domain was the daughter of a consul who lived with my first girlfriend and shared the bed with us when i stayed over with the two of them.

brigitta corresponded to the clichéd foreign portrait of a german woman. she was exceptionally pneumatic with an enormous heaving bosom and massive rubenesque thighs. in this surfeit of flesh, she managed to have quite a small waist. she had curly blonde hair and prodigious appetites and a very sharp german accent employed vigorously to express her demanding personality.

considering that this teutonic maiden was probably the final hatchet into that first relationship, i forswore her kind for what i thought was a lifetime.

large pneumatic blondes and harsh accents have never been at all to my taste. a reason to avoid california and australia for that matter. soft speech, rounded consonants, long vowels, dark hair and light eyes are my synonyms for bliss.

and so a lifetime of mainly russia and france and wondering occasionally what it was i was missing in italy or spain. never a thought for german-speaking lands except how to exclude them from my travel plans.

well the image above – nothing could be further from the truth. particularly in austria. the austrian accent in english is completely different from the german one. it is soft and sultry. much clearer than the french accent in english and i would argue far more sexy. of course, nothing is more beautiful to the ear than a well spoken french woman speaking her native tongue but in english, nothing exceeds the grace of an austrian mädchen. almost all of them have it. particularly outstanding is a carinthian speaking english but at this point we are splitting hairs. the austrian accent is great. if you want to check up on it, just call austrian airlines from anywhere in the world.

but not all is well. particularly in germany there are a large number of excessively large girls and women. like canada, germany is a beer-drinking country. and as a group german girls drink beer, like the men. nothing spoils a woman’s figure like beer (or a man’s for that matter but men are not on the agenda today).

austria happily enough is more of a wine-drinking country. while the men do drink beer, the austrians are very keen on all kinds of things mixed with soda and lemonade (beer and lemonade is a radler), white wine and soda is a weissspritzer and red wine and mineral water is a rotspritzer and apple juice and soda is obspritzer. also popular is the italian prosecco (a sort of semi-sweet champagne), as well as white wines of all kinds. many women drink exclusively these beverages and consequently have very good figures and often retain fine boned grace into their thirties and beyond.

the women from german speaking lands are very different from their french counterparts. they are far less likely to talk an excessive amount of superficial nonsense. they would like to speak about what it is of interest to them. and to the point. they tend not to flirt very much aimlessly. you can trust that if a woman is paying attention to you for the moment at least she is interested in what you are saying. this may or may not be a good thing – some in france argue that the flirt is the lifeblood of gracious society. others consider it naught but a nuisance.

often the women retain good figures as a fair amount of outdoor activity is considered part of a good upbringing. any well brought-up austrian lass should be able to do a good few hours on steep hiking trails without trouble or complaint. the more adept among them even contrive to do hard-core climbing with the men. cycling and swimming are practiced through old age. not to participate in sports and outdoor activity almost marks a girl as lower caste or unwell in austrian society.

on the other hand, the women as a group do not try to rival the men. so in a group of mountain bikers one cannot expect the women to match the men for either strength or endurance. the physical condition of the women has polite limits, often made tighter but the unfortunate and widespread practice of smoking. but as a group they are stronger and more svelte and fitter than canadian, french or russians.

apart from their lovely accents (in the case of the austrians) and their good figures, the appeal of women from the german speaking lands is this: they are hard-working, clean and sober as a group.

the general level of habitation is so high – square corners, clean floors, sparkling bathrooms – that it is a national norm. women are highly social creatures, very sensitive to societal standards. when everybody’s house is clean and immaculate, the pressure to meet the general standard is very high.

moreover, cleaning and maintaining a house properly is a kind of craft, a sort of guildmanship, which is passed from generation to generation. women born and raised in these lands – depending on the household, of course – have that savoir-faire. just as in french households, women have the savoir-faire of making extremely good dinners and running a soirée end to end.

this is not to say that in france the women keep dirty households or that austrian women, for example, can’t cook. but as a rule one would find houses in german speaking lands significantly cleaner with better bathrooms, while one would find the general level of culinary expertise significantly higher in france.

in exchange for their ability to keep a household in fine order, women from the german speaking lands do expect the man to participate in the general cleaning, even if the woman is ultimately responsible for the overall standard. they also expect a man to be compliant (not necessarily obedient. his own belonging must also be kept in good order.

moreover, they cannot abide dirtiness in a man’s person. french women and russian women are far more tolerant of the body in a natural state. canadian women are don’t like dirt either but they are uptight about everything, including men’s bodies as well as their own. no doubt someone will mention that there is promiscuity in canada as well. yes, but it is a brutal promiscuity – a promiscuity which leaves the woman’s partner in debauch with more of a sensation of sleeping with a brazen prostitute than an act of tender intimacy (the women of quebec are a happy exception in all of this english speaking canadian ascetism.)

particularly unpleasant to many german speaking women is the act of fellatio. it is amazingly unpopular here. women from german-speaking lands would far rather have straight sex than oral sex.

in america, apparently it is the inverse. the young women – from presidential interns to walmart clerks – think nothing of a quick BJ. it a conceptual differnce. bill clinton maintained that he “didn’t have sex” even after the stains were found.

in seeking an explanation for this, the best i could come up with is that in austria the men’s loins often smell and are unclean. at least that is what my informal sampling revealed as the greatest complaint about fellatio among austrian women. at the root of austrian men’s hygiene problem is their generally uncircumcised state. austrian women are very negative about oral sex, at least the performing of it, as past experience has taught them to expect a very unpleasant experience in taste and odour; once convinced of the cleanliness of the man their enthusiasm climbs substantially, and many even acquire a taste for fellatio.

CONCLUSION

from my original position of staying as far away from the women of german-speaking lands as possible, at this point i have to recommend them very highly with only a single caveat. for all the delight and good in them, their native tongue remains german.

which is neither graceful or lovely. in my experience one is ill-advised to sustain a long-term relationship with a woman whose native language you do not at least understand, as a woman’s character is far more deeply embedded in her natural dialect than the characterless international english she is likely to speak.

to speak to her in english is to drink wine with one’s nose plugged. one has only the faintest idea of the nectar that one quaffs.

Self-censorship: the inner voice and the artist in society

December 7th, 2004 § 0

John Cassavetes on creativity:

you have to fight every day to stop censoring yourself. and you never have anyone else to blame when you do. what happens to artists is that it’s not that somebody’s standing in their way, it’s that their own selves are standing in their way. the compromise really isn’t how or what you do, the techniques you use, or even the content, but really the compromise is beginning to feel a lack of confidence in your innermost thoughts. and if you don’t put these innermost thoughts on the screen then you are looking down on not only your audience but the people you work with, and that’s what makes so many people working out there unhappy. these innermost thoughts become less and less a part of you and once you lose them then you don’t have anything else.

Internal censorship. The deadliest kind. I catch my self at it every day. Making the thing as we wish. In my case, it would probably be a lot more licentious and funny and a lot less serious. Decadent as it were.

Just be oneself, is the contemporary mantra. An impossibility. The civilised man or woman is never him or herself, but a projection of a conceptualised self. Ask someone about their sexual fantasies. Expect a real answer. Usually not.

The conceptualisation of self can happen at a higher or lower level depending on self-awareness and sense of society’s own filters and behavioural models.

So how much of that interior world do we share with others, how much of it do we allow to flow through ourselves? Ultimately, that may be the question that Cassavates may be asking. Something to note is the difficulty many great artists have with socialisation.

To take some a surprising and Christian one, Soren Kierkegard – despite private fortune and connections – was a terrible social anomoly and unable to live a normal sentimental life. Lev Tolstoi was a total outrage until his great fame, running around mowing fields with peasants and running crackpot peasant literacy programs. And that’s not to discuss, individuals like French poet Rimbaud who stopped writing at 19 to adventure through Africa, followed later by the articulate and dangeourous prince of clouds, Céline. (At least unlike Rimbaud, Céline managed to come back on his own two feet and not in a box.)

On the other hand, there are men like Henri de Stendhal and Pierre de Ronsard who lived civilised and mondain lives as diplomats, while beginning the oeuvre which will live on forever.

These latter two are an argument to make the battleground internal. Not external.

Compromise with the forms and appearances of society and make war on its corruption and hypocrisy from within.

But how then not to mute the internal voice under the damping of convention?

Bloodletters – Hack Yourself

December 7th, 2004 § 0

Link: Bloodletters – Hack Yourself.

You know the demon. You may think you hate the demon, but you don’t. You love it. You let it own you. You do everything it says. Everytime there’s something you want, you consult the demon first, to see if it will say, “You can’t have that.”

Imagine if the Sixties and Seventies never ended: Soulsugar at the Moulin Rouge Vienna

December 6th, 2004 § 0

There is a house in Vienna, they call Soulsugar.

Every Sunday night in Vienna for the last couple of years, a time machine operates from about nine o’clock at night. Some space in the city (presently the Moulin Rouge) becomes part of the 1960’s and 1970’s. In these rooms, the music is James Brown and the soul pop of the epoch. No fear of ever hearing Michael Jackson or Tina Turner’s Private Dancer or any of the other dross of the eighties. Strictly prohibited, a rigorous selection that never breaks the spell. But very soul-oriented. You would be unlikely to hear The Byrds or Donovan here either.

In fact, a huge part of the music could be part of the French Nouvelle Vague cinema. On the walls, they show old super 8 movies of the epoch in endless loops. They used to loops from softcore of the period but lately they have been home movies.

In a crowd which is mainly from twenty to twenty-eight years old, most people come dressed as though they too were living in the Woodstock era, but without the same excess. One cannot grow an afro overnight and the afro is not a natural hairstyle to most Austrians. The other option for dress is a sort of natty French nouvelle vague look.

The Moulin Rouge is a particularly appropriate setting for Soulsugar with its red velvet and enormous old cocktail bar. It has balconies everywhere and deepset booths and heavy iron work as if from la Belle Epoque. Timeless enough and old enough to transport us far from the present.

The crowd at Soulsugar comes to dance. Which is good, as there are many places in Vienna where the people are there more to pose than anything else. Many of them actually know how to. There is an enthusiastic and giddy atmosphere. For better or worse, the people are without pretension.

Strange that these people seek every week to step back into the world their parents would have inhabited. An idealised version of that world of course without Viet Nam, drug overdoses or the Cold War. But a happy illusion, that one is happy to wrap oneself in for a few hours. Good music, friendly people, easy times.

The creators of Soulsugar add some lovely extras. The costumed girl selling candy, free massage, two-for-one cocktails before 11.

In a sense, the escapism of Soulsugar is a microcosm of the zeitgeist in Austria. Austrians would prefer to just not think about world problems just now. Their country is enough to them. They feel secure within their borders (what borders I would ask, considering their presence within the old EU and right at the edge of the expanded one). Austria is rich, secure and free. Long may it remain so.

An Austrian once compared his compatriots to Hobbits and Austria to the Shire. He was not far off, except that Austrians are somewhat taller and the women are very enticing.

MOULIN ROUGE – 1010 Vienna Walfischgasse 11. Admission is on a sliding scale depending on when you arrive. €3 before nine. Double or more afterwards.